Every Wingstop Flavor, Ranked Worst To Best

Whether you're awaiting the Big Game or you're just looking for some wings to chow down on, popular chicken wing chain Wingstop promises to deliver major flavor. Overwhelmed by the different wing flavors available? Don't worry; we'll tell you which Wingstop flavors should get prime real estate on your plate. Like your favorite football team, Wingstop boasts a number of players — though some are favored more than others.

Of course, our research yielded a mix of honey-sweet chicken and wings so hot they'll scorch your mouth — as well as limited-time offering Carolina Gold BBQ that debuted in December 2022. So, which Wingstop flavor came out on top? While the refs review the play, let's drill into the best bets to order for dinner — at least until Wingstop brings hot honey back (oh how we miss the hot honey flavor) into permanent rotation. Here's a look at the team roster.

14. Mango Habanero

The clear loser and the only flavor we have to advise you to avoid is Mango Habanero. It's not quite garbage, but our taste testers made independent faces of revulsion in a heat-loving household. Habanero is a trickier spicy flavor than most since it has a very intense vegetal flavor and it's blazing hot even by the standards of peppers you can get without specialty ordering them.

Sadly, Wingstop has not managed its habanero harvest well here. The mango barely comes through, when it could have offered a sticky, sweet, and even earthy balance to the green taste of the normally welcome habanero. That pepper overloads the taste of the wing long before its heat ever becomes a problem. And yeah, this is a spicy one, but to its credit, it's not going to make anybody cry. Wingstop landed the heat level in the sweet zone, at least, though capsaicin junkies will undoubtedly be disappointed.

It's a real shame because it's the only flavor that brought real heat, and it scrubbed out at the first bite. Our advice to Wingstop is to cut the habanero in half, intensify the mango, make it a little sweeter, and if it still lacks heat, cut in a hot pepper with a milder taste. Habanero has a very strong flavor profile, and this wing might benefit from more reserve to focus on what matters: scorching your tongue.

13. Hickory Smoked BBQ

We usually favor a hickory barbecue quite strongly, but this seems to be coming in from a different place entirely. Nobody's upset, but frankly, we expected better from a heavy hitter like Hickory Smoked BBQ sauce. The flavor is smoky, yes, but also dark in a way that tastes like soy sauce. You could mistake it for some sort of post-teriyaki glaze for a second, but Mr. Yashida's this is not, we're sad to report. Nor is it a really striking barbecue sauce, which is what it's aiming for. It's both too sweet and too salty, redeemed only by its smokiness, and even that takes it to depths it can't handle. This submarine is not seaworthy for the level it plunges to. We wouldn't be the least surprised if this was just surplus Teriyaki, currently defunct, remixed with enough hickory barbecue to avoid an expense sink. But that's just speculation, so let's stick to what we can prove: This is meh.

While the hickory is evident, the overall composure tastes like something that would be better thinned out before coating the wings. Otherwise as-is, it ought to be better used as a dipping sauce for fries, whose blandness is their strength. A little bit of this sauce goes a long way and is not anywhere worth traveling to. Save the hickory for a five-piece order. If you're going big, it's eventually going to tucker you out.

12. Cajun

Darn, we really wanted to like this more. Louisiana Rub places very highly on this list using these exact seasonings and sauce but gets the balance just right with the addition of Lemon Pepper. Here in Cajun country, there's just too much dissonance compared to letting the Original Hot sauce shine or lowering the volume to let the spices be heard. In the spicy sauce's wake, the only parts of the seasonings you can catch are that there's too much of them (possibly in an effort to avoid burying them), and somehow they're still wasted on the hot burn.

There's probably a way to improve these, and it starts with blending the spices into their own sauce rather than just sprinkling them on. They never get their moment onstage to shine. As far as we're concerned, this is just Original Hot with a heckler in the audience screwing up the performance. You're better off ordering the real article, though keep reading to see why that's not our first recommendation when you've just got to have something piquant.

11. Hawaiian

We couldn't put our finger on what Hawaiian tastes like. Does it blend soy sauce and ginger into a pineapple base? Or maybe that earthiness is coming from somewhere else. A Geek Outside suspects papaya, which could definitely make it musky, but we're not detecting it. Wingstop is circumspect, calling it only a mix of citrus fruits and Asian flavors. While it could still contain pineapple or papaya, neither is citrus. Intriguing.

Regardless, Hawaiian is one really pleasing flavor. Its richness might be its undoing, however, as what makes it great out of the gate, makes it heavy after a bevy. By five of these, the palate is salted up, and even people who love this flavor probably cap out at 10 before they're clogged with sodium. Hawaiian is definitely an order to split if you want to keep it so fulfilling.

While Hawaiian does what it sets out to do, it ultimately doesn't make too much impression beyond its intensity over depth. That's a good thing, but you have to really like the three dominant factors at play here for them to compete against heavy hitters like lemon, garlic, and butter.

