Piri piri fried chicken is a twist on classic buttermilk fried chicken that incorporates popular African and Portuguese piri piri seasonings, such as bird’s eye chili peppers, paprika, salt, lemon peels, oregano, and garlic, to create citrusy, garlicky, and herbal notes.
I love exploring different spices in order to come up with new and exciting family meals. For me, this happens through travel (overseas), but it also happens at my local spice stores. During a "trip" one afternoon, I stumbled across a piri piri spice blend, did some research on the spice, and the rest was history! As my creative juices started flowing, I came up with this piri piri fried chicken.
Inspiration for This Recipe
Piri piri chicken is very popular in Africa as well as Portugal where they use a tangy spicy sauce made with bird’s eye African chili peppers. I've decided to pull inspiration and flavors from the classic fire roasted piri piri chicken and use a piri piri spice blend as the flavoring for my fried chicken recipe. Who doesn’t love fried chicken right?!
Piri Piri Spice Blend
Piri piri spice blend consists of bird’s eye chili peppers, paprika, salt, lemon peels, oregano, and garlic. Bird’s eye chilies grow in South Africa and while small in size, they pack a punch and are really hot! A combination of the chilies, spices, and herbs give this blend that spicy, sweet, and tangy garlicky flavor. You can find piri piri spice blend in local spice stores in your area or online.
This spice blend requires few ingredients so you can even make it at home. What you’ll need:
- 4 tablespoons garlic powder
- 4 tablespoons smoked paprika
- 4 tablespoons oregano
- 4 seeded Thai or bird’s eye chili peppers
- 2 dried lemon peels
- 1 teaspoon salt
Just put these ingredients in a blender or food processor and grind them up into a fine powder. You can adjust these seasonings up or down for more spice, tang, garlic, or oregano flavoring based on your preference.
You can store the spice blend in an airtight container in your pantry, and it should last for about six months.
Buttermilk Makes Tender Fried Chicken
Marinating chicken in buttermilk is one of the secrets to making juicy, mouthwatering, and flavorful fried chicken! The buttermilk is acidic, and this helps tenderize the meat. The salt in this buttermilk marinade provides double duty action by flavoring the meat and helping the chicken retain moisture.
You can marinade chicken for eight hours or up to 24 hours, but try not to marinate the chicken for more than 24 hours as it begins to negatively affect the texture of the meat. If you are short on time and need to get dinner on the table in a hurry, I would suggest marinating for at least 30 minutes.
Along with the buttermilk and salt I add in garlic powder, onion powder, black pepper, and the piri piri spice blend so that the fried chicken has flavor in each and every bite!
Tips and Tricks for Frying Chicken
Frying chicken can be intimidating and frustrating sometimes, but using these tips can really help get rid of those feelings and results in tasty fried chicken!
- For safety purposes, make sure to not over fill your pot with grease! When you add the chicken to your frying vessel the grease will continue to overflow and can cause a grease fire so you want to be sure that you’re filling your pot only half way full with oil.
- I like high temperature oils like peanut oil or canola oil for frying. These are the best kind of oils that can withstand the high temperatures needed to fry chicken without scorching and giving the chicken a burnt taste.
- If you have a kitchen thermometer that is safe for checking grease temperatures, I highly recommend using it. You should be aiming for 325°F. By monitoring the oil temp, it will help keep the grease at a consistent temperature to evenly cook the chicken. You’ll be able to have crispy skin with juicy tender meat inside (no one wants to eat raw fried chicken).
- If you feel like your chicken is getting too brown too quickly and the inside isn’t finished cooking, you can remove the chicken from the frying oil and place it on a baking rack with a sheet pan and finish cooking it in the oven. Place the chicken into a preheated 325°F oven until the internal temperature in the thickest area of meat reads 165°F with a thermometer.
I also have some secrets on how to make your chicken skin nice and crispy!
- It’s all about the crispy golden-brown skin! To get this crispy crunchy skin, let the chicken rest for at least 30 minutes after you dip it in the flour dredge before you start to fry it. The flour coating will stick to the chicken creating a nice crust. Allowing it to rest will also help the chicken come to room temperature so the chicken cooks evenly (cold chicken can decrease the heat of the grease and throw off the cooking time).
- Once you put the chicken in the hot oil, don’t touch the chicken for a few minutes. This ensures that the flour coating will stick on the chicken during the cooking process, giving us that pretty fried chicken skin, we want.
- Don’t overcrowd the cooking vessel with chicken pieces. You don’t want the pieces to touch, or it’ll start to create a soggy skin. Cook in batches, if needed.
