For a similar Capsicum cultivar found in Asia, see Bird's eye chili. For the herb, see Justicia pectoralis. For the Kenyan musician, see Pilipili.

Piri piri
Heat Scoville scale 50,000–175,000[1]
Pili Pili
Species Capsicum frutescens
Cultivar Pili pili

Piri piri (/ˌpriˈpri/ , also spelled peri peri, pili pili),[1] also called African bird's eye chili, is a cultivar of Capsicum frutescens, one of the sources of chili pepper, that grows both wild and domesticated.

It is a small member of the Capsicum genus. It grows in Malawi, South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, and the tropical forests of South Sudan & the southern half of Ethiopia. It was brought to Goa by the Portuguese and the plant subsequently adapted to the hot climate.


Pili pili is the Swahili word for 'pepper pepper'.[2] Other English language spellings may include pili pili in the Democratic Republic of the Congo or peri peri in Malawi, deriving from the various pronunciations of the word in parts of Bantu languages-speaking Africa. Piri piri is the spelling of the name as used in the Portuguese language, namely in the Portuguese-speaking Mozambican community.[2] "There's a lot of debate about how the piri-piri pepper came to Portugal", says Dave DeWitt, author of The Chile Pepper Encyclopedia (Morrow, 1999). "The peppers were originally brought back on Columbus's voyage to the Americas. Most people believe that the Portuguese took the chiles to their colonies of Mozambique and Angola, where they were christened a Swahili word that means 'pepper-pepper', and naturally cross-pollinated. Eventually, one of the varieties made its way to Portugal, where, for some reason, it retained its African name."

The Oxford Dictionary of English records "piri-piri" as a foreign word meaning "a very hot sauce made with red chilli peppers" and giving its origin as the Ronga language of southern Mozambique word for "pepper".[3]

Plant characteristics

Plants are usually very bushy and grow in height to 45–120 centimeters, with leaves 4–7 cm long and 1.3–1.5 cm wide. The fruits are generally tapered to a blunt point and measure up to 8 or 10 centimeters long. Immature pod color is green, mature color is bright red or purple. Some varieties of birdseye measure up to 175,000 Scoville heat units.


Peri peri has grown in the wild in Africa for centuries and is now cultivated commercially in Uganda, Malawi, and Zimbabwe.[4] It grows mainly in Malawi, South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.[1] It is cultivated for both commercial food processing and the pharmaceutical industry. Cultivation of peri peri is labor intensive.[4]

Piri piri sauce

Piri piri sauce (used as a seasoning or marinade) is Portuguese in origin and "especially prevalent in Angola, Namibia, Mozambique and South Africa".[5] It is made from crushed chillies, citrus peel, onion, garlic, pepper, salt, lemon juice, bay leaves, paprika, pimiento, basil, oregano, and tarragon.[6]

See also


External links

  • Pepper Profile: African Birdseye at www.fiery-foods.com

Template:Capsicum Cultivars

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