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Air Fryer Chicken Legs {Drumsticks}

A homemade seasoning mix dowses these yummy chicken drumsticks with a touch of sweetness and just a hint of heat!

Juicy and tender with a crispy coating, these finger-lickin’ good air fryer chicken legs are every bit as delicious as fried chicken — and without all the fuss!

You simply won’t find a more flavorful weeknight chicken recipe than these tasty air fried drumsticks. Toss chicken legs in a small amount of olive oil and coat with a mixture of savory spices and cornstarch. Place the chicken in a preheated air fryer basket and cook to perfection in less than 20 minutes!

Make it a complete meal by adding a tossed green salad, mashed potatoes (or maybe this Summer squash vegetable casserole), and my 3-ingredient dinner muffins. There you have it — a quick and easy, delicious weeknight meal!

air fryer chicken legs on a white platter with parsley on a table.

Looking for more air fryer recipes? Skip the bagged chips and make your own air fryer sweet potato chips for a fresher, healthier snack. Or, try my healthy asparagus fries appetizer served with a zesty lemon aioli dipping sauce — it’s absolutely addictive!

Why you’re going to love it!

  • Healthier than “fried” chicken legs. Only use couple tablespoons of oil!
  • Bursting with flavor. A delicious blend of sweet and savory.
  • Quick and easy. Less than 20 minutes cook time!

Air Fryer Chicken Legs: behind the recipe

Fried chicken is as Southern as it gets when it comes to delicious comfort food. And, while it’s one of my family’s absolute favorite dishes, it’s time consuming and not the healthiest way to prepare chicken. For that reason — much to my family’s dismay — fried chicken is reserved for special occasions at our house.

At least, that was the case before I tried air frying chicken!

An air fryer doesn’t actually fry food, instead rapidly circulating hot air does the cooking. The amazing thing is that with little or no oil food still gets crispy outside just as if it had been deep-fried!

Now, we can enjoy air fried chicken drumsticks without the guilt or the mess — that’s a WIN, WIN!

Special equipment needed

To state the obvious, you’ll need an air fryer to make this recipe. When it comes to new kitchen fads and gadgets, I’m usually not so quick to jump on the band wagon. For one, I don’t have the space; and two, do I want to think I’ll use it often enough to justify the expense.

That being said, my air fryer is not an appliance I use every day, but I do love and use it often. Besides being healthier than frying, in my opinion an air fryer is the only way to heat up frozen tater tots or fries!

With so many air fryers on the market, it’s important to consider the appliance size and how much counter or storage space you have.

Personally, I love my Nuwave 6-quart model and find it’s just right for my situation. However, if you have space for it, this kitchen counter convection oven air fryer combo looks pretty sweet!

ingredients for air fryer chicken legs on a table.

Key ingredients and substitutions

  • Chicken — For this recipe, I prefer to use just the drumstick, the lower part of the chicken leg. This cut is popular among both children and adults and is best eaten with your hands! If you prefer, you may try this recipe with bone-in and skin-on chicken thighs.
  • Cornstarch — During cooking, cornstarch absorbs moisture which results in crispier skin. If you are on a gluten free diet, make sure the label says 100% pure cornstarch.
  • Brown sugar — Add just a touch for a balance of sweet and spice.
  • Spices — Chili powder, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika (either smoked or sweet), and dry mustard.

How to make crispy air fried chicken legs

process steps for preparing air fryer chicken legs.

STEP 1 | Preheat air fryer

  • Set the air fryer temperature to 400 degrees and let it preheat for at 10 to 15 minutes. By doing this, when the chicken is placed in the air fryer basket it will immediately start to sizzle and be on its way to nice, crispy skin.

STEP 2 | Prep the chicken

  • Although washing raw chicken under running water may seem like a good way to get rid of some of the bacteria on the surface, in fact it actually promotes cross-contamination. It’s best to pat chicken legs dry with paper towels.
  • Making sure the chicken is dry also helps promote crispy skin.
  • Place the chicken in a large bowl or a gallon-size ziplock bag with a small amount of canola oil. Stir or shake until the chicken is coated with the oil, then add the spice mixture and gently stir until well coated.

STEP 3 | Cook in batches

  • Because the air fryer cooks the food by circulating hot air, it’s important that you not over crowd the air fryer basket. If your air fryer is small, you may need to cook in batches depending on how many drumsticks you’re preparing.
  • Flip the chicken legs midway through cooking to ensure crispiness on both sides.
  • If cooking in batches, place cooked chicken on a baking sheet in a preheated 250 degree oven to keep warm.
checking the internal temperature of air fryer chicken legs with an instant read digital thermometer.

