Game day is all about food, football and friends. Wings and pizza top the list when it comes to game-day food.
Pairing pizza toppings with different wing flavors may seem intimidating, but there’s no right or wrong way to match up your football favorites. Think about your favorite flavors of both pizza and wings and how they complement each other. Then, have fun experimenting to find out what wing flavors go well with what pizza toppings according to your taste buds.
Why Pizza Is Perfect for Game Day
With three billion pizzas sold in the U.S. each year, it’s easy to see just how popular the dish is. But what makes it so drool-worthy? Is it the gooey cheese? The perfect crispy crust? The delicious toppings that add depth to the flavor profile? It’s tough to pinpoint one specific reason that pizza is so popular for game day. It helps that there are so many different flavor combinations and the possibility of customizing your pizza with just the right toppings. Pizza is an all-in-one meal, and it’s easy to serve without plates or forks.
For events like Super Bowl parties and other game-day gatherings, pizza is all about convenience. You can order enough for everyone with different toppings to satisfy even the pickiest eaters. In addition, someone can deliver it to your door hot and ready to eat. What more could you ask for when it comes to easy game-day food? The convenience makes pizza a fan favorite throughout the year too — it’s a good go-to option on busy days.
Why Wings Are so Popular
Americans eat roughly 1.33 billion chicken wings on Super Bowl Sunday alone, according to projections from the National Chicken Council. That doesn’t count all the other football games during the season or the wings eaten on any other day of the year. Just like pizza, wings are popular finger foods for Americans.
But they weren’t always a hit. Wings were once thought of as a throwaway part of the chicken not worthy of anything other than stock flavoring. It wasn’t until 1964 that the modern-day buffalo wing became something people wanted to eat. The specifics of the story vary depending on who you ask, but it’s commonly accepted that the craze started at the Anchor Bar in Buffalo, New York.
One version of the story goes that the bar received chicken wings instead of chicken necks, so they turned them into food they could sell. Another version says the owners whipped up the chicken wings for their son and his friends, and the food became so popular that wings were added to the menu.
Whatever the real story is, one thing is clear: buffalo wings are more popular than ever. Why do Americans love them so much? A few their qualities could be responsible, including their:
- Convenience: You don’t need utensils to eat chicken wings. They’re easy to grab while you’re standing around socializing.
- Association with sports: Because they’re popular in sports bars, people often associate wings with football. It just seems natural to eat wings and watch a game.
- Shareable nature: A big plate of wings is perfect for game-day celebrations when many people need food at once.
- Customizability: Wings come in many different flavors, perfect for any preference.
Why Pizza and Wings Make the Perfect Game-Day Combination
Look at almost any pizzeria menu, and you’re likely to see chicken wings as an appetizer option. The trend grew during the 90s, and wings are still a popular item on pizzeria menus today because of it — perfect for you since you’ll never have to choose between wing night or pizza night.
Because the two foods have a decades-old tradition of sharing menu space, serving them together today just seems natural. It may even take you back to your childhood when your parents served wings and pizza on game day.
Pizza and wings are both associated with games and gatherings with friends, which makes them the perfect partners for the day of the big game. Both are foods you can eat with your hands, so you don’t have to mess with forks — just keep plenty of napkins on hand. You can easily order them from your favorite pizza place (may we recommend Giordano’s?), and you won’t have to break a sweat in the kitchen.
Another reason wings and pizza go so well together is that of the way the flavors mingle. The savory meat and richness of the sauce don’t get lost against strong pizza flavors. Often, pizza and wings have similar flavor profiles and ingredient combinations, so it’s a natural choice to have them team up on your game-day menu.
Things to Consider When Pairing Pizza and Wings
You can take one of two main approaches to pairing flavors. Some people prefer to go with similar flavors. If you go with a sweet wing, you want sweetness to the pizza, for example. Or, if you have Asian influences in the wing sauce, a pizza with Asian flavors may be your preference. In other words, you want something similar about the two flavors, whether it’s ethnic origin, spiciness level, sweetness or specific ingredients that match between the pizza and the wings.
Other people prefer to go with opposing flavors to counterbalance tastes. A cool, creamy pizza balances out a spicy wing, or salty, spicy pizza toppings cut through the sweetness of fruit- or honey-flavored wing sauce. This approach works well when you have a strong predominate flavor with your wings that want to keep from becoming too overwhelming.
Classic Buffalo Wings and Buffalo Pizza
You can’t beat classic, buffalo-style chicken wings. Buffalo sauce delivers just enough heat with a distinctive vinegar edge. You’ll often see it served next to celery and blue-cheese sauce. It can be tough to find flavors that pair well such a dominant vinegar taste. Experts suggest pairing buffalo wings with beer instead of wine since wine can also be a tough match.
Instead of fighting the vinegar flavor, roll with it by ordering a buffalo chicken pizza. You get the same great flavors in both, so you know they’ll go well together. Plus, if you don’t wipe your fingers well after eating the wings, it doesn’t matter — you’ll just be adding more spicy buffalo flavor to the pizza.
Another option to go with traditional buffalo wings is a pizza with creamy sauce or ingredients. Creaminess helps counteract the spiciness and tang of buffalo sauce.
Teriyaki Wings and Hawaiian Pizza
Another example of choosing similar flavors is pairing teriyaki chicken wings with a Hawaiian pizza. Both have a sweetness in their flavors that makes them click. You don’t want too much sweet, but a little bit of sugar in both foods helps them pair well together. With a Hawaiian pizza, you have a touch of sweetness from the pineapple with the saltiness of Canadian bacon to cut through the sugar so it doesn’t get too overwhelming.
If you prefer to go the opposite flavor route, choose a pizza with some spice to it. Spicy sausage, pepperoni and jalapenos are examples of toppings that add some heat and cut through the sweetness of teriyaki.
