Buffalo chicken thighs with blue cheese dressing and pickled celery are totally your favorite dive-bar hot wings but disguised as an easy weeknight meal.
Chicken wings have the capacity to be a perfect food. They’re portable, addictive, crispy, juicy, convivial, messy, and of course the sauce options are endless. But perfection is a difficult pinnacle to reach. I’m sure, if you’re a chicken lover like me, you have worked through many a basket of wings. Hot, mild, teriyaki, dry rubbed, fried, baked, grilled, saucy, greasy, atomic, boneless (which I argue have NO business here), with blue cheese, ranch, or even honey mustard – I’ve had a lot of wings. And while each and everyone has been passable if not spectacular, a lot have fallen short of perfection.
Why is this the rule rather than the exception? I think it’s a case of simplicity being the enemy of quality. A good wing is hard to fake, because when it comes down to it there are only three real components – crispy skin, juicy meat, and a stellar sauce. And even if they seem easy peasy, they are still deceivingly tough.
Clever reader that you are though, you probably noticed that I’m talking a lot about wings, but that this post is not titled “Best ever buffalo chicken wings”. And while I’m sure I’ll get around to that beautiful enigma someday in the future, right now I’m looking for the buffalo wing pay off without all the hard work. So today I give you a recipe that will give you all the buffalo wing feels but packaged neatly into a weeknight meal that you can have on the table in about 45 minutes AND eat with a fork and knife (if that’s your jam).
Buffalo Chicken Thighs with Blue Cheese Dressing and Pickled Celery
Well that’s a mouthful, huh? But I promise, in the time that the chicken is crisping up in the oven, the condiments nearly make themselves. Which is why, even though there’s a lot going on here flavor wise, I’d put the effort level at about a 3. But to prove my point let’s break it down a little first.
Making crispy chicken thighs in the oven
The beauty of this recipe is that it takes a super easy to cook piece of chicken (the thigh, which gives you the best balance of flavor and forgiving nature IMO) and turns it into a crispy, juicy, flavorful centerpiece without so much as five minutes of hands-on effort. All the hard work gets accomplished in the oven, giving you plenty of time to whip up a few condiments, pop open a bottle of something chilled and zippy, and catch up on a few YouTube vids in the meantime.
What’s the trick then to nearly zero effort, crispy as all get out, oven baked chicken thighs? Two words: baking powder.
Weird right? But a method I picked up from the ingenious folks over at Serious Eats for crispy-skinned Thanksgiving turkey, prodded me towards trying this little hack on chicken thighs, and it works unbelievably well. The science behind it (nutshelled for your benefit) basically breaks down to pH levels. The baking powder’s slight alkalinity raises the chicken skin’s pH and allows the browning process to happen faster and more efficiently, meaning you get a browner, crispier piece of chicken in about 30 minutes. Ok, science time over.
So just a little baking powder mixed in with your standard S&P is going to basically change your life forever…or at least on the nights you make chicken. Just make sure it’s baking POWDER and not baking SODA. As the latter will result in similarly brown and crispy thighs, but with an unfortunate metallic aftertaste that is definitely a dinner ruiner.
Making the Buffalo Sauce
Once you’ve got your chicken thighs safely powdered and popped into a hot oven, the rest is about as easy as stirring stuff together. First things first, we need to get saucy. I wanted to stick with your tried and true buffalo sauce flavors here, because you know that bright orange stuff is a classic for a reason. This sauce is really only about three things: spice, sweet, and a little butter for good measure.
Here the spice comes from Franks RedHot sauce, which has long been what comes to mind when I think of OG Buffalo wings. It’s a great mix of tangy and spicy, without being blow your head off hot, which is of the utmost importance here because we’re using a LOT of it.
The sweet (which is not necessarily traditional, but I find necessary to balance out all the salty, spiciness we’ve got going on here) comes from beautiful, golden honey. The honey pulls double duty here too, acting as both a subtle sweetener and a sticky element that helps the sauce cling to those chicken thighs for dear life.
And lastly, we’ve got butter…because it’s the best thing ever to bring your ingredients together into one, cohesive, glossy, savory, lip-smacking sauce.
Making the Blue Cheese Dressing
But what is Buffalo-ed anything without a creamy dressing to cool things down? Today I’ve gone with blue cheese, which is my personal fave. But if ranch is more your jam, please feel free to sub that in instead. What I love about this version (and really any creamy salad dressing) is how easy it is whip up. Seriously, if you can stir you’ve got this. In fact, I totally recommend making your life even easier by just whisking up a double batch of this a few days ahead of time. That way you have it on hand for all the veggie snacking, side salad making, and late night pizza dipping (does anyone else do this btw?) situations that might come up during the week.
