If you like dark chicken meat, you absolutely must try these air fryer chicken legs. I love chicken legs and have tried dozens of really good recipes over time. I must say, these chicken legs are way at the top of the list, along with my favorite grilled chicken legs and the crispy oven roasted chicken legs. They are crispy on the outside and so moist on the inside that as you bite into them you get an explosion of tasty juicy goodness in your mouth.
If you don’t have an air fryer, do yourself a favor, go buy one now. Ever since I got one last fall I’ve been using it almost on a daily basis. It makes cooking easier and the food healthier. But above all, air fried food in most cases tastes so much better compared to baking or broiling, or even frying.
How many chicken legs can I cook in an air fryer?
This is a very important question to ask because with air fryers size matters a lot. Take a look at the picture above and you will see that six drumsticks take up just a touch more than half the space of my 6.8 quart air fryer. Meat shrinks during cooking so raw drumsticks will take up a little more space. That said, you can comfortably fry 8-10 drumsticks in a 6.8 quart air fryer. You can go up to 12 but I would not recommend it as that will prevent proper air circulation and hence browning. You need to leave some gap between the drumsticks. If you plan on using a 3.6 quart air fryer, you will be able to fit in 4-5 chicken drumsticks.
If you are using full chicken legs, i.e. drumsticks with thighs attached, plan on comfortably fitting 5-6 legs in a large air fryer and 2-3 in a small one.
At what temperature to air fry chicken legs?
Ask a different person and you will mostly likely get a different answer to this question. Personally, I like cooking at higher temperatures as, based on my experiments, they result in:
- better browning
- crispier skin
- faster cooking
- incredibly juicy meat
Air frying at high temperatures produces results similar to those of grilling. I find that frying at lower temperatures, which results in longer cooks, only dries out the meat and makes the skin rubbery. Hence, I recommend cooking your chicken legs at 400F – 410F, which would be the highest temperature setting on your air fryer.
How long to cook chicken legs in an air fryer?
In my air fryer, it’s about 30 minutes at 400F, and about 25 minutes at 410F. For more even browning, I flip the legs twice during cooking. You can think of is as a 15-10-5 method, where the chicken is flipped after 15 minutes, then after 10 minutes of cooking, and then cooked for additional 5 minutes.
Keep in mind that different air fryers cook differently. I’ve had two individuals report overcooking when following my other air fryer recipes. That is something that can’t be avoided. Some air fryers cook at higher temperatures than they report, while other air fryers may have their racks positioned closer to their heating elements. This will affect cooking. When you try this, or any other recipe, keep a close eye on the food the first time around and adjust timings and/or temperature as needed. Based on my experience with other air fryer recipes, only a small percentage of people will need to do that, but it’s a good practice to monitor the cooking process the first time you are making a new recipe.
With what to serve your air fryer chicken legs?
These air fried chicken legs are good on their own and don’t really need any sauce on them. That said, you can totally toss them with one tablespoon of Buffalo wing sauce per pound of chicken legs. Add more sauce if you like them hotter. Or try my favorite way of tossing the legs with a 50/50 mix of hot sauce and BBQ sauce.
As far as side dishes go, I love my drumsticks with garlic mashed potatoes. They complement each other very well. For a healthier meal, try this delicious tomato and cucumber salad. And don’t forget the try these crunchy air fryer French fries as an accompaniment, the two also go so well together.
Looking for more tasty air fryer recipes? Make sure to check these out:
- Air Fryer Chicken Wings
- Air Fryer Chicken Thighs
- Air Fryer Sesame Chicken Breast
- Steak In an Air Fryer
- Air Fryer Shrimp
- Crispy Air Fried Brussels Sprouts
Equipment used and shown on the pictures above: Chefman 6.8 Quart Air Fryer.
- 8 chicken drumsticks (or 4 chicken legs (drumstick plus thigh))
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt (plus more to taste)
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 Tbsp sesame oil
- 4 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce
- 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
- 2 Tbsp lime juice (or lemon juice)
- 2 Tbsp honey
- 1 Tbsp garlic powder
- 1 Tbsp onion powder
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- In a large bowl, mix all of the ingredients except chicken, until well blended. Add the chicken legs.