10. Original Hot

Yes, yes, we know this is one of the most popular flavors, possibly the most-ordered one by volume. It presents the same quality buffalo plus herb profile detected in mild. So why doesn't this rank higher? Well, for starters, it's too much in the middle. Mild lets you really taste what's going on, while Atomic blasts your tongue the way you were begging to be punished. Much like Cajun before it, Original Hot tries to do both but achieves neither. However, it definitely does the better job of the two, perhaps because the spices are more integrated.

Okay, that's why Original Hot places smack in the middle of the heated flavors, but it's still popular for a reason: the hot sauce is great, beloved by anybody who favors buffalo/Frank's Red Hot or Tabasco. That thin and classic red pepper flavor is thickened just enough to prosper, and while the implementation is flawed here, does show what's possible when you add enough herbs and spices to give simple classics some stylish ornamentation. Besides, people love spicy food, and sometimes that's all that you need to be happy.

9. Plain

Well color us surprised: The unflavored chicken wing is still really satisfying all on its own, owing to some quality breading and a fry job that delivers the pleasures of a crunchy piece of fried chicken. What it loses in exorbitant sauce, it picks up in staying dry and crisp. It also lets the meat and breading star in the show, proving they're more than just a splendid base for various hot and barbecue sauces.

So yeah, the plain chicken wing is surprisingly pleasing all on its own. There's a nice herb note, and without any sauce, the wings don't get mushy. It lets the breading and the meat and the oil step out from the background to prove their own worth, and if you're feeling mighty hungry, you can eat a lot more of these than some of the incredibly intense flavors on this list.

It shows the merits of this non-flavor that it would place so highly when your assumption is it would be at the bottom of the list because it had nothing to wear. Here's proof that sometimes the best party outfit is nothing at all.

8. Spicy Korean Q

Spicy Korean Q's more like a broadly sweet-and-sour sauce than an explicitly Korean flavor. This is ginger, garlic, Sriracha, and crushed red pepper; so a poor man's gochujang. This sauce is, to its benefit, lighter and centrally positioned between flavors, so it's a good pick for a big order to please different tastebuds. It's a little hot, a lot sweet, and delivers a deus-ex complexity. While it doesn't impress at first taste, by the end it grows into something a little more pungent with some heat to it, a nice, substantive surprise after a vague and mild start.

This feels like a missed opportunity to have gone all in and offered a Korean style of fried chicken with the sauce. Korean fried chicken is unique from most other methods, and the results are almost unbeatable in the field. Its double-fry method seals flavorful spices in between a very thin crust that nevertheless holds together even while it's crispy. It's a bullseye combination of textures, and if Wingstop had aimed for it, this would have easily taken the top three.

Still, it's not doing badly. Unless there's doenjang hiding here, the Sriracha's fermentation is what elevates this a few spots higher than it might have landed off the gochujang alone. And if you end up with leftovers, it's easy to eat a pound by yourself.

7. Garlic Parmesan

Like most of this list, garlic parmesan is intense. Unlike a lot of it, the intensity knows when to quit, so as much as you may be breathing heavily by the end of a basket, the buttery, garlicky flavor and its parmesan umami will leave you thinking about just one more wing.

We might even have put this one a bit higher, but garlic and butter are basically cheat codes to satisfaction, and we can admire that some of the flavors placed ahead of this stepped into their idiosyncrasies to really please the people seeking their profile rather than broadly appealing to everyone. Garlic Parmesan feels like it ought to be the base for a lot of other flavors the same way Original Hot is, but for now, it's just got a profitable taste location on lockdown, and you can't argue with the results. Sticking with what works is entirely respectable, especially when you're ordering fast food for comfort.

6. Mild

It's basically a buffalo wing, but better. Sorry, true-buffalo devotees, but while you're bickering over the authenticity, this milder but elevated version has a lot more complexity, all of it in harmony. We've made the original Anchor Bar recipe, and while we'll make it again, this one slaps harder. We're not sure what the differentiating factor is here (skipping the butter, maybe?), though it seems to be some additional herbs and spice mixed into the sauce. Whatever the answer, Mild just has a little more nuance and it unfolds to show you it. Those seasonings keep the good time going after the heat hits and runs.

With that said, nothing here pushes this concoction out of the realm of buffalo sauce and it's unclear why it's not labeled as such. It's just the age we live in: You use that Frank's Red Hot profile or a clone thereof, and you're more than halfway to buffalo wings.

5. Atomic

Sometimes all you want is enough heat to melt your fillings, and Atomic provides. While it's no Nashville Hot Chicken, Atomic sandblasts your tastebuds smooth without ensuring your guts will hurt all weekend, though there is a pleasant burn/tingle in the stomach the rest of the day. Don't worry! You're not anxious, you just ate a good meal.

