What Are Boneless Wings?

Ever browsed a menu and thought, "What are boneless wings"? We're here to demystify this type of wing and tell you how are boneless wings made.

If you asked me what my favorite food of all time was, I’d always answer with the same: chicken wings. I’ve been smackin’ on chicken wings for as long as I can remember—even my mom says it’s practically all she ate while she was pregnant with me. Coincidence? Maybe. I’ve always been a bone-in gal, but a lot of my friends say otherwise. They prefer boneless because they’re easier to eat, cleaner and come with a nice breading. And they’re not the only ones. Boneless wings are intensely popular.

But how are boneless wings made, and are they really wings at all? Here’s what you need to know before you start chowin’ down on your next boneless round.

What are boneless wings? 

There are many different cuts of chicken. Breast, thigh, tenderloin, leg, wing… I could go on. The chicken wing, however, has become practically synonymous with sports and game days. Order a plate of wings, and you’ll surely have a crowd of pleased people. While the Buffalo wing we know and love today started around the 1960s, the boneless wing appeared sometime in the 2000s.

But let’s get back to the question. Are they really wings? No, not like traditional bone-in chicken wings. Instead, boneless wings are more akin to chicken tenders and are made from breast meat. The more you know!

Boneless vs. Bone-In Wings

bbq buffalo chicken wings with beer ranch and celery on a wooden tablerez-art/Getty Images

When you go out to eat for wings, you’ll likely see options for both boneless and bone-in wings. So, how do you decide which type to order?

As mentioned, boneless wings are portioned from chicken breast. Since there is no bone or skin to protect the lean meat as it fries, boneless wings have the potential to be dryer or have less flavor than their boned counterparts. But that doesn’t mean boneless wings are bland. Boneless wings are tossed in a seasoned breading before they’re fried, adding a ton of flavor and texture to the chicken.

Boneless wings are a great option for kids or those trying wings for the first time since they are much easier and cleaner to eat. You simply bite into the chicken instead of having to navigate around bones and cartilage. You can even eat boneless wings with a fork if you want to keep your fingers completely clean. Plus, boneless wings tend to be the cheaper menu option.

On the flip side, bone-in wings consist of a drumette, which looks like a small drumstick, and flats, a long, flat portion with two bones. The bones and skin of these cuts result in white meat (yes, wings are white meat!) that is tender, juicy and flavorful. The trade-off is that meat is more difficult to get to. Working around bone and cartilage can be off-putting to some, and certainly requires multiple napkins while attempting. Despite this and that bone-in wings tend to be the more expensive option, many love this traditional option.

Weighing these pros and cons will help you decide between boneless and bone-in wings. Whichever you choose, you’re sure to have a delicious and satisfying meal.

How are boneless wings made?

Rather than deboning chicken wings and using the meat, boneless wings are prepared using breast meat. The meat is cut into wing-sized shapes, dipped in a bread or batter concoction and deep-fried. Afterward, the meat is slathered with wing sauce just as traditional chicken wings would be.

So, are boneless wings chicken nuggets? Not really. Chicken nuggets are made with ground chicken that’s shaped before being breaded and fried. Boneless chicken wings are a solid piece of chicken, making them more akin to a chicken tender than a chicken nugget. If you’re unfamiliar, this is the difference between a chicken breast and chicken tenderloin.

Now, we must ask ourselves one more very important thing. What’s the best wing sauce?

Chicken Wings That'll Change Your Appetizer Spread
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Caroline Stanko, Taste of Home editor, contributed to this article.

Melany Love
Melany has been writing food news for Taste of Home for four years. Her knowledge of current culinary trends comes from her extensive time spent on FoodTok and scouring Instagram for any unusual food, charcuterie design or coffee shop creation. Apart from freelancing, she has worked at bookstores like Barnes & Noble and Half Price Books and as a barista. She has always wanted a career in writing, and got her start at Taste of Home. When she’s not working, Melany is playing the latest video game, curled up with a book or spending time with her cats.