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Is buffalo wings sauce gluten-free?

Buffalo wings are a popular appetizer or snack made of deep-fried chicken wings tossed in a spicy sauce. The signature buffalo wing sauce consists of hot sauce and butter. With the rising popularity of gluten-free diets in recent years, a common question is whether traditional buffalo wing sauce contains gluten.

What is Gluten?

Gluten is a protein found in grains like wheat, barley and rye. For people with celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, consuming gluten triggers an immune response that damages the small intestine. This can lead to symptoms like abdominal pain, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, vomiting, fatigue and more. The only treatment is a strict lifelong gluten-free diet. Therefore, for people who must avoid gluten, it’s important to understand which foods contain this problematic protein.

Common Sources of Gluten

Many common food staples contain gluten:

  • Breads
  • Pasta
  • Crackers
  • Baked goods like cakes, cookies, muffins, donuts
  • Cereals
  • Beer

Gluten can also hide in less obvious places, such as sauces, seasonings, broths and soy sauce. It’s important for gluten-free eaters to scrutinize ingredient lists and watch out for hidden sources of gluten.

Hot Sauce and Gluten

The quintessential hot sauce used to make buffalo wings is Frank’s RedHot Original Cayenne Pepper Sauce. The ingredient list for Frank’s RedHot sauce is short and simple:

  • Aged Cayenne Red Peppers
  • Vinegar
  • Water
  • Salt
  • Garlic Powder

None of these ingredients contain gluten. The main ingredient, aged cayenne peppers, does not naturally contain gluten. Gluten is a protein found in grains, not in vegetables like peppers. The vinegar, water, salt and garlic powder used in Frank’s RedHot are also naturally gluten-free.

Some buffalo wing recipes call for using hot sauce like Tabasco, Louisiana Hot Sauce or Cholula instead of Frank’s RedHot. These classic hot sauces also do not contain gluten, as they are made from peppers, vinegar and spices.

Butter and Gluten

The other key ingredient in traditional buffalo wings sauce is butter. Pure butter does not naturally contain gluten. However, some products labelled as “butter” may contain small amounts of gluten due to flavorings or additives. When choosing butter for buffalo wing sauce, it’s best to opt for basic pure or organic butter with minimal ingredients.

Many buffalo wing recipes call for clarified butter, butter sauce or brown butter. Clarifying butter removes the milk solids and water from butter, leaving just the pure butterfat. This process would not introduce any gluten. Brown butter is butter that has been cooked until it turns a nutty brown color – this process also does not add any gluten. Gluten-free eaters can feel comfortable using clarified or brown butter.

Thickening Agents

Some buffalo wing sauce recipes suggest adding cornstarch, wheat flour or other thickening agents to thicken the sauce. However, wheat flour contains gluten. Cornstarch is naturally gluten-free, but some brands process it in facilities that also handle gluten and thus have a risk of cross-contamination. To keep buffalo wing sauce gluten-free, it’s best to skip the thickening agents and allow the sauce to have a thinner, more pourable consistency. The butter can help add some thickness and richness to the sauce.

Common Allergens

In addition to being gluten-free, traditional buffalo wing sauce avoids most common food allergens:

  • Dairy – Butter contains dairy, but using oil instead of butter makes a dairy-free sauce
  • Eggs – No eggs are used in traditional recipes
  • Fish/Shellfish – No seafood ingredients are included
  • Tree nuts – No nuts are used
  • Peanuts – Sauce is peanut-free
  • Soy – No soy sauce or soy ingredients are added
  • Sesame – Sesame free

The simplicity of the classic buffalo wing sauce ingredients makes it free of most major allergens. Those with multiple food restrictions can feel good about enjoying this spicy sauce!

Gluten-Free Buffalo Wings

For gluten-free and celiac buffalo wing eaters, it’s important that not only the sauce is gluten-free, but also the wings themselves. Here are some tips for gluten-free wings:

  • Purchase plain chicken wings rather than breaded or coated wings
  • Check ingredients on any seasonings or rubs – they may contain hidden gluten
  • Use a dedicated gluten-free fryer or fresh oil to cook wings
  • Avoid cross-contamination by preparing wings on clean surfaces with fresh utensils

Taking these precautions helps ensure the entire buffalo wing recipe stays gluten-free from start to finish.

Gluten-Free Buffalo Wing Recipes

Here are some delicious gluten-free buffalo wing sauce recipes to try at home:

Classic Buffalo Wings

The traditional tangy, buttery and spicy buffalo wing sauce:

  • 1/2 cup Frank’s RedHot Original Cayenne Pepper Sauce
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon white vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Pinch of salt

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add remaining ingredients and whisk until combined. Toss cooked chicken wings in sauce until coated.