- Mix and massage the drumsticks by hand for about 2-3 minutes, or until all the liquids almost completely absorbed by the meat. Make sure that the chicken is evenly covered by the seasoning sauce. Massaging the chicken will allow the sauce to get quickly absorbed by the meat, flavorizing it inside out.
- Place the chicken legs on the air fryer rack, leaving some space in between. Depending on the size of your air fryer, you may need to do the frying in two batches.
- Fry at 400F for 15 min. Flip and fry for 10 min more, again at 400F. Flip again and fry for 5 minutes more. If the legs look quite well-browned, you may not need to do the final 5 minutes of frying. Note: you do not need to preheat the air fryer. Also, it's a good idea to keep an eye on the chicken during the process. Some air fryers cook hotter so your timings may vary. Keep a close eye on the chicken the first time you are making this recipe and adjust the timings as needed, or consider dropping the temperature if the chicken is browning too quickly before getting fully cooked inside.
- Remove the drumsticks from the air fryer and transfer them to a serving platter. Serve hot, with your favorite side dish or a salad.
You deserve a lot of praise for this recipe! So good!
if i don’t have an air fryer can i just put it the oven?
You sure can but you need to make some tweaks to make it taste similar. Try this chicken leg recipe, or my other extra crispy chicken oven recipes, you should get similar results. Enjoy!
I love your recipe!!The chicken is so juicy!
Jo Ann adooley
I have a 12 qt air fryer with 3 shelves can i use 2 trays of chicken at same time
Never tried that, mine has only one shelf. I guess it depends on where the heating element is, top or side. If top, then you’d have to rotate a couple of times. I normally don’t like double shelf baking in my oven as the results are never the same as with a single shelf. Maybe your air frier will surprise you though, no harm in trying.
Hey, thanks for the recipe.Really thank you!
I would like to take these chicken legs to a wine tasting picnic. Are they good eaten cold?
I eat them cold as well as my chicken wings. I like cold chicken. Just make sure to chill and refrigerate quickly and keep cold until serving.
DAVID J Lightner
Mmmmm. Simply delicious
I love this recipe!! The marinade is a perfect combination of ingredients! I do use red pepper flakes, rather than cayenne, only because cayenne is too spicy for me. I usually marinate the chicken legs for about 24 hours, but I’m sure it’s not necessary. The chicken does get quite dark, during the air fryer cooking process. Don’t be worried though, as they taste amazing, not burnt! This is my family’s new favorite way to eat chicken legs!
I believe this is the same marinade you use for chicken thighs. I have made the thighs several times and they are absolutely delicious. I prefer dark chicken meat and this recipe is the best I’ve ever used. In fact, I have some chicken thighs defrosting now and will use this recipe tonight.
Sadie, very good observation. It’s not the same, but very similar. It works so well witch chicken. Glad you like it. Enjoy!
Would this work skinless?
It will but skin protects the meat from drying out so expect the results to be a little different. You may also need to adjust the time.
Thank you! 🙂
Great recipe. We enjoyed it very much.
This is amazing! So moist and tasty. I’m grateful!
You are very welcome. Enjoy!
Outstanding recipe! I will certainly be making this again.
Hi, what brand air fryer do you have?
Hi, DW, mine is a Chefman 6.8 Quart, I have two of them actually. It’s an older model, I think they discontinued it a couple of years back, not sure though… very well built and I like having the little window to see food without opening the fryer.
I am glad that I discovered this recipe. Thank you for sharing!
You are very welcome.
This was exceptional! Love this recipe.
Thanks very nice recipe.
Good recipe. Very tasty.
Hi, everything went well the chicken legs turned out fantastic. Will be making again soon.
Wonderful, what a great recipe it is! Thank you so much!
You are very welcome.
Worked out really well super delicious. Followed the recipe to the letter.
The best chicken legs I’ve ever had. They were moist and delicious. This recipe will be one of go to favorites.
