Red Hot and Low-Sodium Chicken Wings

Red Hot and Low-Sodium Chicken Wings

This week, I jumped on board a food blog event hosted by Jessica, who has the wonderful blog SodiumGirl. The challenge? To create a favorite salty recipe with low-sodium content. While this obviously prohibited the use of salt, it also required the use of products with no more than 40 mg of sodium per serving. I was eager to give this a try, but a little apprehensive, since I love salt.

It was quite eye opening as I rummaged through my refrigerator and pantry in search of ingredients containing no more than 40 mg of sodium per serving. I am not only referring to staples such as mustard, cheese, sriracha, ketchup, mayonnaise, even Greek style yogurt.  As I scrolled a database for more nutritional references, I discovered that many proteins have a generous amount of natural sodium. My goal, then, was to select a protein with a relatively low amount of salt and devise a recipe around it using low or no-sodium ingredients.

Happily, dark chicken meat came in at a respectable sodium level, with drumsticks and thighs packing 46 mg per serving. This got me thinking about one of my favorite salty foods best associated with bars and football games: spicy wings. So, I decided to try and make a low sodium version of spicy wings.

An important factor in making this recipe is the use of lots of spices. I rubbed the chicken with a blend of paprika, coriander, cumin and cayenne and let the wings marinate for several hours. Then I roasted them in a hot oven for an hour, basting them with a spicy sauce which was a simplified cross between a buffalo wing and a BBQ sauce. Normally a generous squirt of sriracha would play a role in a recipe like this, but weighing in at 100 mg per serving, I improvised. Instead, I  whipped up a basting sauce with Tabasco, tomato paste and brown sugar. The results were excellent. The wings were crunchy, sticky and spicy – just the kind of finger-licking appetizer I imagined, minus any salt. And you know what?  I didn’t miss the salt at all.

Red Hot and Low-Sodium Chicken Wings

I use drummettes, which are the largest part of the chicken wing, because I prefer their relative meatiness. Serves 4 as an appetizer.

3 pounds chicken wings or drumettes
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2-4 tablespoons Tabasco (to taste)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

Spiced Sour Cream Sauce:
1 cup sour cream
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Dash of Tabasco
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro sprigs

Prepare the wings:
Whisk oil, paprika, cumin, coriander, cayenne and black pepper together in a large bowl. Add drummettes and toss to evenly coat. Cover and refrigerate at least 3 hours and up to 24 hours. 30 minutes before roasting, remove chicken from refrigerator.
Preheat oven to 425 F. (210 C.) Arrange drummettes on a oven grill pan. Roast 20 minutes. Turn chicken. Roast 20 minutes more.
While the chicken is roasting, make the basting sauce. Melt butter in a medium saucepan. Reduce heat and whisk in tomato paste, brown sugar, vinegar and lemon juice. Keep warm.
Remove chicken from oven and brush with tomato sauce. Return to oven and roast 10 minutes. Remove chicken and turn. Brush again with tomato sauce. Return to oven and roast until golden brown and cooked through, about 10 more minutes. Serve warm with Spiced Sour Cream Sauce for dipping.

Prepare the sauce:
Combine all of the ingredients in a small bowl.


21 thoughts on “Red Hot and Low-Sodium Chicken Wings

  1. Lynda – Love your take on this classic party food, especially the sweet and acid elements added to the wings. Can’t wait to give them a try, and no, I won’t be waiting until next year’s Superbowl! – S

  2. This is fantastic! Just finished making it, cleaning up, & sitting here chowing down. Made the following changes just because it’s what I had on hand. Followed the recipe as is, but used chicken breast cut into bite-size chunks, cumin seed instead of cumin, no vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon of cilantro instead of coriander, 1/2 tablespoon of lemon instead of 1, and frapped cherry tomatoes instead of tomato paste. I added the tobasco directly to the basting sauce.

    The changes I made were mostly omissions due to lack of ingredients, but the changes were subtle and the taste was fantastic–well done! I’m a huge chicken-wing fan, have been all my life, and have had them everywhere, and made several different recipes. This is probably my favorite recipe I’ve found.


  3. Great recipe. Substitute sugar with Splenda brown sugar blend for a low carb version. I love them!

  4. Nope. These did not do it for me. I make buffalo wings once a week using Franks Red Hot Buffalo Wing Sauce. But it’s high in sodium, so I found this recipe and was eager to try it.

    I did just as instructed, including a 24 hour marinade. I love spicy buffalo wings baked in the oven with a side of blue cheese. These were not a suitable replacement.

    These wings were flavorful, but tasted more like a bland BBQ sauce (tomato paste, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar — shoulda’ known better). I got zero notes of buffalo wing flavor in these wings.

    It’s too bad, too, because I was super excited for a spicy, low sodium alternative to buffalo wings.

  5. Tried these during 2013 Superbowl. (My husband had a heart attack two months ago and I’m really watching his diet. The Superbowl was going to be his first ‘cheat’.) He was over the moon with delight when he ate these. I used chicken thighs so he would get more meat. He raved about these and made me promise to make them again. I didn’t marinade them because I only found the recipe that afternoon. I basically did a dry rub with the spices and basted with the sauce when they came out.
    I think that for a lot of folks who are going off salt cold-turkey these may not taste like your traditional ‘Franks wings’ but they really are great if your palate has adjusted to a sodium-free diet.
    Great recipe. Thanks!

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