These buffalo chicken thighs make a quick and flavorful weeknight dinner. A cast iron pan allows the chicken thighs to get nice and crispy without any flour coating while a simple mixture of butter and Franks Red Hot adds the buffalo flavor. You won’t believe this recipe is also low carb and can be Whole30.
Homemade Buffalo Sauce
We all are familiar with that traditional buffalo sauce flavor – a little bit of vinegar, heat, and butter. In the original famous wing recipe, Frank’s RedHot sauce was used and it’s also what I used for this recipe. You might be surprised to know that the traditional version actually has pretty limited ingredients – distilled vinegar, aged cayenne peppers, water, salt, and garlic powder. Condiments without MSG can be a rare find! This recipe just combines hot sauce with butter and a little bit of smoked paprika for an extra kick.
Hot Sauce and Migraine
One thing to note is that the peppers in most hot sauces are aged, which does mean they have been fermented. This is done as a way to preserve hot peppers and usually occurs over the course of a few years, which is how it gets its distinct flavor. I did a deep search into this and couldn’t find anything on levels of tyramine, and some migraine lists by Dr. Teixido suggest hot sauce is “ok”. Technically even sriracha, which most of the readers on here do well with, is fermented as well. It could venture into the territory of one of those “iffy” items you’ll just have to test and see. This would be similar to olives or pickles without additives.
Not all hot sauces have aged peppers, but some also don’t label it. For instance, Trader Joe’s has a red jalapeno pepper hot sauce that doesn’t say it’s aged. Same with Tabasco, but if you go to their website you’ll see they are aged. Yes, friends, even I get confused by migraine-diet constrictions. All of this to say that most people seem to tolerate hot sauce fairly well, especially ones with clean ingredients. Just be aware of how it affects you personally!
If the idea of using fermented peppers is just too much or you’re one of the super sensitive folks, you can make your own at home with peppers that are not aged.
How to Get Crispy Chicken Thighs
Basically the method of cooking gets the chicken nice and crispy without coating in flour or cornstarch. You’ll want to purchase bone-in and SKIN ON chicken thighs. Really it’s crisping up the skin that gets these nice and crunchy.
Two items to invest in if you haven’t already:
I think a lot of people are really intimidated by using cast iron pans, but you shouldn’t be! There are so many tutorials online for how to season them and the clean up is really easy. Essentially just rinse with water, scrub, and wipe out. You will only need to season them again when food sticks to the surface or it has a dull appearance.
A splatter screen will save your arms (and chest) from rouge oil sprays as these cook on stovetop. It also makes for a bit easier clean up. Unfortunately this will not rescue the inside of your oven, which will probably need to be wiped down after this recipe. I promise it’s worth it!
How to Make This Whole30 or Lactose-free
Most of the people who visit this site are migraine diet focused, however, if you’re doing this other elimination diet or if you struggle with milk solids, using ghee instead of regular butter would work well for this recipe. This recipe is also naturally gluten free for those who need that additional accommodation. Dairy and gluten are both allowed on a migraine diet for those who do not have personal sensitivities.
This recipe is decently spicy as written. I don’t think it’s unbearable, but I’m also from Texas and I think sometimes my sensors get thrown off. If you taste the sauce alone, just remember it tastes much stronger than it does after being spooned onto the chicken thighs (since it’s just a light coating). However if you’re not a fan of medium-spiced dishes, try starting with 1/4 the amount of hot sauce and continue to taste and mix in to your liking.
I love serving spicier dishes like these buffalo chicken thighs with a cool counterpart. Some of my favorites are below:
Easy to make with tons of flavor, these chicken thighs crisp up nicely in a cast iron pan and get coated in a simple homemade buffalo sauce. Paired with cool coleslaw or potato salad, it's a great summer meal. This serves about 2 really hungry people, 3 comfortably, and 4 people with one thigh each.
- 2 tablespoons oil (avocado or canola works)
- 2.5 pounds Bone-in, skin on chicken thighs (4 large pieces) I prefer to use air-chilled if you can find them.
- kosher salt and pepper
- 2 tablespoons butter or ghee
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 tablespoons hot sauce (I used Franks RedHot®)
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F. Heat oil over medium-high heat in a cast iron skillet. Meanwhile pat your chicken thighs dry with a paper towel and lightly season both sides with kosher salt and pepper. When the oil is hot (but not smoking) place the chicken thighs in the skillet, skin side down (this is important). Cover with a splatter screen. (I usually turn the heat down to a strong medium here, but keep an eye on it, and keep rotating the pan so the chicken thighs get browned evenly.) Check after a few minutes to make sure they are not getting too dark, and if so, turn down your heat. They should get a nice golden brown after 8 minutes or so.
Leave the chicken thighs skin side down and transfer to the oven on a middle rack. Bake for 15 minutes, then flip the thighs and continue cooking another 4-5 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F.
Meanwhile, melt butter with minced garlic in a small saucepan, cooking over medium-low heat until garlic is softened - 1-2 minutes. Whisk in the hot sauce and smoked paprika till smooth and set aside.
Remove the chicken thighs from the oven and place on paper towels to soak up any excess oil. Whisk the buffalo sauce one more time and spoon over each chicken thigh till coated. Enjoy warm!
- To make this Whole30/lactose-free, use ghee instead of butter.
- If you're concerned about the spice level, start with 1/2 tablespoon of hot sauce and work your way up to taste. Remember the sauce is much stronger by itself than on the chicken.