Sticky Firecracker Wings
Crispy and addicting sticky firecracker chicken wings recipe! These are sweet, spicy, tangy, and oh so delicious! Guaranteed to taste better than your favorite wing joint and they’re made in the oven or air fryer. One little ingredient makes these extra crunchy– as if they came straight from the deep fryer!
Sticky. Sweet. Spicy. Tangy.
All the marks I’m trying to hit when I want good chicken wings. These firecracker chicken wings are golden, hot, and crispy. And the best part is they come straight out of the oven instead of the deep fryer.
Have you made those killer firecracker meatballs I shared on the blog when I first started? Everyone that has tried them has LOVED those. And this year, I thought we needed to put that firecracker sauce on some chicken wings! Just in time for the big football game.
Trust me, these do not disappoint!
Ingredients for firecracker wings:
- Chicken wings: you’ll want chicken wings that have already been split so that they all cook up in roughly the same amount of time. Sometimes you end up with chicken wings that haven’t been cut for you. I like to remove the wingtip, then take the ’v’ and slice it straight down the center joint to create the drumstick and the wing.
- Baking powder: I suggest using aluminum-free baking powder for this recipe. The baking powder makes such crispy wings. Baking powder is alkaline, which means that it raises the pH of the chicken skin. This causes the mallard reaction to occur when we bake the wings between the reduced sugar and amino acids. So you’re left with golden delicious crispy, golden things!
- Seasonings: I use a few different seasonings for this recipe. You’ll need garlic powder, kosher salt, black pepper, and smoked paprika. The smoked paprika gives these wings a smoky delicious flavor. and it also makes them a bit more golden in the oven! You’ll also want a pinch of red pepper flakes for the firecracker sauce – they give the wings a nice kick!
- Butter: two tablespoons of butter goes into the firecracker sauce to give it that luxurious sheen and rich flavor. The butter also helps cut down on some of that heat!
- Hot Sauce: I like to use Franks wing sauce or hot sauce for this recipe. I don’t suggest using sriracha and I do think it would be too spicy unless you prefer them that way– then totally go for it!
- Light Brown Sugar: the sugar helps balance the heat in this recipe. You can substitute dark brown sugar if you happen to have that instead of light brown sugar.
- Apple Cider Vinegar: the vinegar is what gives these wings that ‘firecracker’ taste! The acid makes all the other flavors pop!
- Sauces to serve: You can serve these on their own, with ranch dressing, or a side of blue cheese dip.
How to make the best firecracker wings:
- Start with prep. Start by lining a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Then place a wire rack on top of the baking sheet. Spray the wire rack with cooking spray so that the wings don’t stick. Set this aside for now.
- Season the wings and let them rest. Combine the baking powder, garlic powder, salt, ground black pepper, and smoked paprika in a small bowl. You’ll want to pat the wings dry before seasonings them. Excess moisture won’t allow these wings to get as crispy! Sprinkle or shake the seasoning all over the chicken wings to coat them evenly. Then place the wings in a single layer on the prepared wire baking rack. Allow the wings to chill in the refrigerator for as little as 45 minutes and ideally, if time permits, I suggest letting them sit uncovered on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator overnight.
- Bake the wings. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven. When the oven has heated, bake the wings.
- Make firecracker sauce. While the wings are baking, add the butter, hot sauce, sugar, vinegar, and red pepper flakes to a small saucepan, whisk or stir with a silicone spatula, and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Once simmering, lower the heat and let the sauce reduce slightly.
- Toss and serve. When the wings are done, transfer them to a large metal bowl. Pour the sauce evenly over the wings and toss to coat. You can also use tongs to toss them or basting the chicken wings with a pastry brush is fine too! If you baste the wings, you can set aside half of the sauce and serve it with the wings if you’d like. If you want the wings to be extra sticky, you can bake them on the wire rack again for another 1-2 minutes. Garnish with green onions or parsley and serve warm!
Tips for making extra crispy chicken wings:
- Pat the wings dry before seasoning! Once you’ve trimmed the wings, let them dry on a few sheets of paper towel. You want as little moisture on the skin as possible.
- Don’t skip the baking powder! That’s how they get that signature golden color and crispy skin.
- Spread the wings out on a wire rack! Don’t bake them directly on the baking sheet. Placing them on a wire rack allows the air to circulate (the way it does in an air fryer.) This also helps brown them rather them causing them to steam in the oven.
- Dry them out! I cannot recommend seasoning them and letting them sit in the refrigerator enough. The additional time allows the skin to dry out and for them to become even more delicious in the oven!
- Make sure you make enough! These will disappear! Especially if you make them for a football-watching party. You’ll want to make at least 8 ounces (or ½ pound) of wings per adult. So three pounds of wings should comfortably feed 5-6 people.
If you like this recipe, you might also like:
- This sauce on chicken meatballs!
- Same sauce on chicken breasts
- This sauce on salmon
- Garlic Parmesan Chicken Wings
- Sticky Baked Chicken Bites in Honey Sriracha Sauce
- 3 pounds chicken wings, split
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon EACH: garlic powder AND kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon EACH: black pepper AND smoked paprika
- 2 tablespoons butter
- ½ cup hot sauce (such as Franks)
- 1 cup light brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- ¼ - ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
- SEASON: Pat the wings dry using a paper towel. Combine the seasonings for the wings in a bowl. Sprinkle this over the wings to coat them evenly on both sides. Line a baking sheet with foil, then place a wire rack on top of the baking sheet. Spray the wire rack with cooking spray to keep the wings from sticking.
- WINGS: Place the wing's skin side up on the wire rack and allow the wings to rest for at least 30 minutes and if time permits, allow them to rest overnight in the refrigerator on the bottom shelf, uncovered.
- PREP: Position a rack in the upper third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 450ºF. Remove the wings from the refrigerator at least 45 minutes before baking. Bake for 28-38 minutes, depending on the size of the wings, flipping them after the first 18 minutes until they’re golden and cooked through. Air fryer directions in notes.
- FIRECRACKER SAUCE: Combine the ingredients for the sauce in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Let it come to a boil, reduce the heat so that it simmers. Let simmer for 8-10 minutes. Remove from heat.
- TOSS: When the wings are done, transfer them to a large bowl, pour the sauce evenly over the wings and toss to coat. To make them extra sticky, you can bake them for another 1-2 minutes however, this is optional! Sprinkle with parsley, plate, and serve!
Air fryer: Preheat the oven to 400ºF. When hot, add wings in a single layer (do not overcrowd the basket, they won’t crisp!) Bake them in batches instead. Bake for 16-22 minutes, flipping them just past the halfway mark. I usually let them go longer with skin side up for more color!
Sauce: The sauce will thicken significantly as it sits, so I suggest timing it so that the sauce finishes at the same time as the wings!