- After cooking, I place the fried chicken on a sheet pan topped with a cooling rack—this keeps the skin crunchy and crispy. Laying the chicken on a plate covered with paper towels to drain any excess grease makes the bottom part of the chicken soggy losing that beautiful crunchy skin!
How to Keep Fried Chicken Warm and Crunchy
Yay you did it! You made some of the best fried chicken with some of these tips. After all of the great work and effort you put into making this crispy fried chicken, you want to make sure it stays that way before it gets to the table for eating. Not to worry! While you are making a large batch of fried chicken and or the rest of your meal, put your pan of cooked chicken in the oven on a low temperature. I like to put my oven at 200°F. This seems to keep my chicken warm with crispy without drying out or overcooking the chicken.
Ingredient Swaps and Substitutions
Here are some swaps and substitutions you can make for this fried chicken recipe.
- I used legs, thighs, and wings for this recipe because they seem to be more forgiving while cooking and easier to fry. Plus, these cuts of meat are juicier, but you can use chicken breasts for this recipe as well. Just make sure to cut down the cooking time for chicken breast (cook for a total of 10 to 12 minutes) because white meat cooks faster and can dry out quickly.
- If you don’t have buttermilk on hand, try using milk with one teaspoon of white vinegar or lemon juice per each cup of milk. This is a great trick in order to make a buttermilk substitute.
- The two tablespoons of Piri Piri seasoning in the flour batter gives the fried chicken a nice spicy kick. If you want it hot hot (!!), add another one to two tablespoons of the spice blend. But honestly, two tablespoons of spice blend is enough heat for me!
What to Serve With Piri Piri Fried Chicken
I think coleslaw is a great side to go with this chicken. The tangy dressing in this coleslaw compliments the flavor of the chicken. For the ultimate comfort meal, add some greens to the menu and now we’re talking! Greens are a staple on any fried chicken plate in my area. You don’t see one without the other.
If you’re looking for a lighter side dish, throw together a quick and delicious Caesar salad. The easy homemade Caesar dressing comes together in one, two, three. Plus, it’ll be a nice cool down after biting into this spicy Piri Piri Fried Chicken.
More Crunchy Fried Chicken Recipes
Piri Piri Fried Chicken
For the chicken:
2 1/2 cups buttermilk
2 tablespoons kosher salt
1 tablespoon piri piri spice blend
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
3 1/2 pounds bone-in skin-on chicken legs, thighs, and wings
For the flour coating:
2 cups (272g) all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons piri piri spice blend
1 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
2 tablespoons smoked paprika
1/2 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
For frying chicken:
Peanut oil or canola oil
Make the marinade:
In a large bowl, combine the buttermilk, salt, piri piri spice blend, onion powder, and garlic powder. Add the chicken to this buttermilk mixture. Cover with plastic wrap and marinate the chicken in the refrigerator for 8 to 24 hours.
Make the flour coating for chicken:
In a large plastic bag or in a large bowl combine the flour, piri piri spice blend, black pepper, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, and salt.
Dredge the chicken pieces in flour mixture:
Remove the chicken from the buttermilk marinade and allow the excess buttermilk to drip off. Individually dredge each piece into the flour mixture making sure the chicken is fully coated. Shake off the excess flour, place the chicken pieces on a sheet pan.
Let the floured chicken rest:
Let the floured chicken pieces sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to help the flour adhere to the chicken and let the chicken come to room temperature.
Heat the frying oil:
While the chicken sits for 30 minutes, fill the Dutch oven half way full with oil. Heat the oil, over medium-high heat until the oil reaches 325°F when using a kitchen thermometer.
Alternatively, to tell if your oil is ready for frying you can add a pinch of flour into the oil, and when it begins to sizzle, your oil is ready.
Fry the chicken:
Cook the chicken in batches by adding a few pieces of chicken to the pot and fry for about 15 minutes, turning halfway through the cooking time. Your chicken is full cooked through when the thickest part of the chicken pieces reaches 165°F when inserted with a digital thermometer.
Place chicken on a rack to drain excess oil:
When the chicken is golden brown and cooked through, remove the chicken using tongs and place on a rack over a baking sheet to drain any excess oil.
Serve fried chicken warm along with your favorite sides
|Nutrition Facts (per serving)|
|Amount per serving|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 41g||53%|
|Saturated Fat 11g||55%|
|Total Carbohydrate 33g||12%|
|Dietary Fiber 4g||15%|
|Total Sugars 8g|
|Vitamin C 10mg||50%|
|*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.|