Cut the sugar and fat with these oven-baked Korean chicken wings

Dates are the magic ingredient that help sweeten and thicken the wing sauces here — no added sugar required.
Image: Oven Baked Korean Wings
Swap the deep fryer for the oven and the sugar for dates and you've instantly lightened up your favorite wing recipes. Erin Scott / Workman Publishing
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By Jennifer Tyler Lee and Anisha Patel, MD

Unlike their batter-coated American cousins, spicy Korean fried chicken wings have a delicately crisp skin and are drenched in a mildly spicy and sweet chile paste called gochujang (go-choo-jang) sauce. This deliciously addictive condiment is the secret to the wings, but it’s loaded with added sugar. Dates are the magic ingredient that help sweeten and thicken the sauces here — no added sugar required. Make ’em spicy with Sweet and Spicy Chile Sauce or mild and savory with Sweet Soy-Garlic Sauce, both of which you can mix up while the wings cook. These oven-baked wings provide a great base for either sauce to cling to.

Oven-baked Korean Chicken Wings

Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 4 pounds chicken wings, separated into flats and drumettes, wing tips removed
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 recipe Sweet and Spicy Chile Sauce or Sweet Soy-Garlic Sauce (below)

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 450ºF and set the oven racks on the upper-middle and lower-middle positions. Line two rimmed baking sheets with aluminum foil and set a wire rack on top of each.
  2. Pat the wings dry with paper towels and transfer to a large bowl. Add the oil and toss to coat. Arrange the wings on the racks atop the baking sheets, spacing them evenly apart. Sprinkle with the salt.
  3. Bake until the skin is crisp and golden, about 45 minutes, turning the pieces over every 15 minutes.
  4. In a medium bowl, toss half of the wings with half of the sauce until evenly coated. Transfer to a serving platter. Repeat with the remaining wings and sauce. Serve immediately.

Nutrition Information (4 or 5 pieces with Sweet and Spicy Chile Sauce)

Calories: 515 | Added sugar: 0 teaspoons or 0g | Carbohydrates: 8g | Sodium: 742mg | Saturated fat: 15% of calories or 9g | Fiber: 1g | Protein: 41g

Sweet and Spicy Chile Sauce

This spicy sauce is a no-added-sugar version of traditional gochujang sauce. It’s sweetened with dates, and the kick comes from a touch of sriracha.

Ingredients

  • 2 ounces Deglet Noor dates, pitted (about 8 dates)
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon peeled and finely grated fresh ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sriracha
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon white miso paste
  • 1 teaspoon unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon toasted (dark) sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

Makes about 3/4 cup

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Instructions

  1. Place the dates in a small bowl and cover with the boiling water. Let sit for 10 minutes. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup of the soaking liquid. Set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the ginger and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  3. Transfer the ginger and garlic to a blender, add the reserved soaking liquid and then the dates, soy sauce, sriracha, tomato paste, miso paste, vinegar, and sesame oil. Blend until smooth and no chunks of dates remain, about 2 minutes, stopping the blender to scrape the side of the container as needed.
  4. Pour the sauce into a jar or airtight container and stir in the sesame seeds to finish.

Make Ahead

The sauce will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Nutrition Information (2 tablespoons):

Calories: 68 | Added sugar: 0 teaspoons or 0g | Carbohydrates: 11g | Sodium: 425mg | Saturated fat: 4% of calories or <1g | Fiber: 2g | Protein: 1g

Sweet Soy-Garlic Sauce

Kids may prefer a milder flavor on their wings, which is where this garlicky soy sauce comes into play. Dates add natural sweetness, and crushed red pepper flakes lend just enough spice to keep things interesting. If you prefer a milder sauce, feel free to omit the red pepper flakes.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 ounces Deglet Noor dates, pitted (about 6 dates)
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon peeled and finely grated fresh ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons toasted (dark) sesame oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

Makes about 3/4 cup

Instructions

  1. Place the dates in a small bowl and cover with the boiling water. Let sit for 10 minutes. Drain, reserving 1/4 cup of the soaking liquid. Set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the ginger and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  3. Transfer the ginger and garlic to a blender, add the reserved soaking liquid, and then add the dates, soy sauce, vinegar, sesame oil, and red pepper flakes, if using. Blend until smooth and no chunks of dates remain, about 2 minutes, stopping the blender to scrape the side of the container as needed. Pour the sauce into a jar or airtight container.

Make Ahead

The sauce will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

Nutrition Information (2 tablespoons)

Calories: 48 | Added sugar: 0 teaspoons or 0g | Carbohydrates: 7g | Sodium: 356mg | Saturated fat: 5% of calories or <1g | Fiber: 1g | Protein: 1g

Excerpted from Half the Sugar, All the Love by Jennifer Tyler Lee and Anisha Patel, MD, MSPH. Photographs by Erin Scott. Workman Publishing ©2019.

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