These air fryer chicken thighs are easily the best chicken thighs I’ve ever made or tried. The flavoring sauce on them is pure delight. It’s slightly sweet and tangy, with a little bit of savory coming from soy and Worcestershire sauces and garlic. The maple syrup in the sauce, combined with high heat air frying, makes the skin beautifully caramelized and very tasty. Even addictive. Trust me, you will be running for seconds.
The flavoring sauce
I used a modified version of my insanely popular killer chicken thigh marinade to flavorize these thighs. My intent was to make a very quick recipe, one that does not require hours of marination. The amount of sauce was also a consideration. A lot of sauce would make little sense for an air fryer cooking. Hence, I reduced its amount to just enough to glaze the thighs and to get absorbed by the meat. I also substituted fresh garlic by garlic powder as bits of fresh garlic tend to char quickly when cooked on convection.
Flavorizing the meat inside out
How do you flavorize the meat inside out without long hours of marination? Commercial producers use tumblers. In a small kitchen we will use our hands to achieve the same results. Place the thighs in a bowl, add the rest of the ingredients and start mixing and massaging those thighs until all liquids have been absorbed. Depending on how quickly you operate, it will take anywhere between 2 and 4 minutes. Pretty awesome, ha?
Now, lay the thighs skin side up on the air fryer rack and cook at 400F for 15 minutes. No preheating is needed. You will see quite a bit of browning and caramelization going on. Stop the air fryer, flip the thighs and continue cooking for another 10 minutes at 400F. This will brown the bottoms and add just a touch more of browning on the tops.
You may wonder if 25 minutes isn’t a bit too much for cooking thighs. I like my thighs well-browned and cooked well inside. If the thighs are cooked to the minimum recommended temperature of 165F, to me they taste under-cooked. I like cooking them to about 185F – 190F internal temperature. That’s when they become fall-off-the-bone tender and are still quite juicy, and the skins become super tasty. Just like on the picture below. So delicious!
Looking for more tasty air fryer recipes? Make sure to check these out:
- Air Fryer Chicken Wings
- 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.
- 6 chicken thighs (bone-in or boneless, skin-on)
- 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)
- 3 Tbsp maple syrup (or honey)
- 1 Tbsp garlic powder
- 1 Tbsp onion powder
- Drop chicken thighs together with the rest of the ingredients into a medium mixing bowl.
- Mix and massage the thighs by hand for about 3 minutes to get the meat to absorb as much of the liquid as possible. Make sure that the thighs are evenly covered by the seasoning sauce.
- Place the thighs 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 10 min skin side up. Check the browning. If well-browned, flip and fry for 10 min more, again at 400F. If not, let them brown for another 5 minutes, then flip. Different air fryers cook differently. Cook until internal temperature reaches at least 165F. I prefer 185F. You do not need to preheat the air fryer.
- Once the thighs are done, flip them over and transfer to a serving platter. Serve hot, with your favorite side dish or a salad.
I’ve done this recipe about 3 or 4 times but thirding it as I’m only using two thighs – but no matter how much I rub the marinade (which always seems overly watery to me) into the chicken it never soaks even a half of it up as you suggest it should – any suggestions? Have you tried with just two bone in thighs?
Even when the marinade doesn’t all soak into the chicken it is still very nice but I’m pretty sure it’s not as nice as when it is all soaked up. I’ll try it again tonight and maybe try to make the marinade a bit thicker to see if that works.
Mike, apologies for the late response, your message got lost in a pile of spam. Marinades never really get soaked in entirely, I should have said as much as possible, not all. Corrected. As you said, whatever does get absorbed will be sufficient to provide a lot of flavor. This is the case with many recipes. Sure, you can thicken the marinade so make more of it stay on the surface, or you could add some flour or cornstarch and thicken it on a frying pan and make sauce.
My family and I love this recipe. it saves us from having to eat fried eggs and whatever we can find in the pantry on weeknights. I have used this recipe countless times and I love to serve it with edamame and rice.
Best we have had. Crispy and so juicy. Thanks.
Delicious. I had 5 thighs so cooked in 2batches. The skin on the first batch, cooked for 10 mins/ side, was a little burnt. Cooked 2 nd batch 8 minutes and they were perfect.
I used bone in and took the skin off which I normally love but wanted to get the full appreciation of this perfectly balanced Marinade. The perfect Umam! Let marinate as the recipe suggests for a couple of hours or three as I did, Cooked presentation side down 15 minutes at 400 then turned over and cooked for 8 minutes then removed to a platter to rest for five minutes. Perfect
Can I use this on skinless thighs?
I don’t like skin.
Skinless may dry out… never tried skinless in my air fryer. One option is to cook with skin and remove it before eating.
