Is Nando’s Portuguese?

/ Last Updated: July 24, 2023 / 10 Comments

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Nandos uses the Rooster of Barcelos as part of its logo and its menu is made up of dishes such as peri-peri chicken and pastéis de nata. But is it actually Portuguese?

Nando’s is a popular restaurant chain worldwide, particularly in the United Kingdom where it has around 280 restaurants of the 1,000 or so restaurants it has worldwide (as of 2013). Given that Portuguese food isn’t as ubiquitous as Spanish or even German food, Nando’s can often be many people’s first experience of Portuguese-style food and they’re often surprised at the differences when they go for dinner in Portugal.

Saying “Portuguese-style”, as opposed to “Portuguese food“, gives you a little clue of where Nando’s stands. If you order piri-piri chicken in Portugal, for example in Guia where the dish is said to have been invented*, what you’ll get is chicken, chips (or rice), and a salad. You don’t choose your level of spice from a spice-ometer, add extra sauces, or choose from a list of sides. You don’t choose the part of the chicken that you want to eat and there’s certainly nothing like hummus, cheesey garlic pitas, paella, or grilled corn on the menu. And it’s the same at just about every churrasqueira or restaurant throughout Portugal, which is where you’ll have to order it as you won’t find any Nando’s restaurants here.


According to Nando’s own website, the food has a Mozambican and Portuguese theme. The idea for the restaurant was conceived in 1987 after founders Fernando Duarte and Robert Brozin tried piri-piri chicken for the first time at a Portuguese takeaway in Johannesburg called Chickenland. They liked it so much that they purchased the restaurant and renamed it Nando’s after Fernando. The restaurant flourished and within two years there were four outlets: three in Johannesburg in South Africa and the other in Portugal.

Many people say Nando’s is South African as the company headquarters are there and the company uses South African art to decorate its restaurants. In reality it’s a bit of a mish-mash of different cuisines and cultures that’s been jazzed up as a chain to compete with the likes of Pizza Hut and KFC. It’s not a bad chain — In fact, it’s a lot better than many of the alternatives — but it’s definitely not Portuguese.

* A lot of places claim to have invented piri-piri chicken. If you want to try proper piri-piri chicken (frango assado) you can get it just about anywhere in Portugal and especially in the Algarve.

Written by

James Cave is the founder of Portugalist and the author of the bestselling book, Moving to Portugal Made Simple. He has visited just about every part of Portugal, including Madeira and all nine islands of the Azores, and lived in several parts of Portugal including Lisbon, the Algarve, and Northern Portugal.

You can contact James by emailing or via the site's contact form.

Originally published: September 2016 & Last Updated: July 24, 2023.

There are 10 comments on this article. Join the conversation and add your own thoughts, reviews, and stories of life in Portugal. However, please remember to be civil.


  1. Flame grilled chicken is pretty common. What is not so common is the use of garlic, paprika, lemon and olive oil. These ingrediants are typical of Portuguese cuisine, and are used extensively in the ex Portuguese empire.

  2. My dream is one day I will be join in nandos restaurant to be work in that possible sir...or mom..

  3. No wonder your name is blah blah blah, its piri-piri its Portuguese, English people say peri peri because they cant pronounce foreign words.

  4. Nando's is actually fully Mozambican. That's how we make and serve chicken here, especially the sauce. Piri-piri is a Mozambican thing, the Portuguese only appropriated it, or dare I say, colonized it.

  5. This is actually not true. The best historical records we have, including from the colonial period, indicate that the Portuguese brought the “birds eye” piri-piri, or peri-peri pepper from the Americas to their colonies in Angola, and Mozambique. Mozambique culture(s) did not “invent” piri-piri chicken, and it was not “appropriated” into Portuguese cuisine. Like many things from the colonial era, cuisines, especially that of Portugal we’re developed by bringing together new experimentations of ingredient combinations from different parts of the world. It’s more of a “shared” food between Portugal and Mozambique. The chillie that is used, isn’t even native to Africa.

  6. Peri peri is the word used in South Africa but in Portuguese speaking countries we say Piri piri.

    An interesting note: in Japanese Piri Piri means spicy. There are hundreds of words in Japanese which originated in Portuguese but I am not sure it is the case or it is just a coincidence…

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