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Appetizer

Air Fryer Chicken Legs

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The new obsession in our house? Air Fryer Chicken Legs. Crispy on the outside, juicy on the inside, they’ll convert even the biggest skeptics into fans of bone-in, skin-on chicken.

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Ever since trying these bone-in, skin-on Air Fryer Chicken Thighs, Air Fryer Chicken Wings (SUPER CRISPY!) I’ve been hooked on the dark meat.

While I still love white meat like Air Fryer Chicken Breast for salads and sandwiches, when it comes to pure juiciness, dark meat wins every time. Plus, bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs and legs are not only affordable but also packed with nutrients.

Lean and rich in vitamins and minerals, chicken legs are a healthy choice! They’re also easy to make gluten-free and low-carb.

Ben called air fryer chicken drumsticks and thighs “the best chicken I’ve ever had.”

CHICKEN LEGS ARE EASY TO MAKE IN THE AIR FRYER

Chicken legs are forgiving when cooked in an air fryer. The key is to cook them to an internal temperature of at least 165°F. If you don’t have an instant-read kitchen thermometer, I highly recommend getting one. Not just for this dish, but it will improve your cooking overall. The air fryer quickly cooks the chicken legs so they’re juicy inside with perfectly crispy skin. No need for broiling or grilling—just let the air fryer and this recipe do the work.

Juicy air fryer chicken legs with a crispy skinPin

HOW LONG TO COOK AIR FRYER CHICKEN LEGS?

Start with a preheated air fryer. Use the “air fry” setting at 380°F for 18-22 minutes, turning the chicken legs halfway through. Smaller chicken legs will need about 18 minutes, while larger ones will need closer to 22 minutes. Always check with an instant-read thermometer to ensure they reach an internal temperature of at least 165°F. You can even cook them up to 185°F for chicken legs.

DON’T NEED TO USE SAUCE

This recipe doesn’t require sauce during cooking. The seasonings provide a great barbecue flavor while letting the chicken’s natural taste shine. If you want to add sauce, you can brush on your favorite BBQ sauce in the last 5 minutes of cooking. But trust me, you won’t need it.

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Why I Love Air Fryer Bone-In Skin On Chicken

The air fryer is perfect for making healthier versions of traditionally fried foods, like Air Fryer French Fries and Air Fryer Fried Chicken Breast. With bone-in, skin-on chicken drumsticks, the fat renders, the skin crisps, and the meat stays juicy—enough reason to buy an air fryer.

Air fryer chicken is also fast! Drumsticks take just 18-20 minutes at 400°F, turning once halfway through. They’ll be ready in the time it takes to make a quick Arugula Salad or Sautéed Brussels Sprouts.

How to Make Crispy Air Fryer Chicken Legs

My seasoning inspiration for these chicken legs is barbecue potato chips—sweet and smoky, perfect with chips or Sweet Potato Fries. Follow this recipe for stellar flavor, or try a different rub, marinade, or sauce. No need for flour or cornstarch; the chicken gets crispy on its own.

Deliciously seasoned crispy chicken legsPin

The Ingredients

  • Chicken Legs: Often overshadowed by breasts and thighs, chicken legs are succulent, flavorful, and nutritious. They’re rich in protein, vitamins, and minerals, and the total cooking time is under 30 minutes.
  • Dark Brown Sugar: Richer than regular brown sugar, it caramelizes the chicken for a delightful flavor.
  • Smoked Paprika: Adds a smoky, sweet taste.
  • Dry Mustard Powder: Adds a hint of tang.
  • Salt and Pepper: Essential seasonings.
  • Cayenne: Adds heat.

The Directions

  1. Dry the chicken legs and place them in a large bowl. Drizzle with oil.
  2. Mix the sugar and spices, then sprinkle over the chicken.
  3. Place the chicken legs in the air fryer basket.
  4. Air fry at 400°F for 10 minutes. Flip, then cook for another 8 minutes. Let rest for 5 minutes before enjoying.
Deliciously seasoned air friedPin

Ways to Season Air Fryer Chicken Drumsticks

  • Easy Chicken Marinade: Try my Chicken Marinade for a light, bright flavor.
  • Sweet and Savory Marinade: My Chicken Thigh Marinade is perfect for a sweet and savory taste.
  • Orange Chicken Marinade: Perfect for fans of Healthy Orange Chicken.
  • Honey Garlic Chicken Drumsticks: Use the honey garlic marinade from my Honey Garlic Chicken Wings recipe.
  • Cajun Air Fryer Chicken Legs: Use your favorite Cajun seasoning, omitting the spices in this recipe.

Storage Tips

  • To Store: Keep chicken in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  • To Reheat: Rewarm on a baking sheet in the oven at 350°F or in the microwave.
  • To Freeze: Freeze in an airtight container for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.

What to Serve with Air Fryer Chicken Legs

  • Coleslaw: Try Healthy Coleslaw or Asian Slaw.
  • Potato Salad: Sweet Potato Salad, Healthy Potato Salad, or Pesto Potato Salad.
  • Roasted Veggies: Roasted Broccoli, Roasted Cauliflower, and Roasted Potatoes.
  • Air Fryer: The one I use and love.
  • Measuring Spoons: Stack neatly for easy storage.
  • Instant Read Thermometer: The best way to check for doneness.
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Frequently Asked Questions

Can I Use Chicken Wings Instead of Legs?

Yes! You can also follow my recipes for Air Fryer Chicken Wings or Korean Air Fryer Chicken Wings.

How Can I Use Leftover Air Fryer Chicken Legs?

Pull the meat off the bone and add to salads. Furthermore, incorporate it into pasta dishes or serve it with BBQ sides like Easy Baked Beans or an Air Fryer Baked Potato.

Are These Spicy Air Fryer Chicken Legs?

With 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, they have a little kick. Adjust the amount of cayenne accordingly to suit your taste.

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Homemade crispy skin-on chickenPin

Air Fryer Chicken Legs

Golden, crispy air fryer chicken legs with a sweet and smoky seasoning. Ultra-flavorful, super crispy skin, and juicy meat inside!
5 from 1 vote
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Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 18 minutes
Total Time: 23 minutes
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 359kcal

Ingredients

  • 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
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon dry mustard powder
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • Chopped fresh cilantro or parsley for serving

Instructions

  • With paper towels, pat the chicken legs dry and place them 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°F, according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Arrange a single layer of the drumsticks in the basket.
  • Air fry the chicken legs for 10 minutes, then slide out the basket and flip the legs. Return to the air fryer and cook for an additional 8 minutes, until the internal temperature of the chicken reaches at least 165°F when a meat thermometer is inserted at the thickest part without touching the bone (I remove mine around 190°F and it is still very juicy. The extra time ensures the skin is nice and crisp). Transfer to a plate and let rest for 5 minutes. Serve hot, sprinkled with chopped cilantro or parsley as desired.

Notes

  • 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°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.

Nutrition

Calcium: 20mg | Vitamin C: 1mg | Vitamin A: 680IU | Sugar: 3g | Fiber: 1g | Potassium: 330mg | Cholesterol: 135mg | Calories: 359kcal | Trans Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 12g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Fat: 27g | Protein: 24g | Carbohydrates: 4g | Iron: 1mg

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