The Best Chiles To Use If You Can't Find Piri Piri Chicken's Namesake Pepper

If you're at all familiar with piri piri chicken, there's a chance you may have tried it at Nando's. This global fast-food chain makes Portuguese-style piri piri chicken by marinating birdie bits in a sauce seasoned with incendiary piri piri peppers (albeit using the alternate spelling peri peri) and then grilling it, Mashed developer Patterson Watkins, however, re-envisions the dish as a mildly spicy slow cooker stew flavored with a different kind of pepper since fresh piri piri can be kind of hard to come by in the U.S.

If you want a pepper that comes the closest to piri piris, both in flavor and heat level, your best bets include Thai bird chiles and habaneros. Watkins prefers to use the much milder Fresnos ("red chile peppers" in the ingredients list), which have a similar heat level to the jalapeño. Jalapeños themselves would also work in this dish, or you could also use Anaheims or even bell peppers if you want a milder stew. As Watkins says, "You control the heat" by picking your preferred pepper.

You can also go with piri piris in a different form

If you have your heart set on making piri piri chicken with the proper peppers, you can still do so even if the fresh kind aren't available. Dried piri piris are available to purchase online and as these are shelf-stable, a small bag ought to last you a while. One thing to note, though, when you are swapping out dried peppers for fresh ones, is that the former have a much more concentrated flavor so you'll generally only use about ¼ the amount. For this recipe, that means that one dried piri piri should yield a fairly fiery stew, although you could start with just half a pepper if you prefer to err on the side of caution.

Yet another way to add spice to this stew is with a piri piri seasoning mix, although be aware these may contain other spices such as cardamom, cinnamon, and oregano. Some mixes will also include salt, so you should adjust the amount used in the recipe accordingly. Piri piri sauces, too, are another option, and Nando's itself features a line of these ranging from mild lemon-herb to XX-hot. As hot sauces vary in heat level and consistency, there's no general rule of thumb for substituting them for fresh peppers, but you can start by stirring a teaspoon or two into the stew before it begins cooking and then adding more at the end if you feel it needs a bit more kick.