I bought my first air fryer a short while ago. With all the rave reviews, I can’t wait to give your delicious sounding recipe a try! I also have a helpful tip for people having the smoke issues. Before cooking add 2 to 3 tablespoons of water onto the foiled lined drip pan…really works great!!
Hi Jeri, thanks for the tip, that sounds insteresting.
I love this recipe and make it in my air fryer frequently. I’m having a large group for dinner and I’d like to make a larger amount which won’t fit in the air fryer. Can I make these in a convection oven and, if so, what alterations would I have to make?
Thanks so much!
Donna, here are my favorite chicken thigh recipes for convection oven baking – Baked BBQ Chicken Thighs and Extra Crispy Oven-Fried Chicken Thighs. You can skip baking powder if some may be sensitive to it or substitute it with AP flour. Be careful using this marinade as it’s high in sugars so I am not sure how it will behave in the convection oven, perhaps test with one thigh and see how it goes. If they start to brown too quickly, I would sprinkle with salt, pepper and baking powder/flour (if using), cook until almost done, then brush with the sauce and cook for another 5 min or so until the sauce sets and browns a little. Hope this helps.
Victor, thanks. I have many recipes I love for convection. I was hoping to make this one in my convection so I can make larger quantities for my family. I appreciate you taking the time to respond!
You are very welcome.
I love when I come across a recipe using pantry ingredients. Marinated the chicken a couple of hours before air frying. I too, like my chicken “well done”. Delicious. Thank you for sharing
You are welcome.
Victor, I love, love these thighs! I have made them regularly since I pinned this recipe on Pinterest!
Glad to hear it, Karen. Thank you for the kind words, enjoy!
Hello, I am wondering if I do not have the sesame oil can I just add another T of olive oil instead ? (Store is kinda far from me and I just found this recipe online and would like to try it)
Yes, you can substitute it. Sesame oil adds that Asian flavor but you can certainly use any other oil.
Can this be done with legs? What time and temp?
Hi LaTesha, yes, you can. Check out my air fryer chicken legs recipe for details. Enjoy!
My first meat recipe in my Instant Vortex Air Fryer and was delicious!! Thank you for sharing your recipe
You are very welcome Susan.
my air fryer is the chefman air fryer convection oven – are you using this to cook your chicken thighs? The photo looks like you have the thighs on parchment paper on top of the rack? not directly on top of the rack.
Hi Phyllis, yes, my air fryer is Chefman but I don’t use parchment paper. I place thighs directly on the rack. I served them in a basket lined with wax paper. You shouldn’t use wax or parchment paper in an air fryer. Though, lining the bottom of the air fryer with aluminum foil helps with cleaning.
I was maki g for a large group. I used the oven. I broiled. SUPER YUMMY! Juicy while a bit of crisp! I can’t rave enough! INCREDIBLY YUMMY.
Awesome! Happy cooking.
I have made this so many times—usually make it a few times a month—and it NEVER disappoints. It has such a good flavor and is a little crispy. Turns out perfect every time. Some times I cook it a little less than directions say but I just keep am eye on it to see what it needs. My husband and 2 teen boys love it also!! Thanks for the great recipe.
You are welcome. Happy cooking!
THis is one of my favorites. I have made ITV severally times. I do not usually leave it in the air fryer that long, but it is delicious.
I tried this recipe without marinating or pre-heating my air fryer. It turned out perfectly @15 minutes the first side, flipping and 10 minutes. The thighs were big thighs, too.
Thanks for the great recipe. I will make often!
Mona S Wachsler
I’m 65 and got my first air fryer today after years of thinking they were a stupid gimic. I’m an experienced cook.
This was the first recipe I tried in my new Cosori 5.8. I marinated 4 big thighs for a couple of hours in this marinade and tried to follow the recommended timing and temp. Good thing I looked early! I advise people to start peeking at around 5 minutes into these. Mine were nearly burned and I looked at about 8 minutes in. (my Cosori was pre-heated to 400)
With all the sugar in the marinade, they just might burn, and mine were almost too far gone. I knew there was no way that the big thighs could be done in the middle! I lowered the temp and turned, immediately.
I really think that each brand of air fryer is completely different and that there can be no set general timing for recipes across the board of air fryer brands!
I learned my lesson on this one: For large thighs in my Cosori, I will start off on 300 for 15 -20 minutes and then crank up the heat to 400 and watch/turn. Maybe even 275 until the internal temp reaches about 150 before turning up the heat to finish it off with glorious looking skin.
Bottom line: I think that 400 is too high a temp for this recipe for the Cosori if you’re using larger thighs,…especially with sugar (maple syrup) on the surface.
