Every Hooters Wing Flavor Ranked From Worst To Best

For many, Hooters was our first introduction to what would become a lifelong obsession with the wonderful world of chicken wings. Of course, Hooters has branched out from its original lineup of flavors, and now offers everything from jerk seasoning to General Tso's. They've even got a line of dry rubbed wings — if you're not trying to cover yourself in sauce. 

So where ordering wings at Hooters was once a pretty easy decision, now it can seem downright overwhelming.

To find the best flavor, we ordered 'em all, opting for the original Hooters breaded wings for the sauces, and naked wings for the dry rub. What we found were some greats, and some you can skip. Here are all 17 Hooters wing flavors, ranked from worst to best.

17. Garlic Habanero Dry Rub

If you are old enough to remember Dana Carvey's "Coffee Talk" sketches on "Saturday Night Live," you may recall his character Paul Baldwin would start off conversations by saying things like, "The Holy Roman Empire was neither holy nor Roman... discuss amongst yourselves." Were the fictional Mr. Baldwin to ever walk into a Hooters in 2022, and order a plate of the Garlic Habanero Dry Rubbed Wings, he'd have himself another stellar conversation starter. Because these wings are neither garlic nor habanero.

The only part of the name that's even remotely true is the "dry" part, as these are the odd wings that have you reaching for a beer not because they're spicy, but because they are painfully lacking in moisture. The dry rub effectively dehydrates the wings, leaving you with a pretty miserable piece of fried chicken. You might detect some hint of salt and pepper, but if you're looking for heat don't waste your time. With 16 other flavors on the menu, you have no reason to ever order the garlic habanero dry rub. Discuss amongst yourselves.

16. Medium

Gen Z readers, please don't confuse this wing flavor with anything even remotely mild. These wings are, in fact, cap. Deadass. "Medium" might lead you to think that this wing is a happy place between mild and hot, the wing of choice for that older aunt who likes to get crazy sometimes and have a Diet Coke after 2 p.m. But that's not the case here, as you could probably get this sauce in your eye and not even notice. (Disclaimer: Do not put Hooters Medium Wing Sauce in your eye).

Putting it in your mouth is almost as inadvisable as putting it in your eyes, though, as the sauce tastes more like mild cheese whiz than it does anything resembling Buffalo. It's almost pure butter, with a slight citrusy tang and about as much kick as a sloth who just woke up from a nap. You'll notice a hint of vinegar hiding in there somewhere, but the cheesy consistency, lack of flavor, and general mediocrity of the sauce are irredeemable. If you're terrified of spicy food, just go for the mild. And if you want something with minimal heat, look further down this list.

15. Jerk Dry Rub

Hooters' Dry Rub wings are a category on their own, and generally not as flavorful as the traditional sauce-covered variety. But if you're not a fan of using an entire roll of paper towels at lunch, the dry rubbed category will do in a pinch.

If you've ever been to Jamaica, or even a Jamaican restaurant, you know that dry rubbed, jerk seasoned chicken wings can be incredible if done right. This is generally because someone from somewhere in the vicinity of the Caribbean was probably making the rub, and used traditional jerk spices. Hooters, on the other hand, has an interesting interpretation of jerk, as there's no element of allspice, ghost peppers, nutmeg, or really any of the spices jerk seasoning includes.

Perhaps you'll be fortunate enough to bite into a piece of Rosemary, you might say to yourself, "Oh, ok, I guess there's something jerk-like here." But it's a little like sitting out on the beach on a cloudy day, pointing to a speck of blue sky and saying, "See! It's sunny out!" You're grasping at straws, and if you want jerk chicken, do yourself a favor and just go to a Jamaican restaurant.

14. Honey Chipotle

If Winnie the Pooh went into Hooters, this would absolutely be his wing of choice. Of course, if Winnie the Pooh went into Hooters, he'd probably be thrown out and arrested for walking into Hooters with no pants on. But assuming he were able to skirt public indecency laws, he'd very much be into the honey chipotle wings, since they really should just be called honey-honey wings.

