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Peri Peri Chicken Roast

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When we lived in Washington, D.C., I loved walking over to Nando’s Peri Peri for the famous chicken. This recipe makes enough dressing for four servings. Peri peri or piri piri chillies originated in Mozambique, and eventually, the dish made its way to Portugal via colonization; my version uses a mixture of smoked sweet paprika and cayenne to replicate that flavor and bright, vibrant red color.

If you prefer more dressing, I recommend doubling the marinade/dressing ingredients and saving more for the dressing. I cook the potatoes twice because they turn creamier from the boiling step and, when roasted, turn out extra special. If you’re short on time, skip the boiling step. I love serving this with mashed potatoes (Recipe in The Flavor Equation cookbook) and kachumber salad

  • Yield: 4


For the Marinade + Dressing 

1/2 cup/120 ml extra-virgin olive oil

1/3 cup/80 ml red wine vinegar plus extra if needed

4 garlic cloves

2 Tbsp onion powder

1 1/2 Tbsp ground smoked sweet paprika

1 Tbsp dried thyme

1 /2 tsp ground cayenne or jalapeno 

1/8 tsp MSG (optional)

fine sea salt

One 3 1/2 to 4 lb/1.6 to 1.8 kg roasting chicken

2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1.5 lb/680 g new potatoes, halved

1/4 tsp baking soda

12 oz/340 g cherry tomatoes


  1. Place the olive oil, vinegar, garlic, onion powder, paprika, thyme, cayenne, and MSG in a blender. Pulse until combined. Divide the mixture into half. Reserve one for the marinade and the other for the dressing. Add 2 tsp salt to the marinade. Taste and season the dressing with salt as needed. This dressing can be made a day ahead in advance and stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container. 
  2. Place the chicken on a cutting board, breastside down. Pat dry with paper towels and cut along the backbone using a pair of sharp kitchen shears or a knife. Open the chicken, flip it over, and press it firmly to flatten. At this point, you can cut out the spine or leave it. Separate the skin from the bird’s flesh with your fingers to create a pocket. Make deep gashes with a knife across the thighs and breasts. 
  3. Place the chicken on a large plate or tray. Apply the marinade over the chicken and into the gashes. Refrigerate the chicken for an hour, preferably 6 hrs. If you don’t have time, skip marination (I do this in the video).
  4. Preheat the oven to 400F/200C. 
  5. While the chicken marinates, cook the potatoes. In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, bring 1 L/1000 ml of water to a rolling boil. Stir in 1 tsp salt and the baking soda. Add the potatoes, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook until they turn fork-tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain the potatoes in a large roasting pan or deep baking tray (at least 3 in/7.5cm deep). 
  6. Add the tomatoes to the pan. Drizzle 1 Tbsp olive oil over the vegetables. Season lightly with salt. 
  7. Place a large wire rack over the pan. Place the marinated chicken breast-side on top of the rack. Drizzle any juices left on the plate over the chicken. Place the pan in the oven. Add 1 cup/240ml water to the pan. Cook the chicken until the internal temperature reaches 165F/74C, 1 to 1 hour and 20 minutes. After 20 minutes of cooking, baste the chicken with the liquids from the pan every 15 minutes. The potatoes should be golden brown and the tomatoes split. Remove the pan from the oven, cover loosely with foil, and let sit for 10 minutes before serving. 
  8. Transfer the chicken to a serving platter with the vegetables. Drizzle any liquids from the pan over the chicken and vegetables. Serve with the dressing on the side. Leftovers can be stored for up to 4 days in an airtight container in the refrigerator.


  • The MSG is optional, but it amps up the umami level.
  • I prefer lightly seasoning the vegetables with salt because the marinade will drip over them and season them during cooking. 
  • Try stacking as many of the potatoes and tomatoes as possible under the chicken so that they can absorb the flavors.
  • Adjust the amount of cayenne according to your heat preference. 

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