The new religion around our house is Air Fryer Chicken Legs. Staggeringly crispy outside and succulent within, they’ll make a bone-in, skin-on chicken believer out of even the biggest holdouts.
I know because I was one.
Ever since cooking these bone-in, skin-on Air Fryer Chicken Thighs, I have been converted to the dark side.
As in, dark meat.
I’ve long loved bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs for their juiciness, affordability, and nutrient density.
Lean and higher in many vitamins and minerals than chicken breasts, chicken legs are healthy folks! Easily made gluten-free and low-carb!
But forced to choose on taste alone, I leaned towards white meat like Air Fryer Chicken Breast.
And then…I experienced bone-in, skin-on dark meat chicken, like these chicken legs in the air fryer.
Ben called air fryer chicken drumsticks and thighs “the best chicken I’ve ever had.”
He does not issue compliments lightly, particularly when it comes to meat.
In the case of bone-in, skin-on air fryer chicken drumsticks, the way the fat renders, the skin crisps, and the meat becomes lush and juicy is enough of a reason to buy an air fryer (this is the model I have; it’s on sale!).
Air fryer chicken is also fast!
Drumsticks take 18 to 20 minutes in the air fryer at 400 degrees F. Turn once halfway through.
Dinner (or lunch), done.
How to Make Crispy Air Fryer Chicken Legs
My inspiration for seasoning for these chicken legs is a barbecue potato chip (YUM).
It’s sweet and smoky (and yes, would be great served with chips or Sweet Potato Fries).
Follow this recipe for a stellar chicken flavor, or try swapping a different rub (that includes garlic powder and onion powder), marinade, or sauce (such as ranch, buffalo sauce or bbq sauce). See the “Ways to Season Air Fryer Chicken Drumsticks” section below for suggestions.
No need to make air fryer chicken legs with flour or cornstarch. While that trick works well for certain ingredients, like Air Fryer Tofu, the chicken gets very crispy on its own without the extra mess.
- Chicken Legs. Commonly overshadowed by chicken breasts and thighs, chicken legs need a moment in the spotlight. Not only are they incredibly succulent and flavorful, but they’re also packed with nutrition. Chicken legs are rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals. An easy dinner recipe, total time is less than 30 minutes!!
- Dark Brown Sugar. Dark brown sugar is richer in flavor than regular brown sugar and has more molasses. This makes the chicken caramelize more easily and gives it delightful flavor.
- Smoked Paprika. The ideal combination of smoky and sweet.
- Dry Mustard Powder. Adds a hint of tang to the chicken legs.
- Salt + Pepper. The classic, must-have seasoning duo.
- Cayenne. For the perfect amount of heat.
- Dry the chicken legs and place them in a large bowl. Drizzle oil over the top.
- Stir the sugar and spice mixture together, then sprinkle the mixture over the chicken.
- Place the chicken legs in the air fryer basket.
- Air fry at 400 degrees F for 10 minutes. Flip them over, then cook for another 8 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes, then DIG IN!
Serve your chicken legs with Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, Riesling, or Pinot Noir.
Ways to Season Air Fryer Chicken Drumsticks
- Easy Chicken Marinade. My light and bright Chicken Marinade would taste delicious on these drumsticks.
- Sweet and Savory Marinade. My easy Chicken Thigh Marinade is the perfect combination of sweet and savory. Try it on these chicken legs!
- Orange Chicken Marinade. Lovers of Healthy Orange Chicken, this Orange Chicken Marinade is the one for you!
- Honey Garlic Chicken Drumsticks. A crowd-pleaser! Use the honey garlic marinade from my Honey Garlic Chicken Wings recipe.
- Cajun Air Fryer Chicken Legs. Sprinkle your favorite Cajun seasoning over the chicken legs, omitting the spices listed in this recipe (add salt and pepper to taste).
- To Store. Refrigerate chicken in an airtight storage container for up to 4 days.
- To Reheat. Gently rewarm leftovers on a baking sheet in the oven at 350 degrees F or in the microwave.
- To Freeze. Freeze chicken in an airtight, freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
Meal Prep Tip
Up to 1 day in advance, stir the seasoning mixture together. Keep it in an airtight storage container at room temperature until you’re ready to finish the recipe.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Air Fryer. This is the air fryer I own and love.
- Measuring Spoons. These measuring spoons stack neatly for easy storage.
- Instant Read Thermometer. The most reliable way to check chicken for doneness.
Welcome to the dark side!
Frequently Asked Questions
There are so many ways to use leftover air fryer chicken drumsticks. Pull the meat off of the bone and add it to your favorite salad (like Spinach Strawberry Salad with Poppy Seed Dressing) or pasta dish (like Sun Dried Tomato Pasta). You could also play into the BBQ flavor of the rub and pair leftovers with Easy Baked Beans or an Air Fryer Baked Potato and Barbecue Sauce.
Since there is 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper in the seasoning mixture, this air fryer chicken drumsticks recipe will have a little kick to them. If you want them to be extra spicy, you can add a pinch more of the cayenne. If you need them to be less spicy, reduce the cayenne to 1/8 teaspoon or omit it completely.
Air Fryer Chicken Legs
- 8 to 10 bone-in, skin-on chicken legs/drumsticks (about 2 1/4 pounds)
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
- 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard powder
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
- Chopped fresh cilantro or parsley or serving
- With paper towels, pat the chicken legs dry, and place in a large mixing bowl. Drizzle with the oil.
- In a small bowl, stir together the brown sugar, smoked paprika, salt, pepper, mustard, and cayenne. Sprinkle over the chicken, then toss to evenly coat.
- Preheat the air fryer to 400 degrees F, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Arrange a single layer of the drumsticks in the basket.
- Air fry chicken legs for 10 minutes, then slide out the basket and flip the legs. Return to the air fryer and cook for 8 additional minutes, until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches at least 165 degrees F when a meat thermometer is inserted at the thickest part without touching the bone (I remove mine around 190 degrees F and it is still very juicy. The extra time ensures the skin is nice and crisp). Transfer to a plate and let rest 5 minutes. Serve hot, sprinkled with chopped cilantro or parsley as desired.
- TO STORE: Refrigerate chicken in an airtight storage container for up to 4 days.
- TO REHEAT: Gently rewarm leftovers on a baking sheet in the oven at 350 degrees F or in the microwave.
- TO FREEZE: Freeze chicken in an airtight, freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
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