This crispy baked lemon pepper chicken wings recipe is an easy appetizer to prepare for parties and game days. The pieces are tossed in a delicious citrus sauce for the ultimate wing experience.
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When I’m not preparing spicy buffalo wings to serve as a hot appetizer, these lemon pepper wings are a simple and citrusy alternative. Instead of deep frying the pieces, baking the wings with baking powder delivers a super crispy texture. The oven allows you to make a large batch at once instead of constantly monitoring the hot oil when frying. They make a great entree when paired with sides like mashed potatoes and sauteed green beans.
Instead of using dried lemon pepper seasoning to flavor the wings, grab a fresh lemon for a more robust citrus taste. The lemon zest and freshly cracked black pepper infuse with warm melted butter to coax the flavors. The sauce is seasoned with lemon juice and honey for a lightly sweet and tangy taste.
Purchase “party wings” at the grocery store. These are packages with the wingette (also called flat) and drumette already separated. If you buy a whole chicken wing, you’ll need to cut it into sections between the joints and discard the wing tips. Two pounds will yield about 17 to 20 pieces.
Dry the wings
To achieve perfect crispy wings, dry off the excess moisture on the surface with a paper towel. This will prevent the chicken from steaming instead of crisping in the oven. This technique also browns the skin faster, developing a gorgeous golden brown hue.
The chicken is seasoned with a simple mixture of baking powder, kosher salt, and coarsely ground black pepper. I use baking powder as a critical ingredient for baked chicken wings and roasted turkey when I want a crisp, golden brown skin on the meat. Toss the wings in the seasoning mixture, then get ready to bake!
For even crispier skin, refrigerate the coated pieces uncovered for up to 24 hours. This dries the skin further and works excellent if you want to prep ahead of time.
Bake the chicken
Place the chicken wings in a single layer on a wire rack on a foil-lined baking sheet. Elevating the poultry allows the hot air to circulate around the chicken for even cooking. Bake at a high 450ºF (230ºC) in the center of the oven to ensure crispy pieces that are moist and juicy.
It takes about 40 to 45 minutes to cook the wings. I flip them over two times for even browning and crispier skin.
Make the lemon pepper sauce
To make a simple buttery citrus sauce, start by melting unsalted butter. I use fresh lemon zest and juice to add aroma and tanginess. The lemon oil in the zest will infuse into the warm butter, giving a more robust flavor.
Black pepper, salt, garlic powder, and onion powder enhance the savory taste. Let the sauce cool down for a few minutes to thicken slightly before adding it to the wings. Double the recipe if you’d like extra lemon pepper sauce for dipping.
Toss the sauce and hot crispy wings in a large bowl to coat. I like to garnish the chicken with chives, parsley, or fresh herbs before serving.
Serve with a dipping sauce
Frequently asked questions
Yes! Add a few teaspoons of your favorite hot sauce, Tabasco or Crystal. Alternatively, sprinkle in cayenne, chipotle, hot paprika, or chile powder until the desired heat level is reached.
Cook the wings in two batches. Coat the wings with salt, pepper, and 1 tablespoon of olive oil or avocado oil. Fry the wings at 400ºF (200ºC) for 20 minutes, flipping halfway through. Add more time if needed to make the wings crispy. Toss with the lemon pepper sauce.
You can gradually add jarred lemon pepper seasoning instead of the individual salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder as a shortcut. It’s a combination of dried lemon zest, herbs, and sugar. Add ¼ teaspoon to the melted butter, gradually adding more until the desired flavor is achieved. Still add the honey and lemon juice for balance.
Can I make the baked wings without baking powder?
Baking powder will create crispier skin. The alkaline baking soda in the powder is vital for breaking down the protein peptides in the skin so that it’s crispy when bitten. It also reacts with the juices in the chicken to create bubbles on the surface, which harden are fracture for extra crunch. However, you can bake the wings without the baking powder. I’ve noticed that the skin is slightly chewier and less crunchy.
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Lemon Pepper Chicken Wings
- vegetable oil, as needed for oiling wire rack
- 2 pounds chicken wings, wingettes and drummettes
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper, coarsely ground
Lemon Pepper Sauce
- ¼ cup unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon lemon zest
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 ½ teaspoons honey, or maple syrup
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper, coarsely ground
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- ⅛ teaspoon onion powder
- ⅛ teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon chopped chives, for garnish, optional
- Preheat the Oven – Adjust the oven rack to the middle position. Heat to 450°F (232°C).
- Prepare the Baking Sheet – Line a large baking sheet with foil. Add vegetable oil to a folded paper towel, then grease both sides of a wire rack—alternatively, grease with cooking spray. Set the rack inside the baking sheet.
- Dry the Meat – Line a separate baking sheet or plate with paper towels. Place the chicken wings and drumettes on top, then thoroughly pat them dry with more paper towels.
- Season the Chicken – In a large bowl, whisk together baking powder, salt, and black pepper. Add the chicken and mix to coat the surface evenly.
- Bake the Wings – Evenly space the chicken on the wire rack. Bake for 20 minutes. Flip and bake for 15 minutes. Flip again and bake until skin is golden brown and crisp and the internal temperature reaches 165ºF (74ºC), about 5 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.
- Lemon Pepper Sauce – In a small saucepan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Turn off the heat and whisk in the lemon zest, lemon juice, honey, black pepper, kosher salt, onion powder, and garlic powder. Let the sauce cool slightly to thicken the consistency.
- Serve – Immediately transfer the hot chicken wings to a large bowl and toss with the lemon pepper sauce to coat. Transfer to a serving platter and garnish with some chopped chives. Serve the remaining sauce on the side for dipping.
- Serving Size: 1 wing
- Sauce Yield: About ⅓ cup
- Extra Dipping Sauce: Double the amount of lemon pepper sauce.
- Substituting Table Salt: Use ¾ teaspoon salt instead of 1 teaspoon kosher salt.
- For Crispier Texture: Refrigerate the seasoned wings for up to 24 hours, uncovered, on top of a greased wire rack set in a foil-lined sheet pan. Remove from the refrigerator while the oven preheats, then bake in the same pan.
- Baking Directly on a Sheet Pan: You can bake these wings without a wire rack, although they will be greasier from the rendered fat.
- Storing: Refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days.
- Reheating: Cover and microwave on high heat in 15-second intervals until hot.
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