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Piri Piri Or Peri Peri Substitutes & Alternatives

alternatives to piri piri

Piri Piri is also known as peri peri or pili pili and has a fair few ranges in modern Western cooking, but what are it’s origins and how would we go about replacing this exact seasoning or spice mix?

Good alternatives for peri peri include jalapenos, habanero and cayenne peppers. Or you could try ready made mixes of chili powder and paprika. For an alternative to piri piri sauce try buffalo, tabasco or even sriracha or harissa paste. There is no perfect replacement, but a combination can help.

There is no one ideal substitute for peri peri and when it comes to the sauce there is a little more to take into account as well.

What Is Piri Piri

Often known as a spice mix on chicken, peri peri has some pretty spicy origins.

Piri Piri is a pepper from the capiscum genus and more specifically the capiscum frutescens species from the Malagueta pepper. Originating as a cultivated pepper from Portuguese explorers to Southern Africa. Known to be a hot pepper ranging between 50,000 – 120,000 on the Scoville scale.

It is possible to grow your own peppers and this is possible in a hot house or greenhouse, but very rare in a garden in the UK or zones 7 onwards.

Is Piri Piri The Same As Peri Peri?

Piri Piri is the same as peri peri and there is little doubt as to how the names have changed and evolved. By following the lines of the Portuguese explorers you can see the local influences on the name. In Swahili pili-pili means pepper, in Bantu it is pronounced as peri-peri.

So we have seemingly adopted the almost interchangeable peri-peri and piri-piri.

How Hot Is Piri-Piri

I know how much chili we can take varies from one person to another but the Scoville scale gives us a better guide to compare from.

Piri piri sits at between 50,000-120,000 SHU on the Scoville Scale of pepper intensity. When compared to Jalapenos which are between 2,500-8,000 SHU and cayenne at 30,000-50,000 SHU and even the habanero chili at 150,000-575,000 SHU. So hotter then cayenne but not as hot as a habanero chili.

The intensity of a chili pepper can change and develop depending on how it is used. With peri-peri you can buy as a seasoning or a sauce. This will have an impact on how much you can add before it becomes too hot.

Best Alternatives To Piri Piri

There will be no one perfect replacement but here are some of our best.

It is important to understand the characteristics of piri piri as a pepper before looking at ways to replace it. Then we can compare the Scoville Heat Unit attributed to each alternative and see how we can make them stack up to this fiery chili.

1. Fresh or Dried Chili Peppers Vs Piri Piri

This is not an impossible match and dried chilis come in all different varieties.

If you buy dried African Bird's Eye Chili's, otherwise known as piri piri or peri peri the heat will be 50,000-120,000 SHU on the Scoville Scale. Your dried chili flakes in the supermarket will be a mixture of jalapeno 2,500-8,000 SHU and red bell peppers. Meaning a milder heat.

If you are looking to replace the heat of a peri peri chili with supermarket dried chilis you will need to add to taste. Really go for it and keep in mind that the heat will develop over cooking time. Allow the dried chili flakes to fully rehydrate before adding more.

2. Fresh Or Dried Cayenne Vs Peri Peri

Cayenne is used in many chili mixes due to it’s availability, whereas peri peri tends to only be grown in mainland Africa. Cayenne is between 20,000-50,000 SHU and Peri Peri is between 50,000-120,000 SHU on the Scoville Scale. This means you would need more cayenne than peri peri.

DO remember to add to taste and allow your dish some cooking time in between adding more chili.

3. Tabasco Vs Peri Peri

Tabasco sauce is around 3,750 SHU and Peri Peri sits between 50,000-120,000 SHU so really there is no comparison with heat intensity. However there are some great uses for tabasco sauce and a few drops added as last minute addition can help raise a dish.

What is Tabasco Sauce?

Made from tabasco chilis and vinegar with a pinch of salt, tabasco sauce is now a well known brand of chili sauce. Used widely in Northern America and most of Europe. Due to the ageing process it has developed the intensity of the chili flavor. Varieties range from as mild as 100 SHU to 5,000 SHU on the Scoville Scale.

4. Santaka Peppers Vs Peri Peri

This is not a straight swap and will need care through the cooking process.

Santaka peppers are fiery little pockets of heat and color ranging from 40,000-50,000 SHU whereas Peri-Peri ranges from 50,000-120,000 SHU. Replacing one for the other will require careful taste testing throughout the cooking process.

A word of warning – Santaka can be just as hard to come by in the Supermarket, but are easier to grow in the UK and colder climates of the US. If you are looking to grow your own Santaka hot Asian chile pepper seeds -check availability here.

5. Pequin Vs Piri Piri

I like this match a lot more than some of the others, there is often too much emphasis on heat alone.

Pequin peppers are around 30,000-60,000 whereas peri-peri peppers are between 50,000-120,000. This is not just about heat though as both offer a woody almost smokiness and this is makes them a good match for one another.

