Golden Lemon Pepper Wings
Golden and crispy lemon pepper wings made in the oven or the air fryer! These wings are better than your favorite restaurant and so easy to make at home!
Watching football is only half the fun without chicken wings!
I’m being generous. For me, game day is boring without a batch of homemade lemon pepper chicken wings. Wings are definitely football watching food. Perfectly finger-friendly and loaded with so much flavor all in a small little package. Golden and crispy on the outside, scented with lemon, and tossed in the most delicious lemon pepper sauce! Would you believe me if I told you these wings are baked or made in the air fryer and not the deep fryer?
I have a little trick up my sleeve (read: a secret ingredient) that I use to make to help crisp these wings up int he oven without having to fry them in oil!
Take it from someone who refuses to eat bone-in chicken, these wings are seriously dynamite!
Ingredients for lemon pepper wings:
- Chicken Wings: I usually buy chicken wings that are already split at the wing joint, but sometimes you find them with the joint attached. If that’s the case, just remove the wing tip (that will burn in the oven.) Then, take the ‘v’ and slice it down the center of the joint to create the drumstick and the wing.
- Baking powder: is the secret ingredient that I use to make baked chicken wings extra crispy! Make sure you don’t use baking soda here though. Aluminum-free baking powder is alkaline, so it raises the pH of the chicken wings’ skin. This causes the Maillard reaction to take place when we bake these wings. And basically, what it means for us, is that the skin gets golden brown and crispy, crispy, crispy!
- Seasonings: I use kosher salt, garlic powder, sweet paprika, and lemon pepper seasoning to marinate the wings overnight. You can bake the wings in as little as 30 minutes, but letting them sit and dry out in the refrigerator overnight yields the absolute best results possible.
- Fresh Lemon Juice + Lemon Zest: Using fresh lemon juice and add it to the melted butter tossing sauce and zest gives these wings the most realistic lemon flavor. The lemon pepper seasoning already contains dry lemon peel, but with fresh lemon zest you also get the wafting fragrance from the lemon oil anytime you come within a foot of these wings!
- Butter: We’ll make a simple lemon and melted butter sauce to toss the wings in right before serving this appetizer.
How to make crispy lemon pepper wings:
- Start with prep. The first thing you want to do is thoroughly pat the wings dry on paper towels. Moisture is the enemy of crispy skin! So my advice is to make sure you give these wings a thorough drying! Then, combine the baking powder, salt, garlic powder, paprika, and lemon pepper seasoning in a bowl. Line the wings up on a baking sheet so that it makes for easier sprinkling. Then sprinkle this mixture all over the wings on both sides.
- Let them hang out. Once the wings are coated, I like to grab a large rimmed baking sheet, place a sheet of foil on top, then place a wire rack on top of the baking sheet and spray it with cooking spray. This helps prevent the wings from sticking to the wire rack. Place the wings on the baking sheet but make sure to leave a little bit of space. You don’t want the wings to touch. If you’re baking these immediately, let them sit on the counter for 30 minutes. If you are prepping ahead, pop the baking sheet into the refrigerator, uncovered, for as little at 2 hours and ideally, 8-12 hours or overnight.
- Bake them. Preheat the oven and bake the wings when the oven is hot. You want to flip them just past the halfway mark. I prefer to let them go slightly longer with the skin side up so that it gets more time for the skin to crisp up. You can also air fry these wings, directions below.
- Make lemon pepper butter sauce. In a saucepan, combine the lemon juice with a pinch of garlic powder and let the lemon juice heat through and gain a simmer. Then add a pat of cold butter at a time and allow it to melt into the lemon pepper sauce. This will take some time, so be patient. Rushing causes the sauce to split, so take your time here. Repeat this 3 more times until all the butter has been incorporated. Then, season with black pepper to taste.
- Toss them in sauce. When the wings are done, I like to transfer them to a metal bowl and toss them in sauce, just like your favorite wing shop. Pour the sauce over the wings and keep tossing until all the wings are coated in the sauce. I like to grate a bit more fresh lemon zest right before serving. This really makes them irresistible!
