Buffalo sauce is a spicy sauce that is commonly used as a condiment for chicken wings. The key ingredients in traditional buffalo sauce are hot sauce or hot pepper sauce, butter, and vinegar. Additional ingredients like garlic, onion, cayenne pepper, and other spices are sometimes added as well. The origins of buffalo sauce can be traced back to Buffalo, New York in the 1960s.
What are the main ingredients in buffalo sauce?
The main ingredients that make up a traditional buffalo sauce are:
- Hot sauce or hot pepper sauce – This provides the signature spicy flavor. Frank’s RedHot is a popular brand used.
- Butter – Butter is used to balance out the heat and provide a creamy texture.
- Vinegar – Cider or white vinegar helps provide tanginess.
In addition to these key ingredients, buffalo sauce recipes sometimes call for:
- Garlic – For added aroma and flavor.
- Onion – Onion enhances the savory qualities.
- Cayenne pepper – Extra cayenne brings more heat.
- Worcestershire sauce – Adds depth of flavor.
- Salt and pepper – To season.
The exact ratio of hot sauce, butter, and vinegar can vary based on personal preference. A typical starting point is around 4 parts hot sauce to 1 part each butter and vinegar. The hot sauce provides the signature buffalo flavor, butter cools down the heat and improves texture, while the vinegar gives it a bright, tangy punch.
What is hot sauce and how is it made?
Hot sauce is the integral ingredient that gives buffalo sauce its spicy kick. There are many styles of hot sauce available, but the type typically used for buffalo wings is a tangy cayenne pepper hot sauce.
The most popular brand used in traditional buffalo sauce is Frank’s RedHot. The ingredients in Frank’s RedHot Original Cayenne Pepper Sauce are aged cayenne red peppers, distilled vinegar, water, salt, and garlic powder. The aged peppers provide the signature heat, vinegar gives it sharpness, and garlic boosts the flavor.
To make a cayenne pepper hot sauce like Frank’s RedHot, ripe red chili peppers are combined with vinegar and salt and then pureed into a sauce. The sauce is aged to allow the flavors to meld. Garlic, onions, or other spices may be added for more complexity. The vinegar content helps act as a natural preservative.
What types of vinegar are used?
White vinegar or apple cider vinegar are commonly used in buffalo sauce recipes. These vinegars provide a bright, tangy flavor that balances out the rich, spicy flavors.
White vinegar, made from distilled grain alcohol, has a clean tart flavor. It adds acidity without imparting additional flavor components that could compete or clash with the other ingredients. Distilled white vinegar is a common choice for buffalo sauce recipes.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar has a mild sweetness and fruitiness from being made from fermented apple juice. It provides the same acidity and tang as white vinegar, but with added apple flavor nuances. Apple cider vinegar is a popular option for buffalo sauce recipes.
The vinegar in buffalo sauce helps cut through the rich creaminess from the butter. It also aids in preserving the sauce’s fresh flavor. Apple cider or distilled white vinegar are good choices that complement the other ingredients nicely without overpowering them.
What type of butter is used?
Traditional buffalo sauce recipes call for regular unsalted butter. Using a quality butter helps provide a creamy, smooth texture and adds richness. Typically butter accounts for about 1 part out of 6 total parts of a buffalo sauce recipe.
Clarified butter or ghee are sometimes used rather than regular butter. Clarifying the butter involves heating it slowly to separate and remove the milk solids from the pure butterfat. Using clarified butter removes potential burning of the milk solids and helps keep the sauce emulsified for better flavor and texture.
Margarine is not recommended for use in buffalo sauce, as it can break down and separate when heated. Stick with using a high quality real butter for best results.
What are some variations on traditional buffalo sauce?
While the classic combination of hot sauce, butter, and vinegar is the standard, there are many variations that put creative spins on traditional buffalo sauce. Some examples include:
Extra Creamy Buffalo Sauce
Uses an increased butter to hot sauce ratio for an ultra creamy and indulgent sauce.
Vegan Buffalo Sauce
Substitutes vegan butter or thickened coconut milk for the dairy butter.
Honey Buffalo Sauce
Sweetened with a bit of honey to balance the heat.
Ranch Buffalo Sauce
Incorporates ranch seasoning and herbs like dill, garlic, and onion.
BBQ Buffalo Sauce
Adds smoky BBQ sauce to the mix.
There are also many different ways to adjust the heat level by using different pepper varieties. Jalapeno, habanero, chipotle, and ghost pepper are all options for spicing up buffalo sauce.
What are the origins of buffalo sauce?
