Appetizer Main dish

Red chile hot wings

These days, when you say you’re serving wings, most people assume it’s the spicy variety that were made popular in the far upstate New York city of Buffalo. In a nod to their provenance, when these wings were first introduced to Texas in the late 1980’s, they were always called Buffalo wings, a name that perplexed me. My young mind reckoned they were named after the bovine mammal, which didn’t make much sense. Then I thought perhaps they referred to Buffalo, Texas—a small Texas town.

If you’re not familiar with Buffalo, Texas, it’s right off I-45 and was always a popular place for my family to stretch our legs as we journeyed between Dallas and Houston. It’s a quiet town, and stopping there doesn’t have the excitement of stopping in say, West for kolaches. The first time, however, that my mom and I paid a short visit to Buffalo, it ended up being quite an adventure.

Mom and I were in the process of moving from Dallas to Houston, and our car was loaded with boxes, along with our dog and cat. We had made the stop at night, and after pulling out of the gas station, Mom made a wrong turn and we ended up on a strange, dark road.

Red chile hot wings | Homesick Texan

At first she thought it was the feeder, so we kept motoring along looking for the freeway entrance. But after we had traveled a good 15 minutes without any access, she began to get worried. Adding to the confusion were our pets, who after sensing her nervousness began barking and meowing while padding around the car.

As this was a time before GPS or cell phones, she had me look at a paper map to see if I could spot where we were. I couldn’t find the road on the map (nor could I figure out how to refold the map—a common problem back in the day), but I wasn’t worried as I was young and thought it was fun being lost in the middle of Texas. My mom, however, disagreed.

Finally, she decided that the road we were on would never lead to where we wanted to be, so she simply turned around and we made our way back to Buffalo. After a consultation with the gas station attendant, we ended up on the correct route and continued on to Houston. And yep, to this day, whenever I pass through Buffalo, I always think back to that night.

Getting back to those wings, the interesting thing about them—and why I was shocked to learn they were a Yankee import—is that they are known for their heat. If there’s one thing I’ve learned while living in the Northeast is many of its natives do not like it hot. But yep, it’s the heat is what has made them such a favorite treat in places far from upstate New York.

Red chile hot wings | Homesick Texan

Now, no disrespect to Buffalo, but when I make my wings I like to call them red chile wings, as that name makes more sense to me as they’re not quite the same. Instead of being fried, mine are baked (or grilled). And while most recipes call for wings to be topped with bottled hot sauce, I prefer to make my own red chile salsa, which allows me to control both the fire and the spice.

My red chile salsa is a blend of fiery chiles de arbol and berry-like guajillo chiles, with a bit of garlic, cumin, oregano and allspice thrown in to give the blend depth. For tang, I stir in some vinegar and then cook the salsa for a few minutes to bring all the flavors together.

This salsa, of course, makes a fine topping for other dishes such as tacos or eggs. But I like it best on wings, which I serve with chipotle blue cheese dressing, sliced radishes and jicama—the latter a trick I picked up from Houston chef Jonathan Jones’s new Mexican restaurant, Xuco Xicana.

These red chile wings are a perfect party food, and they always go fast—so if you’re serving a crowd you might want to double the recipe. And while the dish’s origins may have been in the Northeast, I find that this version has its roots firmly planted in Texas—both Buffalo and beyond.

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5 from 1 vote

Red chile wings

Servings 4
Author Lisa Fain


Ingredients for the wings:

  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon dried garlic flakes or 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne, plus more to taste
  • 2 pounds chicken wings, cut Buffalo style
  • 1 jicama, peeled and cut into sticks
  • 1/2 bunch of radishes, cut into slices
  • Chipotle blue cheese dressing

Ingredients for the red chile salsa:

  • 25 chiles de arbol, seeded and stemmed
  • 4 guajillo chiles, seeded and stemmed
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoons vegetable oil
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar, plus more to taste
  • Kosher salt, to taste


  1. To make the wings, stir together the lime juice, vinegar, olive oil, salt, black pepper, garlic and cayenne for a marinade. Place the wings in the marinade, and let sit unrefrigerated for 30 minutes. (If you want to marinade it longer, please keep in the refrigerator.)

  2. Meanwhile, in a dry skillet heated on high, toast the chiles de arbol and guajillo on each side for about 10 seconds or just until they start to puff. Fill the skillet with enough water to cover chiles. Leave the heat on until water begins to boil and then turn off the heat and let the chiles soak until soft, about 30 minutes.