There's not even a trace of chipotle in this sauce, or if there is it's completely overtaken by the intense sweetness of the honey. It's not the good honey either, like you find at farmer's markets. It's like the stuff that came in the bear-shaped plastic bottle, that you had to squeeze the living death out of when you were a kid. It's thin and artificially sweet, and covering fried chicken it's almost like bad Chinese food minus the lemon. If you're a cartoon bear who regularly gets his head stuck in bee hives this might work. Though sticking your head in a beehive might be preferable to stomaching an entire order of Hooters Honey Chipotle Wings.

13. Chesapeake Dry Rub

If you're not an expert in Mid-Atlantic nautical geography, these wings are a reference to Chesapeake Bay, in the great state of Maryland. And if you know anything about Maryland, people there put Old Bay seasoning on everything. Literally, everything. If you cut your hand in Hagerstown, someone will probably suggest putting some Old Bay seasoning on it, then wrapping it with a Maryland flag Band-Aid.

Our suggestion: Don't order these wings if you're dining with anyone from Maryland. They'll be as insufferable as a New Yorker eating pizza outside "the city," and will spend the entire lunch telling you how much better Old Bay is back home. Not that these wings are bad, per se. They're certainly salty and a little bit spicy and have a lot more flavor than some of the other dry rubs. But if you're used to enjoying Old Bay on crab cakes as the breeze blows in along the Inner Harbor, these wings will probably disappoint. And if you're really hankering for that Old Bay experience, order the crab legs instead.

12. Garlic Parmesan

Do you enjoy ordering Caesar salads with fried chicken breast on top, but find yourself bothered by all that pesky "lettuce?" Ain't nobody got time for that healthy stuff when your lunch consists of fried chicken, cream, and cheese. Hooters understands this, and has given reluctant salad eaters the wing they've been waiting for with Garlic Paremesan.

The uber-creamy sauce could easily be mistaken for Caesar dressing, minus the anchovies, and biting into these wings is almost exactly like tasting those crispy chicken morsels tossed with your salad. Before you even get the wings into your mouth, your nose is met with a fierce wave of cheese and garlic. It's a dairy-heavy palate bomb, about as subtle as a personal injury lawyer's billboard.

But if you're into cheesy flavors, and garlic, this might be a winner. Just understand this dressing — we're not calling it a sauce — clocks in at 240 calories an order, which is basically adding a pack of peanut M&Ms to your wing plate. Still, the sauce would be better as a stand alone salad dressing, so perhaps consider ordering a side of it if you like a little greens before your grease.

11. Spicy Garlic

Hooters Spicy Garlic Sauce is a little like that terrible jam band that has seven instruments playing at once, none of which seem to be playing the same song. The cacophony of flavors is confusing — during the first mind-bending bite your brain struggles to figure out what it just tasted. Is it heat? Garlic? Spice? Cream? It's almost like some chef threw together a bunch of ingredients they loved, and was so confident in the ingredients' individual greatness they never bothered tasting the stuff.

The sauce does pack some heat, and it will creep up on you after your second or third wing. It's tempered by the creaminess, though, so it never overwhelms your palate. An order of six of these, breaded, it going to be a gut bomb, too, between the acidity of the hot sauce and the creaminess of the spice. Once you wrap your head around the flavor, it can be satisfying. But there's nothing easy — mentally or physically — about the Spicy Garlic wings

10. Texas BBQ Rub

Much like we suggested not trying the Chesapeake dry rub with anyone from Maryland, don't even think about suggesting these wings to someone from Texas. This dry rub has about as much to do with Texas as the Texas Roadhouse, which, if you weren't aware, is based in Louisville. And any Texan trying these will likely shake their head, politely wipe their mouth, and say, "This ain't Texas."

If an actual Texas barbecue joint served these wings, they'd likely be run out of the state faster than someone who disrespected Tom Landry. Fortunately, Hooters is not a Texas barbecue joint, and though calling this rub Texas BBQ is bad for the Lone Star brand, technically it's not illegal. Still, it's got only a faint hint of the smoky flavor that defines Texas barbecue, so for true lovers of the style this isn't gonna cut it. The dry rubs don't fool you with the name, and this one is a little like biting into a stretch of highway between El Paso and Odessa. You might consider ordering this dry rub with a side of another sauce to dip it in, adding both texture and flavor.

