Walk into any restaurant with big screens blaring and you are sure to find boneless chicken wings on the menu. Nothing pleases the table quite like nuggets of crispy chicken doused in the sauce of your choosing. While the sauce is a major part of their appeal, without that crispy-crunchy exterior underneath, they're not really any different than a chicken breast. To achieve that, we're using a special ingredient usually stashed in the liquor cabinet.
With this recipe, you have the satisfaction of biting into pieces of tender white-meat chicken without the hassle of frying. Simply coat the chicken, then bake and broil until crisp. From there, toss the wings with your choice of spicy Buffalo or sweet, smoky honey BBQ sauce. This recipe for making crunchy boneless wings is so approachable, choosing the sauce is the hardest part!
What's the Deal with Boneless Wings?
Buffalo wings are traditionally made from the drummette and the flat (or wingette) of the chicken wing. They are deep-fried and then tossed in a buttery Buffalo sauce. Boneless wings are often found in fast-food or fast-casual restaurants where the crisp-coated breast meat might otherwise be known as a nugget, finger, or tender.
My best guess is that calling them boneless wings makes it more socially acceptable to get a grown-up to eat a chicken nugget. Boneless wings are a bit bigger than your standard nugget, requiring two or three bites and not just one. Eating wings is a pretty primal experience. For those who aren't into all the gristle and grit, boneless wings are the perfect vehicle for your Buffalo and blue cheese sauces.
For Your Information
- This recipe calls for breast meat instead of wings or thigh. You'll get a more satisfying, substantial bite this way. Grab 1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts at the market.
- In addition to flour, cornstarch, and seasoning, you'll also need panko breadcrumbs for ultra-crisp wings.
- The wings can be cooked in advance (and even frozen!), but be sure to sauce them just before serving.
The Trick for Crispy Baked Boneless Wings: Vodka!
The trick to making boneless wings as tasty as their bone-in counterparts is building a good foundation. A thick, crisp coating soaks up the sauce and gives the illusion of being fried. Start by dipping the chicken pieces in seasoned flour, then dunk them in an egg white-buttermilk-vodka mixture before taking a final tumble in a bowl of panko breadcrumbs.
If a tender, crispy crunch is what you are after, add cornstarch to the seasoned flour. The starch interrupts the protein of the all-purpose flour just enough to make a crisp crust. This coating, partnered with panko breadcrumbs and a quick broil before serving, makes for a boneless wing the rivals game-day wings and fried chicken fingers alike.
The Boneless Wings Baking Game Plan
- Make a breading station. Once your chicken is cut, set up a station for coating the chicken — have dry ingredients, the buttermilk mixture, and the panko standing by.
- Coat and move to a cooling rack. Coat the wings and set them on a cooling rack inside a baking sheet. The circulation helps set the coating before baking and helps the wings cook faster in the oven.
- Bake then broil. Bake the boneless wings until cooked through, then just broil the outside to crisp and brown the crust. This two-step process leaves the meat juicy and tender while giving your wings the extra crunch they need to deliver the sauce.
Saucing and Serving Boneless Wings
Once baked and broiled, wait until you are ready to serve to toss the wings with the sauce. The classic choice is a combination of melted butter and bottled hot sauce. To mimic the flavor and heat of restaurant-style wings, Frank's RedHot® hot sauce is the way to go, but feel free to substitute your household's favorite. For a sticky-sweet boneless wing, whisk honey and bottled barbecue sauce together with a pinch of crushed red pepper.
You've done a lot of work for a flavorful, crisp crust, so keep in mind that once sauced, the wings won't stay crispy for very long. Maybe for that reason, going with a dip is the preferred way to go!
Make-Ahead Boneless Wings
Boneless wings are perfect party food and also the saving grace for a last-minute weeknight dinner. The key is to make a big batch all at once, up to the point of broiling, then freeze before they are sauced. Freeze in a single layer on a baking sheet and then toss in a freezer zip-top bag for up to three months. When you are ready to serve family at the table or friends at a party, just reheat as few or as many as you need in the oven.
Round out the platter with dipping bowls of ranch dressing and blue cheese and slivers of carrot and celery sticks. Guests won't miss out on the flavor of spicy wings or the fun of dipping, and you won't miss the greasy plates of discarded bones. Just make sure there are enough paper towels to go around!
How To Make Boneless Wings
Serves 4 to 6
What You Need
freshly ground black pepper
large egg white
vodka or other neutral spirit
1 1/2 pounds
boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 2-inch pieces
- Sauce Option #1: Spicy Buffalo
hot sauce, such as Cholula or Frank's RedHot®
unsalted butter, melted
- Sauce Option #2: Honey-BBQ
Pinch red pepper flakes
- For serving (optional):
Carrot and celery sticks
Ranch or blue cheese dressing
Measuring cups and spoons
Knife and cutting board
Gallon-sized zip-top bag
Wire cooling rack
Set up a dredging station. Combine the flour, cornstarch, salt, paprika, black pepper, cayenne, and garlic powder together in a gallon-sized zip-top bag; set aside. Whisk the buttermilk, egg white, and vodka together in a medium bowl. Pour the panko into a separate medium bowl. Fit a wire rack inside a baking sheet.
Dredge the chicken. Add the chicken to the zip-top bag and shake to evenly coat in the flour-seasoning mixture. Transfer the chicken, 1 or 2 pieces at a time, to the buttermilk mixture, leaving any excess flour in the bag. Coat the chicken in buttermilk, then add to the panko breadcrumbs and turn to coat.
Set the coating. Place the coated chicken on the wire rack. Repeat the dredging process with the remaining pieces of chicken, leaving space between the pieces. Let the chicken sit at room temperature for 10 to 30 minutes to let the coating set. Meanwhile, arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 375°F.
Bake the chicken. Bake the chicken until cooked through or an instant-read thermometer registers 165°F, 15 to 20 minutes.
Make the sauce. While the chicken bakes, whisk the ingredients for the sauce of your choice together in a large bowl.
Broil the chicken. Turn the oven to broil and broil until the crust is crispy and brown, 1 to 2 minutes more.
Toss chicken with the sauce. Transfer the chicken to the bowl with the sauce and toss until well-coated.
Serve the boneless chicken wings. Serve immediately with carrot and celery sticks and ranch or blue cheese dressing if desired.
Nutritional calculation note: The nutritional information listed for this recipe is based on using the spicy buffalo sauce, not the honey-BBQ sauce.
Serving note: Amounts provided for sauces are enough to coat one batch of boneless wings.
Storage: Refrigerate leftovers for up to 4 days in an airtight container.
Make ahead: The flour seasoning blend can be made and stored at room temperature in the zip-top bag up to 1 week in advance. To make the boneless wings in advance: freeze the broiled, unsauced boneless wings in a single layer on a baking sheet, then transfer to a zip-top bag for up to 3 months. Reheat in a 400°F oven until reaches an internal temperature of 165°F, 15 to 20 minutes. Toss with the sauce and serve.