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Wingin' It: 25 Chicken Wing Sauces, Ranked From Worst To Best

Chicken wings used to be nothing more than scraps. They were used mainly for making chicken stock, which is a good way to use them, but it's definitely not the best. The legend goes that chicken wings were first served in their modern form at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York. Of course, this origin story has been disputed, and there have been several other historical cases of people selling deep-fried chicken wings at their restaurants. No matter where they started out, there's no denying that the chicken wing is still the king of meaty snacks. There might be nothing more beautiful than a pile of perfectly sauced wings, just waiting to be devoured.

And this is where we come to the star of the show: the sauce. Wings might be delicious if they are just plain, but it's the sauce that makes them shine. Does that make chicken wings little more than sauce delivery vessels? Pretty much, but that's okay! It just means that any chicken wing can become great as long as it has the right sauce on it. Some places that serve wings pride themselves on having a huge list of available wing sauces, but the truth is that many of them are forgettable at best and downright gross at worst. There are definitely a few standard wing flavors that are by far still the best, but there have also been other creative flavors that have shown they can stand up there with the greats. These are 25 chicken wing sauces ranked from worst to best.

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25 Chocolate Cherry

via beyondtheolive.com

When it comes to sauces for chicken wings, there are some lines that should not be crossed. For example, maybe making a chocolate cherry sauce for chicken wings is not exactly the best or most appetizing idea. We can only imagine that this sauce is sickly sweet and completely overbearing to your taste buds. It's likely that a sauce like this would have zero balance, ending up nothing but a sticky, oddly-flavored mess. This sauce winds up at the bottom of the list for a lack of creativity and a total mess of a flavor.

24 Peanut Butter and Jelly

via Tablespoon.com

What did we just say about some lines that shouldn't be crossed?! This is exactly the kind of silliness we were talking about. Peanut butter and jelly wings? Get out of here with that nonsense! These wings are coated in a sauce that is made from peanut butter and grape jelly, which frankly sounds like a nightmare. There's only one food item that should contain peanut butter and jelly and its a sandwich. Maybe crackers too, but that's as far as it should go! These rank slightly higher than the cherry chocolate only because peanut butter can be used to make respectable sauces (more on that later).

23 Alfredo

via bettycrocker.com

Alfredo sauce is rich. Some might even say it's too rich. Then again, there are others who are proponents of the creamy pasta sauce. However you feel about it, there's no denying that it shouldn't be put on wings. First of all, the idea of creamy wings just seems wrong, doesn't it? Second, alfredo sauce really has a very mild flavor, one that isn't going to add much to the wing experience. Alfredo might be good when it's poured over linguine, but it has no place in the world of chicken wings.

22 Ranch

via cdkitchen.com

Ranch has the same problem as alfredo sauce. It's creamy, which is a weird sauce texture to have on wings. Ranch is more like the sauce you dip hot wings in to take the edge off. It only ranks a little bit higher than alfredo because the buttermilk in ranch gives it a little bit more tang, which would at least offset the creaminess to some degree. Still, this isn;t exactly a wing sauce that people would be lining up to try. That is unless they're those strange people who think ranch is the be-all end-all of sauce.

21 Plum Sauce

via foodrepublic.com

Plum sauce is great for dipping spring rolls and chicken fingers, but it's more of a supporting player for other flavors. It can't really be the star of the show, and when it comes to chicken wings, the sauce has to be the star. Sure, the way the wing is cooked is important too, but it's really the sauce that makes or breaks them. Plum sauce is generally sweet with a note of sour to it, but it's not exactly the kind of balanced flavor that can carry something all on its own.

20 Marinara

via mc2creativeliving.com

We're back to the pasta sauce. Marinara on a chicken wing is kind of an odd idea, but it's not entirely out of left field. After all, it's red, acidic, with savory and sweet notes. It's not exactly the worst sauce for a wing, but it just doesn't seem to fit. First of all, marinara would have a hard time sticking to a wing, and for wing aficionados, that matters. Second, while marinara is great on many different foods, it is a really specific flavor that needs other things to balance it out, like mozzarella, parmesan, or fresh basil.

19 Caramel

via whiteonricecouple.com

While a chocolate cherry sauce might be pretty bad for chicken wings, there is something about a caramel sauce that seems to work a little bit better. Maybe it's the fact that the sticky, sweetness of the caramel would play really well with the crispiness of a perfectly fried chicken wing. The only reason these are lower on the list is the lack of a more complex flavor profile. Caramel may be great for adding to other flavors in order to up the sweet factor, but on its own, It's maybe just a little too flat.

