Sweet & Spicy Peanut Chili Chicken Wings

Sweet & Spicy Peanut Chili Chicken Wings

Growing up in the Midwest, spices weren't necessarily used frequently and with great abandon. Well, at least not in my home. In fact, I had only two spices in my repertoire—salt and pepper. The salt was brought out whenever anything needed extra flavor. Butter noodles feeling a bit bland? Salt. Mashed potatoes need a little flavor? Salt. When I was feeling very adventurous, I'd break out the pepper. Pepper was the special occasion spice—to be used sparingly and with great respect.

You see, just a few years ago pepper had too much heat for my poor taste buds.

Sweet & Spicy Peanut Chili Chicken Wings

As someone who loves food, I also love flavor. Unusual flavor combinations, new profiles, new experiences—I'm all for it. In restaurants, I like to choose dishes with bold flavors. Chicken and mushrooms served with a Marsala wine reduction? Mmmm. Scallops in a rich sun-dried tomato butter? Yes, please.

Though I love flavor, I don't always practice what I preach when I cook at home. The sad truth is that I could subsist off of unseasoned noodles and plain oatmeal without complaint. And I do. I often find myself falling into a routine of making and eating bland food so much that it seems unusual when I sprinkle my eggs with a bit of pepper. Perhaps there is some truth to the Midwest stereotype that we love our bland comfort food.

Sweet & Spicy Peanut Chili Chicken Wings

Nevertheless, I've been trying to break out of my flavorless cooking shell. When my friend Frances urged me to try to replicate a recipe for Thai Peanut Chili Chicken Wings that she happened upon at a food truck, I jumped on the idea. Despite the fact that I had no idea what the original even tasted like (and thus had no right to even attempt to replicate a recipe), I was intrigued by the idea of a spicy peanut chicken wing. Spicy, salty, and sweet all at the same time? I needed to know what these tasted like. I needed to have them in my stomach. And now, after making these, I know you need to have them in your stomach too.

Hello, flavor! It's been too long.

Do you ever find yourself in a flavor rut?

Sweet & Spicy Peanut Chili Chicken Wings

These Sweet & Spicy Peanut Chili Chicken Wings are exactly that—sweet and spicy. Chicken wings are marinated in garlic and ginger before being baked (not fried!). The wings are then coated in a peanut chili sauce. Peanut butter lends a sweet quality to the dish while the chili keeps your taste buds awake. Believe me, it really is a bold, beautiful flavor combination. I love that not only the coating of the wings holds bold flavor, but the chicken itself does too, thanks to the marinade. If you are looking to add a little spice into your cooking life, these chicken wings definitely fit the bill.

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Sweet & Spicy Peanut Chili Chicken Wings
Adapted heavily from Life's Ambrosia

Yields about 10-12 chicken wings

3 tablespoons peanut oil (olive oil for substitute), plus extra for coating
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1 tablespoon soy sauce, divided
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced
1 1/4 pound chicken wings, tips trimmed and cut at the joint
1/4 cup chili and garlic sauce
3 tablespoons creamy peanut butter
1 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon sriracha, depending on how spicy you want your wings

In a medium bowl, whisk together 3 tablespoons peanut oil, rice vinegar, 2 teaspoons soy sauce, garlic, and ginger. Add chicken wings and coat. Refrigerate for 2-4 hours to marinate.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (205 degrees C). Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.

Place chicken wings on prepared baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until chicken has a little color. Turn and baste wings with more marinade halfway through baking.

In a separate bowl, stir together remaining 1 teaspoon soy sauce, chili and garlic sauce, peanut butter, and sriracha (start with 1 teaspoon and add more to achieve desired spiciness). Add peanut oil and stir until mixture becomes smooth, about 1-2 tablespoons. It will be very thick. Set aside.

Coat hot, baked wings heavily in peanut butter coating. Allow to cool for a few minutes before serving. Best enjoyed with a side of napkins.