  3. To cook the wings, preheat the oven to 375° F, and place a rack on a baking sheet lined with foil. (If you don’t have a rack, don’t worry—the wings will taste the same but be a little less crisp as the rack helps the fat drain as they cook.) Remove the wings from the marinade and place on the rack. Cook for 25 minutes, turn the wings over, and then cook for 20 more minutes.

  4. While the wings are in the oven, remove the chiles from the soaking water, rinse and place in a blender. Add to the blender the garlic, cumin, oregano, allspice and 3/4 cup of water. Blend for 5 minutes until smooth. (You blend the chiles this long because they have very tough skins and this ensures the salsa is smooth without having strain it and lose some of the flavor.) In a skillet, heat up the oil on medium low and pour in the salsa. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, stir in the vinegar and add salt to taste. You can add more vinegar or water if you desire a thinner sauce.

  5. After the wings have been in the oven for 45 minutes, remove from the oven and generously brush both sides with the red chile salsa (you can save remaining salsa for another use. It’s terrific on tacos and on eggs). Return to the oven and cook for 10 more minutes.

  6. (Alternatively, you can cook the wings on the grill, about 10 minutes per side, turning once, brushing with sauce after removing from the grill.)

  7. Sprinkle the jicama and radish slices with cayenne, and serve alongside wings with chipotle blue cheese dressing for dipping.

Recipe Notes

The salsa is hot so if you wish to cut down on the fire I would reduce the amount of chiles de arbor used.

  1. Celeste

    Interesting! I used to live in upstate NY and the way that people made wings there was to bake 'em naked, then toss them in bottled wing sauce (it's nothing but vinegar and cayenne) and then put them back in the oven. I think this way with the marinade would have a lot more flavor, especially with the lime juice.

    There's something else that's popular up here and that's a Buffalo chicken salad. Whatever your method for making wings, you use it on boneless chicken parts and then slice up the cooked chicken to put on a bed of greens with a creamy dressing. I can totally see myself trying this with your recipe.

  2. Celeste–Buffalo chicken salad sounds wonderful, especially this time of year. And I debated about posting the marinade or not since it's more work, but you can really taste that extra tang.

  3. I can't wait to try this recipe! Your red chile salsa sounds perfect.

    I don't live too far from West and my grandmother is Czech, so we're deeply rooted in the Kolache tradition (sorry, I'm jumping between your posts!)…but I love reading about your travels through Texas…it brings back so many memories! By the way, my family and I are headin' to Houston to relocate there…as soon as we sell this dad-blast house!

  4. Hey Lisa. I am always looking for something new in the way of chicken wings. Gonna give your chili sauce a try. The ingredients list looks great and not doubt will be fantastic…..If I follow your directions. I don't want to take a wrong turn either.
    Rueben from Guam

  5. I'm in Central NY via Austin where I once worked. So had to buy an offset smoker to deal with BBQ fix. The area of the smoker right next to the fire is too hot for smoking. However, it is the perfect spot for wings tossed in a dry rub similar to yours! 2 hours later they are spicy, smokey and have a crispy skin from being close to heat. Nothing else required!

  6. If you make the red chile salsa ahead of time, how long will it keep in the refrigerator?

    And this reminded me of a recipe I saw not too long ago for a Buffalo chicken dip. Would you be interested in a link to the recipe?

  7. Thanks for the recipe! I've been looking for a hot wing recipe for a while and this one looks great. I'm with you on the bottled sauce coatings/marinades, I never really saw the point. If you are cooking, why not make the whole thing. I am a native of San Antonio, my wife and in-laws are from Pennsylvania and getting them up to my spice "level" has been almost an impossible effort. I think I can tone down the marinade enough for them and just use red chile salsa to get the burn I want. Thanks for the great recipe!

  8. Jennifer–Good luck with selling your house. Houston is a fun place to live!

    Rueben–Ha! Hope my directions keep you on the right path!

    Kathie–Those smoked wings sound wonderful!

  9. Janus–The salsa will keep for a week or so in the refrigerator.

    BAM–I'm with you–I love making stuff from scratch, but I understand that not everyone feels this way. And yes, I've accidentally singed many palates since I moved here, forgetting not everyone likes it as hot as I do!

