How to Make Top Chef Eric Adjepong’s Favorite Summer Marinade

West African piri-piri works on shrimp—or anything grill-friendly.

Piri-piri shrimp recipe from Erik Adjepong. Photograph by Scott Suchman

When Eric Adjepong fires up his summer grill, chances are there’s piri-piri sauce nearby. The Ghanian American Top Chef finalist, who founded the local catering company Pinch & Plate with wife Janell, loves sharing the flavors of the African diaspora. (A Washington-area restaurant is in the works.)

“It’s a sauce that’s really close to me, one of my favorites,” Adjepong says. “It started in Portugal but, through the slave trade, was passed around and morphed in different ways through West Africa and Mozambique.” The common threads: citrus, vinegar, herbs, and fire from chilies. The chef prefers serving head-and-shell-on prawns—“It creates an interactive feel”—but peeled shrimp work, too. Side them with grilled vegetables or, better, jollof rice.


Serves 4

  • 3 to 6 garlic cloves
  • 3 to 5 bird’s-eye (Thai) or Scotch-bonnet chilies
  • ½ large red bell pepper
  • ½ Roma tomato
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano
  • ½ bunch cilantro stems, leaves chopped and reserved for garnish
  • ½ tablespoon paprika
  • ¼ cup red-wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup vegetable or canola oil, plus more for grilling
  • 1 pound large prawns or shrimp, either head/shell-on or peeled and deveined


Put all ingredients except the oil and shrimp in a blender and purée until smooth. With the blender running on medium, slowly pour in the oil. Set the shrimp in a baking dish and cover with the blended marinade. Marinate the shrimp 4 to 6 hours, giving them a stir midway through. Fire a grill to medium-high, brush with oil, and cook shrimp about 2 to 3 minutes per side. (They should be slightly pink.) Set on a platter and garnish with cilantro leaves.

This article appears in the June 2019 issue of Washingtonian.

Food Editor

Anna Spiegel covers the dining and drinking scene in her native DC. Prior to joining Washingtonian in 2010, she attended the French Culinary Institute and Columbia University’s MFA program in New York, and held various cooking and writing positions in NYC and in St. John, US Virgin Islands.