I don’t think it’s a hot take to say that cheesy buffalo chicken dip is hands down the best football snack. And I made this buffalo chicken dip without blue cheese for the blue cheese haters out there! It's creamy, cheesy, loaded with chicken, and SO FLAVORFUL.
This recipe is made without 2 common ingredients actually: there’s no blue cheese OR ranch dressing. No sour cream either! Instead, my buffalo chicken dip recipe gets its creaminess from 3 types of shredded cheese plus a little bit of cream cheese to hold it together. The copious amounts of cheddar, mozzarella, and Colby jack cheese cool down the spiciness but still let the buffalo flavor shine through.
Of course, like all of my recipes, this one is flexible. So you can add some ranch or blue cheese if you want, of course. It’s just not really my thing.
Are you looking for more apps for your Superbowl party? Try this baked onion dip– one of my other favorite Superbowl appetizers to make. These air fryer ham and cheese croquettes are also a crowd-pleaser, with a make-ahead option!
Why this is the Best Buffalo Chicken Dip Recipe
- The chicken is browned and then slowly braised in hot sauce for maximum flavor.
- It uses a combination of chicken thighs and breasts for the best of both worlds. Finely shredded braised chicken thighs ensure there’s chicken in every bite, with chunks of white meat chicken breast throughout.
- It’s not masked with ranch and blue cheese. The buffalo chicken is the star here! Plus lots of melty cheese for a creamy texture.
- It’s flexible! You can easily adjust the recipe batch size and the ingredients to your liking. This blog post is filled with tips!
Here's what you need to make this buffalo chicken dip WITHOUT blue cheese:
- Chicken - a combination of chicken thighs and breast meat. I love chicken thighs– they’re way more flavorful AND cheaper! Unlike chicken breasts which are prone to drying out, thighs become more shreddable the more they’re cooked. I used boneless skinless chicken for ease, but you could use bone-in too. Just take the skin off before and pull the meat off the bone after cooking.
- Hot sauce - Frank’s is the gold standard! But you can use any vinegar-based hot sauce, ranging from mild to hot depending on your preference.
- Vegetable oil
- White wine vinegar - or sub. white distilled vinegar
- Brown sugar
- Garlic powder
- Smoked paprika
- Worcestershire sauce
- Shredded cheese - I use a combination of cheddar, Colby jack, and mozzarella. You could substitute a Mexican cheese blend or any jack cheese– pepper jack or Monterey jack are also good options here.
- Cream cheese
- Butter- salted or unsalted is fine, just add a bit more salt if you go with unsalted.
- Salt and pepper
- Chives or green onions - for garnish
- Celery, carrots, and/ or tortilla chips - for serving
See recipe card for quantities.
How to Make Buffalo Chicken Dip
Here, I'll take you through the recipe step-by-step:
Start by browning the chicken. You may want to do this in batches, depending on the size of your pan. You don’t want to overcrowd the chicken. Make sure the pan is fully covered with a thin layer of oil and that it’s hot before adding the chicken to avoid sticking. Then remove the chicken from the pan (it doesn’t have to be fully cooked at this point– just browned for flavor).
In the now empty pan, add the hot sauce and spices– vinegar, brown sugar, garlic, paprika, and Worcestershire. This will become the base of your homemade buffalo sauce. Bring the mixture to a light simmer, and scrape up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan. This will add a ton of flavor to the sauce! Add the chicken back to the pan, cover with a lid, and reduce heat to low.
When the chicken breasts reach 160- 165 °F, remove them from the pan (but continue simmering the chicken thighs). This should be after about 10 minutes, depending on the size and thickness. Let rest for 5 minutes, then dice the chicken breast into bite-sized pieces.
Let the chicken mixture cool slightly, then mix everything together in a large bowl. Be sure to mix it VERY well to prevent the sauce from separating.
Continue simmering the thighs until they're falling apart and easy to shred. Then, shred the chicken thighs in the pan, as finely or coarsely as you want. Remove the pan from the heat and add the butter to finish the homemade buffalo sauce.
Finally, transfer the mixture to an oven-safe dish and top it with the remaining cheddar cheese. Bake at 350 °F until hot and bubbly.
Season chicken with salt at least 4 hours ahead of time, or up to 2 days ahead. This allows the salt to distribute evenly in the chicken, which enhances the flavor and texture.
For more on the importance of salting, read Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat - highly recommend if you want to become a more intuitive cook!
This recipe is really flexible! Here are a few ways you can adjust it to your liking:
- Spiciness: this recipe has a little kick, but it’s pretty mild. Add more hot sauce or use a spicier hot sauce if you like it extra spicy. If you want it less spicy, add more cream cheese (or ranch dressing, if you want).
- Chicken: if you don’t love chicken thighs, you can use all chicken breast instead (1 ¼ lbs.) You can dice it, shred it, or do a combination of diced and shredded. I wouldn't, however, recommend using all chicken thighs. I tried it, but unfortunately, it’s a little too greasy and prone to breaking in the oven.
- Cheese: change up the combo of cheeses! You can use all cheddar, or all mozzarella, or try different types of cheeses in the mix.
If you’re short on time or just feel like this recipe is a lot, there are a lot of ways to make it quicker and easier. Here are some shortcut options:
- Rather than making your own buffalo sauce, you can purchase buffalo sauce instead of hot sauce. Then you could skip the butter and all the extra spices (garlic, brown sugar, etc.)
- Instead of cooking the chicken, use leftover chicken or buy a rotisserie chicken, shred it, and mix everything together. If you do this, I recommend using some meat from the legs and thighs for more flavor!
- Skip the browning step. Just simmer the chicken in the hot sauce until it’s cooked through.
