The crispiest, juiciest, most flavorful chicken wings you'll ever try - Butter Chicken Wings! They're marinated in spices, deep fried, and then tossed in a lusciously creamy makhani sauce. These wings are perfect for a game day appetizer.
Well, this recipe has been on my to-do list for ages.
In true Indo-American fashion, I've combined two iconic dishes from both cuisines - Butter Chicken (Murgh Makhani) and Chicken Wings! I have 0 regrets, and you won't either if you make this. They are incredible. I couldn't stop thinking about them for a week.
Butter Chicken Wings are absolutely a labor of love, but truly not as intensive as you'd think. Truthfully, I think I'm just a grump when it comes to frying food in my kitchen.
The wings? Crispy and flavorful as heck. Honestly, I'd eat them without a dry rub or sauce. The sauce?? Same thing. I'll just drink it straight from a glass. Toss them together and you've got a situation on your hands.
They're perfect for a game day appetizer or a night with the boys over beers and other manly man things!
Ingredients - Notes and Substitutions
Whew, okay. The recipe has a hefty amount of ingredients, I admit it! Butter Chicken and chicken wings are effort, otherwise we'd be making them at home all the time. All of the ingredients are common to a well-stocked Indian kitchen. Let's go through them.
If, for some reason, the spices aren't accessible, then I'd highly recommend the MDH Butter Chicken Masala. Use a quarter of the box for the marinade, and another quarter for the makhani sauce.
- Chicken wings - Specifically, bone-in. You can also cube up chicken thighs and make boneless, but the proportions will require adjustments that may take some eyeballing.
- Dahi - Plain whole milk yogurt, like Indian dahi, is the best but you can use low-fat yogurt or Greek yogurt.
- Ginger garlic paste - Or as I call it, gigi paste! This is simply a 50/50 mix of ginger and garlic that's blended into a paste. You can easily make ginger garlic paste at home in a mortar and pestle or blender, or purchase it readymade.
- Green chilis - Thin green chili peppers or serranos add a bit of extra spice! I like to deseed mine. This can be omitted.
- Spices - For the spices, you'll need garam masala, ground turmeric, ground cumin, and kashmiri chili powder. Kashmiri chili powder adds the bright red color, but can be substituted with regular chili powder. Feel free to reduce the amount of chili powder. But this recipe is from an Indian kitchen! We love heat!
- Rice Flour - The seasoned flour is gluten-free! We use rice flour to coat the chicken wings, but you can also use all-purpose flour if you don't care.
- Corn starch - This is something I learned from Eden from Sweet Tea & Thyme when I made her lemon pepper wings! The corn starch acts as a "starchy shield" to lock in the juiciness of the chicken when it fries so it stays juicy on the inside and crispy on the outside.
- Baking powder - Usually a leavening agent for baked goods. But when the wings are fried instead, the baking powder bubbles and creates a light, crispy af crust.
- Spices - Because the marinade and sauce are already full of flavor, we don't need to go crazy with the seasoning for the flour. We just add garlic powder and onion powder to make sure it's not completely bland.
Butter Chicken Sauce
- Butter - This is butter chicken. You need to use butter. Not a substitute like coconut oil. You can use unsalted butter (preferably) or ghee.
- Whole spices - The whole spices are optional, but I add star anise and black cardamom pods at the beginning of the cook. It adds a ton of flavor to the butter.
- Ground spices - We use cumin, garam masala, coriander, kashmiri chili powder, and my secret is the teeniest bit of ground cloves. You can also use 2-3 whole cloves and add it in along with the whole spices.
- Sugar - Butter chicken has a whooole lot of savory things going on. A bit of sugar helps balance it out.
- Tomato paste / canned tomatoes - The base of the makhani sauce is, of course, tomatoes. I use a tablespoon of tomato paste for the concentrated tomato flavor, and canned crushed tomatoes. You can also use fresh tomatoes!
- Heavy cream - For a creamy as heck sauce that also offsets some of the spice, use heavy cream! Substitute with coconut milk or a handful of cashews when adding the sauce to a blender.
- Kasuri methi - This is dried fenugreek leaves and is traditional to authentic butter chicken. It's ultimately optional.
How to make Butter Chicken Wings
There's three major steps to making these wings:
- Marinating the chicken in yogurt and spices
- Frying the wings
- Making the butter chicken curry
After the makhani sauce and wings are fried, simply toss to combine and they are ready to serve!