18 Sriracha

via foodandwine.com

Sriracha doesn't have to just be the sauce you put on noodles, or eggs, or hot dogs, or burgers, or... Okay, admit it. You put sriracha on everything. Well, that list doesn't have to stop at wings. While it might not be as popular a choice as some of the standard hot wing sauces out there, there's no denying that sriracha has a truly unique flavor, owing to the mixture of chili and garlic, as well as the fermentation process. Still, it can be a bit much for some people, which is why it's often used in sparing doses to enhance other flavors, rather than trying to stanf out on its own.

17 Honey Mustard

via tasteofhome.com

Honey mustard doesn't just have to be a sandwich topping or a salad dressing. It can also be used to make a pretty good wing sauce. While mustard-based sauces are not all that common, there's no reason why they shouldn't be. After all, the sweetness of the honey combined with the recognizable mild heat of mustard would make for a well-balanced wing flavor. Besides, mustard is actually a key part of South Carolina barbecue, so it definitely has it's place in the pantheon of meat. As far as non-traiditional wing sauces go, this one is pretty good!

16 Fish Sauce

via rasamalaysia.com

Okay, before you turn your noses up at the idea of fish sauce, let us explain why this is so high on the list. Yes, fish sauce is made from fermented anchovies, but that is what gives it such umami power! Fish sauce is a key ingredient in a lot of great dishes. It's not added to give dishes a fishy flavor, but rather to enhance the other flavors and bring them to the front. If you've ever eaten a great bowl of pho, the flavor probably came from just the right amount of fish sauce. Therefore, chicken wings that utilize fish sauce would be packed with amazing flavor and would be even more savory than usual.

15 Curry

via yeprecipes.com

when people think curry, they probably think it's going to be burn-your-mouth off spicy. however, that's a really unfair description of curry flavor and really diminishes just how complex and delicious a curry sauce can be. Curry can be spicy, of course, but it also combines earthy and savory notes to create something greater than the sum of its parts. Curry sauce would be a great wing coating if only to give people something a little different than what they are used to.

14 Spicy Peanut Sauce

via foodnetwork.com

Remember above how we said that peanut butter can be used to make a really great sauce? This is what we were talking about. While peanut butter and jelly wings sound wholly unappealing, there's something that makes peanut butter work really well with spices and other seasonings to create a sauce that is often used in Thailand to give their dishes a savory yet spicy flavor that is totally unique. Wings with a spicy peanut sauce would be a big hit and would be a great change form some of the more played-out flavors (without having to resort to using grape jelly).

13 Jerk Sauce

via marthastewart.com

Jerk seasoning is a major staple of dishes from Jamaica, and it is known for packing a real punch. The combination of flavors and spices make jerk seasoning a truly unique spice blend, one that captures the tropical flavors of the island while also majorly delivering on the heat. Of course, you can tone down the heat factor of any jerk sauce, but why would you want to? Making jerk chicken wings would be all about packing them with spice, and seeing just how many of your friends can handle them!

12 Harissa

via foodnetwork.com

Harissa is a blend of hot peppers, red peppers, and garlic that originates from Tunisia, and is often used as a dip or a flavor enhancer in other dishes. Its heat level can vary quite a bit, which is why it would be so perfect for making wings that move away from some of the more traditional hot flavors. Sure, Louisiana hot sauce is the standard for wings, but harissa would deliver something far more complex while still making people's mouths water (and their tongues burn).

11 Teriyaki

via foodnetwork.com

Teriyaki flavor is something that is utilized to great effect in dishes originating from Japan. Its blend of both sweet and umami flavors makes it the perfect coating for almost any meat, and the way it can get a nice char on it if it is tossed under a broiler gives it an edge over other sweet sauces. Teriyaki wings are great if you want to try something that is not based on being hot but also isn't too flatly sweet. The complex flavor profile of teriyaki makes it one of the more appealing wing sauces overall.

10 Adobo

via foodnetwork.com

You may recognize adobo from its supporting role in canned chipotle peppers, but the truth about it is that it has so many great applications (besides helping to preserve those tasty, spicy smoked jalapenos). Adobo has a really rich and smoky flavor, which makes it the closest thing to barbecue sauce without actually being barbecue sauce. It's really just a very generously spiced tomato sauce, but its depth of flavor makes it the perfect sauce for chicken wings. If you ever buy some of those canned chipotles, save the sauce! It might just come in handy later.

