Peri Peri Marinated Chicken Skewers are spicy, tangy, and super tender thanks to an easy chili and roasted red pepper marinade. The chargrilled skewers are served over a lemon-infused yogurt sauce, more spicy peri peri sauce, and plenty of chewy naan bread.
Peri Peri Marinated Chicken Skewers
When it comes to chicken dinners, you’ll be hard-pressed to find any other recipe more interesting than these Peri Peri Marinated Chicken Skewers. And if you’re anything like us, you’ll find yourself inhaling them with caveman-like qualities, rushing to get the next bite in your mouth, while you also methodically try to savory every last drop of peri peri sauce.
The marinade itself has a robust, but not overpowering element of spice from thai chilis, slight smokiness and sweetness from roasted red peppers, and a good amount zippiness from both lemon and red wine vinegar. The combination of sweet, spicy, savory, and tart makes for the perfect balance of flavors in a great marinade. Even better, this easy peri peri marinated chicken is whipped up in the food processor, so it doesn’t take more than five minutes to throw together.
To tame down the innate spiciness in the peri peri chicken, we pair the skewers with a simple lemon and honey yogurt sauce, which again, provides a really nice balance of flavor and textures. There’s a number of side dishes that would go with peri peri chicken, but I think my favorite is simple – baked sweet potatoes (there’s that sweet and salty again), and warm, chewy naan bread (pita could work too!)
What is Peri Peri Chicken?
Technically, peri peri is a hot African chili, called the Bird’s Eye chili, but is nicknamed the “Peri Peri Chili.” It’s teeny tiny, but packs a huge punch. It’s commonly pureed with spices and a little bit of acid, then tossed with raw chicken and marinated until the sauce penetrates the flesh of the chicken, hence the name Peri Peri chicken. It takes on many shapes and forms, but it’s grilled most often. Our version, while pretty traditional does not use an actual bird’s eye chili, but a Thai chili, simply because that’s what I had on hand.
The flavors are super similar, but if you’re out shopping, and you spy a bird’s eye chili, I’d pick that up.
Ingredients in Peri Peri Chicken
Chilis. As mentioned before, traditionally peri peri chicken calls for a bird’s eye chili, but we’re using a few thai chilis instead. They pack a very similar amount of heat and even look very similar. Whichever one you have on hand or your grocery store has in stock will work.
Roasted red peppers. I love the smokiness and sweetness roasted red peppers add to this marinade. Buy them in a jar in the condiment isle.
Red wine vinegar. Red wine vinegar is an essential ingredient in our marinated peri peri chicken skewers. It adds tang, acidity, and even a little bit of sweetness.
Lemon juice. Even though we have an acid in the form of red wine vinegar already, I like the addition of lemon juice as well.
Olive oil. You don’t need to use anything super expensive here, just a standard olive oil will work.
Cilantro. Cilantro isn’t a typical ingredient in peri peri chicken, but I love the freshness it adds, plus, I’m just obsessed with cilantro.
Thyme. Now that it’s almost summer time, I have fresh thyme in my backyard, so that’s what I used here. I love the way it compliments the lemon in the marinade, but if you don’t have it on hand, don’t sweat it.
Spices. Spices differ from recipe to recipe, but my version includes lots of garlic, smoked paprika, dried oregano, and of course, plenty of salt and pepper.
Honey. While I LOVE the heat of peri peri chicken, I also like balance. Adding just a touch of honey to the peri peri marinated chicken balances out the spiciness a little bit.
How to make Marinated Peri Peri Chicken
Make the marinade. Add the chilis, roasted red peppers, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil, cilantro, thyme, garlic, smoked paprika, oregano, honey, and salt to a food processor. Blend until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Careful, it’s spicy!
Marinade the chicken. Add the chicken to a shallow baking dish or large ziplock bag. Pour HALF of the marinade over the chicken. Reserve the remaining half. Cover the chicken in the marinade. Use tongs to toss it together. If using a plastic bag, massage the marinade into the chicken.
Marinate for one to four hours.
