The Best Air Fryer Piri Piri Chicken Recipe – delicious spicy, tangy piri piri chicken that tastes just like Nandos in the air fryer!
Delicious crunchy, juicy chicken that is spicy, a little tangy, and totally addictive – this recipe for air fried chicken, marinated and coated in Portugese African piri piri sauce is a delicious, easy, and surprisingly keto/low carb chicken you’ll want to make again and again!
This delicious recipe is meant to get you delicious, tender and perfect piri piri chicken, just like from Nando’s restaurants (try my Nando’s rice recipe here for a delicious spicy side dish.)
Since I live so far from Nandos (come to Colorado!!!), I came up with this recipe so I can get their delicious Portugese style piri piri chicken anytime. You can even use Nando’s sauce, now that it is easy to find in grocery stores or on Amazon!
Similar to our air fried chicken drumsticks, while we recommend air frying dark meat, skin-on chicken for the best flavor and crispy crunch – but you can also use chicken breasts in this recipe as well.
This recipe was designed to take about 20 minutes for chicken drumsticks, thighs, and wings – and about 18 minutes for chicken breasts.
We’re going to show you how to use a digital thermometer to watch your chicken instead of going off cooking time, so you might get there a bit faster or slower, but you’ll have deliciously perfect tender and juicy chicken in no time!
We provide a skip to recipe button in the top left corner, as well as a clickable table of contents, just below, to help make this page easier to navigate.
Table of contents
- Piri Piri Sauce
- Air Fried Chicken
- Instant Pot Air Fried Chicken Drumsticks
- How To Cook Chicken Drumsticks in the Air Fryer
- Recipe FAQs
- Air Fryer Piri Piri Chicken Recipe
Piri Piri Sauce
Piri piri is a sauce that started in Africa – it was a sauce in countries the Portugese empire extended to in Africa (Mozambique and Angola), and quickly became a Portugese staple when spice ships brought African Bird Eye chilies to Portugal.
Piri piri chicken itself as a dish is rumored to have started at a small restaurant in the tiny town of Guia in the Algarve region of Portugal.
Piri piri sauce is spicy, tangy, and a little smoky – with lots of rich, bright flavors that are phenomenal with chicken.
Store Bought Piri Piri Sauce
I personally love using Nando’s Garlic Piri Piri Sauce, which is rich and thick, and is rated a medium on heat.
You can also use a mild, lemon, or hot piri piri sauce – but we just love the flavor of the garlic sauce.
Click here to buy your own Nando’s sauce.
Piri Piri Sauce Ingredients
1 tbsp red chilies, diced
8 cloves garlic, diced
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 cup cilantro, tightly packed
1/4 cup basil, tightly packed
1/2 cup olive oil or avocado oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice
Salt to taste
Air Fried Chicken
This air fryer recipe gets deliciously crisp chicken with a crunchy bite that tastes fried- without all the oil from deep frying.
The only oil we’re using in this recipe is a tiny bit – in the piri piri sauce we’re using as a marinade and baste.
This recipe is keto diet compatible and low carb because we’re not breading it at all.
The air fryer’s fans and heat will help give us a fried chicken taste – without the extra work and calories.
Try this method with my Air fryer Nando’s wings – the sauce works really well on this recipe, too.
Instant Pot Air Fried Chicken Drumsticks
If you have a crisping lid for your Instant pot, or an Instant Pot Duo crisp, or a Ninja Foodie with broil function, you can also use your Instant Pot/Ninja Foodi to air fry chicken!
If you need an air fryer crisplid for your Instant Pot, click here.
If you’d like to buy an Instant Pot with pressure cook and air fry functions, click here.
Use the method below to make these chicken drumsticks in your Instant Pot or Ninja Foodi:
Instant Pot Air Fried Chicken Legs
- Prep chicken legs as called for in recipe below.
- Place the chicken drumsticks in the CrispLid basket.
- Place the trivet and the basket inside the inner steel pot.
- Place the Crisplid on the Instant Pot.
- Set to 425°F and follow instructions in recipe below.
How To Cook Chicken Drumsticks in the Air Fryer
Cooking chicken in an air fryer is a delicious, easy way to get crunchy, juicy, deep-fried chicken flavor without all the extra oil or carb-y breading.
If you love crunchy chicken drumsticks, thighs, and wings, be sure to check my top tips for perfect air fried chicken below:
Preheat air fryer
Run your air fryer for a few minutes before adding the food so it is hot and ready to go when you go to air fry your chicken drumsticks.
This is optional, but I feel it helps the skin to puff up and get a crispy “fried” texture.
