Since Buffalo Wild Wings first opened its doors in Columbus, Ohio, in 1982, the fast-casual titan has redefined what it means to be a chain restaurant in America. By combining all things boozy and fried with a command center’s worth of HD televisions for watching sports, Buffalo Wild Wings has quickly become one of America's most ubiquitous chains.
Of course, none of this would’ve been possible without B-Dubs’ wings, sauces, and seasonings. Whether your preference is spicy, sweet, or something in between, Buffalo Wild Wings has you covered. But as the company’s name suggests, these aren’t your average wings -- they’re wild wings. This qualification raises the question: Which of the chain’s 22 sauces and seasonings is truly the wildest? We set out to answer this question, establishing once and for all what it means to be wild.
So how does one qualify wildness? There’s, of course, a spice component, but it’s a secondary quality when assessing. When we talk wildness, we’re looking at three distinct criteria:
1. The Flavor Level: How much punch a sauce or seasoning packs in each bite is one of the keys to determining wildness. Sure, a wing can deliver tons of spice, but can it also bring the BBQ or garlic or curry advertised in its name, too? 2. Unexpected Elements and Flavor Combos: This component measures how well certain flavors in sauces go together, as well as accounts for anything hitting the taste buds that’s either unexpectedly good or bad that wasn’t advertised. 3. How Well Its Name Represents It: No one likes a deceptive sauce (especially if that sweetly titled sauce ends up scorching your tongue instead), so we also included a grade for sauces and seasonings based on how accurately they’re named.
And now, without further ado, every Buffalo Wild Wing flavor, ranked by wildness.
22. Buffalo seasoning
We have to give kudos to Buffalo Wild Wings for taking the classic Buffalo sauce and forming it into a rub -- it’s an outside-the-box concept that we salute it for attempting. While it does evoke the taste of Buffalo sauce (despite being a tad garlicky), it, unfortunately, makes us wonder why we’d settle for the drier, gristlier version of hot sauce.
21. Honey BBQ
The honey BBQ sauce is rich in color and has a nice smoky flavor. However, the wing was too sweet and viscous for it to rank higher on the wildness scale. It’s almost as if the “honey” portion of the name was the only ingredient emphasized in the sauce.
20. Bourbon honey mustard
Much like the Buffalo seasoning, we dig the idea behind bourbon honey mustard, as it serves as a twist on a traditionally sweet chicken wing coating. However, what prevents it from being at the top of the class is its overly mustard-y bite, which obscures the bourbon that’s supposedly included.
The biggest thing to know about Buffalo Wild Wings’ take on teriyaki is that the name is vaguely accurate. While it hits the basic flavor points, teriyaki obsessives (we’re looking at you, Seattle) will be disappointed that this iteration isn’t the platonic ideal of the sauce: it packs too much ginger and sweetness while skimping on the sesame and umami.
18. Asian Zing
In comparison to teriyaki, Buffalo Wild Wings’ Asian Zing is the wilder vaguely Asian-inspired sauce. It’s sticky and packs plenty of soy. It’s not quite what you’d expect from the chain, but keep a container of it on hand the next time your beef and broccoli (or chicken wings) needs some extra saucing.
17. Hot BBQ
While this sauce has a great aroma (someone please make this into a candle), there’s a definite dissonance between the titular “hot” and “BBQ.” These flavors should dance together, not allowing the spiciness to suffocate all the barbecue goodness, which happens here. It’s a solid sauce -- just not the cream of the crop.
16. Desert Heat
As far as names go, this sauce might just have the best one. You can definitely hear Robert Duvall shouting “I love the smell of Desert Heat in the morning” in Apocalypse Now, or this could be the title of Sting's latest single. Unfortunately, that’s not how we’re grading this bad boy. It rates highly in regards to flavor combos -- rich and smoky -- but as for how flavorful it is, it’s a little too salty, which in turn hides all the good stuff.
The golden-hued skin is paper-thin but crunchy, while the meat is moist and perfectly salty. It’s a good wing, and probably one of the better plain wings you can snag at a fast-food chain. It shouldn't be as good as it is, and that is what makes it wild.
14. Sweet BBQ
Much like the teriyaki, the approximation of a sweet BBQ sauce is all present here, but it’s not quite rounded out. It’s a bit watery and overly sweet. It’ll definitely satiate any barbecue pangs customers might have, but ‘cue experts will leave less than pleased.
13. Salt and Vinegar
When it comes to salt and vinegar, it’s crucial that your wings are properly tossed and that each bite guarantees a hearty helping of the seasoning. The saltiness and acidity work off each other well, and the combo of both will make you reconsider ordering sauced-up wings. But receive a poorly tossed batch, in which you alternate between bites of salt and vinegar and nothing, and you’ll be asking for your money back. It’s a delicate balancing act.