You're not really here for the taste, which seems to be a concentrated Original Hot. If there's a difference beyond condensing it, we can't detect it. Mango habanero — which seems after repeated tastings to actually be the hotter flavor — could take a real lesson from this one on how spice filters out certain aspects of taste. Though very spicy, it's also got its own pleasant flavor. That taste is great, but you won't get much of it. The flavor is entirely tactile, as your senses are inflamed by the Scoville intensity of Tonguetown.

On a textural note, we do have to deduct some points. The Atomic sauce, absolutely slathered on the wings, does quickly sog the breading. But as far as hot flavors go, this is what you want. This is really enjoyable as butt-kickings go.

4. Carolina Gold BBQ

A honey mustard sauce with a tinge of heat, Carolina gold lives up to its mustard-based BBQ home state. It's sweet and spicy and honestly reminds us a little of Chinese take-out honey chicken fingers. It's sweet and mild but not bland. While it lacks Spicy Korean's fermented characteristics to give it true depth on the finish, it also succeeds much better on the 80% of the front where it's trying to be a sweet spot. Carolina Gold BBQ keeps it ... well, maybe not simple, but definitely straightforward, adhering to what works.

And plus it's just nice to see one of the Carolinas' many and subdivided barbecue styles represented in a fast food world that usually just plops some tangy red sauce on a dish and calls it a day. Particularly in the golden hues of South Carolina's mustard sauce, which too often plays the overlooked middle child to the North Carolina East/West ketchup/vinegar barbecue divide. It's the best of the barbecues on this list today. Keep on doing how you do, Carolina Gold BBQ.

3. Lemon Pepper

Lemon Pepper wings are just fantastic. We headed into this article expecting all the lemon, garlic, and parmesan-based flavors would present a good show on the lower-mid tiers by satisfying with powerful flavors but ultimately losing out to the sugar or sizzling heat of barbecue and hot sauces, which are staunch allies to any piece of fried chicken. But the entire category has absolutely dominated the top rankings, emerging, to our surprise, in a bloc as we shuffled around our preferences. Folks, no one could have predicted this! This is quite possibly the most exciting fried chicken flavor ranking of our lifetimes! You will not see its like again: The "Avengers: Endgame" of fast-food flavor upsets.

The intensity of the lemon makes lemon pepper so great. It's not mouth-puckering, but it is right at the turning point of sweet and sour. A bit of butteriness, whether from actual butter or residual fry grease in the breading, gives the acidity of these wings some fat to fight with, and you're the winner. There's a reason one of the best-respected cooking books of this century is called "Salt Fat Acid Heat." Here's proof in practice.

2. Louisiana Rub

Take notes, Cajun. This is the extra oomph you've been looking for to tie it all together. While it could easily have gone down the drain of its own kitchen-sink approach, Louisiana Rub hits a really nice balance of all the power-hitter flavors and gets them to play nice. Foodbeast says it's really a combination of Cajun, Original Hot, and Lemon Pepper, which would explain why it's so good. It seems Cajun is a solid seasoning, but here it arrives in its final form with hot sauce and some acidic splash to finish it off. These flavors are like a shrimp boil but for fried chicken, and we are here for it.

This isn't the first time Wingstop's done this. Brand Eating says that last May, Wingstop's new Bayou BBQ married Cajun seasoning to Hickory Smoked BBQ, though we're hard-pressed to see that pairing achieve anything beyond double-burying Cajun flavor under a steamroller hickory smoke that never lives up to its potential. That same article also mentions Lemon Garlic, which is either identical to or the basis for our gold-medal winner coming right up hot and fresh.

1. Hot Honey Rub

The hype is legit, friends. Hot Honey Rub lives up to its name while also taking your mouth by very happy surprise. It's not sticky, it's not too sweet, it's not mouth-scorching. It's spicy in both senses of the word with a pleasant afterburn, but not as the first taste you'd describe. This is what people in the 1980s would have described as hot. And yet despite its astonishing reserve of the two elements that make its name, hot honey does use them to play rhythm.

Now let's talk about lead guitar. A buttery flavor coats these wings, emphasizing their crispiness and giving the sabor an excellent rink to skate on. Hot Honey Rub's so marvelously balanced and blended, it's almost as hard to pick out individual flavors (maybe paprika?) as it is easy to see why all of social media has been harping on Wing Stop to bring back this flavor. It wouldn't be hard to see it attaining a permanent spot on the rotation when it's head and shoulders above half of what's already here. These use buffalo wing principles to make something way better.

We had previously placed another limited-time seasoning, Lemon Garlic, in the top spot but it's defunct ... for now. Seems like the innovators in Wing Stop's test kitchen are doing their best work these days, so get to a Wing Stop while Hot Honey Rub is still featured. Then campaign to make it a full-time fixture on the flavor spectrum.