Sweet and spicy chicken wings get the ultimate umami treatment. Dressed with honey, brown sugar, garlic, tomato paste, and the gorgeous Korean sauce known as gochujang, they’re loaded with flavor. If you aren’t crazy for sweet-heat, the wings have a crispy ginger-garlic coating and can be eaten without sauce.
The main ingredient in the sweet and spicy sauce is gochujang—a sweet and spicy fermented Korean chili paste that can be found in the international section of many grocery stores. In a pinch, the wings can be tossed in another favorite sauce or just eaten plain with flavoring from the garlic and ginger marinade.
Wings are an essential component of any game day tailgating spread. This unique take on the classic is an option guests will go crazy for. Don’t forget to serve the wings with a roll of paper towels or napkins!–Kylie Mazon-Chambers
Sweet and Spicy Chicken Wings
For the chicken wings
- 3 pounds chicken wings
- 6 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tablespoon peeled and minced fresh ginger
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup cornstarch
- Mild vegetable oil for frying
For the gochujang sauce
- 2 teaspoons sesame seeds
- 2 scallions thinly sliced
Prepare the chicken wings
- Separate the chicken wings, if whole, into the drumette, wingette (or flat), and tip. Discard tips.
- To a large bowl, add the chicken wings, garlic, ginger, salt, and pepper, toss to combine. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour and up to overnight.
Make the gochujang sauce
- While the wings marinate, prepare the gochujang sauce. In a small saucepan over medium heat, whisk together the gochujang, tomato paste, honey, brown sugar, soy sauce, sesame oil, and lime juice until all the ingredients are incorporated and the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool. The sauce can be made up to a week ahead of time and refrigerated in an airtight container until ready to use.
- Let the wings sit at room temperature for 30 minutes, then toss with the cornstarch. Meanwhile, pour enough vegetable oil into a large, deep cast-iron pan to reach 1 inch (2.5 cm) up the side of the pan.
- Heat the oil to 350°F (177°C) and, working in batches, shake off any excess cornstarch and fry the chicken wings, turning occasionally, until golden brown all over and cooked through, 6 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Allow the oil to return to temperature before cooking the remaining batches.
- To serve, reheat the sauce, if necessary, and toss with the freshly fried chicken wings. Serve topped with sesame seeds and scallions.
Air Fryer Sweet and Spicy Chicken Wings variationTo make these sweet and spicy chicken wings in your air fryer, replace the cornstarch with 1 tablespoon baking powder and toss together until evenly coated. Cook at 400°F (200°C) in batches, flipping once and spraying lightly with oil when flipping, about 10 minutes per side.
Recipe Testers' Reviews
This recipe for sweet and spicy chicken wings produces delicious chicken wings. While I'm not Korean and cannot speak to the authenticity of taste, the flavors went really well together. I did give a taste to one of my nieces and she found that the gochujang sauce was too spicy but my brother-in-law said that it was "sweet heat". Personally, I found a slight spiciness but it wasn't too much and the flavors still came through.
When serving, I tossed part of the wings and put the rest out for people to put on as much sauce as they'd want. I could really see serving these wings with another different sauce; however, without sauce is tasty, too. We served these along with black bean noodles and zucchini as sides.
These sweet and spicy chicken wings were fantastic! The sauce was the perfect balance of sweetness with a little bit of heat. I made them in my air fryer so they were perfectly crisp on the outside and the chicken was super juicy and fell off the bone when we ate them. I have a 3.6-quart air fryer so I did have to cook in batches however I kept them warm in my oven's warming drawer until they were all cooked and they still turned out perfect.
I had to cook in batches so the first batch I did with the cornstarch but found it was too much coating of the cornstarch so I did the remaining wings tossed in a bag with 1 tablespoon of baking powder and that helped crisp them up. I can see how the cornstarch would work with frying but that's too much for an air fryer.
Originally published August 21, 2021