Buffalo sauce originated in Buffalo, New York in the 1960s and was first created by Teressa Bellissimo. Bellissimo owned the Anchor Bar restaurant in Buffalo with her husband Frank. According to legend, one late night a group of their friends visited the bar asking for a midnight snack. Bellissimo decided to fry up some chicken wings and hot sauce she had ready, and served them along with a side of blue cheese dressing.
The improvised late-night chicken wing recipe was a big hit, and Bellissimo put them officially on the menu as “Buffalo wings.” The appetizing wings coated in buttery hot sauce caught on locally and soon spread across the country as Buffalo wings became a popular bar food and appetizer.
Frank’s RedHot cayenne pepper sauce was originally used by Teressa at the Anchor Bar when she was first preparing her spicy chicken wings. That original cayenne flavor and heat helped set the standard for what authentic buffalo sauce should taste like.
Though Buffalo wings were informally being served for years prior, Teressa Bellissimo is credited with popularizing the dish by officially putting it on the menu. Buffalo, New York is considered the birthplace of buffalo sauce and chicken wings.
How did buffalo sauce become popular nationally?
After Teressa Bellissimo introduced Buffalo wings at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo in 1964, they initially gained local popularity in Western New York. Then the appetizer spread to nearby cities like Syracuse, Rochester, and New York City during the 1970s and 1980s.
One key factor in buffalo wings going more national was the 1990 Super Bowl being held in Tampa, Florida. With the Buffalo Bills playing in the big game, tons of chicken wings were shipped from Buffalo restaurants to feed the crowds. The influx of authentic buffalo wings being enjoyed by fans from all over helped further cement their popularity.
The NFL franchise Buffalo Bills also contributed to buffalo sauce fame when they started hosting the “Buffalo Bills Chicken Wing Eating Contest” in the early 2000s. Fans would compete to devour plates of wings doused in hot sauce during halftime at home games.
By the 1990s, major restaurant chains like Pizza Hut, Domino’s and McDonald’s started adding buffalo style chicken wings to their menus to satisfy demand. The original spicy buffalo flavor combined with cooling blue cheese dressing made them a hit nationwide as a go-to appetizer and bar food.
What are the different styles of serving buffalo wings?
There are a few different ways buffalo wings are typically served:
Deep Fried Then Tossed in Sauce
The chicken wings are fried in oil until crispy, then drained and tossed in a bowl with buffalo sauce to coat. This is the original method done at the Anchor Bar.
Baked Then Tossed in Sauce
Rather than frying, the wings are seasoned and baked. The cooked wings are then tossed in prepared buffalo sauce afterward.
Sauce Served on the Side
Some restaurants serve buffalo wings with bowls of buffalo sauce on the side for dipping rather than tossing. This allows customers to control how much hot sauce flavor they get.
No matter the prep method, properly cooked wings with a rich, buttery cayenne sauce is the key to great buffalo wings. The sauce ingredients and ratio can be adjusted to make mild or extra spicy buffalo sauce according to personal taste.
What are good side dishes and dipping sauces for buffalo wings?
The most classic pairing for buffalo wings is blue cheese dressing. The cool and creamy blue cheese dip balances out the heat. Ranch dressing is also a popular dipping sauce for buffalo wings. Other great dipping sauces include:
- Honey Mustard
- Buttermilk Ranch
- Chive Sour Cream
- Greek Yogurt Dip
- Avocado Lime Dip
Celery and carrot sticks along with the blue cheese or ranch dressing are traditionally served alongside buffalo wings as a cooling fresh vegetable accompaniment. Some other good veggie pairings include:
- Cucumber Slices
- Bell Pepper Strips
- Broccoli Florets
- Zucchini Spears
Crunchy starches help balance out hot and saucy buffalo wings. Fries, tater tots, or potato chips are excellent on the side. Other good starch pairings include:
- Garlic Bread
- Dinner Rolls
- Potato Skins
- Onion Rings
For a complete buffalo wings meal, all three components of cooling veggies, starchy sides, and creamy dipping sauces complement the dish perfectly.
Buffalo sauce as we know it today originated in 1964 at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York when Teressa Bellissimo first cooked up a batch of fried chicken wings coated in hot cayenne pepper sauce and butter. That spicy, buttery flavor profile became the signature taste of buffalo wings that are now popular nationwide.
The base of traditional buffalo sauce contains hot sauce, butter, and vinegar. It’s typically tossed with fried or baked chicken wings. The sauce can also be served on the side for dipping. Classic pairings include crunchy celery and carrots sticks dipped into cool, creamy blue cheese or ranch dressing to balance the heat. When making buffalo sauce at home, feel free to experiment with different levels of heat, sweetness, and thickness to customize it to your tastes.