Peri Peri Butterflied Chicken

One of my favourite ways to eat chicken is to butterfly it, marinade it and grill it on the barbeque. Butterflied chicken (sometimes also known as spatchcock chicken) is where you remove the backbone of a chicken and open it like a book so it becomes a whole flat bird when it cook. It makes marinating chicken easier and you get more even and faster cooking than a whole chicken. Also since there’s more surface area, the skin gets crispier and charry too.. Whilst it looks difficult to do yourself, it’s actually really simple. All you need is a good pair of kitchen/poultry shears and you can prep a butterflied chicken in as little as 5 minutes.

In terms of Peri Peri chicken, you might be surprised to know that this dish originated from Mozambique, which was once a Portuguese colony and as the Portuguese were famously known for spreading chillies all over the world, it’s thought that’s how they arrived in Mozambique, around the 16th century. The word peri peri (sometimes also written as PiriPiri) comes from the Swahilli word “pilipili” meaning “pepper”, which just like in english can describe all types of pepper or chilli and be an adjective to describe spice. The specific chilli that is used in most traditional Peri Peri chicken recipes is known as the African Birds Eye chilli or Malagueta chilli, which looks similar in look and heat as a Bird’s Eye chilli that you’d find here in Australia.

I’ve researched countless peri peri recipes including Nando’s version and come up with my own. For a summer spin, I’ve used in season mangoes in place of brown sugar to sweeten the marinade, however you can use whichever you prefer or have on hand. I’ve also added a peri peri corn side dish as it’s something you can grill with the chicken as it cooks.

Serves- 4
Ingredients- 17
Cooking Time- 1.5 hours
Skill Level- Easy



  • 2 red capsicums or jarred marinated capsicums
  • 2 brown onions
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato paste
  • Your choice of chillies- Use at least 4-5 chillies for a medium spice level. I used a mix of different chillies below:
    • 1 long red cayenne chilli
    • 2 birds eye chilli
    • 1 jalapeno chilli
    • 1 habanero chilli
  • 10 cloves of garlic
  • ½ cup of vinegar
  • ½ cup of vegetable or olive oil
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • ½ teaspoon of pepper
  • 2 tsp of smoked paprika
  • Zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 2-3 tablespoons of chilli oil
  • Half of a mango cheek or 2 tablespoons of brown sugar


  1. Grilling your capsicums and onions over a flame for about 10-15 minutes or until they are charred and black all over and the flesh of the capsicum is soft to touch. I’ve charred them on my gas stove but you could also char them on a BBQ. Otherwise if you’re short on time or don’t want to do this, you could buy pre-marinated peppers in a jar or from your deli and skip this step.
  2. Transfer to a bowl and cover with a plate or cling wrap and allow to steam for about 5 minutes. Then remove the charred layer from both the onion and capsicum as well as the internal seeds. Run under a tap and pat dry if some charred bits are still stuck to the flesh.
  3. Roughly chop and place into a blender as well as all of the other marinade ingredients. For the chillies, if you’re wanting to control the heat level, add them in one at a time and then taste each time to see if it’s at your desired heat. The amount I’ve used is around a medium spice level.
  4. Blend until smooth and then transfer to a pan on a stove and continue to cook for about 10 minutes on medium heat until it slightly reduces. Transfer to a bowl to cool back to room temperature before using. This quantity of marinade is enough for at least 3 chickens, so keep the remainder in a jar in the fridge to use up within a month.
  5. To butterfly your chicken, flip it so the back is facing upwards to you. Using kitchen shears, cut out the spine/backbone of the chicken by snipping upwards on either side of it. You should be left with 1 long strip of backbone that you can discard or freeze to use for a stock later.
  6. Then open up the chicken like a book and using a sharp knife, cut down into the breast bone to snap it in half and flatten the chicken. Use kitchen shears to cut out any bones that are exposed or trim any fat you don’t want. This allows the chicken to spread out flat onto your bbq for even and faster cooking.
  7. Generously salt the whole exterior and interior of the chicken and use your hands to rub it into the flesh.
  8. Pour generous spoonfuls over the chicken and massage it all over the skin. Allow to marinade in your fridge for a minimum of 1 hour and maximum of 24 hours.
  9. Heat your barbeque and then place your chicken on the grill section and cook for 15 minutes on each side with the lid closed on medium heat (around 200 degrees celsius). Open the lid and cook for a further 10 minutes on high heat to get extra char marks on the chicken. Brush some extra marinade over the chicken whilst it cooks. You could also oven roast your chicken for 30 minutes at 200 degrees celsius fan forced and then turn it up to 230 for the last 10 minutes to get extra browning.
  10. Add the optional corn onto the barbeque once you flip your chicken (15 minutes into the cook). To make a basting sauce, mix 1 tablespoon of the marinade into 2 tablespoons of melted butter and brush a little at a time on the corn whilst it cooks. 
  11. Transfer to a platter allowing the chicken to rest for 5-10 minutes before serving with rice and or a salad between 4 people.


If you are looking for more Chicken Recipes, you can find some of my favourites below; 

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