Crispy-skinned, spectacularly juicy, smoky paprika-rubbed Air Fryer Chicken Thighs are a no-effort recipe that earns unanimous praise and augments kitchen swagger.

Crispy air fryer chicken thigh on a plate

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Of the dozens (hundreds?) of recipes I’ve tested the last several months, air fryer chicken thighs are the first to earn the highest honor awarded in our household:

  • Ben fervently declared that he’d love for me to cook “exactly this” every week, forever.

He even went so far as to call this the best chicken he’d ever had.

Between Baked Chicken Thighs, Pan-Fried Chicken Breast, and all of these healthy chicken recipes, that’s quite a statement.

Four air fryer chicken thighs on a plate with lemon slices

I know he means it too, because, while he gets jazzed about other proteins like Air Fryer Salmon or Air Fryer Pork Chops, chicken rarely causes a heart flutter.

(Unless it’s Air Fryer Chicken Wings, but let’s be real—that’s more about the Buffalo sauce.)

On the diner’s end, these juicy thighs have everything going for them.

  • The meat is juicier than you ever thought chicken could be.
  • The seasoning tastes lightly smoky and complex, an ideal profile for chicken.
  • The skin is so shatteringly crispy, even those who usually don’t eat chicken skin (me), will find themselves nibbling crunchy pieces.

But that’s not the end of the story.

From the cook’s perspective (that’s me and you), it’s hard to find an easier recipe, let alone one that’s this easy AND this fast.

  • Bone-in chicken thighs cook in 16 to 20 minutes in the air fryer at 400 degrees F.
  • You don’t need to spend time marinating the chicken thighs before air frying.
  • The rub is made from common spices you likely already have in your pantry, like paprika and garlic powder.
The best air fryer chicken thighs on a plate

How to Make Crispy, Juicy Air Fryer Chicken Thighs

For this recipe, you can use bone-in or boneless chicken thighs (I’ve included times for both), but I highly recommend using bone-in, skin-on for this recipe.

  • As with this Baked Bone-In Chicken Breast, the skin locks in moisture, so you don’t need to spend time brining the meat for excellent results, the way you would with Air Fryer Chicken Breast.
  • The bone flavors the meat from within and makes it harder to overcook the chicken.
  • Bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs are a bargain compared to boneless.
  • Chicken thighs are healthy! They don’t deserve the bad rap they sometimes get. Prepared the right way (like in the air fryer), they are an excellent, lean source of protein and contain important nutrients like zinc and iron.

The Most Important Tool for Cooking Meat

While using bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs gives you better protection from dry meat than if you were to use boneless skinless chicken thighs, you can still overcook chicken thighs. For best results use an instant read thermometer.


The Ingredients

  • Chicken Thighs. Bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs are ideal for the air fryer. The meat stays tender and juicy during cooking, and the skin becomes crackly and crispy.
  • Paprika + Smoked Paprika. The combination of paprika and smoked paprika provides the perfect balance of sweetness and smokiness.
  • Garlic Powder. For a touch of addictive garlicky flavor.
  • Salt + Pepper. Classic, can’t-miss flavor additions.
  • Olive Oil. Helps the spice mixture adhere to the chicken thighs and the skin to crisp. No cooking spray needed.

The Directions

Spices in a bowl
  1. Stir the spice mixture together in a bowl.
Raw meat covered in spices in a bowl
  1. Pat dry the thighs with paper towel, then add them to the bowl. Coat the chicken with oil and the spices.
Raw chicken thighs in an air fryer
  1. Add the chicken thighs skin side down to an air fryer basket.
  2. Air fryer chicken thighs for 16 to 22 minutes at 400 degrees F, flip halfway through. Let rest for 5 minutes. ENJOY! Top with fresh parsley, cilantro, or thyme.

A Note on Chicken Temperature

Per the FDA, chicken thighs should be cooked to 165 degrees F on an instant read thermometer inserted at the thickest part of the thigh, not touching the bone.

That said, the chicken’s temperature will continue to rise as it rests. Resting meat is necessary for juicy results.

