Genius Recipes

This One Genius Ingredient Makes Buffalo Sauce Even Better

Plus, a very unexpected place to use it.

October 16, 2019

Every week in Genius Recipes—often with your help!—Food52 Creative Director and lifelong Genius-hunter Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that will change the way you cook.

Why are we trying to mess with Buffalo sauce? It’s one of life’s perfect foods, a two-ingredient wonder that you can make in any kitchen, from any grocery run—as long as you can find Frank’s RedHot hot sauce, butter, and a vessel to melt it all together before it hits crispy, deep-fried chicken skin. (1)

Well, here’s why: because, with one more heroic ingredient, you don’t even need the crispy chicken skin.

What we love about Buffalo wings isn’t strictly the wing, but the just-right balance that tugs us back and forth—fiery/zippy/sharp to salty/cozy/fatty, and back again. (Another beer, please!) Pour regular Buffalo sauce on cucumbers or celery or tofu or other ingredients that don’t tug back and you’ll be pulled right over. (fiery/zippy/sharp! FIERY/ZIPPY/SHARP!) The standard sauce, without the chicken, is a little much.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“Frank's has a titch of garlic in it anyway, and I think that's why, to me, it's always been the superior hot sauce. As much as I LOVE garlic (and I think roasting it sounds amazing) this recipe will always be my favorite - it's the classic, and it's the one my late father used to make regularly. It's perfection. :)”
— DanaERT

But by adding in a boatload of roasted garlic, you can successfully, deliciously replace that crispy chicken with all kinds of other ingredients, including cucumbers with blue cheese and roasted peanuts, just like Parm restaurants in New York City have been famously doing for years. (2)

Roast garlic—or confit it, in the fancier version pictured above—until it’s soft, sweet, and intoxicatingly garlic bread-y, then smush it up to add to your Buffalo sauce, and you’re bringing back the rounded, rich, savory qualities that we’ve depended on chicken for all this time. My colleague Max McDonough likened this to the three-course-meal gum that Violet Beauregarde sampled in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. The chicken essense is in the sauce.

You can even afford to lose the butter, swapping in olive oil. Which is good, because melted butter only works in a sauce if it’s served warm and fluid, or it returns to a solid. (3) (Same with bacon—that’s why there are all those spinach salads with warm bacon vinaigrette. Cold bacon vinaigrette has yet to take off.)

This doctored Buffalo sauce is now a—technically vegan—powerhouse that you can keep indefinitely in your fridge and deploy all over. Crisp, fresh cucumber is a great place to start, then move on to shaved fennel or celery, boiled potatoes or eggs, steamed shrimp or crab. Even wings—not that they needed anything else—will be extra, suspiciously good.

(1) At the time of writing, you can order Frank’s RedHot by the gallon for $12.49.

(2) In Peter Meehan’s lazier version for Lucky Peach, you roast the garlic instead—you can see there isn’t much difference in the outcome in the video above.

(3) Which is why Frank’s RedHot uses “natural butter type flavor” in the wing sauce version of its hot sauce. (In case you were wondering, it’s vegan.)

Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Perhaps something perfect for beginners? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected]—thank you to editor, stylist, and super-tipster Ali Slagle for this one!

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See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Cindy Davis
    Cindy Davis
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  • Susan Bowman
    Susan Bowman
I'm an ex-economist, lifelong-Californian who moved to New York to work in food media in 2007, before returning to the land of Dutch Crunch bread and tri-tip barbecues in 2020. Dodgy career choices aside, I can't help but apply the rational tendencies of my former life to things like: recipe tweaking, digging up obscure facts about pizza, and deciding how many pastries to put in my purse for "later."


