They’re spicy, tangy, messy, and often orange. They’re the unofficial food of bars and sports fans across America. And over the next few weeks, you’ll notice them everywhere as basketball fans crowd in front of TVs and huddle on couches. We’re referring to wings – the finger food that has taken over taverns and pubs by storm over the last three decades.
You’re probably familiar with the traditional Buffalo flavor, but did you know that there are wing varieties influenced by Chinese, Caribbean, Japanese and even Indian cuisine? Or that this famous appetizer comes in a fork-friendly version?
Before you start planning what teams to pick on your bracket, let us help you decide which of these delicious sauces and rubs will win a place on your plate!
Buffalo sauce has become so popular that you can now find it on everything from pizza and macaroni and cheese, to meatball sandwiches, quesadillas and crackers. But this orange-hued glaze really owes its fame to Buffalo, New York, where it originated in the in the back of Anchor Bar.
Traditional Buffalo wings are fried – but not breaded – and coated in a sauce that combines hot pepper sauce (like Frank’s Red Hot or Tabasco) with butter, vinegar and cayenne pepper. “Traditional” buffalo comes in a variety of heat levels, ranging from mild, which is more flavorful, to hot, which can be very, very spicy. Adding garlic Buffalo sauce is another popular choice that produces a powerful flavor punch. (Just be sure not to breathe on your dining companions after eating them!)
Wing sauces inspired by the flavors found in Asian cuisines are hot on the heels of traditional buffalo sauces in terms of popularity. Flavors found in Japanese, Chinese, Thai and Korean cuisines are a natural match for the lightly friend chicken, and have produced many of the sauce varieties you’re likely to encounter on a menu. Here are a few of our favorites:
- Teriyaki: Chicken wings soaked in the sweet, soy Japanese sauce are a popular choice for those who aren’t fond of spicy foods.
- Chili Soy Ginger: One of this writer’s favorites, these wings are tossed in soy and ginger sauce, which gives them a sweet tang, and then covered in hot chili flakes for a little zing.
- Honey Sriracha: This spicy-sweet sauce harkens back to one of our 2016 food trends, the year of Sriracha-inspired flavors. This wing sauce has a sweet start with a powerful chili kick.
- Sesame: This wing glaze is similar to the sesame chicken you might order in a Chinese restaurant, with a savory, sweet, often sticky glaze covered in sesame seeds.
Cajun and Caribbean
If island flavors are what you love, this category of wing sauces and dry rubs is for you. Some restaurants offer Caribbean jerk flavored wings, which are covered in the sweet, sour, spicy flavors native to the islands and can be found in both a sauce and dry rub version. If you’re looking for some extra heat, give some spicy Cajun flavored wings a try. These are among the spiciest of wings, rubbed or soaked in traditional Cajun seasonings including cayenne pepper, paprika, onion and garlic.
If you haven’t found a wing sauce or dry rub that makes your mouth water on this list, inventive chefs are still way ahead you. From American flavors to fusions, we’re sure there’s a wing sauce you’ll love!
- Honey BBQ: These wings enjoy the spicy kick of a flavorful barbecue sauce paired with a sweet, smooth honey finish.
- Honey Mustard: This creamy sauce is particularly tasty on the fork-friendly boneless version of chicken wings, which are battered and fried – much like mini chicken fingers.
- Parmesan Garlic: If sweet and spicy aren’t for you, these savory wings should do the trick. Enjoy a sprinkle of flavorful, salty Parmesan cheese paired with a satisfying garlic kick.
- Indian: A more exotic take on chicken wings, this version incorporates Indian flavors like coriander, lemon juice, chili powder and ginger. Try them dipped in plain Greek yogurt instead of the ranch and blue cheese dressing that typically accompany wings.
If you’re ready to dig in and get your hands dirty (literally, they are a notoriously messy dish!), you won’t have to look far. Chicken wings are a dish you’ll be able to find just about anywhere that serves American-style food – and even other specialty restaurants, from Italian to Korean Barbecue joints and a handful of open-minded Mexican restaurants. Get your search started on Restaurant.com now – and don’t forget the celery!