I prefer to pull my chicken thighs out of the air fryer at 155 to 160 degrees F and let them rest for 5 to 10 minutes, allowing the carryover cooking to finish the job. I have never had an issue with undercooked chicken.

An air fryer with chicken thighs inside

More Ways to Season Air Fryer Chicken Thighs Recipe

  • Parmesan Air Fryer Chicken Thighs. Add 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese to your spice mixture. (I’ll have this with Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad, please.)
  • Spicy Air Fryer Chicken Thighs. Add 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper to the spice mixture.
  • Brown Sugar Air Fryer Chicken Thighs. Add 2 teaspoons of brown sugar to the spice mixture. (For a BBQ-like finish, serve the thighs with my scrumptious Barbecue Sauce or any bbq sauce.)
  • Italian Air Fryer Chicken Thighs. Add 2 teaspoons of Italian seasoning to the spice mixture.
  • Curry Air Fryer Chicken Thighs. Add 2 teaspoons curry powder to the spice mixture. (This would be delish with Turmeric Rice.)
  • Garlic Butter Air Fryer Chicken Thighs. Omit the smoked paprika, add an extra teaspoon of garlic powder, and swap the olive oil for melted butter. (Perfect for pairing with Garlic Pasta.)
  • Lemon Air Fryer Chicken Thighs. Add zest of 1 lemon to the spice mixture. (Try this with Pasta al Limone or Lemon Rice. YUM!)

Storage Tips

  • To Store. Refrigerate chicken in an airtight container for up to 4 days. 
  • To Reheat. Gently rewarm leftovers in a baking dish in the oven at 350 degrees F or in the air fryer.
  • To Freeze. Freeze thighs 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, coat the chicken thighs in the oil and spice mixture. Cover and refrigerate until you’re ready to cook.

Easy air fryer chicken thighs on a plate

What to Serve with Air Fryer Chicken Thighs

Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe

The Best Air Fryer

A faster and less messy way to enjoy your favorite crispy foods. This model is slightly larger than most, meaning you can cook more at once.

Crispy air fryer chicken thigh on a plate

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Frequently Asked Questions

Can You Air Fry Chicken Thighs that are Frozen?

Yes! Unlike Crockpot Shredded Chicken, it is OK to put frozen chicken in an air fryer. I would only suggest this with boneless skinless thighs, as the bone-in kind would be difficult to thaw. Air fry frozen chicken thighs at 360 degrees F for 12 minutes, flipping halfway through, then check for doneness.

What Can I Do with Leftover Chicken Thighs?

Leftover air fryer chicken thighs can be shredded or diced to make sandwiches (like this Shredded Chicken Sandwich), quesadillas, or additions to pastas (Sun Dried Tomato Pasta) or salads (Arugula Salad).

Can I Use Boneless Chicken Thighs?

While I love using bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs for this recipe, you can use boneless thighs instead. See the recipe notes for tips.

Do I have More Air Fryer Chicken Recipes?

Yes! I have a ton! you can find them here!

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Crispy air fryer chicken thigh on a plate

Air Fryer Chicken Thighs

4.64 from 11 votes
Super juicy air fryer chicken thighs with shatteringly crispy skin and a simple, delicious paprika garlic spice rub. Cooks in 20 minutes!

Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 20 mins
Total: 30 mins

Servings: 4 servings

Ingredients
  

  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1/2 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 2 to 2 1/2 pounds), see notes to use boneless chicken thighs
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • Lemon wedges for serving
  • Chopped fresh parsley or cilantro for serving

Instructions
 

  • In a large bowl, combine the paprika, smoked paprika, salt, garlic powder, and black pepper.
  • Pat the chicken thighs very dry on both sides, then add to the bowl. Drizzle with the oil, then toss to coat in the spice mixture.
  • Preheat the air fryer to 400 degrees F. Add the chicken thighs in a single layer, skin-side down (make sure they are not touching; if they are, cook the chicken in batches).
  • Air fry the chicken thighs for 16 to 22 minutes, flipping halfway through, until an instant read thermometer inserted at the thickest part of a thigh (but not touching bone) reaches 155 degrees F. Set aside, cover, and let rest for 5 minutes (chicken is considered by the FDA cooked at 165 degrees F, but the temperature will continue to rise as it rests; air fryer models differ in cooking time, so check early to be safe). Serve hot, with lemon wedges (squeeze them over the top of your serving) and sprinkled with fresh herbs.

