Piri Piri chicken

Piri piri is all the rage at the moment. This delicious, moist chicken has a spicy marinade and you can add more bird’s-eye chillies if you like your food hot, hot, hot. If you don’t fancy preparing the whole chicken, use skinless chicken thighs and breasts instead and bake them for 20–30 minutes.

Grilled, seasoned Piri Piri Chicken with lemon slices on a wire rack, garnished with watercress – straight out of Hairy Dieters 'Eat for Life' cookery book

Piri Piri Chicken - Photographer: Andrew Hayes-Watkins


Prep time
20 minutes, plus marinating
Cooking time
50-60 minutes
295 per serving


  • 1 large fresh chicken, about 2kg
  • fresh watercress, to garnish
  • lemon wedges, to serve

Piri Piri marinade

  • 4 plump red chillies, deseeded and roughly chopped
  • 2 red bird’s-eye chillies, stalks removed, sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
  • 20g bunch of flatleaf parsley (with stalks)
  • juice of 2 lemons, about 65ml
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika, sweet or hot
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • 2 tsp flaked sea salt


  1. To make the marinade, put all the ingredients in a food processor and blitz until everything is well mixed and chopped up small. Now you need to spatchcock the chicken by removing the backbone but leaving it whole. Turn the bird on to its breast and carefully cut either side of the backbone with good scissors or poultry shears. Discard the bone. Cut off the foot joints and wing tips.

  2. Strip off all the skin from the bird apart from the ends of the wings, which are easier to remove after cooking. You’ll find it simpler to do this if you snip the membrane between the skin and the chicken flesh as you go. Snip off any obvious fat with scissors – it will be a creamy white colour.

  3. Open the chicken out and place it on the board so the breast side is facing upwards. Press down heavily with the palms of your hands to break the breastbone and flatten the chicken as evenly as possible. This will help it cook more quickly. Don’t worry if you can’t press hard enough to break the breastbone – as long as the chicken looks flat, it will cook evenly. Using a sharp knife, slash through the thickest parts of the legs and breasts. Place the chicken in a shallow non-metallic dish – a lasagne dish is ideal – and tuck in the legs and wings.

  4. Spoon over all the marinade and really massage it into both sides of the chicken, ensuring that every bit of it is well coated. Cover the dish with cling film and leave the chicken to marinate in the fridge for at least 4 hours or ideally overnight.

  5. Preheat the oven to 210°C/Fan 190°C/Gas 6½. Take the chicken out of the dish and place it on a rack inside a large baking tray, breast-side up. Roast for 50–60 minutes until lightly browned and cooked through. The juices should run clear when the thickest part of a thigh is pierced with a skewer. Cover the chicken loosely with foil and leave it to rest for 10 minutes before carving. Add a garnish of watercress and some lemon wedges for squeezing.