Let's move through the steps in detail so you can get the best results!
1. The Marinade
To get the chicken wings ready, we'll need to:
Marinate the chicken wings for at least 30 minutes.
To start, mix the ingredients for the marinade - the dahi, lemon juice, ginger garlic paste, chopped green chilis, spices, and salt in a baker or large mixing bowl that will fit the amount of chicken you're making. For me, 2 pounds of chicken wings from Whole Foods fit in a 9 x 13 baker. Give it a solid whisk to combine so the chicken gets an even coating. Then, add the chicken wings into the marinade.
It's best to throw on a pair of gloves and really massage the marinade into the chicken wings, but you can also toss it together with a spatula for an even coating. Once that's done, cover the chicken with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes, and up to 24 hours.
This is a great point to start making the makhani sauce.
Coat the chicken in a dry mixture.
After the chicken has marinated, whisk together the seasoned flour ingredients - the corn starch, rice flour, baking powder, onion powder, and garlic powder - together in a bowl. The ingredients are pretty simple for the flour since the marinade and makhani sauce already add SO much flavor. You don't need extra salt or spices, I promise.
You can either sprinkle the dry ingredients over the chicken and toss to coat, but I recommend breading the wings in the bowl of seasoned flour and then setting it aside. This way, there's no clumpy excess flour.
2. Fry the Chicken
Fry the chicken at 350°F in neutral oil.
Pro Tip: CRACK OPEN A WINDOW!! First and foremost, because the spices + oil is heavyyy in the air.
To fry the oil, I prefer to use a Dutch Oven, like a Staub 4 quart. I also highly recommend a food thermometer to get the right temperature for the oil.
Fill the dutch oven up about a ⅓ of the way up with a neutral oil, like vegetable or canola. It should be enough to deep fry the wings. Once the oil is at a minimum of 350°F, carefully lower 6-7 wings into the oil. Don't overcrowd the dutch oven, otherwise it'll significantly lower the temperature.
Fry the wings for about 5-7 minutes, depending on their size. They'll be a dark red, instead of a golden color due to the spices.
Drain the wings of excess oil.
We don't want our wings to get soggy while they're fried in batches, so I like to have a cooling rack placed above a sheet tray to let the oil drain.
How to make Makhani Curry
To make the sauce for the wings, we're making a classic butter chicken curry with a few slight modifications. Nothing too crazy, just some different proportions with the ingredients to ensure a smooth, thick cream sauce that will coat the wings.
To start, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large pan or pot. Once it's hot, add the star anise and black cardamom pod for a minute to release their flavor. Then, add the aromatics - the onion and ginger garlic paste. Allow them to cook on a medium heat until the onion starts to fry up into a golden brown color.
At that point, add the ground spices - cumin, garam masala, coriander, cloves, kashmiri chili powder. Give them a good stir, and then add the tomato paste and canned tomatoes. Add salt to taste and the sugar.
Lower the stove to a low to medium heat and allow the spices and tomatoes to simmer until it thickens and darkens significantly. You'll see some of the butter start to release on the sides and form small pools. This is exactly what you're looking for! Remove the star anise and black cardamom pod.
Once it reaches this point, transfer everything to a blender, along with the other 2 tablespoons of butter. You can also add cashews if you'd like it to be extra creamy at this point. Blend the sauce until completely smooth.
Pro Tip: If the onions are causing some texture, add the tiniest bit of water at a time until you have a silky smooth sauce.
Return the sauce to the pan and continue to simmer the sauce until the butter releases on the side again and the sauce is thick. Slowly add in the heavy cream while stirring. Remove the sauce from the stove and stir in kasuri methi.
Once the chicken wings are fried and the makhani sauce is done, simply toss them together in a large bowl to coat. Serve with cilantro as a garnish along with carrot and celery sticks.
Dip these wings in Curry Leaf Ranch for an extra burst of flavor! I also love a simple sauce of dahi whisked with a bit of red chili powder and dried mint leaves since the wings are already flavorful.
If you're enjoying these wings for a big game day like the Super Bowl, serve them along with other appetizers like Chickpea Fries, Cheesy Tandoori Chicken Garlic Bread, Chicken 65, and Baked Mango-Tamarind Cauliflower Wings!
