Here's How to Make James Beard Award-Nominated Chef Preeti Waas' "Party in Your Mouth" Chicken Wings

Win big on Super Bowl (or any!) Sunday with these wings.

Spices next to chicken wings
Photo: Dotdash Meredith / Stacey Sprenz Photography

With Super Bowl Sunday nearing, there's one thing on our minds: juicy, saucy chicken wings. We tapped Preeti Waas, owner and baker at Cheeni Indian Food Emporium in Raleigh, NC, who was just named a James Beard semifinalist for Best Chef: Southeast, to talk about Super Bowl-worthy wings by way of one of her favorite things: Indian spices. Waas hosts ongoing cooking classes and interactive events in her space, inviting diners in to experience a taste of her world and to get comfortable with spicing it up in the kitchen. Most recently, she added a trio of wings to her menu—Tamarind Barbecue, Chili Garlic, and Vindaloo—to showcase the playfulness of wings, but in a way that showcases flavors from her childhood.

Find out how to play with spices already in your kitchen and get her coveted chicken wing recipes below.

What gave you the idea to pair wings and Indian spices?
I wanted an appetizer option that would complement the beers that we carry and what better way than with wings? We're an Indian cafe so they naturally had to have an Indian flavor profile.

What if you don't know anything about spices?
If unfamiliar with spices, start with the basics, and what you have available. Balancing salt with acidity is more important for flavor than any spices you can use, so start there. Add in black pepper for a warm spice, Kashmiri red chili for a mild spice (this is brilliantly red, so it fools people into thinking it's very spicy, when it's not). Fresh ginger can read spicy on a virgin palate, plus it adds freshness and even an astringent quality. Fresh herbs add brightness and texture. Start with these, make a marinade, and add meat of choice. It's a good start!

How does a spice novice gain confidence in the kitchen?
My favorite thing about playing with spices at home is that all my errors are edible! Instead of overloading one dish with spices, I like to add certain ones to different dishes, so that when eaten together it's a bite that is very flavorful. Like separate colors coming together to form a rainbow. Don't be afraid of using spices. If you use too little, you can use the technique of tadka—heat up some ghee in a small pan, add chopped garlic or cumin seeds, add and bloom the spice you want to use, then pour it over the dish while hot. Used too many spices by accident? Make a bowl of hot rice, and mix it in. As I said, edible errors!

Which spices are always in your pantry?
You will never find me running out of turmeric, red chili powder, fresh roasted and ground cumin, and garam masala.

What are easy ways to learn more about spices?
Most Indian or Middle Eastern cuisine cookbooks will have a detailed glossary regarding spices and ingredients used, as well as how to use them. Books always stocked at Cheeni are In Bibi's Kitchen by Hawa Hassan, I Am From Here: Stories and Recipes from a Southern Chef by Vishwesh Bhatt, and Chaat: Recipes from the Kitchens, Markets, and Railways of India by Maneet Chauhan. Your palate is your best teacher, however: Taste and experiment with everything that you can. Spices from companies like SpiceFix, Spicewalla, and Diaspora Co. carry the best tasting, freshest spices. Order a starter pack if they offer one. Or, take a local cooking class—a great way to smell, touch, and taste so you learn what you like (and what you don't).

Cookbooks and spices
Stacey Sprenz Photography

Preeti Waas' Indian-Spiced Chicken Wings


2 lbs chicken wings and drumettes


  • 2 cups full fat buttermilk
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tsp. Kashmiri chili powder
  • ½ tsp minced garlic

Dredge (coating):

  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground black pepper
  • Oil for frying


  1. Stir everything but the wings together, then add wings and marinate overnight. Make sure the wings are submerged in the buttermilk.
  2. The next day, mix the flour, salt and pepper together. Remove wings from marinade, shake off excess buttermilk and dredge in the seasoned flour. Place on a foil-lined sheet pan in a single layer, then return to the fridge, uncovered, for at least an hour.
  3. Remove from the fridge, and fry in hot oil until crisp and browned, but don't crowd the pan. Alternatively the wings can be spritzed with oil and baked in the oven at 400 ° F until crispy and golden (this should take no more than 40 minutes). Make sure to turn them over at least once so they can evenly brown.
  4. They are now ready to be tossed in one of the three sauces below!

Tamarind Barbecue Sauce

Not far from recognizable barbecue wings and an easy entry point for those unfamiliar with Indian spices, this is the mildest option of the trio. Tamarind adds a sour, fruity component so the sweetness in the sauce makes for the right balance; fresh ginger paste adds spice; and vinegar adds a bit of acidity to the flavor pop.


  • 1 cup ketchup (preferably one with less sugar)
  • 1 tsp tamarind pulp
  • 4 tbsp jaggery (brown sugar will do in a pinch)
  • 2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce (or 1 tsp soy sauce)
  • ½ tsp. fresh grated ginger
  • A finely diced habanero if you want it spicy (a scant ¼ tsp. will do)
  • 1 tsp onion powder.
  • ½ tsp ground mustard
  • 2 tbsp. malt vinegar


  1. Bring everything to a boil in a saucepan and adjust seasonings to taste.

Chili Garlic Sauce

Since India borders China, Indo-Chinese cuisine is very popular. Borrowing heavily from the flavors of Sichuan, these chili garlic wings are spicy with two kinds of chilies, heavy on the garlic, and extremely craveable.


  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • ½ minced garlic
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 cup ketchup
  • ½ cup Sriracha or similar sauce


  1. Heat oil in a pan, and add minced garlic. Allow to get aromatic, but not burn.
  2. Add ketchup, Sriracha and soy sauce all at once. Bring to a boil until the sauce looks glossy.

Vindaloo Sauce (extra spicy)

Vindaloo from Goa, India, is very popular. Whole spices and chilies are soaked overnight in vinegar and then ground down and used to braise meat. Although fiery hot, hints of sweet cinnamon and the fragrance of other warm spices make this a 'party in the mouth,' according to one customer!


  • ½ stick unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp Kashmiri chili powder
  • ½ tsp spicy red chili powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp garlic powder
  • ½ tsp cumin powder
  • ½ tsp coriander powder
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3 tbsp white vinegar


  1. Heat a pan and gently melt butter. Add all the spices, but not the vinegar. Allow all the flavors to meld together, turn off the heat, and add vinegar.
  2. Combine well, adjust seasonings and heat gently again if necessary.
  3. Put out a creamy dip on the side to cut the heat if you like!
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