Portuguese Barbecue Chicken

By Chris Winstanley

Having lived in the Algarve for the last six years and had a family connection to the place for the last 20 years, I have tasted a lot (and I mean a lot) of “Chicken Piri Piri”, whether it is at one of the famous restaurants in the World Capital of Chicken Piri Piri, namely Guia, its poor imitation in the UK, namely Nandos, as a Saturday lunchtime takeaway from one of the supermarkets or my particular favourite at A Rampa, which is the last restaurant on the right before you reach the top of the Monchique hills at Fóia.  

They all put their own twist on this very Portuguese dish and don’t let anyone tell you that its origins are anything else but from this corner of Europe. Therefore, it is with some trepidation that I, as an Englishman, give you my own version of how to get the best out of this simple peasant dish that has been enjoyed in these parts for many years, hence why I have called it ‘Portuguese Barbecue Chicken’ and NOT ‘Chicken Piri Piri’.


2kg chickens (1kg each chicken)

Lemon wedges

Hot potato chips

Chili sauce

3 roughly chopped garlic cloves

1/4 cup olive oil

5-7 small, fresh roughly-chopped red chilies

1 tablespoon sea salt

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice


To get this dish right, it is all about the chili sauce. Place in a bowl of food processor the chilies and the garlic, scraping down the sides occasionally until the chilies are finely chopped. Then add lemon juice, oil and salt into the bowl and transfer to a plastic container. You can make the delicious chili sauce up to 2-3 weeks before and store in a fridge for much better taste with great depth.

Place one of the chickens, breast side up, on a work surface and use poultry shears to cut the chicken breast in half and cleaning the bones.

Press the chicken to open flat and cut on either side of backbone then discard backbone. Remove breast bone halves and tuck under wings. Pat dry with paper towel. Repeat these steps with the other chicken.

Preheat your gas barbecue on a high setting. Make 5mm deep and 4cm long cuts into the chicken flesh. Reserve 2 1/2 tablespoons chili sauce and brush underside of the chicken with the rest of the chili sauce.

Reduce the barbecue grill to medium, then place chicken skin side up on the grill.

Cook for about 10 minutes, brushing with the chili sauce. Brush the top of the chicken with the rest of the chili sauce and turn over. Cook for eight more minutes and when chicken is fully cooked transfer to a plate and cover loosely with foil.

Set aside for about 5 minutes. Brush the chicken with the reserved chili sauce and serve the chicken with lemon wedges and hot potato chips.

Yes, it really is that easy and I have been following this routine for a while, not with consistently flavoursome results. To have with this dish I would recommend an ice cold beer or a very cold bottle of a dry white wine from the Douro called Planalto.

Bon Appetit!

This recipe has been provided by Chris Winstanley, owner of Moveison, The Algarve’s finest outdoor living store