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.

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.

Makes about 1 cup

  • 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


1. 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.

2. 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.