These crispy chicken wings drenched in hot honey lemon pepper sauce are so flavorful & vibrant! Fresh chicken wings are coated in a lemon pepper dry rub and then tossed in a hot honey lemon pepper wing sauce for the ultimate bright lemon flavor and a bit of heat. They are the perfect appetizer, party food, or game day snack!
This isn't your ordinary lemon pepper wings recipe! These are (drum roll)... hot honey lemon pepper chicken wings! Of all chicken wing recipes, this one might be my favorite.
The seasoned chicken wings on their own have so much flavor! With a blend of lemon zest, cracked black pepper, brown sugar, and the star of the show citric acid, it is so bold and lemony!
Not to mention, this is a super easy recipe. Quite simply you prepare the seasoning, the sauce, make the wings, and toss! These next level hot honey lemon pepper wings are sure to be your new game day favorite!
Chicken wings: You will need 4 pounds of thawed chicken wings, which is about 20 wings. You can also use party wings which are smaller in size and should yield around 30-40 wings.
lemon pepper dry rub
Lemon zest: Can't have lemon pepper seasoning without lemon zest! The dry rub calls for 2 teaspoons of freshly grated lemon zest.
Black pepper: The type of pepper you use is important for this seasoning. I know its more effort, but using fresh cracked black pepper adds so much more flavor and kick than the already ground black pepper. You will need 2 teaspoons.
Salt: This lemon seasoning mix uses kosher salt. In addition to adding flavor, kosher salt draws excess moisture from meat ensuring these homemade lemon pepper wings are super crispy! You only need 1 ½ teaspoons.
Brown sugar: For a touch of sweetness & to add to the browning of the wings, you need 1 packed teaspoon of brown sugar.
Garlic powder: Every good seasoning has garlic right! You will need ½ teaspoon of garlic powder for this seasoning. You can also use onion powder, if you want a more strong flavor with a hint of garlic.
Citric acid: The star of this seasoning... citric acid! Citric acid gives this dry rub an intense lemon flavor! It also intensifies the other seasonings in the rub. I use Lemi Shine's 100% food grade citric acid. This recipe calls for only ¼ teaspoon of citric acid. To learn more about citric acid, check out this page. To purchase this kitchen staple for your home, check it out on amazon.
hot honey lemon sauce
Butter: You will need 1 stick (½ cup) of unsalted melted butter. Be sure to use high quality butter so the sauce is rich and flavorful. My favorite butter is Kerrygold. The butter is the base of the savory glaze sauce.
Hot sauce: You can use any hot sauce that is your favorite for this recipe, however my recommendation would be frank’s red hot sauce. Frank's red has that characteristic buffalo sauce flavor. You will need ⅓ cup of hot sauce.
Honey: I use raw unfiltered honey for the sauce. This makes it a sticky sauce. It helps coat the wings and adds a touch of sweetness. You will need only ½ cup of honey.
Lemon: The hot honey sauce calls for both fresh lemon juice and zest. About the zest and juice of one full lemon.
Seasonings: You will need kosher salt and red pepper chili flakes to season the sauce. Intensifies the flavor and heat!
variations and substitutions
Pick whatever hot sauce is your favorite! I am a lover of so many hot sauces and have a favorite hot sauce for different food categories. For chicken wings, I love to use Frank's Red hot sauce, but you could also use Cholula, Tabasco, or Louisiana. These hot lemon pepper wings will really showcase whatever hot sauce you pick.
If you don't have honey on hand, you can also use maple syrup. Maple syrup will give the sauce a more caramely flavor, but will still glaze the juicy chicken wings. The honey can be substituted for maple syrup 1:1.
tips & tricks
If your chicken wings are still frozen, try these minimal effort defrosting methods. One of the easiest ways to thaw chicken wings is by placing them in a large ziploc bag and storing in the fridge overnight. You can also place the ziploc bag of wings in a large bowl of cold water to defrost for about an hour and a half.
Use paper towels to blot out any excess moisture. The less moisture left in the skin, the more crispy the wings will be!
If you are grilling the wings, rub the grill grates with vegetable oil. This ensures the chicken wings don't stick and get extra crispy.
step by step instructions
1. Make the lemon pepper dry rub. The first thing to do is prep the seasoning! In a medium bowl, combine the lemon zest, black pepper, kosher salt, dark brown sugar, garlic powder, and citric acid. If you're willing to get your hands dirty, mix together using your fingertips. This releases the oil from the lemon and melds it into the other spices.
2. Toss! Place the thawed wings in a large mixing bowl and sprinkle the lemon pepper dry rub on top. Mix until every wing is completely coated in the dry rub.
3. Cook em up. You can either bake or grill the wings. To grill the wings, oil the grates with vegetable oil or olive oil. Heat the grill to high heat & grill the wings for 15-20 minutes, flipping once in between. To bake, preheat your oven to 400F. Place the chicken wings in a single layer on a wire rack over a baking sheet. Bake the wings for 30-40 minutes. The chicken wings are done when 165F.
4. Sauce time! While the chicken wings cook, make the hot honey lemon sauce. In a medium bowl, combine the melted butter, hot sauce, honey, kosher salt, lemon juice, lemon zest, and red pepper chili flakes. Stir until the sauce is one consistent color with no streaks of hot sauce, butter, or honey. The sauce should be pretty thin but still easily coat the back of a spoon.
5. The finale. All that is left to do it toss the crispy lemon pepper wings in the hot honey lemon pepper glaze. I like to use a rubber coated tongs for this step so that the wings can be thoroughly coated without ripping them apart like metal tongs do. Top with extra lemon zest and enjoy!
Serve these crispy wings with all the fixin's... ranch, blue cheese, celery, and carrots!
storage & reheating
Store leftover wings an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days.
You can also freeze leftover chicken wings in a ziploc bag for up to 4 months.
My preferred method to reheat chicken wings is in a frying pan. You can simply add a couple tablespoons of oil in your pan and cook the chicken wings on medium heat for 5-7 minutes. I have found this is the best method to keep you chicken wings flavorful yet crispy.
You can also reheat them in the air fryer or oven. This is a great way to get them crispy without drying them out. For the air fryer, preheat your air fryer basket to 350F and cook for 2-3 minutes. To bake, preheat your oven to 350F. Then place chicken wings on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and bake wings in the preheated oven for 10-15 minutes.
How do you make your wings extra crispy?
- To make crispy wings, firmly blot them with a paper towel before seasoning after thawing. The less moisture on the wings will make for super crispy skin. Additionally, one tablespoon of baking powder can be added to your seasoning to coat the wings. Baking powder gives the wings the texture of a fried wing.
Can you leave a dry rub on too long?
- If you leave a dry rub on for too long it will become more like a paste and can risk sliding off the meat. I recommend leaving the dry rub on the chicken wings for at least 10 minutes and up to 2 hours. This will make sure they have stuck to the skin without changing taste and texture.
What is lemon pepper seasoning made of?
- Almost all store bought lemon pepper seasonings have citric acid in them. Citric acid intensifies other flavors, adds acidity, and brings in that punch of citrus taste. In my homemade lemon pepper dry rub, I use ¼ teaspoon of citric acid in addition to 2 teaspoons lemon zest to pack that lemon flavor!
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