Peri Peri chicken livers – tender chunks of chicken livers, swimming in a tomato and onion gravy, spiced up with chilli. Grab your crusty bread roll and dive right in.
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Peri Peri Chicken Livers
Peri Peri Chicken Livers is a traditional South African starter, served in restaurants all over the country, and if you like hot and spicy food, you are going to love this dish.
It is served in a soup bowl, accompanied by a crusty Portuguese roll. The chicken livers are swimming in a mouthwatering sea of tomatoes and onion sauce, liberally flavoured with peri peri chilli. Instead of a bread roll, you could serve this dish with slices of Irish seeded bread.
To eat it you break chunks of the bread roll and dip it into the sauce. The chicken livers are usually cut small enough to just spear with your fork. No knife needed. It is not really an elegant dish to eat, but oh my goodness – the taste is out-of-this-world.
I’ve been known to order two peri peri starters at once and eat them both instead of a main meal!
I know a lot of people turn their noses up at chicken livers (urgh – I don’t like liver), but believe me, once you have tried them you will be converted. They have a lovely creamy, buttery taste, and do not taste ‘livery’ at all.
What is Peri Peri?
In case you are wondering what Peri Peri is, it is a hot red chilli pepper, similar to a Bird’s Eye Chilli. It is cultivated in South Africa and the adjoining southern African countries. The word Peri is Swahili for pepper, so peri peri becomes pepper pepper, or strong pepper, the duplication of the word being used as an intensifier.
In South Africa, you can buy a bottle of readymade Peri Peri Sauce, the most popular being made by Knorr, or Nandos. I always kept a bottle of this in my kitchen so I could whip up a batch of chicken livers at a moment’s notice. About a quarter of a bottle (approximately 50 ml) is normally enough to flavour your chicken livers. Unfortunately, it’s not so easy to source this in England, even at the South African shops, so I’ve had to improvise a little with the ingredients and make this recipe without the benefit of this sauce.
I made these many times when we were entertaining. If we were having a barbeque (the traditional sort where the meat only gets cooked once the beer is finished) then I would always make sure there was a huge dish of these to stave off the hunger pangs. I’d get people coming inside with empty plates – ‘got any more of those chicken livers?‘. Luckily I always did.
- Prep time – 20 minutes
- Cooking time – 30 minutes
- Yield – 2 as a main / 4 as a starter
- Calories – 209 per serving (starter-sized excluding bread)
- Main equipment – I like to cook these in a deep wok with a lid so that they can simmer away without drying out. You can also make this dish in a slow_cooker – see further down the post for instructions.
Ingredients for Peri Peri Chicken Livers
You can get the complete list of ingredients and full instructions for making peri peri chicken livers on the printable recipe card at the end of this post.
- Fresh Chicken Livers you can use frozen if you can’t get hold of fresh, just defrost them before using.
- Onions (roughly chopped)
- Tomatoes (roughly chopped and retain the juice) approximately the same amount of tomatoes by volume as the onions. If you don’t have fresh tomatoes, just substitute them with the equivalent amount of canned tomatoes.
- Salt – this is optional – just add to your own taste.
- Sugar – I always add a small amount of sugar when cooking with tomatoes to bring out the flavour.
- Red birds eye chilli – de-seeded, membranes removed and finely chopped.
- Dried Chilli Flakes – (not pictured) this is optional and depends on the spiciness of the red chilli (use your own judgment – add more if you like it extra spicy, or add less for a milder taste).
- Worcestershire Sauce
- Tomato Paste (or puree)
- Garlic – finely minced (or you can substitute with a teaspoon of garlic paste )
- Sunflower Oil (for sweating the onion)
- Half a cup of water (not pictured).
How to make Peri Peri Chicken Livers
Prepare the ingredients
First of all, you should prepare your ingredients:
- Rinse the chicken livers in cold water and pat dry on kitchen paper.
- Chop the chicken livers into bite-sized pieces, discarding any bits of sinew.
- Chop the tomatoes and onions into a chunky dice. Aim for a 1cm to 2cm dice, but don’t be too particular about getting everything the same size. The tomato mostly cooks away into the sauce, and the onions become lovely and soft and translucent.
- If you have overripe tomatoes, so much the better. You need as much liquid as possible from the tomatoes because they provide most of the liquid for this dish. Make sure to keep all the liquid along with the chopped tomatoes
- Remove the seeds and membranes from the chilli and chop finely.
- If you are using fresh garlic cloves, chop them as finely as you can with a sharp knife, or use a garlic twister to mince the garlic.
Cook the peri peri chicken livers
The next step is to cook it all.
- Heat 2 tablespoons sunflower oil in a wok or large frying pan, add the onion, chopped chilli and garlic and fry gently over a low heat to soften. It is important not to let the garlic brown or you may get a bitter taste (image 1 above). To speed up the process you can cover the pan with a lid and let the onions sweat gently, but keep your eye on it so the onions don’t burn.