Everyone loves it. Thanks.
I always thaw first. Haven’t tried cooking frozen.
I guess my new air fryer ( Cuisinart) cooks much hotter. I checked the drumsticks at about 11 minutes (400 degrees) and the marinade was burnt. Sadly, this didn’t work for me, I need to maybe turn the temperature down and watch more closely. I just wanted to comment so that others might check the meat way before the first 15 minutes. The marinade smelled delicious and would have been very tasty if I hadn’t burned it. Thank you for the recipe 🙂
Saved as a favorite, I love your site!
Very good recipe.
Ok, Karen 😑
Great recipe.Really thank you!
Muchos Gracias for your recipe. Delicious!
Great recipe!! And the time/temp instructions for the air fryer are just perfect. Thanks!!
You are very welcome!
So easy and so flavorful! Crispy but juicy! Def will do again.
I have made these several times and they are very flavorful we love them. Thanks for the recipe.
Muchos Gracias for your recipe.Really liked it.
How long to cook chicken leg in air fryer at 185f
I provided the timings for my air fryer in the recipe, but different air fryers cook a little differently so it’s always best to use a thermometer.
Can you cook the chicken at the same time as the chips?
You can do it but the moisture from the chicken may affect the browning of the chips (fries)… still, it will work.
I think this is my favorite way to cook chicken legs, nothing else comes close. Very flavorful and delicious. Thanks for sharing.
Can these marinate overnight?
Yes, they can. This will make them very flavorful.
This are not “Legs” . They are drumsticks. A leg is a drumstick attached to a thigh. Please relabel your recipe drumsticks.
You can use legs or drumsticks in this recipe. Many use these two terms interchangeably.
It’s all the same! If you don’t agree don’t make it!!!
Chicken leg is chicken leg, no matter if it is removed from the thigh, just like your leg is a leg, your thigh is a thigh 🤷♀️
You nailed this, great job. I did need to adjust for my air fry but otherwise left it as is. I also marinated the chicken for 6 hours. I have a 6qt Instant pot Vortex and it cooks hot so my settings were 370 for 15mins. I know that sounds quick but was at 165 spot on. So take the suggestion and watch your time the first time you do this. Otherwise great!!
Thanks for the feedback, Keith. True, different air fryers cook differently. One suggestion though, try cooking to 185F, I think dark chicken meat tastes better when cooked to that temp.
Put all the ingredients in a ZipLock bag.. much more easier to coat the chicken legs ..
Plastic- environment. No thanks.
Chicken legs were delicious. Will try this recipe again.
The marinade flavor is outstanding! We will definitely be making these again. Next time I will marinade for a couple hours so the flavor soaks in even more.
So happy to hear that, Delia. Glad that you liked my recipe.
Temperature too hot for my air fryer (Power Pro XL.) Burned the chicken in the first 15 minutes, but the inside wasn’t cooked all the way.
It comes out perfect on mine. Some air fryers have the heating element closer to the rack. That’s the reason I advised in the notes of the recipe to watch the chicken closely the first time you make this recipe. I would drop the temperature next time by about 25 degrees and see how that works.
Marinade is delicious! I had regular sized chicken drumsticks. Next time I would remove the skin, it’s not needed. Massage the marinade in the meat just like they say. But I “highly” suggest 360’ F for 18 – 20 minutes.
Can’t wait to try this on my grill as well. The longer you leave it marinating the better the flavor,
This was my first multi cooker air fryer Recipe to try. I only had 6 drum sticks, but made all the marinade/rub. Didn’t get it all rubbed in. I cooked at 400 for 10 minutes to start, then when I checked them at 10 minutes I could tell they would only need another 10 minutes. Perfection.
I made the chicken legs in my air fryer oven. I followed your recipe except for the onion powder I cut up green onions they were really good. I also didn’t have sesame oil.. I used rice , ginger cooking wine. The chicken was delicious.
Good to hear, Michelle. Thank you for your feedback. I recommend that you also try my air fried chicken tenders, they are excellent.