Cindy D. October 17, 2019
I love the different ingredients added to the wing sauce. I add about a tablespoon of brown sugar to the hot sauce and butter. It gives it a little sweetness but is delicious. Just an idea.
Kristen M. October 18, 2019
Yum! Thanks, Cindy.
weshook October 17, 2019
Just want to say that my olive oil solidifies in the fridge...not as much as butter, but still too thick to want to put it on cold cucumbers.
Deleted A. October 17, 2019
So does the olive oil I use, as will any decent quality EVOO. I always keep a bottle of my own salad dressing in the fridge and I have to take it out at least 30 minutes before making a salad or I will have to mix up a fresh batch instead.
thelastmike October 16, 2019
I suppose it is just perspective but it sounds more like you're putting some chili in your garlic-oil than you are putting garlic in your wing sauce.
Deleted A. October 16, 2019
This is true, if you replace the butter or margarine with the olive oil. I enjoy adding ROASTED garlic to a batch of mashed potatoes and do it quite often, so I might give adding it to a regular buffalo wing sauce to see how it comes out. Considering I'm one of the crazy people who buy Frank's by the gallon, it would be no great loss if it doesn't turn out very well. :)
Kristen M. October 18, 2019
Fair point, but Frank's still shouts the loudest here. Nobody puts Frank's in a corner.
Deleted A. October 16, 2019
I've been adding garlic powder to my Buffalo sauce for years now. I often add a squirt of ketchup as well as it adds just a touch of sweetness but most of all, helps the sauce to emulsify and stay together. Another thing to try is a bit of liquid smoke to add that BBQ touch to it.
Kristen M. October 18, 2019
Love the idea of a little sweetness, Barcham.
Susan B. October 16, 2019
This explains why I always loved my friend Janie's Hot Wings so much...She always used equal parts, Franks, butter and Italian salad dressing...which had a healthy dose of garlic in it, plus the tang of a bit of vinegar...
Kristen M. October 18, 2019
Yum! Go Janie.
Adrienne B. October 16, 2019
Ah-ha! The real missing ingredient is one tempered egg. It makes the sauce more creamy so it sticks nicely to every nook and cranny. Franks is okay, but I prefer Crystal for hot sauce... and if you want to really kick it up a notch, add a couple of drops of El Yucateco Habenero sauce.
thelastmike October 16, 2019
A lot of people make the mistake of melting the butter. If you put slices of butter into the sauce (none of which has been heated) and then put the hot wings in and shake them around the heat of the wings melts the butter. And just like mounting any sauce with butter you get a nicer more nappe texture which coats the wings nicely.
Kristen M. October 18, 2019
Love both of these ideas.
DanaERT October 16, 2019
I'm with Tom, in terms of acid - the New York Times magazine article from a million years ago (Winging it in Buffalo - Craig Claiborne and Pierre Franey from 1981!) called for 1 T white vinegar, along with the butter and the Frank's. Frank's has a titch of garlic in it anyway, and I think that's why, to me, it's always been the superior hot sauce.

As much as I LOVE garlic (and I think roasting it sounds amazing) this recipe will always be my favorite - it's the classic, and it's the one my late father used to make regularly. It's perfection. :)
Kristen M. October 18, 2019
So glad to know about this one, too—thanks, DanaERT!
DanaERT October 18, 2019
Sure thing! That same article has a delicious blue cheese dressing to serve with the wings. I think my mom still has the page from the NYT Magazine folded up in her recipe box, and it has to be hanging by a thread - it's grease-spattered and dogeared, just as a perfect old recipe should be!
(needless to say, we both have the recipe for the wings, sauce, and dressing written separately on index cards so we can actually read it!)
mudd January 29, 2020
I’ll check if the Craig/Pierre recipe is available on line.

And, just me, I cook the wings (fry, bake, grill whatever) And use the buffalo like a dipping sauce. That way, still have crispy skin.
mudd January 29, 2020
DanaERT January 30, 2020
We do a variation of that - we usually use a little brush to paint on the sauce just before we eat the wings. Same thing applies - keep that crispy skin!
tom October 16, 2019
The recipe forgot the lemon juice, and with the bold flavors of buffalo sauce, some granulated garlic works fine. Roasting the garlic separately seems a big spend of time with little return.

My sauce is 1/2c melted butter, 1/2c bobs red hot, cap full of lemon juice, big pinch of granulated garlic. Adjust the butter down and red hot up for hotter sauce.

When dipping hot chicken wings into the sauce, or tossing the wings in sauce, the sauce won't cool off. If you're eating cold wings with congealed hot sauce, you're doing it wrong!
Kristen M. October 18, 2019
Love the lemon juice idea.
Emma L. October 16, 2019
I tried the Buffalo cucs at Parm a few weeks ago! So. Good.
Kristen M. October 18, 2019