The Meatwave

Habanero Barbecue Wings

Habanero Barbecue Wings View Recipe

Me and my immune system are engaged in an epic battle. For most of the month of July and into August I was in a continual attack against a sinus infection that just didn't want to give up, with spicy jerk skewers being some of the only relief I could find. Finally I gained the upper hand, but that 'itis just didn't want to quit. Now I find myself relapsed in a stuffy nose, coughing, and achy hell. While I've rebounded from last week, when I couldn't even muster the energy to write, I'm still suffering and am once again looking to food for relief. An extra hot tom yum soup last night was great, but with my appetite coming back, I need something meatier that also delivers just as much mouth burning heat, and these habanero barbecue wings fit that bill nicely.

Hot BBQ Wings

I really like hot barbecue sauces, where a nice sweetness quickly gives into a complex heat. There isn't much out there that can beat the habanero in concocting one of these at home. That little pepper packs a hefty punch, while still retaining a fruitiness that makes it great for building a sauce around.

Hot BBQ Wings

For this sauce, I gave the habanero and garlic some blackening in a hot cast iron skillet, then combined them with onion, green bell pepper, tomato sauce, vinegar, honey, molasses, Worcestershire, brown sugar, and mustard. That was cooked for 30 minutes to let all the flavors combine and the sauce to thicken, then pureed in the blender to create a sweet, tangy, and spicy sauce that easily cleared out the sinuses.

Hot BBQ Wings

With the sauce done, it was time to turn to the chicken. I wasn't leaving anything to chance in terms of heat, so I gave the wings a rub down with a spice mixture that had a fair amount of cayenne and let them rest in the fridge overnight.

Hot BBQ Wings

At the grill I employed the two-zone method of cooking that has been churning out excellent wings every time for me. First the chicken wings were smoked over the cool side of the grill, with the lid closed, until the skin darkened and crisped.

Hot BBQ Wings

Then the sauce was brushed on the wings and let cook until it baked in. Another coat of sauce was applied and the wings were moved to the hot side of the grill for a little charring and caramelization.

Hot BBQ Wings

The layers of sauce gave these wings a killer flavor. Some extra sweetness came out of the sauce when cooked, but the heat of the habanero was still the main star here. Tearing through a batch of these sticky, charred beauties can provide a good form of temporary sinus relief, but being in my fourth month of this on again, off again infection, I'm feeling that no amount of chicken wings can fully comfort me, but I can sure as hell keep trying.

Print Recipe

Habanero Barbecue Wings

  • Yield 4-6 servings
  • Prep 40 Minutes
  • Cook 40 Minutes
  • Total 1 Hour 20 Minutes


  • For the sauce
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 habanero chiles
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped green bell pepper
  • 2 cups tomato sauce
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup molasses
  • 3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons yellow mustard
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • For the rub
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 3 lbs of chicken wings, cut into drumettes and flats
  • 1 or 2 chunks of light smoking wood, such as apple or cherry


  1. To make the sauce: Heat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Place garlic cloves and habaneros in the skillet and cook, turning occasionally, until they are blackened in spots, about 10 minutes. Remove from skillet and let cool. Peel and roughly chop garlic. Seed and roughly chop habaneros.
  2. Heat olive oil In a medium saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened and lightly browned. Add garlic, habaneros, and green bell pepper and cook for 1 minute. Add tomato sauce, vinegar, honey, molasses, Worcestershire sauce, sugar, and mustard and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until thickened, stirring occasionally, about 20 to 30 minutes. Season with salt to taste. Pour sauce into the jar of a blender and puree until almost smooth. Pour sauce into a jar and store in refrigerator until ready to use, up to two weeks.
  3. To make the wings: Combine paprika, granulated garlic, salt, black pepper and cayenne in a small bowl to make the rub. Place chicken wings in a large Ziploc bag and sprinkle in the rub. Seal bag and toss wings to evenly coat with the rub. Store in refrigerator up to one day (optional).
  4. Light one chimney full of charcoal. When all the charcoal is lit and covered with gray ash, pour out and arrange the coals on one side of the charcoal grate. Set cooking grate in place, cover gill and allow to preheat for 5 minutes. Clean and oil the grilling grate. Add the wood chunk(s) on top of the grill, and once burning and producing smoke, place wings on the cool side of the grill, cover, and cook over medium-high heat until skin is browned and crisp, about 30 minutes. Brush wings all over with sauce, cover, and let cook until sauce caramelizes, about 5 minutes. Brush with sauce again and move wings to the hot side of the grill. Cook until slightly charred, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove wings to a platter and serve immediately.

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  1. waky Meatscaping....

  2. Chris Everyone on the BBQ Brethren forum has been making habanero death dust wings that have been looking great but I haven't gotten around to ordering the death dust. Now I don't have to, I've got your recipe to go from scratch. Thanks for posting, I'm saving this recipe to try.

  3. Meat Trade Very nice article and very informative post. I grow my own Habaneros, and can see why this recipe might be a little on the spicy side for most. But I love the sweet, fruity taste that a habanero brings to a dish. Thanks for the recipe which you mentioned in your post.

  4. That Guy Do you remove the seeds from the Habaneros or leave them in? Cool post. Thanks.

  5. Josh @That Guy I did remove the seeds for this, but if you like your sauce hotter, feel free to leave them in.

  6. That Guy Thanks for the reply. How much more heat will the seeds add? Does it mess up the flavor? I'm trying to get hot, but without the bitterness.

  7. That Guy More specifically, where I live there is very little spicy food. When you do find a spicy offering, it usually has a very bitter, chemical taste to it. So, I'm trying to come up with some spice, but without that chemical spicey flavor. I guess I'll make 2 batches, seeds in and seeds out.