~ Air Fryer Chicken Wings recipes are the perfect way to give “typical” chicken wings a MAJOR upgrade. So much delicious flavor and such wonderful, crispy texture … all with sooooo much less fat, calories and guilt! Plus, check out my 6 bonus health-ification tips, too! ~
You’re wondering how “bad boy” chicken wings ended up here, aren’t you?
I mean, when it comes to chicken, those wings with all their fat and skin are definitely not the healthiest part of the bird.
But let’s be honest with each other.
Sometimes, you really still want to eat them. They’re just so darn good. There’s definitely a reason they’re so crazy-popular, and entire restaurant empires have been built upon them (yup … lookin’ at you BW3).
No doubt, when it comes to crowd-pleasin’ game day snacks, chicken wings are about as good as it gets. So … what if we can make them a whole lot healthier (even if they’ll never exactly be bffs with kale salads and quinoa)?
Here at THK, we’re all about finding ways to make delicious food healthier (and easier to make). And chicken wings were definitely begging for a little health-ification!
So, yeah … what if we could figure out a way to make something that we’re all probably going to eat sometimes anyway … a little bit healthier? Maybe even quite a lot healthier?!?
That’d be a win, right?
Enter everybody’s new-favorite countertop appliance: the air fryer!
Air Fry Chicken Wings with So Much Less Fat!
Ditching the whole deep-fat frying routine can slash loads of fat and calories. And, thanks to the circulating hot air of your air fryer, the wings can still turn out satisfyingly crispy outside, with juicy, tender chicken inside.
It’s a beautiful thing, and I’ve found some great recipes to help you try it!
Check these out, and then read on for a few additional tips about what to look for in healthy wing recipes (or … you know … healthier ones), and how to adapt recipes to keep them on the less-naughty side!
Mmmmmmm … which one are you gonna try first??
How to Make Chicken Wings Healthy (Or … ahem … At Least Healthier)
So, again, we all have to realize here that chicken wings simply aren’t the healthiest part of a chicken. With such a large proportion of fat and skin, they’re automatically higher in calories and unhealthy fats than most other parts of the bird.
But, there are 6 things you can do to make them at least a bit healthier, if not exactly healthy superfoods.
#1 Air Fry (or Even Bake) Them
Obviously, first off, air frying (or baking) them is a big improvement over traditional deep-fat frying.
Dietitian Katie Rankell, director of the University of California, Irvine Health’s Weight Management Program, noted in one of their articles that a typical serving (which is, by the way, just two pieces) of traditional, oil-fried wings has about 309 calories and 21 grams of fat. WOW. But, she also says that baking those wings instead of deep-fat frying them slashes those numbers to 162 calories and 4.5 grams of fat.
Hey, now that’s an improvement worth shooting for, right?!?!
So, yeah. Skip the deep-fat frying. Got it. Not surprising.
But there’s actually more you can do!
#2 Be Careful About Sauces, Coatings and Dips
Even if you’re baking them or making air fried chicken wings, pay attention to what you’re coating those wings with, and what you’re dipping them in.
An example: 1/4 cup of the ever-popular wing companion – Wish-Bone Blue Cheese Dressing – will add on an extra 28 grams of fat and 260 calories. And as The Daily Meal points out, that’s on top of the 1,650 calories you’re already packing in with a small order of deep-fried wings (10 wings at a place like Buffalo Wild Wings).
A similar issue crops up with many traditional, deep-fried buffalo chicken wing recipes (and even with some air fryer chicken wing recipes). Most rely heavily on butter as a main component of the buffalo wing sauce that coats the wings.
That was actually a pretty common problem I had with many of the air fryer chicken wings that were submitted for possible inclusion in my list above. Lots of them had upwards of 1/2 cup of butter in their sauces. That’s an entire stick of butter – which is about 800 calories and 88 grams of fat (56 grams of saturated fat) … just in the butter alone!