If you are replacing piri-piri peppers with pequin be sure to add them slowly and build up your flavors and heat intensity with the dish.

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6. Jalapeno Peppers Vs Piri Piri

Jalapeno peppers are very low on the Scoville Scale compared to piri-piri. Jalapeno are around the 8,500 SHU mark whereas piri piri can top out at 120,000. This means they are not a perfect match for one another, however a few chopped up jalapenos as a garnish works well for a little kick.

7. Hot Paprika Vs Piri Piri

We like to make our own paprika, but the reality is that it is very mild when compared to peri peri peppers. If you are looking for a peri peri seasoning replacement then this is a good match, but for the fieriness of the peppers you would have to combine with some of the previous alternatives.

8. Chili Powder Vs Piri Piri

Chili powder tends to be made from milder peppers than the peri peri pepper. Using cayenne and hot paprika to give it a boost chili powder is a very mild replacement for African bird’s eye peppers. However if you are looking to replace the more mainstream piri piri seasoning then chili powder does have a part to play.

Substitutes For Peri Peri Sauce Or Seasoning

While we have seen that peri-peri refers to the chili pepper, we can see that the much loved peri-peri sauce is somewhat different. Having as it does savory and citrus notes included. So how do we go about replacing piri piri sauce?

1. Homemade Peri Peri Sauce

A good homemade peri peri sauce will work wonders and the beauty here is that you can adjust the heat. A basic recipe would include fresh African Bird’s Eye Chili’s as well as smoked paprika, lemon juice and a few fresh herbs as well. A nice recipe to try is from Mike at Chili Pepper Madness. He really does know what he is talking about!

I find that a freshly made piri piri sauce is intense in flavor but it seems to mature very well. This means you may get the right heat level initially and then use a little less a few days later.

2. Sriracha Sauce Vs Piri Piri Sauce

Sriracha and piri piri sauce do differ slightly. Sriracha sauce is made from jalapeno chilis that are around 8,000 on the Scoville Heat Scale. There are also distilled vinegars, sugars and salt added. Piri piri peppers are at around 120,000 and in comparison to jalapenos, very hot.

When you buy ready made piri piri sauce it has a heat rating and this is due to the combination of other red peppers that are added. The more that are added the lower the overall heat range.

3. Tabasco Sauce Vs Piri Piri

Tabasco sauce is a relatively lower heat intensity than piri piri sauce, unless you are looking for the milder version. Piri piri does also have the sweetness that is sometimes missing from the hotter tabasco sauces.

4. Chili Powder Vs Peri Peri Sauce

Chili powder is already a blended spice mix and you can further dilute it by adding to vinegar and tinned or fresh tomatoes with the peel removed. This then means you have a nice depth of flavor but nothing like the heat of the hotter peri peri sauce.

Ideally you will be looking to not only recreate the heat of peri peri sauce, but the depth of flavors too. So adding some lime zest to your hot chili powder will help here too. Sweetness will be missing unless you also add a little salt and sugar.

5. Hot Paprika Vs Peri Peri Seasoning

To recreate and replace peri peri seasoning with hot paprika you must also add a little salt and some sweetness in the form of either honey or sugar. Then I would recommend adding a little citrus twist at the end of cooking, just before serving. You will not get the same heat but it is suitable to replace a milder mix.

6. Harissa Vs Peri Peri Sauce

Harissa paste and peri peri both originate from Africa and therefore are used in a similar way to marinade or as a dip. Harissa includes herbs and spices as well as red bell peppers and chili peppers. Although a hotter chili, peri peri has been popularized in many levels of heat intensity.

7. Buffalo Sauce Vs Peri Peri Sauce

Buffalo sauce is made from a chili like cayenne, distilled vinegar, salt, sugar and garlic powder. This means it has a heat that is pretty much in line with cayenne, 50,000 SHU. Peri peri sauce is available in different heat levels, but comes from the African Bird’s Eye chili that is up to 120,000 SHU.

The difference in intensity is easily overcome during the cooking process and you can marinade for longer or use more sauce throughout the cooking process if you are looking to replace piri piri with buffalo sauce. Frank’s is one of the best known buffalo sauces on the market.

8. Chipotle Sauce Vs Peri Peri Sauce

Chipotle sauce is a suitable substitute for milder piri piri sauce.

Chipotle sauce is made from chipotles chilis that are in adobo sauce, mixed with mayonnaise and a few other fresh ingredients like limes. Chipotle peppers range up to 8,000 on the Scoville scale when compared to piri piri peppers that can be up to 120,000 on the scale.

For me this makes it only suitable as a substitute for the milder peri peri sauce, but this can be adjusted by adding more peppers and reducing the mayo used.

What Next & Further Reading

Hopefully you feel a bit more confident to try out different chili mixes and use your spice blends in different ways. If you have any family favorites to share please do let us know in the comments as well!

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