Welcome your new favorite game-day nibble: Buffalo chicken meatballs! They’re everything that’s universally adored about wings, only in the form of pint-sized meatballs smothered in spicy Buffalo sauce.
The Inspiration for Buffalo Chicken Meatballs
While the inspiration here is 100% Buffalo chicken wings, the ingredients are much like your typical Italian-style meatball: ground meat, breadcrumbs, seasonings, and an egg. The main difference is that instead of Italian herbs and Parmesan for flavor, this recipe leans on bottled Buffalo sauce, both in the meatball mixture and on the baked meatballs.
Also, because these are based on traditional hot wings, the meatballs are made with ground chicken instead of beef or pork. And here’s a plus: It may feel a little less barbaric eating them in mixed company than a messy pile of wings.
Dare You to Have Just One
The balance of heat and tanginess is what makes Buffalo chicken meatballs so darn addictive. That’s because traditional Buffalo sauce is heavy in both chilis and vinegar, mouth-watering flavors. They’re also very tender and a little lighter than those made with red meat.
Which Buffalo Sauce to Buy
From what I gather, Frank’s Red Hot was the original sauce used when wings were invented back in the 60s in Buffalo, New York. It was mixed with melted butter before being applied to the chicken.
Buffalo sauce is widely available in supermarkets these days. You may even find a selection of different brands. For this recipe, I used Frank’s Red Hot Buffalo Sauce. You do not need to add butter. If you choose a hot sauce without “Buffalo” on the label, I’d suggest using 3 tablespoons of hot sauce whisked with 2 tablespoons of melted butter.
4 Handy Tips and Tricks
- Don’t overmix the chicken. Once you add the chicken to the breadcrumbs, use your hands to gently mix the ingredients just until everything is combined. Aggressive hands will make the meatballs tough.
- Make the meatballs uniform in size. You want the meatballs to cook at the same rate, so make them all the same size.
- If you find the chicken sticky when you roll the meatballs, lightly wet your palms with water and try again.
- Keep an eye on the oven. Ground chicken is typically leaner than beef and pork, so they are more likely to overcook. They should be just past pink in the center when you pull them from the oven. Cut through one to check!
Ingredient Swaps that Work
Dietary needs and pantry supplies may mean ingredient swaps are in order. Here are a few ideas:
- Swap another ground meat for the chicken. There’s no reason ground turkey or beef can’t be used instead.
- Make it vegetarian! Use Beyond Meat or Impossible Burger instead of the ground chicken.
- Go gluten-free! Use gluten-free breadcrumbs or gluten-free panko instead of the plain breadcrumbs.
What to Serve with Buffalo Chicken Meatballs
As far as serving goes, this is a recipe you can get playful with. Serve them arranged on a plate with toothpicks. Keep it traditional with a stack of celery sticks and crumbled blue cheese or this blue cheese dressing on the side.
Alternatively, thread a few meatballs onto wooden skewers and lay them across a pretty platter. Or turn the meatballs into a hearty hero by arranging two or three on a crusty roll with a schmear of mayo, a heap of shredded cabbage, and extra sauce on the side. Yum!
These meatballs are the ideal make-ahead appetizer. Here are a few different options:
- Make the meatball mixture up to a day ahead, cover, and refrigerate. Form the meatballs and bake when you’re ready to serve.
- Make and form the meatballs on a tray or sheet pan that will fit in your fridge. Cover and refrigerate them uncooked up to a day ahead. Arrange the meatballs on a baking sheet and get them into the oven when guests arrive.
- Cook the meatballs up to a day ahead. Pull them out of the oven 2 minutes early, but don’t add the Buffalo sauce just yet. Place them in a covered container in the fridge. To reheat, arrange them on a baking sheet, cover with foil to prevent drying, and bake them in a 350°F oven until warmed through. Then, roll them in Buffalo sauce.
More Buffalo Chicken Recipes
Buffalo Chicken Meatballs
If using Frank’s Red Hot or another hot sauce without “Buffalo” on the label, use 3 tablespoons of the hot sauce whisked with 2 tablespoons melted butter instead of 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon Buffalo sauce.
- Non-stick cooking spray, for the baking sheet
- 1 large egg
- 2 tablespoons milk, any kind
- 1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon Buffalo sauce, divided, plus more for serving
- 1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound ground chicken
- 2 scallions, white and light green parts thinly sliced
Preheat the oven:
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or grease it with non-stick cooking spray.
Make the meatballs:
In a large bowl, use a fork to whisk together the egg, milk, and 1 tablespoon Buffalo sauce. Add the breadcrumbs, garlic powder, salt, and black pepper, and stir well. Add the chicken and use your hands to gently combine the ingredients just enough so everything is mixed through. Don’t over mix or the meatballs will be tough. The mixture will be soft and sticky.
Form the meatballs:
Scoop up a rounded tablespoon of chicken, roll it into a ball, and set it on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining chicken. You will have about 20 little meatballs. If your hands get sticky, moisten them with water as you go.
Bake the meatballs:
Bake the meatballs until they are golden on the bottom and cooked through, about 14 minutes.
Serve the meatballs:
Nudge the meatballs to the center of the baking sheet and drizzle the remaining 1/4 cup Buffalo sauce over them. Use a spoon to roll the meatballs in the sauce. Transfer them onto a plate and scatter the scallions on top. Serve with toothpicks and a small bowl of extra sauce on the side.
Refrigerate leftover meatballs in a covered container for up to 3 days. Reheat them in the microwave until warm.
To freeze, allow the meatballs to cool completely. Then, store them in a well-sealed freezer-friendly container or bag for up to 3 months. To reheat, put them in a 350°F oven straight from the freezer, covered with foil, and bake until warmed through.
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