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Piri piri (pili pili, peri peri) is a cultivar of Capsicum frutescens, one of the sources of chili pepper, that grows both wild and domesticated. It is a small, extremely spicy member of the Capsicum genus. It grows in Malawi, South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria, Zimbabwe and Mozambique.


African Birds Eye Chili is also called peri peri, pili pili, or piri piri.[1] 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 language group speaking Africa. Piri piri is the spelling of the name as used in the Portuguese language, namely in the Portuguese speaking Mozambican community, to describe the African bird’s eye chili.[3]

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 (a Bantu language of southern Mozambique) word for “pepper”.[4]

Plant characteristics

Plants are usually very bushy and grow in height to 45-120 centimeters, with leaves of 4–7 cm length and 1.3-1.5 cm width. 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 years and is now cultivated commercially in Uganda, Malawi, and Zimbabwe.[5] 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.[5]

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”.[6] It is made from crushed chillies, citrus peel, onion, garlic, pepper, salt, lemon juice, bay leaves, paprika, pimiento, basil, oregano, and tarragon.[7]

Written on February 29th, 2012 , Botany, Vegetables Tags:

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