Honey Buffalo Wings

This version adds sweetness with honey:

  • 3/4 cup Frank’s RedHot Original Cayenne Pepper Sauce
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Add remaining ingredients and whisk until smooth. Toss chicken wings in sauce to coat.

Spicy Garlic Parmesan Wings

An extra flavorful take on buffalo wings:

  • 1/2 cup Frank’s RedHot Original Cayenne Pepper Sauce
  • 1/4 cup dairy-free buttery spread
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Melt buttery spread in a saucepan over medium heat. Add hot sauce, lemon juice and garlic powder. Toss cooked wings in sauce, then sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Are Restaurant Buffalo Wings Gluten-Free?

When ordering buffalo wings at a restaurant, it’s important to confirm that they use gluten-free ingredients. Here are some questions to ask:

  • Do you fry the wings in their own dedicated fryer, separate from breaded items?
  • What ingredients are in your buffalo wing sauce?
  • Is the sauce thickened with any flour or starches?
  • Do the wings contain any breading, coatings or seasoning mixes?

Avoid restaurants that fry chicken wings in shared fryers with breaded foods, as that introduces cross-contamination. Ask for wings to be prepared plain with no breading or seasoning. Request buffalo sauce on the side so you can confirm the ingredients. Be aware that menu descriptions like “naked wings” or “unbreaded wings” don’t guarantee gluten-free – always ask questions.

Packaged Buffalo Wing Sauce

Many brands now offer bottled and packaged buffalo wing sauce for sale in stores. This can be a quick and convenient option for homemade wings. However, always carefully check the ingredients list for potential sources of gluten like thickeners or natural flavors. Some gluten-free brands of bottled buffalo wing sauce include:

  • Frank’s RedHot Buffalo Wings Sauce
  • Tessemae’s Organic Buffalo Sauce
  • Primal Kitchen Buffalo Sauce
  • Fody Foods Buffalo Wing Sauce

Call or email the manufacturer if ever in doubt about ingredients or facility processes. Note that sauces made in shared equipment could risk cross-contamination.

Homemade Gluten-Free Buffalo Sauce

Making your own gluten-free buffalo wing sauce at home is simple. That way, you can control all the ingredients. Try this recipe:

5-Ingredient Buffalo Wing Sauce

  • 1/2 cup hot sauce
  • 4 tablespoons butter or oil
  • 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • Pinch of salt

Melt butter or heat oil over medium heat. Add remaining ingredients and whisk until combined. Adjust flavors to taste. Toss cooked wings in sauce to coat.

Buffalo Wing Sauce Nutrition

The nutritional profile of buffalo wing sauce varies slightly based on the exact ingredients used. However, most recipes result in a sauce with these general nutrition facts per 2-tablespoon serving:

Calories Fat Carbs Protein
60 6g 0g 0g

As you can see, traditional buffalo sauce is low in carbohydrates and does not provide any significant protein. The calories and fat come mostly from the butter. Substituting oil for butter would slightly reduce the calorie and fat content.

Buffalo Sauce Calories on Wings

When tossed with chicken wings, the sauce adds minimal extra calories and fat. For example, say you toss 5 wings coated in 2 tablespoons of sauce. Here is the nutrition breakdown:

Food Calories Fat (g)
5 chicken wings (about 150g) 550 39
2 tablespoons buffalo sauce 60 6
Total 610 45

The 2 tablespoons of buffalo sauce adds only 60 calories and 6g fat to the wings. So enjoy buffalo wings without guilt!

Uses for Leftover Buffalo Sauce

Got leftover gluten-free buffalo sauce? Don’t let it go to waste! Here are some creative ways to use up extra sauce:

  • Toss with baked or grilled chicken breasts, chops or tenders
  • Use as a dressing or dip for cooked veggies like carrots, broccoli and cauliflower
  • Add spice to potato wedges or home fries
  • Toss with gluten-free pasta along with blue cheese crumbles
  • Use as a sandwich or wrap spread
  • Add to gluten-free mac and cheese or baked potatoes
  • Use as a dip for French fries, tater tots or potato skins
  • Top your favorite pizza before baking
  • Drizzle over rice, quinoa or gluten-free grains

Made too much buffalo sauce? Freeze extras in ice cube trays or an airtight container for up to 3 months.


Traditional buffalo wing sauce made with just hot sauce, butter, vinegar and seasonings can be safely enjoyed on a gluten-free diet. Be sure to verify all packaged ingredients and ask questions when dining out. With homemade sauce and unbreaded wings cooked without cross-contamination, buffalo wing lovers can savor this game day favorite gluten-free. Just be sure to have plenty of napkins handy!