Here's what you'll need to make this recipe, along with some helpful nice-to-have tools:
- Non-reactive pan with a lid - enameled cast iron and stainless steel pans are great choices. Because the sauce is acidic, it may react with some types of pans and impart a gross metallic flavor (i.e. non-enameled cast iron, copper, or aluminum) I also wouldn’t use nonstick if you have the option, because you want to create fond (a.k.a. brown bits) from the chicken to flavor the buffalo sauce.
- Baking dish - I recommend ceramic or glass. This should also not be cast iron unless it has an enamel coating on the inside.
- Cutting board and knife
- Box grater - to grate cheeses
- Large mixing bowl
- Wooden spatula - a rigid wooden spatula is the best tool to scrape the bottom of the pan without damaging it. Plastic spatulas and wooden spoons also work well.
- Electric hand mixer (optional) - not totally necessary, but I like to use a hand mixer to mix the buffalo sauce with the chicken thighs and cream cheese (before adding the shredded cheese and diced chicken). Mixing it super well helps prevent it from separating in the hot oven and ensures there's chicken in every bite!
- Splatter screen (optional) - might be helpful when browning the chicken. I often use a splatter screen when cooking over high meat - it prevents a huge mess! They're especially useful for cooking fattier items like chicken thighs or bacon.
- Kitchen shears (optional) - great for snipping herbs like chives.
Storage & Make-Ahead Instructions
You can store leftover buffalo dip for up to 5 days in the refrigerator. Store it in the baking dish, covered with a lid or plastic wrap. Or transfer the leftover dip to an airtight Tupperware container.
The easiest way to reheat buffalo chicken dip is in the microwave. Warm it up for about 45 seconds, stir, and continue to heat up in 45-second intervals until hot. You can always add extra cheese at the end if you're missing that cheesy top layer ◡̈
Pro tip: leftover buffalo chicken dip makes an excellent calzone filling! Or spread it over pizza dough to make buffalo chicken pizza.
Make-ahead: this cheesy buffalo chicken dip with chicken thighs can be made 24-48 hours in advance. Mix the dip together, but don't bake it. When you're ready to bake it, take it out of the fridge and let it come to room temperature. Then continue with the recipe, following the same baking instructions.
Because I've added chicken thighs and a lot of cheese, this dish has the risk of breaking or separating when heated. This typically happens when ingredients are heated too quickly or too long or unevenly. You'll know when a buffalo sauce breaks because you'll see a greasy layer on top. There are a few things you can do to prevent this:
- Keep heat low - sauces break when they are heated too fast.
- Add butter at the end, off of the heat.
- Stir a LOT - mixing well helps prevent the emulsified sauce from breaking.
- Don't overcook it - take the dip out of the oven once it’s bubbling around the edges. If you see the top start to get greasy, take it out of the oven ASAP!
If your sauce does break, sometimes stirring it can bring it back together. It's still perfectly fine to eat, it just affects the texture a bit.
Many people think these are the same thing, but buffalo sauce is actually a specific type of sauce that's made from hot sauce. A basic hot sauce usually contains vinegar, hot peppers, and salt. Buffalo sauce is a mixture of hot sauce + butter + spices like garlic, Worcestershire, and other ingredients. That's why hot sauce is usually red and buffalo sauce is orange.
Buffalo sauce gets its name from Buffalo, New York, where buffalo wings were supposedly invented. Although, the exact origin of buffalo wings, like so many dishes, is under debate.
The only difference between white and yellow cheddar is that yellow cheddar has a small amount of annatto added to it for coloring. They taste almost identical and can be used interchangeably.
Traditionally, braising is a method of cooking that involves dry heat (searing) followed by wet heat (slowly cooking in a liquid.) First, brown the meat to develop flavor. Then, add a liquid and cover the cooking vessel, letting the meat cook low and slow until tender.
This method of cooking the thighs– first browning then slowly braising in homemade buffalo sauce- gives the chicken the MOST flavor and ensures it’s perfectly shreddable and moist ◡̈
Molten Lava Cake
- Prep Time: 12 minutes
- Cook Time: 13 minutes
- Total Time: 25 minutes
- Yield: 3 servings 1x
- Category: dessert
- Method: baking
- Cuisine: American
- ¼ cup + 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, divided
- ¼ cup + 1 tablespoon cacao powder, divided
- 3 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- ½ cup sugar
- 2 eggs
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup flour
- ¼ cup water
- Powdered sugar, whipped cream, raspberries and/or fresh mint (optional toppings, for serving)
- Use 1 tablespoon of butter to grease the insides of 3 ramekins (6-8 oz.), then lightly dust with 1 tablespoon of cacao powder. Preheat the oven to 400 °F.
- Add ¼ cup butter + bittersweet chocolate in a microwaveable bowl. Microwave in 30-second intervals, stirring in between, until completely melted and smooth. Let cool slightly.
- Combine sugar, eggs, and vanilla in a large bowl and whisk until light and fluffy. Slowly add the melted chocolate mixture and whisk until smooth. Add the remaining ¼ cup of cacao powder, salt, and flour, and mix until just combined. Then add ¼ cup water and whisk until smooth.
- Pour the batter evenly into the 3 prepared ramekins and bake for 13-14 minutes (the centers should still jiggle a little).
- Serve the lava cakes while warm, in the ramekins. Alternatively, let the cakes cool in the ramekins for about 2 minutes, then carefully invert them onto small plates. Garnish with powdered sugar, whipped cream, raspberries, and fresh mint, if desired.
- To make it easier to transfer in and out of the oven, place the ramekins on a sheet tray to bake.