For drinks, a Mango Lassi is the perfect creamy beverage to offset the spiciness in these wings. I also love a classic Shirley Temple or homemade Mango Iced Tea! For an alcoholic option, you seriously cannot go wrong with this spicy Golden Passion Fruit Margarita.
Air Frying Instructions
To make these wings in an air fryer, preheat the air fryer to 400°F. Spray the wings with a bit of neutral oil that can withstand high heat, and then place the wings in a single layer within the basket or tray. It's important that there's no overlap, so this may require batches.
Air fry the wings for 25 minutes, flipping them halfway through for optimal crispiness throughout the wings. Once they're done, toss them in the makhani sauce and they're ready to serve!
To reheat the wings, place them in a single layer in the basket of an air fryer. Air fry at 350°F for 10 minutes, or until crispy again.
More Game Day Recipes to try
Butter Chicken Wings
- neutral oil, for frying
Butter Chicken Sauce
- 4 tablespoon butter, divided
- 1 small yellow onion, chopped
- 1 star anise, optional
- 1 black cardamom pod, optional
- 1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon garam masala
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- ⅛ teaspoon ground cloves
- 1 tablespoon kashmiri chili powder
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 14 oz canned tomatoes
- salt, to taste
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon kasuri methi
- cilantro, to garnish
Marinate Chicken Wings
- In a large mixing bowl, add the dahi, lemon juice, ginger garlic paste, green chilis, garam masala, turmeric, cumin, kashmiri chili powder, and salt. Whisk it together until smooth.
- Pat the chicken wings dry with a paper towel. Add the chicken wings into the bowl and massage the marinade into the wings until fully coated.
- Cover the wings and refrigerate for a minimum of 30 minutes.
- In the meantime, whisk together the rice flour, corn starch, baking powder, garlic powder, and onion powder for the seasoned flour mixture. This is also a great point to make the makhani sauce.
- Once the chicken is done marinating, toss the chicken wings in the dry ingredients to evenly coat. Shake off excess flour.
Fry Chicken Wings
- Place a cooling rack over a half sheet tray.
- Heat neutral oil in a dutch oven to 350°F. Fry the chicken wings in batches of 6-7 at a time, being careful not to overcrowd the dutch oven to prevent the temperature from dropping.
- Fry the chicken wings for 6-7 minutes, or until the skin is a crispy deep red. Place the wings on top of the cooling rack to allow the excess oil to drain. Continue to fry the rest of the batches.
- Melt two tablespoons of butter on medium heat. Add the star anise and black cardamom and allow the flavor to infuse with the butter for a minute.
- Add the chopped onions and ginger garlic paste into the butter. Sauté until the onions start to brown. Then, add the spices - the cumin, garam masala, coriander, cloves, and kashmiri chili powder. Give everything a good stir and let it cook for 1-2 minutes so the spices can bloom in the butter.
- Once the oil starts to separate on the sides, add in the tomato paste, canned crushed tomatoes, sugar, and salt to taste. Switch the stove to low to medium heat, and allow the sauce to simmer. It'll start to thicken and darken significantly. The fat will once again start to release and form little pools.
- Remove and discard the black cardamom pod and star anise. Transfer the ingredients into a blender along with the rest of the butter. Blend the sauce until it's completely smooth.
- Transfer the sauce back into the pan. Pour in the heavy cream and continue to simmer until the sauce is thick. This is a great point to taste and adjust for spices (see notes). Remove from heat and finish off the sauce with a pinch of kasuri methi.
- Transfer the wings to a large mixing bowl. Pour the makhani sauce over the wings and toss to evenly coat.
- Serve in a large serving platter with cilantro as garnish and carrot sticks / celery sticks.
- If there's still a bit of texture from the onions after blending, add a bit of warm water into the blender and continue to blend until it's silky smooth.
- Taste the makhani sauce after you add the heavy cream and adjust for spices and salt. If it tastes like straight up tomatoes, you may not have let the spices bloom enough, or they may be low quality spices. I'd start by adding more ground coriander and cumin and then adjust the others. However, keep in mind that the chicken wings themselves are full of flavor from the marinade.
- If, for some reason, the spices aren't accessible, I'd highly recommend the MDH Butter Chicken Masala. Use a quarter of the box for the marinade, and another quarter for the makhani sauce.