Why is Butter Added to Hot Wing Sauce? How-to Guide

By Dylan Clay
Last Updated 
October 19, 2022

The reason butter is added to hot wing sauce or any wing sauce is because it adds a velvety, creamy texture. It also adds richness (fat/oil) which rounds the hot sauce (acid).

What are Most Hot Sauces Made of?

To start, it's best to identify what ingredients make up most hot sauces.

why is butter added to hot wing sauce

I'm from New England and one of the most popular hot sauces here is Frank's Red Hot.

The ingredients found in Frank's Red Hot (Original) are:

  • Aged cayenne red peppers
  • Distilled vinegar
  • Water
  • Salt
  • Garlic powder

Most hot sauces are similar, they use a variety of chili peppers that are then combined with other ingredients.

Typical ingredients include:

  • Vinegar
  • Citrus fruits (lemon, lime, etc.)
  • Various seasonings (garlic, salt, etc.)
  • Other vegetables that are often pickled

Essentially we get tanginess from the vinegar and acid from the hot sauce. We also get the spicy flavor and sensation from the chili peppers via capsaicin.

While these are great features to have in hot wings, the flavor/consistency can be improved to compliment the heat.

Why is Butter Added to Hot Wing Sauce

Butter is made from the fat and protein components of churned cream. When it's added to an acidic ingredient like hot sauce, it adds richness.

cabot unsalted butter
Unsalted butter

This richness helps to further round out the flavors of the hot sauce, which makes it more palatable.

Another added benefit of the butter is that it helps to thicken the hot sauce. Most hot sauces are rather thin - like Frank's Red Hot - which are vinegar/water-based.

When incorporated correctly, the butter adds a velvet consistency.

Most Hot Sauces are Thin

Something I want to note is that if your goal is just to thicken the sauce, you don't necessarily need to use butter.

A common way to thicken sauces is with a cornstarch slurry. The usual recommendation is to start with:

  • 1 Tablespoon of cornstarch
  • 2 Tablespoons of water

You then whisk this together until there are no lumps.

You then bring your hot sauce to a simmer in a medium sauce pan and add your slurry. Whisky the slurry and the hot sauce until it visibly thickens.

Ensure you don't cook longer than needed as you risk the starch breaking down and your sauce thinning.

Aside from this you could use a roux.

I'm not a huge fan of the roux method, mainly because it almost ends up paste-like as apposed to our velvet texture.

You could also reduce the hot sauce by bringing it to a boil and then reducing to a simmer. Whisking and cooking until the sauce is reduced to your desired consistency.

Why Temperature is Important When Incorporating Butter

The way in which you add the butter to the hot sauce is very important.

Again, butter is made from the fat and protein components of churned cream; It's comprised of water, milk fat, and milk solids.

If you were to add the butter to a medium sauce pan with your hot sauce and your temperature is too high, you risk separating the milk solids. The result will be an unpleasant oily, thin sauce; The exact opposite of your goal.

Rather, add your hot sauce to a medium sauce pan at low heat. Add half a stick of unsalted butter and slowly incorporate the butter with the hot sauce.

The result will be a velvet-like consistency and a sauce that sticks better to your wings.

How to Add Butter to Hot Sauce

1. Add 1/2 stick of butter to 1 cup of hot sauce.

butter in hot sauce
1/2 stick of butter in 1 cup of hot sauce

2. Turn your burner on to the lowest setting.

lowest burner setting
Lowest burner setting

3. Slowly incorporate the butter with the hot sauce by whisking the butter occasionally.

slowly melting butter

4. Eventually the butter will melt down and create a velvet like consistency.

butter incorporated correctly
Butter incorporated correctly

Once the butter has incorporated you can toss your wings in the sauce.

Dylan Clay
I've grilled and smoked meat for roughly half my life. While i'm not a professional Pitmaster, I've worked with nearly every cut of meat. Not everyone has a hands on guide to teach them BBQ. It's my hope that Barbecue FAQ can be that helping hand.

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