News flash: Blazin’ is indeed hot. Buffalo Wild Wings’ approximately 350,000 Scoville-unit scorcher will give you bubble guts just from huffing it. Obviously, this sauce isn’t one that you’d casually consume. It’ll not only knock you on your ass, but it tastes just as burnt and smoky as it smells. It’s definitely accurately named, but if you’re looking for any sort of, uh, pleasurable flavor, another sauce or seasoning is your best bet.
Hot is the utility player of the Buffalo Wild Wings sauce line-up. It’s spicy, a tad sweet, and flavorful (the pepper and vinegar balancing themselves out). The only thing that works against it is, as the supposedly fourth hottest sauce on the menu, it isn’t quite as spicy as Buffalo Wild Wings’ own spice scale would lead you to believe.
10. Spicy Garlic
If there’s one thing this sauce is, it’s garlicky. If there’s one thing this sauce isn’t, it’s spicy. The naming aside, this sauce is solid -- it’s like an amped-up version of Buffalo Wild Wings’ Mild sauce (more on that in a bit). We just don’t recommend leading a meeting after inhaling a 14-piece order that’s coated with the stuff.
One would think that Buffalo Wild Wings’ venerable Wild sauce would be a shoe-in for the top spot in a wildness ranking, but, alas, here we are. The name actually prevents this sauce from ranking higher: For the chain’s second hottest sauce, you’d expect it to be just a little bit wilder, but it doesn’t quite feel like a lit firecracker going off in your mouth. However, it more than compensates with a complex flavor profile. Vinegar? Check. Smoke? Check. A surprisingly wet mouth feel? You bet.
8. Caribbean Jerk
It’s tangy, mild, and ginger-packed -- aka the perfect substitute for anyone craving a sweet wing sauce that isn’t BBQ. For those familiar with authentic jerk, this sauce isn’t spicy, but it still hits the spot.
Think Hot but stripped of any sort of spiciness. This is the sauce you get drizzled on a party pack of wings to bring to the next shindig in order to please everyone. It’s the denim jacket of the Buffalo Wild Wings sauce line-up: It works well for anyone.
6. Lemon Pepper
Let us quickly thank Atlanta and Rick Ross for injecting the seasoning into the pop culture zeitgeist. While the lemon-pepper wing has been a staple in Atlanta for years, it’s finally gone fully mainstream with its inclusion on the menus of chains like Buffalo Wild Wings. The chain's version is insanely flavorful, and it gets bonus points for pairing well with almost any sauce on the menu.
5. Thai Curry
Extremely flavorful, spicy, and pleasantly gritty, Thai curry is a next-level flavor. It takes everything from sweet chilies to coconuts to create a sauce that hits you unexpectedly from several different angles -- which is a very, very good thing.
4. Chipotle BBQ
Just getting a whiff of this seasoning confirms that it’s accurately named: the mesquite smokiness is present, as is the spice of chipotle peppers. Unlike several of the other seasonings, you can taste that everything that’s supposed to be in here -- namely the chipotle and BBQ flavoring -- and its coated to perfection.
Medium is the platonic ideal of Buffalo sauce. But what makes it truly unique is its body: it’s thick and dense, adding an extra element to tear through as you gnaw to the bone. It’s also got a lick of spice that’s tempered out with an unexpected acidity at the back. All in all, you’ll want to add the Medium sauce to everything you order at Buffalo Wild Wings -- maybe even the dessert (just kidding... but maybe not).
2. Parmesan Garlic
Buffalo Wild Wings does the flavor right by transforming it into a sauce. Their iteration is neither too cheesy or too garlicky, but still gives off a big, bold taste. It’s the standard-bearer for all things parmesan and garlic in the world of fast-casual chicken wings and will leave your breath kickin' (as it should).
1. Mango Habanero
Between the clever accuracy of the name and the ass-kicking flavor, Mango Habanero is easily the wildest condiment in Buffalo Wild Wings’ arsenal. It’s the type of sauce where you can easily down 14 wings coated in it but also come away drenched in sweat from the heat. Everything works perfectly in tandem, from the mango-induced front notes to the blistering, habanero-fueled back end. The yin and yang of the mango and habanero create an absolute wrecker of a sauce, and one that’s more wild than a Friday night at a frat party.
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Ryan Joseph is Thrillist’s former senior social media editor and a Columbus, Ohio, native who swears Buffalo Wild Wings’ only acceptable nickname is BW3’s.