Soooooo … once you decide to air fry wings instead of deep-fat frying them, you’re only partway home. Take a hard look at the sauces and dips you’re using, too!
#3 Surround Them with Veggies
Typical restaurant wings are usually served with a side of crunchy celery, and maybe a few tag-along carrot sticks. They sort of lurk sadly at the edges of the plate, often forgotten as everybody nabs the main attraction (the wings!).
But those veggies are the ideal way to str-eeeeeeeetch your wing experience more nutritiously.
Instead of putting all the focus on the delicious platter of wings that’s heading to the table, nestle just a few wings amongst a super-sized serving of those crunchy (healthy) veggies.
Maybe branch out beyond celery to whatever matches the flavor profile of your wings. Think of those cute little picnic peppers or slices of bell peppers in an enticing array of different colors.
You could even offer up a vegetarian version of buffalo wings, right alongside your chicken wings. Our LOADED Buffalo Cauliflower Wings would be sensational!
Bottom line? Munch more of those veggies in between each wing to keep the satisfying, nibbling experience going longer, and much more nutritiously.
#4 Diversify Your Nosh
Similar to surrounding your chicken wings with extra veggies: How about setting out some additional, healthier options, too?
For your next game day party, don’t just make one mega-platter heaped with dozens of wings.
Instead, maybe go with a smaller batch of wings … plus a few other, healthier options, as well. For oodles of great ideas on this, check out our easy, healthy Super Bowl Snacks guide. Or take a peek at our popular list of Easy Party Food Appetizers.
#5 Go Boneless!
Ok ok … wing aficionados might say that boneless wings just aren’t “the real McCoy.” But boneless chicken wings are quickly gaining popularity at restaurants. And they’re super-simple to make at home.
Plus, if you start with lean, boneless, skinless chicken breasts (like one of the recipes in the list above), you obliterate all those worries about fatty, high-calorie wing meat.
#6 Skip Some of the Skin
I know – more heresy for all you dyed-in-the-wool wing lovers. But, if you truly want to enjoy wings with a little less of the fat and calories they typically bring along with them, here’s one more easy idea.
Simply don’t eat all of the fat and skin.
If your wings are deliciously coated in flavorful sauces or spices, slurp as much of that as you can from the skin. Then, leave some (or all) of the skin behind while you enjoy the meat lying beneath it.
Your arteries … and your waistline … just might thank you tomorrow!
So, if you’re interested in making healthy chicken wings, be sure that you consider not just how you’re cooking them (again … ditch that old-fashioned deep fryer FAST!). Also keep in mind what you’re coating them with or dunking them in, and how you’re serving and eating them.
And now, all that brings us ’round to how I selected the recipes I showcased in my list above.
How I Chose These Air Fryer Chicken Wings Recipes for You
I don’t have oodles of chicken wing recipes of my own to share with you. So, I did precisely what I’ve done with many of my other popular recipe collections: I turned to the best sources out there – other terrific food bloggers.
I asked 100s of them to share their best air fryer chicken recipes with me, so I could share them with all of you.
From there, I whittled the list down, debating and meticulously scouring all the recipes. I was looking for the very best of the best. The air fried chicken wings I was most excited about, and that I thought all of you would be most excited about, too!
I was looking for a wide range of flavors.
And I was also looking for recipes that were relatively easy, and also pretty healthy (as chicken wings go, anyhow).
I hope you’ll find several recipes on my list that you’ll love enough to make again and again!
Bottom Line: Are Air Fryer Chicken Wings Healthy?
I think at this point in the article, we’ve agreed … chicken wings are just never gonna be the healthiest part of the chicken. And they’re never gonna join ranks with nutrition superstars like broccoli, kale or quinoa.
But air fried wings still can be a whole heck of a lot healthier than the deep-fat fried wings served up in most restaurants.
And with all of the fantastic, flavorful recipes I’ve found for you to try, I bet you won’t miss the extra fat and calories one bit!