African Chili

African Chilli is the generic term used to describe a popular variety of chilli originating from the continent of Africa.


African Birds Eye Chili 


The African Birds Eye Chili is also called peri peri, piri piri, or pili pili. Known in English as African Devil Chile, “Pili pili” is how this chilli is referred to in Swahili which literally means 'pepper pepper’. “Piri piri” is how the Portuguese speaking Mozambican community, refer to the African birds eye chili.


Peri peri has been growing in the wild in Africa since centuries but has now started being cultivated commercially mainly in Uganda, Malawi, and Zimbabwe. Apart from these regions it grows in South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria and Mozambique. Cultivation of peri peri is a highly labor intensive process.




This chilli is a small, but extremely hot and spicy member of the Capsicum genus, specifically Capsicum frutescens, thus, making it is a relative of the tabasco chili. It is cultivated both for commercial food processing as well as for use in the pharmaceutical industry (active ingredient capsaicin used in several formulations).


It is used in the commercial production of the premium hot spicy Piri Piri Sauce. This sauce is in turn used as a seasoning or marinade in many dishes. It is made using a number of potent ingredients including crushed Piri piri chillies, onion, garlic, pepper, salt, citrus peel, lemon juice, bay leaves, paprika, basil, oregano, pimiento and tarragon. The chili itself may be used for sauces and marinades that pair well with meat, chicken and fish. These chilies are particularly pungent, imparting a unique taste to the sauces made from them and the dishes in which they are directly used.




Shrimp Pili-Pili


Pili-Pili is both the generic name for African chiles as also the name of this fiery shrimp dish from Mozambique. This is quite a popular dish for the fact that shellfish is abundant off the seacoast and the prawns are also large enough so that just a couple will make a full meal. The marinade prepared not only works well with shrimp or prawns, but can also be used effectively with fish and chicken.




Large shrimp or prawns, shelled and deveined.


For Marinade / Sauce (Note: Usually the marinade recipe is doubled and used as a vibrant sauce over the readied shrimp and served on the side)


  • crushed dried African birds eye chile, or substitute piquin chile
  • butter or margarine
  • peanut oil
  • minced garlic cloves
  • lime or fresh lemon juice




  • After melting the butter, oil and remaining marinade ingredients are added. These are simmered together for sometime to blend all the flavors.
  • The shrimp is tossed into the marinade thus prepared and left to marinate in the refrigerator for a few hours.
  • Shrimps are then threaded onto the skewers and either charcoal grilled or broiled, until they turn slightly brown and appear done.


Health Benefits


Studies have shown that eating these chillies regularly keeps heart healthy by lowering cholesterol, maintains blood pressure within a healthy range, and improves blood circulation to the heart. Capsaicin has also shown positive weight-loss effects by increasing metabolism which burns more calories. It is also useful in the treatment of prostate problems. The alkaloids derived from the capsaicin stimulate the activity of stomach and intestine, thus, enhancing the entire process of digestion.


Further, it is associated with powerful anti-inflammatory properties, better energy levels, enhanced immunity and more restful sleep.  



The African Bird’s Eye Chili Peppers presumably were named so because of their small roundish or beak-like shape and also perhaps because they have been spread mainly by birds, which are not affected by the intense heat of these peppers.