  10. Loved your story. Just the other day I was sharing with a friend how in '61 or '62, while on vacation in Florida, my father became lost and stopped in a drugstore to ask for directions. Turns out we were within walking distance of our destination so we sat down at the soda counter and had a root beer in a frozen mug. I never forgot that for whatever reason.

    Delicious sounding. Think I'll take these out for a spin this weekend, on the grill. Thank you.

  11. Jim–That sounds like a mighty fine root beer. There should be more drugstores with soda counters!

  12. I love your SW version of these wings and hope I have time to try them over the weekend. What a great idea to serve it with a crunchy cool stick of jicima. I've always fried wings and look forward to this baked/grilled method. Wanted to let you know I made your onion rings (and blogged about that one) … delicious, and also tried your brined pork chops. Great recipes.

  13. I live in Rochester, NY (which is an hour east of Buffalo) and I can tell you that we take our wings pretty seriously. People around here usually fry the wings and make their own sauce. The spicier the better. I love hearing about a Texas version of them–thanks for sharing!

  14. Lea Ann–Hurrah! I'm so pleased you enjoyed the onion rings and pork chops!

    Gretchen–You're welcome! And the spicier the better, indeed!

  15. These might be great for our 4th!!!

  16. As a Texas transplant living in the Buffalo, I feel like I need to make a correction. The Nickle City is neither upstate nor northeast–it is decidedly Western New York and Midwestern Rustbelt. Most folks around here seem pretty happy to distinguish themselves from Albany!

    Thanks for this recipe. I've not yet learned to like "buffalo wings," but I think this might help.

  17. onemoore

    Bam! Fire up the Weber kettle. I'm making these this weekend. They sound awesome.

  18. This sounds really good Lisa. I know the usual Buffalo wing sauce is Franks Red Hot and melted butter
    but it has become so boring of late. I am alwaystrying to find a way to kick up the heat.The Franks hot sauce just doesn't pack enough punch. I like your addition of cumin and allspiece to the mix.

  19. Kristen

    Your wings look fantastic and give me an excuse to make up nother batch of your amazing blue cheese dressing. I like the concept of flavoring the wings with toasted chilies as opposed to the simplistic hot sauce and margarine bath that the traditional version employs. These will be on my short list for my next weekend at home. Once again, the photo has me drooling and dreaming.

    I love your story and your anecdote about the map brings back memories of my marriage to Mr. Lackof Spatial Ability who would turn the turn the map endlessly in an effort to navigate. Never mind the refolding which was a painful sight to witness. Good times.

  20. Barbara

    As usual the weaving to the point of the recipe is half the fun and later association with the recipe, blending with the taste … thank you, Lisa. I'm surrounded by a family who loves 'Buffalo wings' & I don't, I think you've introduced some I can enjoy along with a reorientation southwestwardly to 'Red Chili Wings' … bravo!

  21. Weekend Cowgirl–They'd be great on the Fourth!

    Dee Es–Thank you for the clarification!


  22. Tommy–One thing I've never understood about the original recipe is why they use melted butter. And I've never understood why Frank's became the default sauce for wings.

    Kristen–I have to admit, I made these so I could dip them in the chipotle blue cheese dressing! And I'm not sure how I managed to get around before GPS!

    Barbara–Thank you, and I hope you enjoy them!

  23. Wow! I'd like to try these. The chipotle blue cheese dressing sounds intriguing. Looks like a great party dish. Thanks.

  24. I didn't know there is a Buffalo, Texas. Good to know! I love that these aren't fried, and the homemade sauce sounds great.

  25. Anonymous

    Made this for dinner tonight. Doubled the recipe and cooked the wings at a much higher temp for a shorter time. That's just the preference for wings in our house, but let's get to the nitty gritty. This salsa is delicious! I of course didn't follow the instructions and ended up over toasting the chiles prior to seeding and stemming them. This made removing the seeds a bit difficult, but not impossible. I also added an extra glug of oil and vinegar prior to cooking the salsa. End result = AWESOME! BUT HOT!!!!! Real hot. And I like spicy. Probably bc I ended up with so many extra seeds. I kept apologizing to our guests for it being too hot, but no one complained. In fact everyone raved. Have the remaining salsa in a jar in the fridge, we are eating it on our eggs in the morning and plan on basting some grilled shrimp with it tomorrow night. THANKS!!

