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 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 classic chicken wings 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
Why Our Testers Loved This
Our testers deem these chicken wings “perfect” and “delicious.” They loved the balance of sweet and spicy flavors and that they could control the amount of sauce depending on how spicy they wanted the wings to be.
Notes on Ingredients
- Chicken wings–If you purchase whole chicken wings, cut through the joint to separate them into the drumette and flat pieces for even cooking. Snip off and discard the wing tips.
- Cornstarch–This allows the wings to become crispy during frying. If you make them in the air fryer, replace the cornstarch with 1 tablespoon of baking powder.
- Soy sauce–To make these wings gluten-free, use tamari instead of soy sauce in the gochujang sauce.
How to Make This Recipe
- Marinate the chicken wings. Separate the wings into drumettes and flats, if necessary. Combine the wings with garlic, ginger, salt, and pepper, and marinate in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
- Make the gochujang sauce. Combine all of the sauce ingredients in a small saucepan and simmer over medium heat until the sugar dissolves.
- Fry the chicken wings. Let the wings rest at room temperature while you heat the oil to 350°F. Toss the wings with cornstarch, then fry in batches until golden brown.
- Serve. Reheat the sauce, if necessary, toss the wings in the sauce, and finish with a sprinkle of sesame seeds and scallions.
To make this sweet and spicy chicken wings recipe in your air fryer, replace the cornstarch with 1 tablespoon of 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.
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.
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.
- The wings can be marinated for up to 24 hours before cooking. The sauce can be prepared up to 1 week in advance.
- This recipe is suitable for dairy-free and gluten-free diets. Use tamari if making it gluten-free.
More Great Spicy Chicken Wing Recipes
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If you make this recipe, or any dish on LC, consider leaving a review, a star rating, and your best photo in the comments below. I love hearing from you.–David
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
- 1/4 cup store-bought or homemade gochujang
- 2 tablespoons store-bought or homemade tomato paste
- 5 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons packed dark brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
- 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.
- Add the chicken wings, garlic, ginger, salt, and pepper to a large bowl, and 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.
- Get ahead–The wings can be marinated up to 24 hours before cooking. The sauce can be prepared up to 1 week in advance.
- Air fryer variation–To make these wings in your air fryer, replace the cornstarch with 1 tablespoon of 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.
- Dietary–This recipe is suitable for dairy-free and gluten-free diets. Use tamari if making it gluten-free.
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Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
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. The first batch I made with cornstarch but found it was too much coating. I tossed the remaining wings in a bag with 1 tablespoon of baking powder, which helped crisp them up. I can see how the cornstarch would work with frying, but that’s too much for an air fryer.
I gave a taste to one of my nieces, and she found that the gochujang sauce was too spicy, but my brother-in-law said 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 in the sauce and put the rest out for people to put on as much sauce as they wanted. I could see serving these wings with another sauce; however, without sauce, they’re tasty, too. We served these along with black bean noodles and our favorite zucchini recipe as sides.