Make the yogurt sauce. While the chicken marinates, make the sauce. Whisk together Greek yogurt, lemon juice, honey, and salt. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Bake the sweet potatoes. (If making.) Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Add sweet potatoes to a medium bowl. Toss the sweet potatoes with plenty of olive oil, salt, garlic powder, and brown sugar. Spread on a large baking sheet. Make sure the sweet potatoes aren’t crowed, if they are too close together, they will steam instead of roast. If needed, use two pans.
Bake for about 15-20 minutes until cooked through and crisp. Make sure to flip about halfway through baking to ensure they don’t burn. Let them rest on the baking sheet.
Grill the chicken. Prep the grill. Once the chicken has marinated, skewer on to metal or wooden skewers (see notes in recipe.). Grill skewers until charred and cooked through, about 12-15 minutes.
Assemble. Spoon a little bit of the yogurt on the bottom of your plate. Top with two chicken skewers. Drizzle with extra peri peri marinade or yogurt. Serve with sweet potato fries and naan.
Can I marinate Peri Peri Marinated Chicken overnight?
No, I wouldn’t. The longest you want to marinate the chicken is four hours. Because there is an acid in the marinade, it has a chance of cooking the chicken, which will make it tough during cooking. All your really need is 1-2 hours, but if you need to let it marinate longer than that, four is the max.
If you want to prep everything ahead of time, you can do that. Make the marinade a day in advance and store in an airtight container. In the morning, or a few hours before grilling, marinate the chicken. You can also do this at the same time you soak the wooden skewers (if using). Make the yogurt sauce up to a day in advance as well.
Substitutions and Tips and Tricks for Recipe Success
- If you want to cut back on the spice, try using one chili pepper instead of two. If you feel like you can handle more, add more.
- Again, don’t marinate the chicken longer than four hours.
- If using wood skewers, soak in water for at least one hour before grilling.
- If you don’t have smoked paprika, you can swap out regular paprika.
- Agave or maple syrup will work in place of honey
- You can also serve with pita bread instead of naan.
What to serve with Peri Peri Marinated Chicken
- For a little bit heartier of a starch, try out our homemade rice-a-roni. So easy and waay better than the box.
- Another great side that’s a little bit healthier is our creamy one pot spinach orzo made with whole-wheat orzo, stock, and just a touch of parmesan cheese.
- We’re getting into summer, and these Roasted Summer Veggies would be a great addition.
- 2 thai or bird's eye chilis
- 1/2 cup roughly chopped roasted red pepper
- 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
- 2 tbsp lemon juice, divided
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves
- 3 sprigs thyme, leaves removed
- 1 large garlic clove
- 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano leaves
- 1 tbsp honey, divided
- 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- 1 1/4 lbs chicken tenders, cut into bite-sized pieces
- 1 cup plain Greek yogurt or other plain yogurt
- 6 wooden or metal skewers
- naan bread for serving
- sweet potato fries for serving
- sheet pan
- Food processor
- If using wooden skewers, soak in water while the chicken marinates.
- Add chilis, roasted red peppers, red wine vinegar, 2 teaspoons lemon juice, olive oil, cilantro, thyme, garlic, smoked paprika, oregano, 1 teaspoon of honey, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a food processor. Blend until smooth,. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Add the chicken to a shallow baking dish or large ziplock bag. Add HALF of the marinade to the chicken. Reserve the remaining half in a small bowl. Toss the chicken in the marinade. Let the chicken marinate for at least one and up to two hours.
- Preheat the grill, you want to it to be at about 400-425 degrees. Skewer the chicken on to the six skewers. Sprinkle with a little bit of salt. Grill the chicken until charred and cooked through, about 15 minutes. Be sure to turn a few times while cooking.
- While the chicken grills, whisk the yogurt with the remaining 4 teaspoons of lemon juice (1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon), 2 teaspoons honey, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Warm naan.
- To serve. Spoon the yogurt sauce on the bottom of the plate. Top with 1-2 chicken skewers. Drizzle with extra peri peri sauce and yogurt if desired. Serve with naan.