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Reluctant Traveler’s Peri Peri Sauce Recipe

It turns out that no matter where you go, and no matter how picky of an eater you may be– you’ll find something to love. At least, that’s what we’ve learned from watching Eugene Levy in The Reluctant Traveler. During his trip to Lisbon, the decidedly-unadventurous host surprises even himself as he digs into the traditional Portuguese peri peri sauce. Prepared for him by Louisa, a cheery home cook, he even calls her sauce “the best meal I’ve had in Portugal”. So, you know we had to try it for ourselves. Thanks to a few cooking secrets from the show, we’ve whipped up the perfect Reluctant Traveler Peri Peri sauce. Here’s how to make it.

We learned a thing or two from watching The Reluctant Traveler’s take on this traditional dish. In a perfect peri peri sauce, the fiery heat of bird’s eye chili is tempered with a few key ingredients. Levy lists them off while he watches and snacks– lemon juice, garlic, onion, and salt. Louisa also engages in a traditional Portuguese cooking technique; plopping the fish in a bath of milk and lemon slices. She explains to the hesitant Levy that this process softens the fish– waving him off with a loving, “you’ll see when you eat it.” And that he certainly does.

The Reluctant Traveler Peri Peri Sauce Recipe

Eugene Levy first tries the famous peri peri sauce with fried fish, but it can be enjoyed with just about anything. In fact, most Portuguese restaurants have a bottle of the sauce on each table, ready to be dolloped onto chicken, veggies, you name it. We’re pairing it with fried cod– if only to try the milk marinade technique ourselves– but throw it on any of your favorite dishes for an extra punch of flavor.


For the Peri Peri Sauce

1 large white onion, minced
4 garlic cloves, minced
½ cup lemon juice
¼ cup vinegar (white wine or apple cider)
Zest of one lemon
¾ cup & 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp brown sugar
10 fresh African Bird’s Eye chili (tips cut off & split to expose the seeds)
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp smoked paprika

For the Fish

1 lb cod filets
3 garlic cloves, minced
½ cup milk
1 lemon
2 cups all purpose flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Neutral oil, for frying


For the Fish

Begin by preparing your fish. Rinse the cod under cold running water, then place in a large bowl. Cover with cold water and refrigerate for 24 hours, changing the water several times.

cod filets for peri peri
Season cod, to pair with peri peri

Next, drain the water and remove the bones and skin from the cod. Cut the filets into thick strips and place in a large bowl. Season with the juice of a lemon, then cut the juiced lemon into slices and toss them in the bowl with the fish. Add the minced garlic, ground pepper, and milk. Let the fish marinade in this mixture for about an hour.

Once the fish is done marinating, remove the strips from the milk and drain on a paper towel. Season a shallow plate of flour with salt and pepper. Next, dredge the fish– covering both sides– in the flour mixture. Fry the cod pieces in hot oil, about 2-3 minutes per side, then remove and drain on a paper towel. Season with extra salt, and keep warm until you’re ready to serve.

For the Peri Peri Sauce

While the fish marinades, you can get started on the peri peri sauce. In a saute pan add 2 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat. Once hot, add the onions, and cook until softened and slightly charred, about 5-7 minutes. Toss in the minced garlic, salt, and paprika, and cook for an additional 3 minutes or until the garlic has softened.

Sauted garlic for peri peri sauce
Sauted garlic for peri peri sauce

Transfer your onion and garlic mixture to a food processor. To the food processor, add the rest of your ingredients: lemon juice, zest, vinegar, chilis, remaining olive oil, brown sugar, and an extra pinch of salt. Blend until smooth, taste for seasonings, and adjust accordingly. Serve over your fried cod or protein of choice– just be careful of the spice.

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