  26. Made them this weekend and they were fantastic. Salsa was very very hot

  27. Everybody always adores chicken wings…maybe the greasiness is what makes it so exciting, and the prospect of a meal that you´re obligated to eat with your hands and make a mess? I´ve been liking chipotle wings a lot lately (the spicy/smoky/sweet thing is hard to beat), especially with blue cheese sauce (though god knows why blue cheese goes so well with things that have no historical or geographical connection to it)

  28. Carmen–It is a great party dish. Enjoy!

    Anon–So glad y'all liked them. And yes, they are HOT!

    MJ–Hurrah, I'm glad y'all enjoyed them!

    Eva–I know, it's interesting how many things blue cheese goes with.

  29. You asked why Frank's has become the default sauce for Buffalo wings. Now, this is just my theory, but I'm guessing one of three things:

    1. It was the favorite hot sauce of the restaurant/bar owner who first made them.

    2. It was what he had on hand that first time he made the wings, and the wings were popular enough that he decided not to mess with the recipe.

    3. It was the cheapest hot sauce at the time.

    Please note that these are not mutually exclusive, and that a combination of any or all of the above might be more accurate.

  30. Anonymous

    made them for my family and they really loved them

  31. Too hot for this delicious recipe! Texas needs some ice-based recipes for the current drought….

  32. Derrick

    I will never forget the first time I used chilies de arbol, it was for Korean Style Salsa Roja to accompany my attempt to recreate the Kogi Beef Short Rib Taco. The salsa was OMJ 'oh my Jesus' hot. I have always loved wings of the chicken. Like most people I started with Franks, and yup a tb of butter. The butter does add flavour, plain and simple. These days I have become addicted to Uncle Lou's (Memphis, TN)approach to chicken as seen on Diners, Drives and Dives. His Corruption seasoning and Sweet Spicy Love sauce are tasty. I made it myself after watching it on YouTube. All that said your recipe is next.

  33. My boyfriend has a thing for chicken wings, so when I saw this recipe I knew I had to make these. I cut the recipe in half, but I should have made the whole 2 lbs! He loved it and so did I. BTW I am from Texas and am about to move to California. I have a feeling I will be missing these types of meals more and more. Thanks for sharing!

  34. First, I love your site, it came highly recommended by several different friends. But, this recipe should come with a warning! Toasting chiles over a high heat in your home can create a vicious pepper spray. I had to evacuate my kid and dog and self from our house while the fumes subsided. I use high heat specifically for boiling water, nothing else. The first batch of chiles (that my 8 yr old son sweetly helped me deseed) burned within 3 seconds and hit me in the face like a fire. We literally had ice packs on our faces.

    My dad always said, "If you're going to be stupid, you'd better be tough." My stupidity was definitely in not using a thick enough bottomed pan and using too high of heat.

    The second batch I toasted outside on the grill. The salsa came out as amazing as I figured it would, best I've ever had. It's my husband's birthday today and I'm making 3 recipes from your wonderful site. Refried beans (made yesterday, again, best I've ever had), these wings, and your carnitas. Hubby was raised in a southern california desert and these 3 recipes are going to be part of the best feast he's never had! Thank you!

  35. Make that four recipes… I also made the blue cheese sans chipotle as hubs isn't a huge fan. It's delicious!

  36. I live in buffalo and you know someone is from out-of-town when they call them buffalo wings! Here they are just wings, so I don't think there's any problem with you re-naming them 😉
    It's funny that you mention the other buffalo, though, because when I was in france and I would tell people I was from buffalo, they all thought I was from texas! They have a chain called buffalo grill so that is the buffalo that first comes to mind I guess..

  37. MUST MAKE! These look amazing.

  38. I just love your recipes and the cookbook. Don't know why I never noticed this recipe before now.

    I usually just used Stubbs wing sauce on mine but my Heb says they aren't going to carry it anymore because they don't sell enough of it. I will be trying this one out before the superbowl.

  39. Found your blog several years ago. Have followed it every since. I'm a Texas-born Arkie, and I've purchased your book and made many of your recipes. I made this recipe the other night. Made is exactly as written, except knowing my family, I amped up the cayenne. Grilled them, and as they were getting done, drenched them with your hot sauce. I thought I had mastered wings, but everyone at my house said they were best they had ever had. Me too. Thanks Lisa. 🙂

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