Notes

  • FOR BONELESS THIGHS: Coat with the spice mixture as directed. Preheat the air fryer to 380 degrees F, then add the chicken smooth-side down. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes, flipping halfway through, until the chicken reaches 155 degrees F on an instant read thermometer. Let rest for 5 to 10 minutes (the temperature will continue to rise), then enjoy warm.
  • TO STORE: Refrigerate chicken in an airtight storage container for up to 4 days. 
  • TO REHEAT: Gently rewarm leftovers in a baking dish in the oven at 350 degrees F or in the microwave. 
  • TO FREEZE: Freeze thighs in an airtight, freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating. 

Nutrition

Serving: 1(of 4)Calories: 389kcalCarbohydrates: 2gProtein: 24gFat: 31gSaturated Fat: 7gPolyunsaturated Fat: 6gMonounsaturated Fat: 15gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 142mgPotassium: 369mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 1407IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 20mgIron: 2mg

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Erin Clarke

Hi, I'm Erin Clarke, and I'm fearlessly dedicated to making healthy food that's affordable, easy-to-make, and best of all DELISH. I'm the author and recipe developer here at wellplated.com and of The Well Plated Cookbook. I adore both sweets and veggies, and I am on a mission to save you time and dishes. WELCOME!

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24 Comments

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  1. I actually made this recipe and followed the directions without deviation. (It’s a pet peeve of mind when people write “Five stars! This looks delicious and I’m going to make it soon!”) It came out delicious! Fully cooked, crispy, still juicy. My wife says this is the way they should be made from now on.

    Now I will add that when I took them at the end of the cooking my new instant read thermometer said the inside meat was hitting 190 degrees, but that could be the relative size of the thighs (although these were not particularly small and they were skin-on with bones). In any case, I let them rest for 5 minutes and they weren’t dried out at all.

    Recommended! Along with the chicken wings!5 stars

  2. Made it tonight with the boneless thighs I had. So easy and delicious. Thanks so much for considering juiciness as an essential – the resting really works. Next time I will decrease the salt as the garlic powder I used had salt in it already. Served it with a quinoa tabouli-type salad with some yoghurt and tahini dressing. This chicken recipe is going onto high rotation in my house!5 stars

  3. I followed this recipe step by step. Put the chicken in my air fryer and went to my bedroom. I was gone all of 4 minutes. Came out to a smoke-filled living room, kitchen and hallway. Damn near burned my apartment down!! Never again. (Yes, I did trim the fat off the chicken first)1 star

    1. Hi Carol, I’m sorry this happened to you but I don’t believe this has anything to do with the recipe. It sounds like maybe it was an air fryer issue. We make this all of the time and have never once had it smoking and there is not enough oil or fat in this to cause such a reaction in 4 minutes.

  4. These thighs were very good and I will make them again. Since I only made 3 thighs (there’s just 2 of us) I reduced the amount of seasoning to 3/4 except the salt and garlic powder. I reduced the salt in half and I totally overlooked the garlic powder! Next time I am going to reduce the salt to 1/2 teaspoon because I felt they were still too salty. I also only used 1 tablespoon of oil and it was plenty. My husband can probably eat chicken everyday for the rest of his life and never get tired of it!5 stars

  5. Not a big chicken fan, but this recipe will change that!!!!
    Followed it pretty much to the tee (only had 3 thighs, so lowered the seasoning measurements) and this is the only way I will ever make chicken thighs again.5 stars

  6. I made it but had boneless thighs. I just got my air fryer and am struggling. I cook them as directed they were crispy and brown on the outside but tough. Any tips would be appreciated. I am struggling and want to get it figured out

    1. Hi Susan! Were you able to follow the instructions in the notes for the boneless thighs? Also what was your internal temperature when they were done?