Buffalo Sauce

4.87 from 30 votes
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This homemade buffalo sauce recipe delivers bold flavors and a kick of heat! It has just the right balance of spice and tanginess, perfect for slathering on buffalo wings or using it as a dipping sauce.

homemade buffalo sauce in a clear jar with chicken wings in the back

It’s shocking how easy it is to make buffalo sauce at home. Choose your favorite hot sauce, a little bit of Worcestershire sauce, plus butter, and you’re ready to take a plate of crispy chicken wings to the next level. Making sure the proper ratios of heat-to-fat is essential to control the capsaicin.

Try this recipe for a quick dipping sauce, coating, or marinade for meats and vegetables, and ditch the store-bought stuff. I use this flavor enhancer to douse on my baked buffalo wings and in my cheesy buffalo chicken dip. Both are a massive hit on game day!

top down photo of pre portioned ingredients to make buffalo sauce

Who invented buffalo sauce?

No, there are no actual buffalos used in the sauce. According to Time Magazine, it’s where Teressa Bellissimo brought this popular appetizer to fruition. Buffalo wings originated in 1964 at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York. Die-hard fans can celebrate Chicken Wing Day on July 29th.

What is buffalo sauce?

The base is traditionally hot sauce, vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, butter, and seasonings. It’s a spicy condiment that’s thick enough to cling to food. I love using it as a peppery coating, seasoning, or dip for chicken, vegetables, crunchy nachos, sandwiches, pizza, and even macaroni and cheese.

Hot sauce selection

This is an important decision as the base pepper flavor determines the level of heat and tanginess. Frank’s RedHot sauce is typically used because it was the secret ingredient in the original recipe. It uses aged cayenne pepper, distilled vinegar, a variety of seasonings, and xantham gum for thickening. 

I’ve also tested Crystal from Louisiana. It’s spicier because it uses whole dried peppers and seeds, followed by vinegar and salt. No added thickener is used, which gives it a thinner consistency. You can choose any type of hot sauce, as each company uses a different ratio of chilies, types of dried chile peppers, amount of vinegar, seasonings, and thickening agents.

whisk simmering red sauce in a pan

Make the sauce tangy

The acids naturally occurring in vinegar add a sharp tanginess to the buffalo sauce and also brighten the taste of the roasted hot peppers. I use red wine vinegar for a more complex, fermented taste from the grapes. However, you can use white wine vinegar or distilled vinegar for a more intense flavor.

To add depth and savory notes, add Worcestershire sauce. In addition to vinegar, it has molasses and sugar for a hint of sweetness and alliums like onion and garlic. It also has tamarind extract for a sour fruit taste, in addition to chili pepper and anchovies to elevate the umami flavor. For extra seasoning and to balance the taste, use a little kosher salt and garlic powder.

Add some fat

Butter helps tame the spice level slightly, so the bite is not so sharp. The fat coats the capsaicin molecules and your tastebuds, so the heat experience isn’t so intense. The milk solids add a nice creamy flavor with a hint of sweetness.

I prefer butter, but you can use other solidified fats like margarine or coconut oil. Gradually whisk in slices of butter after cooking the sauce mixture, and as it cools down, it will thicken.

butter melting and being whisked in a hot pan of sauce

How to make buffalo sauce

It starts with briefly simmering the hot sauce, red wine vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, salt, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper. This process helps to evaporate some volatile acids, so it’s not so spicy when smelled and eaten.

The heat helps dissolve the salts and meld the flavor of the peppers and seasonings together. Whisk in the butter off the burner to give a smooth and rich texture.

To make it healthier

For a healthier buffalo sauce, use cornstarch as a thickening agent to reduce the amount of butter needed in the recipe. Using 1 ½ teaspoons cornstarch plus 1 tablespoon of butter provides a nice texture but significantly cuts the fat by 88%. 

Adding just a tiny amount of fat helps to mellow the spiciness. Alternatively, coconut oil or olive oil would also work. You can also use arrowroot powder instead of cornstarch for those on a Whole30 or Paleo diet.

spoon lifting buffalo sauce from a pan

Ways to use the sauce

Frequently asked questions

How to make buffalo sauce spicier?

If you want to add more heat, gradually add cayenne pepper to increase the spice load, but be careful. A little goes a long way!

What is buffalo sauce made of?

Buffalo sauce uses hot sauce as its base plus other ingredients to add more flavor and thickness. Butter adds richness and texture, plus additional vinegar and seasonings to make the sauce more pungent, savory, and spicy.

What’s the difference between hot sauce and buffalo sauce?

Hot sauce is typically dried peppers, vinegar, and seasonings. It serves as the main ingredient in buffalo sauce. Butter is added, so the consistency is thick enough to coat the food you pair it with. Additional flavoring agents are used to customize the taste.

person dipping a chicken wing into a small bowl of buffalo sauce

Recipe Science

How do you thicken buffalo sauce?

