portuguese chicken – piri piri grilled chicken

Portuguese chicken done well is an absolute delight. Spicy, lemony, spicy and a bit salty. Dripping with grilled chicken goodness. That’s what you’re after here.

There are restaurants that specialize in Portuguese chicken. Portuguese grills. They are worth seeking out. The good ones take this up to an art form. Forget Nando’s. That’s fast food. There are way better places.

Dual level grilling for perfectly basted Portuguese chicken 

They have a two level grill. It’s genius. Think two layers of chicken grilling. The chickens on the top start to render. They drip down onto the chickens below. Basting them continuously.

Portuguese chicken or peri peri chicken is one of the great grilled chicken recipes.

The chickens on the bottom come off when they are done. The one’s on the top get moved down below. And uncooked birds get put on the top rack. The whole thing repeats. Perfectly basted Portuguese chicken.

It’s served simply. Portuguese chicken. Roasted potatoes. A nice Portuguese white wine. Some dipping sauce on the side. It’s wonderful in it’s simplicity. So good.

I don’t have a really good way of absolutely replicating what they do. I don’t cook 100 chickens too often. If you do, think about getting one of those grills.

If you don’t this approach will come close. And it’s pretty fast. The marination period is pretty short. After that you are grilling a chicken. Nothing more. Nothing scary here.

Portuguese chicken and potatoes from above - breast and thigh

Charcoal really makes this chicken special

I know. I say it a lot. But here I really mean it. Charcoal is always important but here it’s key. The kiss of smoke really adds something. Makes it what it is.

If you’ve never cooked over charcoal maybe it’s time to start thinking about it. Not that much more hassle than a gas grill. And the results speak for themselves.

Don’t think I’d bother with this one on a gas grill. Just use your oven. It will be better than on a gas grill. You’ll get all those pan drippings. Delicious that way. Completely different but really good.

A good soak in lemon juice and salt adds a nice tang. Don’t let it go more than an hour though. Lemon is an acid. Acids cook chicken – think ceviche. You want the heat to cook the chicken, not the lemon. Chicken ceviche isn’t a famous dish for a reason.

Spicy, lemony, and smoky flavours come together in Portuguese grilled chicken

Other than that you want to make sure you catch all the drippings from the chicken as it rests. That’s called board sauce and it’s magic. It’s always magic so make a point of drizzling it on your chicken every time you grill. Board sauce is something you need to learn.

That’s about it. Portuguese chicken. Easy. Fast. Perfect summertime fare.

Spicy, lemony, and smoky flavours come together in Portuguese grilled chicken.
Spatchcocked whole Portuguese with roasted potatoes - from above.
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5 from 3 votes

portuguese chicken – piri piri grilled chicken

Portuguese chicken is a great way to add a new twist to your usual BBQ chicken.
Prep Time 1 hour
Cook Time 50 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 50 minutes
Servings 4
Calories 690kcal
Author romain | glebekitchen


  • 1 chicken
  • 1 lemon
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic – smashed (not crushed)
  • 1 Tbsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp piri piri sauce
  • 1 Tbsp fresh parsley – chopped
  • salt


  • Combine all the ingredients except the chicken, lemon and salt in a bowl. You will be basting out of this bowl so choose wisely.
  • Spatchcock the chicken. That’s a fancy word for cut the backbone out of the bird, lay it out flat and push down hard on the breast to flatten it. Now you know.
  • Salt the chicken liberally. Place it in a large ziplock bag and squeeze the juice of a lemon onto it. Seal the bag and place it in the fridge for about an hour.
  • Light your grill and prepare it for indirect heat. You want it running pretty hot – about 400F. Place. drip pan under the grate.
  • Drizzle a bit of olive oil onto the chicken. Rub the olive oil to coat the skin side of the chicken.
  • Place the chicken, skin side up and grill, covered, for 10 minutes.
  • Baste the chicken liberally with the marinade. Cook 5 minutes. Repeat a total of three times.
  • Flip the chicken and baste the chicken a final time. Cook 15 minutes and then flip the chicken again.
  • Continue to cook until the breast registers 165F using an instant read thermometer.
  • Transfer chicken to a cutting board and let rest 5 minutes.
  • Cut the chicken into serving pieces and serve with any accumulated juices spooned overtop the chicken.


Serving: 4servings | Calories: 690kcal | Carbohydrates: 5g | Protein: 36g | Fat: 56g | Saturated Fat: 12g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 143mg | Sodium: 368mg | Potassium: 477mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 1220IU | Vitamin C: 19mg | Calcium: 42mg | Iron: 3mg

7 thoughts on “portuguese chicken – piri piri grilled chicken”

  1. 5 stars
    I love how perfect yet simple this recipe is. I remember the first time I spatchcocked a chicken, really, how could anyone forget doing that?? I have yet to get my charcoal grill going this year and I think I just found the perfect recipe to start with, thank you!

    • Get a charcoal grill and everything will be better but I would love it if you tried Portuguese grilled chicken first. It’s a tasty dish and it’s pretty easy to get started with.

  2. 5 stars
    Mmmm I can already taste that juicy, delicious chicken. A little lemon, a little piri piri, and that beautiful charcoaled skin on the outside. Gorgeous! I can definitely tell that you used a charcoal grill here and agree that it’s the only way to go for chicken like this. Love it!

  3. You always have the most deliciously meaty dishes! Everyone will be impressed if I spatchcock the chicken, they’ll think it looks so fancy, and catching those board drippings is always a must – perfect flavor in there!

    • Thank you. Very kind. Spatchcocking has the added benefit of making it easier to cook the bird evenly. Fancy but juicy white meat too!

  4. This looks absolutely amazing! My husband has been experimenting with making his own peri peri sauce so this recipe is really timely! Also, the board sauce is so good…. drippings makes the chicken even better! Yummed, stumbled, and pinned this!

5 from 3 votes (1 rating without comment)

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