Crispy baked buffalo wings are a crowd-pleasing hit as a spicy appetizer for parties or game day. To make these wings extra golden brown and crunchy, baking powder is used in the coating. This recipe is paired with a delicious homemade ranch sauce.
Baked buffalo wings are great to serve to a crowd, at a game day gathering, or just a relaxing night at home. Often chicken wings are deep-fried, creating the highly anticipated crunch. However, this oven-cooked recipe features a special ingredient to mimic the crispiness without the oil, and that’s baking powder. The same component that gives baked goods their rise can also impart texture and encourage browning.
Traditional wing sauces are a combination of dried hot peppers, spices, vinegar and a lot of butter. Nearly a whole stick of butter for most recipes, this adds a nice rich texture but a lot of calories. I found a low calorie, easy way to create body in the sauce using minimal fat.
How to get crispy wings in the oven
I didn’t think that baking chicken wings could ever be comparable to deep frying, until now. I came across a recommendation from Kenji at The Food Lab to use baking powder in the coating. Typically, roasting chicken can create beautiful brown skin, but it can also become tough and almost rubbery. Thoroughly drying the wings with a paper towel first, then tossing them in a seasoned baking powder mixture makes it extra crisp once cooked.
Baking powder improves texture
What happens is a simple chemistry reaction; protein-rich juices of the chicken combine with the baking powder, plus high oven temperature reacts to form bubbles. These bubbles eventually harden, adding a more fracturable surface when bitten into. The alkaline baking powder also weakens the proteins in the skin, making it more blistered and crisp. The additional uneven surface area created by the baking powder also helps to catch each drop of the sauce better.
When formulating the buffalo sauce, I wanted it to pack heat, have a depth of flavor, and nicely coat each piece. I found that a combination of Crystal hot pepper sauce, savory Worcestershire, cornstarch and a small amount of butter builds a spicy, tangy and sticky sauce. If you like your wings even hotter, sprinkle in some cayenne pepper. Not a fan of spicy? Then I suggest these teriyaki chicken wings instead.
Cornstarch works wonders to thicken the mixture instantly, and just a small amount of butter to smooth out the heat. Instead of blue cheese, these spicy buffalo wings are served with a side of homemade ranch sauce for the ultimate snacking experience.
If you reduce the amount of butter that adds richness to the coating, then the hot sauce alone is too thin and does not stick. To solve this issue, adding a small amount of cornstarch slurry to the heated sauce increases the viscosity. The tang and heat from the sauce are a little harsh, so whisking in a small amount of fat like butter or olive oil smooths out flavor delivery to your taste buds. If you want a traditional version, try my buffalo sauce with these wings.
Ranch dipping sauce
If you’re like me, you like a fresh and creamy dip for hot wings. I prefer ranch over blue cheese dressing, with a lightened-up twist. Nonfat plain Greek yogurt gives the thickness and tang similar to sour cream. A mixture of the yogurt with mustard, garlic, onion, and chives helps to balance the fiery heat from the buffalo sauce.
More appetizer recipes
Thickening agents in hot sauces
Read the label of hot sauces before you purchase to be on the lookout for added thickening agents, such as xanthan gum. These recipes will be thicker than other formulas, which means you may not have to add the additional cornstarch is you already find the sauce to provide enough coating. Brand’s such as Frank’s Red Hot will be thicker than Crystal and Tobasco.
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Baked Buffalo Wings
- vegetable oil, as needed for oiling wire rack
- 2 pounds chicken, wings and drummettes
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt, divided
- 1 ½ teaspoons black pepper, divided
- 1 cup hot sauce, Crystal or Frank's RedHot recommended
- 1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 ½ teaspoons cornstarch
- 1 tablespoon water
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- Adjust oven rack to the middle position. Preheat to 450°F (232°C).
- Thoroughly dry chicken wings and drummettes between paper towels.
- Line a large baking sheet with foil. Set a wire rack inside and coat both sides with vegetable oil.
- In a large bowl whisk together baking powder, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon black pepper.
- Add chicken to the bowl and mix to evenly coat the surface.
- Evenly space the chicken on the wire rack.
- Bake for 20 minutes. Flip and bake for 15 minutes.
- Flip and bake until skin is golden brown and crisp, 12 to 15 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
- In a small saucepan add hot sauce, Worcestershire sauce, ½ teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper. Whisk to combine.
- Bring sauce to a low boil over medium heat.
- In a small bowl combine cornstarch and water. Immediately add to the sauce and whisk to combine. Constantly whisk and cook sauce until thickened, 15 to 30 seconds.
- Turn off heat and whisk in butter until melted and fully incorporated into the sauce.
- Immediately transfer hot chicken wings to a large bowl and toss with enough hot sauce to coat.
- In a small bowl whisk together yogurt and 2 tablespoons water. Add up to 1 tablespoon more water if desired to thin the sauce.
- Add to the bowl garlic powder, onion powder, ¼ teaspoon salt, mustard, black pepper, and chives.
- Taste and season with more salt and pepper as desired.
- Serve with celery sticks and carrots sticks on the side if desired.
- 2 ¼ teaspoons arrowroot powder can be substituted for cornstarch.
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (15 ml) or 1 tablespoon ghee (14g) can be substituted for butter.
- MAKE IT GLUTEN-FREE: Substitute the Worcestershire sauce with gluten-free tamari, coconut aminos, or omit completely.
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