9. Daytona

Hooters was founded in stunning, seaside Clearwater, Florida, a short trip down I-4 from drive-on-the-sand Daytona Beach. As a tribute to its home state, Hooters added Daytona wings to its menu, a style where wings are fried, tossed, then grilled to seal in the flavor. This style is done to absolute perfection in some restaurants around the country, like Elmo's in Buffalo and Sports Grill in Miami. Hooters could take a lesson from those spots, as these wings are, like Daytona Beach itself, highly underwhelming.

It's not that the Daytona wings taste bad; the vinegary, spicy sauce tastes a little like a Carolina barbecue sauce and could stand on its own as a marinade. But if you've had this style of wing before, you expect a lot more smoke and seared-in flavor. So much like expecting the time of your life when you book a hotel for a Daytona Beach family vacation, then arrive to find the place overrun by bikers, you're not getting what you'd hoped. Now, if you are into vinegar-based barbecue sauce, the Daytona wings are worth a look. But like so many things in life, the secret to enjoying them is keeping your expectations low.

8. Hot

"Hot" is a pretty relative term. Throw someone from, say, northern Sweden on the beach in Southern California, and they're going to be sweating out eight layers of sunscreen. Put someone from Arizona on that same sand, and they'll likely ask you for a sweatshirt. Such is the relative conundrum for Hooters' Hot sauce, which we can only assume was named by an 85-year-old English woman who sends back soup because she saw a fleck of pepper.

While this "hot" sauce is pretty serviceable as a wing sauce, don't expect anything resembling spicy. It doesn't taste much like a true Buffalo wing either, as it lacks the requisite red pepper kick inspired by the Anchor Bar originals. It's more of a butter sauce with a hint of chili, but the overwhelming butteriness saturates your mouth and the heat never gets in. If you want a mild wing with a hint of spice, this is the way to go. But for something that'll have you reaching desperately for your beer, Hooters has better options.

7. Mild

If you ever worked at Hooters, or just spent more time at Hooters than any healthy person should, there is a certain smell that will immediately transport you back. That smell, it turns out, is the mild sauce, which upon entering your nose brings immediate flashbacks of delivering pitchers of beer on roller skates or tossing dozens of wings in a big metal bowl. For whatever reason, the mild sauce actually has more flavor than the Medium or Hot, and though it's not spicy it somehow tastes more like a Buffalo wing than either of its counterparts in the "original" sauce line.

It's still oily and buttery, and a plate of these will require a hand washing session almost as long as the ones you had in the early days of COVID. But the mild sauce is worth the effort, a rich coating with a peppery flick that does exactly what it's supposed to. It's a quintessential Hooters wing, and if you're not trying to go super-hot or branch out, Mild is the move. 

6. Original Barbecue

Barbecue wings are a genre unto themselves, and if you're the type who prefers traditional Buffalo style there's no need to consider these. But if you're hankering for barbecue wings, these will get the job done, getting you from hungry to full, and delivering on expectations. You're not going to rave about them to anyone, but you're not going to send them back either. They are the basic transportation of chicken wings, and there's nothing wrong with that.

The original barbecue leans heavily on the sweet side, best compared to a basic Kansas City style you'd find in the grocery store. We can't really compare it to a specific brand, because it doesn't have any ingredients that stand out. But if you're into generic store brand barbecue sauces, this one will probably be a hit.

The first notes you get when tasting this are overwhelmingly sweet ones, and rather than giving way to any kind of smokiness it just kind of lingers. The sauce is a bit better than the Texas BBQ dry rub, too. Though combining them might make for a pretty interesting wing.

5. Lemon Pepper

As the dry rubs go, the lemon pepper stands tall above the rest, offering the sharpest and most distinct flavor of the group. There's a strong rush of lemon upon first bite, which stays on your tongue as the pepper creeps in. Subsequent bites ramp up the intensity until you finish, leaving more of an impression on your mouth than almost any style Hooters offers.

