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Piri Piri Chicken Salad Sandwiches

piri piri chicken salad-wide

Making a fun mayonnaise is an easy way to perk up an old standby like chicken salad. Piri piri, sometimes called the African birdseye chili, is a chili pepper from the southern part of that continent and proud member of the hotter-than-heck family of peppers. My version is toned down considerably, with roasted poblanos. The dish offers a crunch from peanuts, often used in southern and central African cuisine, and a sweet bite of golden raisins, showing off a pinch of the complexity found in pan-Indian curries. And it’s all tucked in one delicious little sandwich.

  • Duration
  • Prep Time
  • 6 ServingsServings


The Chicken Salad

  • 1 fresh whole jalapeño pepper, stem and seeds removed (see Kitchen Tip)
  • 2 fresh whole poblano peppers, green or red or one of each, stem and seeds removed (see Kitchen Tip)
  • 1 shallot, peeled and cut into quarters
  • Zest and juice of 1 large lemon
  • 1 1/2-inch piece ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or more to taste
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled, halved, grated, any green centers removed
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 1/4 cup olive oil mayonnaise
  • 1 1/4 pounds poached or roasted chicken (meat only) cut into ½-inch pieces (about 4 cups)
  • 1/2 cup honey-roasted peanuts
  • 2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins (sultanas)
  • 6 challah rolls or sweet (pareve) Portuguese rolls, cut in half and toasted

The Garnishes

  • 2 small heads romaine lettuce
  • 1 small head Trevisano radicchio (see Kitchen Tip)
  • 4 radishes, sliced thinly, optional
  • 2 large or 4 medium ripe red tomatoes, Israeli preferred


Roast the jalapeño and poblanos over the flame of a gas burner or under a broiler until all sides are black and singed. Place them in a heatproof bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. The skin will loosen and the peppers will continue to cook from the residual heat. Set aside for at least 1 minute or up to 15 minutes. Peel or scrape the skin off the roasted peppers (you don’t have to do a perfect job; a few bits of char taste good).

Place the shallot, lemon zest and juice, ginger, red pepper flakes, salt, black pepper, and garlic into the bowl of a food processor and process for about 1½ minutes, until the mixture has the consistency of a paste. Add the mayonnaise and pulse until fully combined.

In a large mixing bowl combine ½ cup of the seasoned mayonnaise mixture, the chicken, peanuts, parsley, and raisins, and mix to combine.
Place ½ to ¾ cup of the chicken salad on a toasted roll. Spread as much of the seasoned mayonnaise as you like on the other side of the roll and pile the sandwich high with romaine, radicchio, radishes if using, and tomatoes and serve.

Kitchen Tip

The chemicals in chili peppers that cause that wonderful feeling of heat on the tongue can cause a not so wonderful feeling if they get into your eyes--and it can share its love with other foods on your menu. To avoid cross-contamination and any possible discomfort, avoid touching your face or eyes after cutting and trimming hot chilies. Change work surfaces and knives. Some cooks wear plastic gloves.

Trevisano radicchio is an Italian radicchio that grows in an oblong head; it has a satisfyingly bitter flavor.

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