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This One Genius Ingredient Makes Buffalo Sauce Even Better

Every week in Genius Recipes—often with your help!—Food52 Creative Director and lifelong Genius-hunter Kristen Miglore is unearthing recipes that will change the way you cook.


Why are we trying to mess with Buffalo sauce? It’s one of life’s perfect foods, a two-ingredient wonder that you can make in any kitchen, from any grocery run—as long as you can find Frank’s RedHot hot sauce, butter, and a vessel to melt it all together before it hits crispy, deep-fried chicken skin. (1)

Well, here’s why: because, with one more heroic ingredient, you don’t even need the crispy chicken skin.

What we love about Buffalo wings isn’t strictly the wing, but the just-right balance that tugs us back and forth—fiery/zippy/sharp to salty/cozy/fatty, and back again. (Another beer, please!) Pour regular Buffalo sauce on cucumbers or celery or tofu or other ingredients that don’t tug back and you’ll be pulled right over. (fiery/zippy/sharp! FIERY/ZIPPY/SHARP!) The standard sauce, without the chicken, is a little much.

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But by adding in a boatload of roasted garlic, you can successfully, deliciously replace that crispy chicken with all kinds of other ingredients, including cucumbers with blue cheese and roasted peanuts, just like Parm restaurants in New York City have been famously doing for years. (2)

Roast garlic—or confit it, in the fancier version pictured above—until it’s soft, sweet, and intoxicatingly garlic bread-y, then smush it up to add to your Buffalo sauce, and you’re bringing back the rounded, rich, savory qualities that we’ve depended on chicken for all this time. My colleague Max McDonough likened this to the three-course-meal gum that Violet Beauregarde sampled in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. The chicken essense is in the sauce.

You can even afford to lose the butter, swapping in olive oil. Which is good, because melted butter only works in a sauce if it’s served warm and fluid, or it returns to a solid. (3) (Same with bacon—that’s why there are all those spinach salads with warm bacon vinaigrette. Cold bacon vinaigrette has yet to take off.)

This doctored Buffalo sauce is now a—technically vegan—powerhouse that you can keep indefinitely in your fridge and deploy all over. Crisp, fresh cucumber is a great place to start, then move on to shaved fennel or celery, boiled potatoes or eggs, steamed shrimp or crab. Even wings—not that they needed anything else—will be extra, suspiciously good.

(1) At the time of writing, you can order Frank’s RedHot by the gallon for $12.49.

(2) In Peter Meehan’s lazier version for Lucky Peach, you roast the garlic instead—you can see there isn’t much difference in the outcome in the video above.

(3) Which is why Frank’s RedHot uses “natural butter type flavor” in the wing sauce version of its hot sauce. (In case you were wondering, it’s vegan.)

Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Perhaps something perfect for beginners? Please send it my way (and tell me what’s so smart about it) at [email protected]—thank you to editor, stylist, and super-tipster Ali Slagle for this one!

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