Now, make no mistake. Magic City these are not. Heck, they're not even DJ Khaled's Another Wing. They're more like someone took a bottle of Mrs. Dash and shook it all over a baked chicken, which may well have been what your mom did when you pestered her to take you out for lemon pepper wings. Still, Mrs. Dash had a nice long run, so she must have been doing something right. And Hooters is doing something right with these wings, which are the runaway best pick for the sauce averse.

4. 3-Mile

If you ever had the pleasure of working in the kitchen at Hooters, you definitely remember tossing a bowl of 3-Mile Island wings. That's because as soon as you lifted the top off the bowl, a puff of pepper-filled steam blasted you in the face, clearing out your sinuses. Okay, maybe it wasn't quite like that, but take a whiff of your order of 3-Mile Island wings when they arrive at your table, multiply it by a factor of 10, and that's about what it was like.

The 3-Mile Island sauce is literally named after a nuclear meltdown that happened in Pennsylvania in 1979. But it tastes a lot more like Louisiana, as this butter-free hot sauce is effectively like tossing your wings in Crystal. Interestingly, it's still not aggressively spicy. It's a nice, crisp kick that delivers the hot wing experience the original sauces lack. Heat heads won't find much to challenge them here, but assuming you're not that kind of masochist this is a sauce you'll enjoy.

3. Samurai Teriyaki

For a light, easy-eating wing that may even leave room for dessert, go for the teriyaki. While this attractive sauce is sweet, it leads with a strong ginger punch, leaving room for the sweetness to cool it down. The result is a teriyaki sauce that doesn't taste like dessert, and makes for a nice contrast from many of the butter-heavy offerings on the menu. Samurai Teriyaki also ends with a little bit of kick, so the name isn't completely misleading. It's not so much spice that you'll need to cool it off, but enough to know it's there.

That said, much like with barbecue and buffalo sauces, Hooters teriyaki sauce isn't going to be a hit with people who are huge fans of the style. If you came up frequenting the gritty Teriyaki shops along the West Coast, this will seem like a sad, mass-produced facsimile. But who's going to Hooters for its authenticity in regional cuisines? So we appreciate that they made a pretty decent teriyaki sauce and give credit where it's due.

2. General Tso's

You've undoubtedly at some point in your life ordered General Tso's chicken, either out of habit or dumb curiosity as to what kind of chicken would be named after a military officer. And depending where you order it, General Tso's can range from phenomenal to hard, dry chunks of chicken that one could only assume were the general's weapon of choice.

Hooters, for its part, completely nailed their General Tso's, offering a spicy, flavorful coating to pleasantly moist chicken wings. The flavor is light and sweet with a citrusy burst and just enough chili to make you want more. It doesn't blast you in the face, but doesn't bore you either, and stands several cuts above what you might find at Panda Express or P.F. Chang's. Does it stand up to your neighborhood Chinese restaurant's take on the dish? Probably not. But it's definitely worth ordering a plate of these — you won't be disappointed. 

1. Nuclear

Nuclear, allegedly, is the 3-Mile sauce mixed with a bunch of intimidating sounding peppers to create a sauce that needs a disclaimer on the menu. Don't let all that fanfare scare you, though. While these wings definitely have enough heat to open your eyes, it's not at all painful. Still, the sauce has some serious depth to it — a sweet peppery mix that's almost addicting. If you're the type who enjoys putting fries in hot sauce, you may end up eating an entire bowl.

Minimal spiciness aside, the Nuclear wings are a winner — the true taste of what many wing purists would consider a hot wing. Without going overboard and letting the heat ruin the wing, the Nuclear instead coats the breading and the meat with pleasant acidity. It complements both nicely, and might be the lone sauce on the list one would consider buying a bottle of for use at home. Even those who don't love spicy food can probably stomach the stuff. And while the heat-obsessed won't go nuts for it, Nuclear sauce leaves little room for complaint.