Making the pickled celery
Ok, so we’ve covered the chicken, the sauce, the dressing…but what about that fresh element? Sure, I get that some of you totally bypass the sad celery that’s tucked into the corner of every basket of wings ever dished up on planet earth. But for me, the celery is an integral part of the wing eating experience. The crisp, cold crunch is a necessary respite from the fiery, sticky, salty chicken. And while it will never be the unadulterated star of the show I wanted celery to play more than just a bit part in the bigger picture. One, because if we’re going to call this a weeknight dinner, it really should have a more generous vegetal component, and two because celery is criminally underrated.
No, I promise I won’t launch into a 1000 word rant on the oft-overlooked benefits of celery. But just know that celery is great. It’s cheap, easy to break down, perfect for snacking, juicing, braising, shaving into salads, tossing into stir fries, and in this case, throwing into a quick pickle. And is this pickle ever quick (she says in her best used car salesman voice)! But seriously, it’s fast – in part due to the fact that celery is awesome at quickly soaking up flavors, but also because of a fun little technique I picked up from my brilliant friend Emily over at Feelin’ Whisky.
She uses roughly a quarter of the vinegar that most traditional brines call for and instead of 30 minutes to an hour of wait time from start to pickle, it’s more like five. So what’s the secret? Manual manipulation. When I first read her method it made so much sense. Massaging the ingredients helps quickly break down the cell walls in the veggies, which means everything gets good and pickle-y in a fraction of the time. And while I may stick to the traditional method for large scale meal prep Mondays, hers will be my go-to for smaller batches of any kind.
Pulling it all together
So to wrap it all up, by the end of 35 minutes your chicken should be cooked through, juicy, and audibly crisp on top. Your sauces will be ready to go, and your quick pickled celery will be zingy and bright. All that’s left is to pile everything onto a plate, call everyone in for dinner, and accept many compliments.
For more weeknight friendly dinners, try these:
- Easy Sheet Pan Steak Fajitas
- Five Ingredient Zucchini Goat Cheese Pasta
- Crispy Pork Cutlets with Cherry Pepper Relish
- Spicy Shrimp Tacos with Charred Corn and Mango Salsa
Oh, and Happy Friday!Print
Buffalo Chicken Thighs with Pickled Celery
Buffalo chicken thighs with pickled parsley and blue cheese dressing is what happens when wings become your new favorite weeknight dinner!
- Prep Time: 20 Minutes
- Cook Time: 35 Minutes
- Total Time: 55 minutes
- Yield: 8 chicken thighs 1x
- Category: Dinner
- Cuisine: American
For the crispy chicken thighs:
3 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
For the buffalo sauce:
4 T unsalted butter
1/2 C hot sauce (I recommend Franks RedHot)
1/4 C honey
For the blue cheese dressing:
1/2 c plain yogurt
1/4 C mayo
2 T apple cider vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 C blue cheese crumbled
1/4 C chopped parsley
For the pickled celery:
8 stalks celery
1/4 C cider vinegar
1 T sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
Preheat your oven to 450°F.
In a small bowl, combine the kosher salt, baking powder, smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, and black pepper. Sprinkle this mixture on the chicken until thoroughly coated. Then arrange chicken, skin side up, on a wire rack set in a rimmed baking sheet. Bake on the middle rack for 35 minutes or until the tops are crispy and brown and the internal temperature reaches 170°F.
While the chicken cooks make the other components:
For the pickled celery, slice celery stalks thinly on an angle and transfer to a medium bowl. Add cider vinegar, sugar, and kosher salt. Using clean hands, massage the celery in the vinegar mixture for about a minute and set aside.
For the buffalo sauce start by melting the butter in a small bowl in the microwave. Add the hot sauce and honey, whisking to combine. Set aside.
To make the blue cheese dressing whisk together the yogurt, mayonnaise, cider vinegar, salt, blue cheese, and parsley until combined. Store in the fridge until ready to serve.
To assemble, place cooked chicken on a plate, spoon buffalo sauce (feel free to re-warm it if necessary) and blue cheese dressing over top and garnish with pickled celery.
All of the condiments can be a day in advance. Just warm the buffalo sauce over a medium low heat before serving.
I use Franks Red Hot for the buffalo sauce, as I find it to be tangy and spicy without blowing your head off.
The baking powder creates a chemical reaction that helps the chicken skin brown and crisp. You may omit it, but you won’t get nearly as crispy a final product.
Keywords: buffalo chicken thighs, pickled parsley, blue cheese dressing, chicken dinner, weeknight meal, gluten free