Celebrities throng South African–born restaurant chain Nando’s for its peri-peri chicken
Washington ,May16:Nando’s, the South African–born restaurant chain known for its spicy peri-peri chicken has a growing number of evangelists spreading the word about what might be the coolest—and most under-the-radar—fast food out there. But these aren’t just any evangelists; these are big names like Drake, Adele, and Bella Hadid who have been preaching the Nando’s gospel far and wide.
“Winner winner Nando’s chicken dinner,” Drake posted on his Instagram feed in February after he won International Male Solo Artist at the 2017 Brit Awards. That same month, he dropped a rumored $650 on Nando’s takeaway for his crew, following a concert in the English city of Leeds, according to U.K. media outlets.
(The British tabloids seem to offer ongoing coverage of celebrity fixation with Nando’s takeaway. Beyoncé also allegedly placed a sizable order after one of her U.K. concerts, the Daily Mail reported.) Even Prince Harry is said to have been spotted running out for late-night Nando’s. During a concert in Washington, Adele gave a serious shout out to Nando’s. And Bella Hadid and Kendall Jenner feasted on Nando’s during London Fashion Week, with Hadid posting on Snapchat photos of the leftover pile of chicken bones. There’s also a mythic Nando’s black card, which entitles the lucky holder to free Nando’s food. The company refuses to confirm these actually exist, but Nando’s fan Ed Sheeran was photographed showing his off.
So what warrants such a celebrity cult following? “Must be the chicken,” deadpanned Sepanta Bagherpour, Nando’s USA’s vice president of marketing. Nando’s started as a humble neighborhood restaurant in Johannesburg in 1987 and now it’s expanded to about 1,000 restaurants worldwide. Their signature dish is a Portuguese-style, 24-hour marinated, then flame-grilled, chicken with a kick from its special blend of peri-peri sauces. Also known as African Bird’s Eye Chili, peri-peri has been used in southeast African cuisine for centuries to bring fire to the food. Add a squeeze of lemon and a kick of garlic to the chili, and you get the beginnings of the famed (and secret!) spice mix.
But in the U.S., Nando’s is still pretty unknown—most of Nando’s 39 American outposts are centered around the Washington, D.C., and Chicagoland areas. But that’s changing as the company’s signature hot sauce has gone on to its own semi-fame: Bottles of it are sold in select supermarkets throughout the U.S. (and are thankfully sold online as well). They come in medium all the way up to “XX Hot”—Drake’s takeout order reportedly contained “nothing above medium spice.”
There’s more to Nando’s than chicken and hot sauce; they also champion an array of commendable social causes (including partnering with Goodbye Malaria to raise funds towards eradicating malaria in Africa) and support local South African artists by hanging original works in locations around the globe. The company also isn’t shy about weighing in on political issues in their ad campaigns, including a pro-immigrant post in January that read, “Even if you’ve never sat at one of our tables, you’re welcome to stand with us.”
If you’re looking to try the famed Nando’s chicken but don’t live near one of its outposts, here’s how to make it at home:
Spatchcock Grilled Chicken With Nando’s Peri-Peri Sauce
1/2 cup Nando’s hot peri-peri sauce
1/2 cup Nando’s garlic peri-peri sauce
3.5-4.5 lbs. chicken, whole
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine the hot sauce and garlic peri-peri sauce.
Place the chicken on its back. Using a knife, cut between the breastbone to butterfly the chicken.
Coat the chicken with the sauce and place the breast-side down on a baking tray to roast in the oven.
Halfway through roasting, turn the chicken over. Chicken is done when the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Optional: To get a flame-grilled flavor and grill marks, finish skin-side down on a hot charcoal grill.