- Add the chicken livers and continue frying, stirring all the while, until they change colour are no longer pink (image 2 above).
- Add the rest of the ingredients, give it a good stir and bring to a boil (image 3 above).
- To cook this dish in a wok – turn the heat down to a low simmer, put the lid on the pan and leave it for 30 to 40 minutes. The livers will be well-cooked after this time, but you can leave them on a very low heat to keep warm until you are ready to serve. They won’t over-cook.
- To cook this dish in a slow-cooker – transfer everything into a slow-cooker and cook on low for at least 3 hours.
- Check for flavour. If you find that it doesn’t have enough ‘bite’ add a little more chilli.
- Check occasionally to make sure the dish is not boiling dry. If it does start to dry out then add a splash of water to keep it moist.
- The lowest setting on my stovetop is ideal, but yours may be stronger, so keep checking. The aim is to reduce the liquid from the tomatoes by about half.
- If you want to thicken the sauce slightly, mix 1 to 2 teaspoons of cornflour (cornstarch) with a tablespoon of cold water and drizzle it into the chicken livers. Stir until thickened to your liking.
This recipe will feed 4 as a starter, and 2 as a main meal. If you want to make a bigger batch then just double the quantities of everything except the chilli. Use your own judgment on this. Remember, you can put it in but you can’t take it out.
I like to taste and adjust as I go along. The best way to do this is to take a small piece of bread and dip in in the sauce in the pan. That way you get a feel for what the final flavour will be, and how hot the chilli has made it.
Serve with plenty of crusty bread to mop up the delicious juices. Or perhaps you’d like to try it with Seeded Irish Soda Bread.
These peri peri chicken livers are delicious served on a bed of white rice with a fresh green salad on the side. They also make a quick and easy supper when mixed with a bowl of freshly cooked noodles. I’ve even been known to eat the leftovers on toast for breakfast!
Yes, these freeze beautifully. Just ladle the livers into suitable containers and pop them into the freezer. You can leave them in the freezer for up to 3 months.
To defrost you can use the defrost setting on your microwave or tip the frozen livers into a pan and heat gently on the stove to defrost, stirring occasionally.
Once defrosted, place in a saucepan on the stove over a gentle heat and leave until the livers are piping hot.
This is entirely up to you. Some people do like to soak the chicken livers in milk for 30 minutes before cooking as they believe it removes any impurities in the livers and improves the flavour.
I have never soaked my livers in milk when making this recipe.
Chicken livers are cooked when the internal temperature reaches 73C or 165F. The livers may still be pink on the inside, but not raw.
That said however, this recipe has quite a long cooking time, so there should be no problem with the chicken livers being undercooked.
Chicken livers contain a high percentage of iron, as well as vitamins A, C, B6 and B12. They are also rich in thiamin, phosphorus, riboflavin, copper, and zinc.
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This recipe was number 8 on my top 10 recipes for December 2019.
Recipe – Peri Peri Chicken Livers
Peri Peri Chicken Livers
(Click the stars to rate this recipe)
- 8 ounce (225g) fresh chicken Livers you can use frozen if you can't get hold of fresh
- 1 large onion (roughly chopped)
- 4 medium tomatoes (roughly chopped and retain the juice) approximately the same amount by volume as the onions. Can substitute with canned tomatoes.
- 1 birds eye red chilli you could use 2 if you like really spicy food.
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes (use your own judgment) (optional)
- 2 Tablespoons Worcestershire Sauce
- 2 Tablespoons tomato puree (or tomato paste)
- 1 clove garlic (or you can use garlic paste)
- 1 to 2 Tablespoons sunflower oil (for sweating the onion)
- ½ cup water
- Rinse the chicken livers in cold water
- Chop the chicken livers into bite-sized chunks, discarding any bits of sinew
- Roughly chop the onions and tomatoes into approximately 1cm dice
- Remove the seeds and membranes from the chilli and dice finely.
- If using fresh garlic cloves, peel and mince finely.
- Heat the oil in a wok or large frying pan (with a lid)
- Add the onion, chopped chilli and garlic and saute until the onion is translucent. Do not allow them to brown
- Add the chicken livers and continue frying with the onion until they change colour and are no longer pink
- Add all the remaining ingredients. Make sure you add any juice that resulted from chopping the tomatoes.
- Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer.
- Simmer on the lowest heat you can get, with the lid on, for at least 30 minutes until the tomatoes have broken down and formed a rich gravy with the onions. The liquid from the tomatoes should be reduced by about half.
- Serve with crusty rolls or chunks of bread to mop up all the delicious gravy
I am not a nutritionist. The nutrition information has been calculated using an on-line calculator, and is intended for information and guidance purposes only. If the nutrition information is important to you, you should consider calculating it yourself, using your preferred tool.
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