STEP 4 | Check for doneness

  • Always cook chicken until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees to kill bacteria.
  • The most accurate way to measure the internal temperature of cooked chicken is with an instant read meat thermometer.

Other ways to test doneness

  • When you pierce the chicken with a fork or knife, the juices should run clear without any visible pink.
  • Chicken gets smaller as it cooks. If it looks the same size as when you started, it’s not done yet.
  • Chicken should be firm and not rubbery or jiggly when it is done. Also, a fork should pierce the meat with ease.

Frequently asked questions

How long do drumsticks take in air fryer?

If you start with a preheated air fryer, chicken legs will cook in 18 to 20 minutes.

Can you stack chicken legs in an air fryer?

Stacking chicken legs in an air fryer is not a good idea. Remember, an air fryer cooks by circulating air around the food so it’s important not to overcrowd the basket or rack. Give those chicken legs some breathing space!

How long does cooked chicken last?

Store cooled leftover chicken in the refrigerator within 2 hours after cooking and consume it within 2 to 3 days. Cooked chicken legs may also be frozen for up to 3 months.

How do you reheat leftover air fried chicken legs?

To reheat leftover chicken legs, place in the air fryer on 400 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes.

air fryer chicken legs on a blue plate with parsley on a table.

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Yield: 4 - 6 servings

Air Fryer Chicken Legs

air fryer chicken legs on a blue plate with parsley on a table.

A homemade seasoning mix dowses these yummy chicken drumsticks with a touch of sweetness and just a hint of heat!

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 4  - 6 chicken drumsticks
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard

Instructions

  1. Preheat the air fryer for 10 minutes at 400 degrees.
  2. Pat the chicken legs dry with paper towels and place in a large bowl. Add the oil and toss to coat evenly.
  3. In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch, salt, brown sugar, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, and dry mustard, Sprinkle the spice mixture over the chicken and gently toss until all pieces are evenly coated.
  4. Place the drumsticks in the air fryer skin side down, leaving space between — cook in batches if needed.
  5. Cook for 10 minutes at 400 degrees. Flip the chicken legs over and continue cooking another 8 to 10 minutes, or until done and an instant read digital thermometer registers 165 degrees.

Notes

  • If cooking in batches, place cooked chicken on a baking sheet in a preheated 250 degree oven to keep warm.
  • Store cooled leftover chicken in the refrigerator within 2 hours after cooking and consume it within 2 to 3 days. Cooked chicken legs may also be frozen for up to 3 months.
  • To reheat leftover chicken legs, place in the air fryer on 400 degrees for 8 to 10 minutes.

Shake and bake method:

Place the drumsticks in a gallon-size resealable bag and add the oil, shaking to coat all the pieces. Add the spice mixture to the bag, seal, and shake until all the pieces are well coated. Cook as directed above.

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Nutrition Information:

Yield:

4

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 305Total Fat: 16gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 11gCholesterol: 173mgSodium: 684mgCarbohydrates: 5gFiber: 1gSugar: 2gProtein: 33g

Did you make this recipe?

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sheila thigpen in her kitchen

Sheila @ Life, Love & Good Food

Recipe Developer, Food Photographer, Food Writer

Sheila Thigpen is the publisher of Life, Love, and Good Food — a Southern food blog — and the author of Easy Chicken Cookbook and The 5-Ingredient Fresh and Easy Cookbook. After 20+ years in the publishing industry, she retired in 2018 to focus on her own creative endeavors full time. She and her husband live near the beautiful Smoky Mountains and have a precious little granddaughter who has stolen their hearts. As an influencer, Sheila has collaborated with brands like Creamette, Kroger, HERSHEY’S, Hamilton Beach, Garafalo Pasta, OXO, Smithfield, Valley Fig Growers, and more.

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Erin

Friday 28th of May 2021

Thanks to you, I feel more confident making things in my air fryer. This chicken legs recipe was a hit with my whole family, and we'll definitely be making it again.

Amy Nash

Friday 28th of May 2021

Another winner for my air fryer! I just got mine a couple of months ago and am still learning what I like best in it. These are definitely right up there!

Michaela Kenkel

Friday 28th of May 2021

My kids always fight over the drumsticks when I make chicken, and they went nuts when I told them I was ONLY making drummies last night! LOL This recipe was simple to make and everyone loved them!

Chellie Schmitz

Tuesday 25th of May 2021

I love being able to eat "fried" chicken without all the oil and bad for you ingredients. Thanks for this recipe!!

Kathleen

Monday 24th of May 2021

This was so delicious and perfectly crispy!!

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