Don’t Open Too Often
Since air fryers are completely sealed off, it’s hard to judge your chicken’s doneness by the look of it.
Don’t open your air fryer constantly, letting heat escape – trust in the timing of the recipe, and a handy rapid-read digital meat thermometer.
Check the temperature of the chicken when you’re already opening the air fryer to flip them – don’t open it just to check the temperature or too much heat will escape.
Use a Digital Thermometer
When your timer is done, immediately test the temperature of the chicken pieces with a digital thermometer inserted into the middle of the thickest part of the chicken drumstick without touching bone.
Chicken should be cooked to 165 degrees internally.
If chicken has not met 165 degrees internally, add another 2-5 minutes to cook time.
Don’t crowd basket
Air fryers help get hot air to circulate around the chicken drumstick to get a heat so high it makes meat taste fried – and to do that, it helps to not crowd the pan.
Put the chicken in your air fryer pan in a way they aren’t crowding each other – it makes a huge difference.
This recipe was designed to work with any type of chicken you’re making – from skin-on, bone-in thighs and drumsticks, to boneless, skinless chicken breasts.
We will be marinating the chicken in piri piri sauce, and closely monitoring the chicken’s temperature – rather than cooking solely off time on the air fryer – to get perfect results, so you can use this method with any type of chicken.
This recipe was designed to work with different types of air fryers – so the time listed is an estimate. Your air fryer might take a bit longer than time listed.
For chicken breasts – flip after 9 minutes, should be done at 18 minutes (Cooktime might vary, check internal temperature and keep cooking until 160 degrees internal temperature, don’t cook over 160 for best texture.)
For chicken wings, thighs, and drumsticks – flip after 10 minutes, and check temperature at 20 minutes. (Cooktime might vary, check internal temperature and keep cooking until 160 degrees internal temperature, don’t cook over 160 for best texture.)
This recipe works with countertop air fryers, Instant Pot with broil function, broil basket, and broiler lid, or Ninja Foodi machines with broil function, broil basket, and broiler lid.
I personally use the Ninja Foodi or Phillips Air Fryer most often when making recipes for our family.
Air Fryer Piri Piri Chicken Recipe
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The Best Air Fryer Piri Piri Chicken Recipe - delicious spicy, tangy piri piri chicken that tastes just like Nandos in the air fryer!
1 cup piri piri sauce, divided:
- 1 tbsp red chilies, diced*
- 8 cloves garlic, diced*
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika*
- 1/2 cup cilantro, tightly packed*
- 1/4 cup basil, tightly packed*
- 1/2 cup olive oil or avocado oil*
- 3 tablespoons lemon juice*
- Salt to taste*
- *OR 1 bottle Nando's Sauce, 9.2 oz (we prefer garlic medium)
For The Chicken:
- 2 lbs chicken (we prefer chicken drumsticks, chicken thighs, or chicken wings - but can use chicken breasts too)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tsp celtic sea salt
- 1 tsp fresh cracked pepper
- Place all piri piri sauce ingredients in blender and pulverize until smooth and liquid.
- Place drumsticks in a bowl or a plastic bag and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
- Toss to coat.
- Pour 1/2 cup of homemade piri piri sauce (about 1/2 nandos sauce bottle) over chicken to marinate. Save other half of sauce for basting chicken while it cooks (do not baste chicken with sauce that has touched raw chicken.)
- Marinate chicken in sauce at least 1 hour, covered in plastic wrap and kept in the refrigerator. Marinate for 4 hours for ideal flavor, up to overnight.
- Preheat air fryer at 400 for 5 minutes.
- Place chicken in air fryer basket and cook for 10 minutes on 400. Discard sauce chicken was marinating in, do not use to baste chicken.
- Remove basket and flip chicken drumsticks, baste with piri piri sauce.
- Cook at 400 for another 10 minutes.
- If chicken is not 165 degrees internally, add another 5 minutes of cook-time and baste again.
- Time can vary based on chicken size, so check the temperature with a digital thermometer after cooking to prevent over or under cooking.
- When chicken has reached 160 degrees internally, remove from air fryer and let carryover cook and rest for 10 minutes.
- Serve with additional sauce to dip in, and enjoy!
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Amount Per Serving Calories 593Total Fat 37gSaturated Fat 9gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 25gCholesterol 215mgSodium 1031mgCarbohydrates 5gFiber 1gSugar 3gProtein 55g
Nutrition is automatically calculated by Nutritionix - please verify all nutrition information independently and consult with a doctor or nutritionist for any and all medical and diet advice.
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