Tips for baking the best chicken wings:
- Pat them dry! No seriously. I cannot stress this enough, so I made it part of the instructions. During recipe testing, I let a batch or two slide and I kid you not, the ones that I took the time to lay on paper towels and wipe down yielded significantly better results than the ones where I hadn’t.
- Don’t skip the baking powder. This is undoubtedly the most crucial ingredients in making baked chicken wings extra crispy!
- Spread them out and use a wire rack! It’s important to really spread out the wings on the baking sheet. Using a rack ensure that the wings will have air circulating around them. If you happen to have really small wings, they may not all fit on one baking sheet. Instead of cramming them, I suggest baking these in two separate batches.
- Dry them out further. Though this isn’t mandatory, the additional drying time allows the wings to develop better flavor and definitely much better color!
- Toss the wings in a large bowl. When the wings are hot from the oven, pop them in a large bowl and drizzle the lemon butter sauce right over them.
FAQs about homemade chicken wings
- How many wings do you suggest per person if you’re serving these for the big game? The general rule of thumb is about 8 ounces of chicken wings per person if this is a meal or if you aren’t serving too many other apps with it. This recipe would comfortably feed 5-6.
- Can you make these wings in the air fryer? Yes, you certainly can! I suggest preheating and air frying them at 400ºF. When it’s hot, add a single layer of wings to the air fryer basket. Make sure you don’t overcrowd the basket as they won’t get crispy that way. Bake for 16-22 minutes, depending on the size of the wings. Larger wings take a few additional minutes to cook all the way through. Flop them over around the halfway mark. Then toss them in the lemon pepper butter the exact same way and serve hot!
- What sauces do you suggest serving these wings with? The usual – ranch or even blue cheese dressing!
If you like this recipe, you might also like these other game day favorites:
- Garlic Parmesan Wings
- Firecracker Chicken Meatballs
- Loaded Sheet Pan BBQ Chicken Nachos
- Crunchy Buffalo Chicken Jalapeno Poppers
- Southwestern Egg Rolls with Avocado Cilantro Sauce
- 2½-3 pounds chicken wings, halved at joint
- 1 tablespoon baking powder (aluminum free)
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ¾ teaspoon garlic powder, divided
- ¼ teaspoon sweet paprika
- 2 teaspoons lemon pepper seasoning (with salt)
- 2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 4 tablespoons cold salted butter, cut into 4 pieces
- 2 tablespoons lemon zest
- black pepper, to taste
- SEASON: Pat the wings dry using paper towels. Combine the baking powder, kosher salt, ½ teaspoon garlic powder, paprika, and lemon pepper seasoning 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. Spray the rack with cooking spray.
- WINGS: Place the wings skin side up on the rack and allow the wings to rest for at least 30 minutes at room temperature, and ideally, overnight in the refrigerator on the bottom shelf, uncovered. Remove wings 45 minutes before baking.
- BAKE: Position a rack in the upper third of the oven. Preheat the oven to 450ºF. Bake for 28-38 minutes, depending on the size of the wings, flipping them after the first 18-20 minutes. Air fryer directions in notes. When 10 minutes remain for the wings to be done, make the sauce.
- LEMON BUTTER: In a saucepan over medium heat, combine the lemon juice and ¼ teaspoon garlic powder. Allow the lemon juice to heat through and begin to simmer. Add in 1 tablespoon of cold butter, remove pan from heat and swirl so that butter starts to melt. Place back on the heat for a few seconds, remove and swirl again until the butter completely melts. Repeat this with the remaining 3 tablespoons of cold butter. When the butter is completely melted, season with black pepper.
- TOSS: When the wings are done, transfer them to a large bowl, pour the prepared sauce over the wings and toss to coat. Then add the lemon zest and toss again to coat the wings evenly. Sprinkle with parsley, if desired, plate and serve warm!
- Air fryer: Preheat the air fryer to 400ºF, when hot add a single layer of wings (making sure to not overcrowd the basket. It’s better to do this in batches than all at once!) Bake for 16-22 minutes depending on their size, flipping the wings around the halfway mark. I usually let them go slightly longer with the skin side up for more color!