I just made this recipe yesterday but i put 4 chicken drumsticks because my airfryer is 4.5 quarts and my chicken drumsticks were burnt on top . what temparture should i make it to, how long should i cook it for.
It’s hard to say without knowing more details. Did you do the final 5 minutes? If so, then skip the final 5 minutes as per the instructions in the recipe. Did you check the internal temperature before taking them out? If the temp is higher than 185F, you can pull them sooner, as soon as you they reach 185F. If you still have that problem, I would flip more often or try reducing the temperature to 375F or so. Different air fryers make bake differently, so a little be of experimenting and adjusting sometimes are necessary. Good luck!
These look really tasty.
Can I put frozen milk chips on the basket under the chicken legs basket
Never hear about frozen milk chips to be honest. What would be the purpose of doing that?
I use the Phillip’s air fryer which comes with a mesh inside. My chicken comes out quite dry as all the juicy droppings fall in to the bottom holder. Do I put some parchment paper for the chicken so that the marinade juice remains with the chicken legs? Everything I cook in it turns out dry. Help!
the way air fryers work is they circulate hot air around food to make it cook evenly from all sides. The beauty of air fryers is that they are capable of crisping up food very well without any oil or coming in contact with hot surfaces. So, placing parchment paper underneath the food to catch drippings will negate the benefits of air frying and result in uneven cooking/browning.
That said, there are a few things that you can do to ensure moist, succulent meat. Meat starts to dry out when, naturally, water begins to run out. This happens when meat fibers start to contract due to heat, pushing water out. This process starts at around 150F internal temperature and accelerates as the temperature rises. Chicken breasts and other lean meats are notorious for that and should be pulled just a few degrees before they reach target temperature. This is because the meat’s temperature will continue to rise a few more degrees after you pull it out of the air fryer. So, chicken breasts should be pulled out at about 160F internal temperature. A good instant read thermometer is of great help here.
Fattier meats are more forgiving and actually taste better when cooked to higher internal temperatures. I like my chicken legs and thighs, as well as the wings, cooked to about 185-190F. They taste much better that way as opposed when cooked to just 165F. You may want to try cooking chicken legs to 165F and 185F and see which ones you like better. Cooked to 165F they will be much juicier but will have a tougher texture. Cooked to 185F they will be less juicy but will be more tender and the meat will easily pull off the bone.
Another thing than can help immensely is the cooking temperature and the cooking time. I find that when air frying I get the best results when cooking at high temperatures. Usually 400-410F. The less time the meat stays at 150F internal or higher the less water will leave and the juicier the meat will be once done cooking. This is very similar to pan-frying or grilling where you get the juiciest meat when cooking quickly over high heat.
One last thing you can do is let the meat rest for 5 minutes before serving. This will allow the meat fibers to relax and re-absorb some of the moisture lost during cooking.
Hope this helps. Let me know if you have any more questions.
I have had my Air Fryer for over a year & have been afraid to try it. Ran across this recipe & it sounded too good to pass by! Some of the best chicken legs I have ever cooked! So much flavor, so easy to make & so easy to clean up! Thank you for a great recipe & for making me excited to use my Air Fryer again!
You are very welcome, Barbara. Thank you for sharing your feedback.
‘This smells so good. However, it did nothing but smoke the whole time. Should I have put parchment down before air frying? I have just turned it at the 15 mark and it is still smoking.
No, parchment paper is not necessary and even not desirable as it will restrict air flow. Smoking is not normal. I’ve never had this problem but a couple of my readers had this problem with other air fryer recipes. Perhaps the chicken is quite fatty. Try another type of chicken with thin skin and little fat. That should do the trick.
more oil, or less oil. I forget which.
Thank you so much for all your tips On the air fryer love this recipe❤
You are very welcome!
They were delicious. My family loved them.
Thank you, Victor for the recipe and tips on Air frying the chicken legs.
I have just purchased a round 10 litre Air Fryer and will try your recipe.
Hey Anthony, a 10 liter air fryer sounds big. I like that size. Which one did you get? Good luck with it, I am sure you will love the food coming out of that little cooker. I love air fried food!!!