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What’s in This?: Buffalo Wild Wings’ Signature Wing Sauce

All 18 ingredients in this poultry lacquer explained (yep, even calcium disodium EDTA)

Forget Thanksgiving. The most gluttonous day of the year is Super Bowl Sunday, where bowl after bowl and paper plate after paper plate is filled with finger-food bacchanalia that would make even the mad genius responsible for the TGI Friday’s appetizer selection blush (and certainly the ancient Romans). And so, all week leading up to game day, we’ll be offering up our own menu of scientific investigations, origin stories and majestic feats of snacking that not even the biggest sporting event of the year can top. Read all of the stories here.

Buffalo chicken sauce is one of the most delicious and simple accoutrements to create. All you really need to generate some hot, tangy, orange fire is hot sauce, butter and heat (and maybe a little garlic powder and Worcestershire sauce if you happen to be making it in my house). That’s it, though. So we shouldn’t expect the ingredients of Buffalo Wild Wings Buffalo with Comfortable Heat Sauce to contain anything other than what we’d expect to find in a bottle of hot sauce and then the holy trinity of butter (i.e., butterfat, milk and water). 

Well, the collective we should know better by now. There’s no way a restaurant with more than 1,200 locations across several countries is going to leave the consistency of its signature sauces to chance, or the individual mixing and blending practices of its tens of thousands of employees.

As a result, Buffalo Wild Wing sauces are standardized, blended and bottled, and this requires the infusion of a whole host of added ingredients to preserve texture and flavor, and to ensure that every smidgen of sauce tastes the same whether it’s consumed at a Buffalo Wild Wings in Vietnam, at a kitchen table in Mississippi or at a Super Bowl party filled with your drunk friends.

Buffalo Wild Wings Buffalo with Comfortable Heat Sauce Ingredients

Water: Yes, I know water is the primary ingredient in almost everything with a liquid-y texture to it. At the same time, I can never help but feel somewhat cheated when I see it in the pole position of an ingredients list, knowing that the most prominent component of any sauce comes out of an average faucet.

Cayenne Red Pepper: If you can stand the heat, which is honestly relatively mild in comparison with hotter peppers, cayenne pepper can aid your digestion through the presence of capsaicin. This is one of the reasons why some people bypass their taste buds and ingest cayenne pepper in a capsulized, supplemental form

Distilled Vinegar: This is vinegar produced from the fermentation of distilled alcohol. It’s considered the best vinegar option for cooking, flavoring and food preservation.

Soybean Oil: In the U.S., soybean oil is what products labeled as “vegetable oil” almost always contain. If you’d like to learn more about why vegetable-based oils might not be preferential for you to cook with compared with animal fats, there are plenty of documentaries you can watch.

Salt: The two tablespoon recommended serving size of Buffalo Wild Wings sauce will provide you with 1,070 milligrams of salt. For context, this is 47 percent of your recommended daily sodium intake, and more sodium than is present in an entire McDonald’s Big Mac. So if you double up on the sauce, you probably want to think twice before pairing it with some salty french fries.

Egg Yolk: Remember when people used to throw out the useless egg whites so that they could use the valuable egg yoke? This is one of the egg yolk’s many purposes; it works as a natural adhesive to hold food combinations together.

Modified Cornstarch: Cornstarch is commonly relied upon to add texture to processed foods. In this case, modified doesn’t stand for GMO (genetically modified organism). It simply means the cornstarch was altered in some way to make it more useful

Xanthan Gum: Xanthan gum is a lab-created soluble fiber and goo-like substance that’s made out of bacteria-fermented sugar and used to stabilize the textures of food.

Garlic (Dehydrated): This is just ordinary garlic in its dehydrated form. Curiously, supplementing with large doses of garlic has been known to improve the aerobic performance levels of athletes.

Spice: When you see “spice” listed on an ingredient label, it legally refers to any plant-based spicy ingredient except for spices like onion, celery or garlic, which are generally consumed as foods in and of themselves.

Natural Flavors: Natural flavors are quite literally flavors derived from an actual food source  —  e.g., strawberry flavoring taken from a real strawberry. In this case, we’re almost certainly not referring to buffalo flavoring extracted from a freshly squeezed buffalo.

Onion: Dehydrated, ground onion used for flavoring. If you have allergies like my wife — who is basically allergic to fructose — onion (along with anything else high in fructose, like garlic) will leave you feeling all kinds of miserable. The sad thing is, so many people have undiagnosed fructose allergies that you’ll swear it was something else you ate or drank. Nope. If you find yourself feeling rundown, miserable and occasionally in pain after eating what should be benign foods, check with your doctor to see if you’ve been hamstrung with an undiagnosed fructose allergy the whole while.

Corn Syrup: Corn syrup is used in foods to soften texture, add volume, prevent crystallization of sugar and enhance flavor. This is distinct from high-fructose corn syrup, inasmuch as it hasn’t undergone any of the chemical conversion processes that render it far sweeter — and less healthier.

Molasses: A thicky, sticky, sweet and dark substance remaining from the process of refining sugar cane into sugar. If you’re looking for a substance that can simultaneously thicken and sweeten a food product, molasses is the ticket.

Caramel Color: Made by heating corn or corn sugar and other carbohydrates, caramel coloring has a controversial byproduct called 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI). A 2007 study found that mice fed a diet of 4-MEI developed cancerous lung tumors as a result. However, a subsequent 2018 study affirmed that caramel color would have to be ingested in unobtainable quantities before humans would realize any cancerous consequences through its use.

Sugar: For what it’s worth, this wing sauce doesn’t have very much sugar in it. In fact, it doesn’t even register a single gram within the tabulation applied to the label. However, the requirements for tabulating nutrition label numbers are highly technical, so you should review those before you go underestimating the amount of sugar in the sauce if you happen to buy a bottle to take home.

Calcium Disodium EDTA: A food additive used to preserve flavor, color and texture.

Tamarind: A tangy tropical fruit that certainly doesn’t grow naturally in Buffalo, New York. No other fruit I’ve ever tasted behaved more like gooey candy to me when consumed in its natural form.

The Verdict 

Buffalo Wild Wings Buffalo with Comfortable Heat Sauce technically isn’t as healthy of a sauce as something like ketchup, but then again, no self-respecting person north of eight years old would rely on ketchup as their go-to wing sauce. Then again, Buffalo Wild Wings Buffalo with Comfortable Heat Sauce is so salty that soy sauce — the sauce that defines salty sauces — actually has less salt per serving. 

Of course, if you want to pull a stunt that will impress your friends far more than it has any right to, you should melt some unsalted butter into some Frank’s Red Hot Sauce, and serve that with your chicken wings. Not only can you then rightly brag about creating your own homemade buffalo wing sauce using the original ingredients, but you’d be serving up a variation of the Northeastern favorite that only has half the sodium of Buffalo Wild Wings’ bottled version.