Barbecue Wings and Barbecue-Chicken Pizza
Barbecue is a popular option on wings as an alternative to the traditional buffalo sauce, and for good reason. Barbecue sauce is a natural winner when paired with chicken of any kind. It offers a sweet side to the savory, dark chicken meat inside each wing. While barbecue sauce typically has a sweet base, you can also add a touch of heat to the mix with spicy barbecue wings.
However you prefer your barbecue wings, you can’t go wrong when you pair them with a barbecue chicken pizza. You’ll get smoky, sweet barbecue flavors from both directions, giving your mouth a tasty flavor experience. But be warned: this combination may make you long for summer days and barbecues with friends.
Your barbecue chicken wings also go along well with other items you might find at a barbecue. Foods like sausage and other meats that top pizzas complement barbecue wing sauce well. Who needs a grill? Get the right pizza and wing combination, and you’ll feel like you’re in the backyard barbecuing, even at the end of football season — no charcoal required.
Spicy Wings and Veggie Pizza
How hot do you like your wings? Sriracha wings are growing in popularity, as are wing sauces with ghost peppers and other peppers that rank high on the Scoville scale. If you and your friends like to push your taste buds to the limit with your wings, choose a pizza that adds balance. A pizza loaded with veggies is cooling if you leave off foods like sausage and pepperoni, which add spice. Plus, you can count veggie toppings toward your vegetable intake for the day.
Consider other options for taming the spice of your hottest wings if you’re not a veggie lover. Try something with creamy sauce for a cooling touch. A classic Margherita pizza with fresh mozzarella and tomatoes can also take the edge off spicy wing sauce. Another route to consider is the sweet-pizza option. Just like the way spicy pizza can keep your sweet wings from becoming too sugary, a pizza with a hint of sweetness can help tame the spice. Try toppings like pineapple or sweet barbecue chicken, for example, with your hottest chicken wings.
Honey Mustard and Pepperoni
Honey mustard is a classic flavor that pairs well with chicken. It’s a suitable alternative wing sauce if you don’t like spicy foods. You get lots of flavor with this option without the bite that comes with traditional buffalo and many other wing flavors. Meaty chicken balances out the mustard sweetness for a perfect combination without too much sugar.
It only makes sense to pair that classic chicken flavor with the most popular pizza topping around: pepperoni. Every year, 252 million pounds of pepperoni go onto pizzas. The meat offers a versatile flavor that goes well with most types of chicken wings, and its touch of spiciness provides a counterbalance to the sweetness of a honey-mustard sauce.
You may also find that chicken-topped pizzas appeal to you when you serve up a side of honey-mustard wings. Since honey mustard goes well with chicken anyway, it stands to reason that it will taste great with a chicken pizza. Pair your honey-mustard wings with a chicken pesto pizza or other chicken-topped pies.
Mix-and-Match Pizza and Wings
Still not sure which pizza topping and wing flavor pairings to choose? It isn’t as complicated as it sounds, and you can’t really mess up no matter what you order. The worst thing that can happen is that you get a little too much sweetness or have to reach for the milk from super spicy wings and pizza together. We’re sure your guests will forgive you once their mouths stop burning.
If you’re inviting a crowd over for the big game, order a little of each flavor for both pizzas and wings to see which combinations reign as the winners. Order a variety of pizzas, from simple cheese pizza to complex spinach, artichoke and feta pizza or barbecue chicken pizza. Don’t forget the always-popular pepperoni. Now, load up with several wing varieties. Turn it into a game by creating ballots for the best pizza-and-wing blend. You just might discover a perfect combination that becomes a must-serve menu item at all future game-day gatherings.
Tips for Making Your Game-Day Menu
You know you need plenty of wings and pizza to satisfy your hungry friends, but what else do you need to know about game-day food? Use these tips to prep for the event:
- Go for variety: Instead of asking everyone what they want, just order a variety of pizzas and wings. You’ll get conflicting opinions anyway, so prep for the inevitable by ordering it all. Don’t forget a veggie pizza if you have any non-meat-eaters in the group.
- Serve finger foods: Finger foods excel on game day. They’re easy to grab during commercial breaks, and guests can eat them while standing around discussing the bad calls in the last quarter. You can balance them out with some hearty chili or other dishes that require actual utensils.
- Balance the flavors: If you have some sweet, balance it with salty. If you serve spicy foods, provide relief in the form of creamy, cooling foods. Whether you’re serving wings, pizza or other foods, it’s always a good idea to balance flavors.
- Set up a buffet: A buffet-style presentation is easiest for football games, especially when you serve wings and pizza. Spread out all the offerings and let the guests dive in for themselves.
- Make extra: Be sure you have plenty of food on hand if you’re inviting a crowd. People tend to graze throughout the game, so you may need more food than you think. Plus, pizza and wings are perfect as leftovers if you don’t eat them all at once.
- Label foods: It’s always a good idea to label food, especially wings that are difficult to identify by sight. The practice is particularly helpful if you serve spicy wings. You don’t want guests to find out the hard way that the wing sauce is laced with Carolina Reaper peppers.
- Prep as much as possible: You don’t want to spend game day making all the appetizers. Keep yourself out of the kitchen by making as much of the food as possible ahead of time.
- Order food: An even better way to keep yourself out of the kitchen is by ordering food. Giordano’s has you covered with both wings and pizza.
Creating Your Perfect Wing-and-Pizza Pair
What are your favorite pizza/wing combos? Whether you prefer sweet, spicy, traditional or unique, wings and pizza are a perfect addition to your menu on game day. Spend more time watching the game and socializing with friends when you order your favorite pizza and wing combos from Giordano’s. Find the location closest to you to place your order for delivery or carryout, and let the game day festivities begin.