Portuguese Grilled Shrimp with Hot Sauce

The hot sauce known as molho de piri-piri is made all over Portugal, but the best version I have ever eaten was served in a seafood restaurant across from the fish market in Cascais on the Costa do Sol. The fiery sauce takes its name from the very hot piri piri chile.–Joyce Goldstein

LC Piri-Piri Peppers Note

Piri-piri. Just sorta rolls off the tongue, eh? It’s actually Swahili for “pepper pepper,” and “piri-piri” is how it’s pronounced in Portuguese. These peppers came to Portugal by way of Africa, though much controversy surrounds the specifics. Suffice it to say, anyone who’s experienced the namesake sauce is grateful they somehow found their way to Portugal. We think you will be, too. Although don’t look for them stateside, as you won’t find them. You can use Thai bird, red jalapeño, santaka, arbol, cayenne, or Tabasco peppers instead.

Portuguese Grilled Shrimp with Hot Sauce Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 30 M
  • 4 H, 30 M
  • Serves 4-6


  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh hot red chiles (see LC Note above)
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 small fresh red chiles, finely chopped, or 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 pounds jumbo shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • Salt, to taste
  • Lemon wedges, for serving (optional)
  • Coarse country bread, for serving


  • 1. In a jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine the chiles, garlic, salt, olive oil, and vinegar. Cover, shake well, and refrigerate for about 1 week before using. You should have about 1 1/2 cups piri-piri sauce. (You will not use it all; store the remainder for up to 2 months.) Shake the piri-piri sauce well before using.
  • 2. In a mortar, grind together the garlic and chiles or cayenne pepper to make a paste. Stir in the olive oil. Rub this mixture over the shrimp, place them in a bowl, cover, and refrigerate for 4 hours.
  • 3. Preheat a broiler (or grill pan), or prepare a fire in a grill. Remove the shrimp from the marinade, reserving the marinade. Thread the shrimp onto skewers, piercing the shrimp twice, once near the tail and again near the head. Sprinkle with salt. Broil or grill, turning once and basting with the marinade, until opaque throughout, 5 to 6 minutes total.
  • 4. Arrange the skewers on a serving platter and garnish with the lemon wedges. Serve the bread and piri-piri sauce for dipping on the side.
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