9 Medium

via thespruceeats.com

When the mild is too mild and the hot is too hot, every wing connoisseur knows exactly where to land: medium. This milder hot sauce is always a crowd pleaser. Sure, it might leave some pepperheads wanting, and it might still be too much for some of the people with more delicate tongues, but its balance of heat, vinegar, and just the slightest touch of sweetness make the medium wing sauce at almost any establishment that serves them a perfect choice. Throw in some blue cheese dip and its about as close to perfection as you can get.

8 Lemon Pepper

via atlantamagazine.com

Lemon pepper wings were traditionally just a dry-rubbed wing, originating in Atlanta before becoming more popular. this is partly due to them being mentioned on Donald Glover's FX show, Atlanta, which highlighted a particular kind of lemon pepper wing: the lemon pepper wet from JR Crickets. This wing is sprinkled with lemon pepper and then tossed with buffalo sauce, which might cause the lemon pepper flavor to get lost. However, some places will serve lemon pepper wet wings coated in clarified butter, so as to enhance the flavor of the lemon pepper while still giving a saucy texture.

7 Ghost Pepper

via foodrepublic.com

It's hard to even think about the fact that the ghost pepper isn't even the hottest pepper out there anymore (that distinction now goes to the Carolina Reaper). However, don't mistake the fact that ghost peppers will seriously mess up your day. Ghost pepper wings are not going to be that much fun to eat, but in terms of challenging yourself, they are definitely something to try. Besides, ghost peppers have a unique flavor, which, yes, comes at the cost of unimaginable spiciness, but at least you could say you tried them!

6 Mango Habanero

via adashofmegnut.com

For something that has a similar heat signature to ghost pepper but won't melt your face off (figuratively speaking), why not try a mango habanero sauce? Mango habanero combines the sweetness of mango with the considerable heat of habanero peppers. sure, they may not be near the same level as a ghost pepper, but they can still deliver a significant kick of spice. However, it is at least balanced out by the smooth, subtly sweet flavor of the mango. As you can tell, a good wing sauce is really just about balancing flavors.

5 BBQ

via foodandwine.com

What's better with meat than a good old-fashioned barbecue sauce? Sure, it may often play second fiddle to the hotter or sweeter wing sauces, but depending on where you go, the barbecue wings might just be your best bet. While there are plenty of different varieties of barbecue sauce out there, they all combine the same three basic flavors: sweet, spicy, and smoky. These are balanced in very different ways depending on the sauce, but overall, that balance, no matter which way it tends to lean, is key to making bbq chicken wings so tasty.

4 Honey Garlic

tasty.com

Honey garlic is the go-to to wing sauce when you're not in the mood for something too spicy. It's got a nice balance of flavors, blending the rich savory flavor of garlic with the sweetness of honey. If you get a really good honey garlic sauce, then you'll probably also notice hints of umami from the inclusion of soy sauce and maybe even a touch of sesame oil. While honey garlic wings can vary wildly in quality, good ones can be a real trat, and a nice break from any of the spicier sauces.

3 Nashville Hot

via cookingwithjanica.com

Nashville hot chicken has always been one of the city's signature dishes, combining fried chicken with an extra spicy flour dredge with a sauce made from even more spice and fat (usually lard, but sometimes butter) to create an incredibly spicy fried chicken that can really knock your socks off. This sauce can also be applied to wings as well, and gives a little bit more of a savory flavor than just the standard hot sauce, due to the inclusion of the fat content. If the wings are coated in the spicy flour dredge, then even better!

2 Sweet Chili

via frenchsfoodservice.com

More than any other sauce on this list, sweet chili offer the most perfect balance of sweet and spicy. This wing sauce, if you can find a place that has it, has to be on your list to try. It's the kind of sauce where the flavor comes in waves. first, you're hit with a peppery sweetness, something that might remind you of fresh bell pepper. Then, at the end, you get a hit of spice from the red chile flakes. This sauce is great for dipping other foods, but as a wing sauce, it really shines, and should definitely not be left out at the table.

1 Buffalo

via johnnyfavoritesnyc.com

Buffalo wings are the original. they are the undisputed king of chicken wing flavors, and they have stood the test of time for good reason. While some wings might just utilize a hot sauce on its own, real buffalo wings are made with a combination of melted butter and hot sauce, delivering a flavor that is both savory and spicy. These are the best kind of wings to get when feeding a crowd because there is no doubt that everyone will eat them. The other nice thing about buffalo sauce is that if you are making it yourself, you can really control the flavor through the butter to sauce ratio.

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