The milk fat and solids in butter help create an emulsion that clings to foods. Just gradually whisk it in piece by piece after simmering the hot sauce mixture. This process ensures that the fat incorporates correctly into the liquid, so the oil doesn’t separate, leaving a greasy unappealing sauce. The emulsion will break if melted butter is used, creating an oily and thin consistency. 

Buffalo Sauce

Homemade buffalo sauce recipe with just the right level of heat. Perfect for slathering on buffalo wings or using it as a dipping sauce.
4.87 from 30 votes
Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time5 minutes
Total Time10 minutes
Servings 16 servings
Course Condiment
Cuisine American

Ingredients 
 

  • cup hot sauce, Frank's RedHot or Crystal recommended
  • 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • teaspoon cayenne pepper , optional
  • ½ cup unsalted butter, cold, cut into 8 pieces

Instructions 

  • Cook the Sauce – In a medium skillet or saucepan, add hot sauce, red wine vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, salt, garlic powder, and cayenne pepper (if using). Whisk to combine.
    Bring sauce to a simmer over medium heat until mixture is hot and begins to bubble, about 3 to 5 minutes. Turn off the heat.
  • Thicken the Consistency – Whisk in 1 piece of butter at a time until a smooth and thickened sauce forms. Taste and adjust vinegar and seasonings as desired. The buffalo sauce will thicken as it cools down.
  • Serve – Place in a bowl and serve on the side of appetizers to dip or toss with chicken wings.

Notes

  • Recipe Yield: About 1 cup
  • Serving Size: 1 tablespoon
  • Adjust the Heat Level: To make it extra spicy, gradually add in more ground cayenne pepper.
  • Vinegar Substitution: White wine vinegar or distilled vinegar can be substituted for red wine vinegar.
  • Storing: Cool completely, then store in an airtight container or jar in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Reheat sauce over low heat until warm.
  • Make it WHOLE30: Substitute Worcestershire sauce with coconut aminos, ghee for butter, red wine vinegar for distilled vinegar, and sea salt for kosher salt.
  • Make it Vegan: Substitute butter with vegan butter or margarine and Worcestershire sauce with coconut aminos.
  • Make it Vegetarian: Substitute Worcestershire sauce with coconut aminos, soy sauce, or tamari.

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 16 servings
Calories 53kcal (3%)Carbohydrates 1gProtein 1g (2%)Fat 6g (9%)Saturated Fat 4g (20%)Polyunsaturated Fat 1gMonounsaturated Fat 1gTrans Fat 1gCholesterol 15mg (5%)Sodium 342mg (14%)Potassium 20mg (1%)Fiber 1g (4%)Sugar 1g (1%)Vitamin A 200IU (4%)Vitamin C 8mg (10%)Calcium 3mgIron 1mg (6%)

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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7 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Pete. C says

    Absolutely love this sauce, it’s so simple, tasty and versatile, works really well with chicken thigh fillets both as a marinade and a sauce, many thanks Jessica

  2. Adrianno says

    To the restaurant comment makes sense for bars that want to save money to cut quality of ingredients where they can… Anyways Jane thank you so much for putting the metric measurements for peeps up here in Canada. I will definitely be trying the cornstarch idea to lessen the use of butter… Gonna be using organic so save a little bit of cost while still keeping quality I am all up for it.

  3. Ken says

    This is a very good article. I was looking for a sauce to make air fried buffalo cauliflower

    Frank’s red-hot sauce is a very bad choice to use because they use the garbage canola oil in it that is very bad for you. That oil is not even fit for animals, so what do they do of course, they push to us in whatever they can sneak it into which is a whole lot of products.

    People need to become aware of the unhealthy canola oil and boycott the products that use it. We need to demand that these companies stop feeding us this garbage!

    HELLO – cancer rate is already at 50 percent.

    Thank God for the Crystal Hot Sauce, I will try that one.

  4. Nelle says

    Having worked at a friends bar for years on wing night right outside of Buffalo, many people would probably be surprised to learn that wing sauce in a large quantity (restaurant) is probably not made with butter nor is it cooked. The cost would be prohibitive and time consuming as dozens of different flavors are offered. Most “butter based” sauces are made with the commercial product Phase or similar. The reason recipes online don’t call for it is because it’s not a grocery store item and usually purchased through a wholesaler, sometimes a warehouse store will carry it. Also, butter tends to get *funky* in texture once it cools. Phase doesn’t do that because yikes i know! it’s not actually butter. 1 part Phase + 1 part Franks red hot = mild. 1 part Phase + 2 parts franks red hot = medium. 1 part Phase + 2.5-3 parts Franks red hot = hot.

    We served thousands of wings on a typical wing night in just a few short hours. I can assure you, this recipe is not unique to where Buffalo wings originated or how they’re sauced.