Pili Pili Oil Recipe

Add some kick to vegetables, grains, and anything really by drizzling it with this oil infused with bird’s eye chilies and fresh herbs.
Black Food_Pili Pili Oil
Photo by Oriana Koren

Pili Pili (or Piri Piri) is the Swahili name for chiles. In many places throughout sub-Saharan Africa, bird’s eye chiles are either blended with salt, fat, acid, and herbs, or oil is infused with bird’s eye chiles and herbs and used for drizzling over vegetables, grains, and any other food to add some kick. 

Makes about 1 cup
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 2 days



2 teaspoons smoked paprika
2 (2-inch) thyme sprigs
2 (2-inch) rosemary sprigs
9 small bird’s eye or Thai chiles
1 cup olive oil


In a small saucepan, combine all the ingredients and heat over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the oil starts to sizzle and the paprika has completely dissolved. Immediately remove from the heat and set aside to cool. Transfer the mixture to a small jar or bottle, seal, and refrigerate for a few days before using. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

Reprinted with permission from BLACK FOOD: Stories, Art, and Recipes from Across the African Diaspora edited by Bryant Terry, copyright © 2021. Published by 4 Color Books, an imprint of Ten Speed Press and Penguin Random House.

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