Sweet and spicy chicken wings get the ultimate umami treatment. Gussied up with honey, brown sugar, garlic, tomato paste, and gorgeous Korean gochujang sauce, these wings kill it at parties.
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 your 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 FAQs
Can I make these wings in an air fryer?
To make these sweet and spicy chicken wings in your air fryer, replace the cornstarch with 1 tablespoon baking powder and toss it all 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. Serve them as they finish or keep warm in a low oven until all the wings are cooked.
What is gochujang?
Gochujang, or red chili paste, is a savory, sweet, and spicy fermented condiment popular in Korean cooking. It is made from gochu-garu (chili powder), glutinous rice, fermented soybean powder, barley malt powder, and salt. It’s a dark, reddish paste with a rich, piquant flavor that is used to marinate meat, flavor stews, and as a condiment.
What does cornstarch do for chicken wings?
When you coat chicken wings in plain cornstarch mixed with a little kosher salt before baking, you are rewarded with incredibly tasty, divinely crispy wings. This is because cornstarch, more than any other starch, helps absorb moisture (from both the frying and the chicken) and develops a better structure when fried, giving you that gorgeous coating.
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. Move 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.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
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. Our air fryer has a 3.6-quart capacity, so I did have to cook in batches. However, I kept them warm in my oven’s warming drawer until they were all cooked. 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.
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.
Originally published August 21, 2021