The flavor of the chicken was excellent and the marinade is amazing. The skin was slightly charred- I ate it but my husband did not. (I recommend marinating for at least a couple of hours in a ziplock)
For me, it’s now just a matter of figuring out the time and temperature.
Mona S Wachsler
I’m making this tonight in my new Cosori air fryer. I was wondering, wouldn’t this be even better if left to marinade for a couple of hours before cooking? Thanks!
It would for sure. We often try to cook quickly owing to our busy schedules but it’s not always the best way. This is one of those recipes where allowing a few hours to marinate the meat will make it taste better.
Hello Victor, I made this recipe last night and this recipe will be a keeper for me. The skin on the chicken was so flavorful and crispy as promised. Also, I cannot believe how simple and fast it was to pull this recipe together. Thank you so much for the recipe and thank all of you that commented because I learned a lot before I tried it and my chicken thighs came out perfectly delicious.
You are very welcome, Rosa. Thank you for your kind words. I hope you try my other recipes. Happy cooking!
Excellent recipe! I added about 3 min to oven time to crisp my skinless boneless thighs,. Perfect!
This turned out AMAZING!! I followed it to a T and wouldn’t change a thing! Definitely a star recipe and will be making again!! 🙂
This was an easy recipe to follow and make, very good for beginners cooking with the Ninja Foodi. The chicken was very flavorful and moist and the skin was crispy like it was fried.
Love recipes for air fryer
Great recipe! I just made two batches of 4 thighs (used the same sauce for both because there was plenty) and the family loved it. Everyone was licking their chops. I guess that maple syrup is the secret. Thanks for this & we’ll be making this again.
We loved these. Will certainly make again.
Loved these! My husband and son thought they were the best I’ve ever made. The marinade was so tasty and kept the chicken moist and tender. I had a lot of liquid pool on the bottom drip pan, so I think I’ll need to dry them with a paper towel next time before cooking – and there will be a next time – they were that good!
These were AWESOME!!! I’ve only had my air fryer for about a week and this is the second recipe I’ve attempted. I will definitely be making these again.
I tried this recipe tonight…fabulous! Your cooking times were a big help, The thighs I used were very thick and meaty so I flipped back to the skin side to finish cooking. They came out with crispy skin and the color makes them even more appealing . Hubby loved it! Thank you for sharing this recipe
You are very welcome, Kate. I am very happy to hear that. Thank you for taking time to post your feedback.
Flavor was great! I had a problem with a lot of smoke coming out of air fryer! Had to turn it off and open windows! Did I do something wrong?
Hi Barb, I don’t think you did anything wrong. I’ve been investigating this issue, and spoke to a few people who had this problem. It seems that the problem is the kind of wings you use. The yellow ones, with thick fatty skin are problematic. The blueish, think skinned wings with less fat under skin are a better choice for air frying.
You may already know this, but the frying instructions within the blog post itself is different than the frying instructions in the recipe/directions (blog notes say 15 minutes skin side up then flip for another 10 minutes; recipe instructions say 10 minutes on both sides, but no indication on whether to do skin side up first). I only noticed after I started following the recipe instructions, rather than the blog notes (and I wish I had tried the blog notes).
Besides that little critique – the flavor is amazing! This is definitely a keeper recipe.
Hi Sarah, in my air fryer the 15-10 minutes method works perfectly. For many it also worked but one person’s air fryer was cooking a little hotter at the same settings and the chicken burned. That’s why in the recipe I suggest cooking for 10 minutes and checking. If needed, add another 5 to get to 15 minutes, then flip. Skin side up first, then the other other side. I made it explicit in the recipe, thanks for noticing. Hope this helps.
We absolutely love these..they are moist and so full of flavor..making them again tomorrow..in our rotation
This was absolutely incredible!!
Looks good going to make
Decent flavour and like all air fryer recipes I love the quickness for a weeknight meal in a hurry.
I massaged the chicken for.ev.er but the marinade never did actually absorb away into the chicken like the recipe indicated would happen. Oh well.
I wished I read the comments before cooking as the tops of my thighs were blackened when I went to flip them. If I make this recipe again I would flip them after 10-12 minutes and cook for the balance on the other side.
Megan, thanks for the feedback. I find that for every air fryer recipe that I posted there is one or two comments about frying time being too long. While I test every recipe multiple times and generally my timings work well for others, there are instances when they are a bit off. This makes me believe that some air fryers just cook differently. They may cook hotter then stated, or the heating element is positioned closer to the rack, or the air flow is a bit stronger. There are many variables here. I updated the recipe instructions to start checking the browning at 10 minutes to make sure the chicken does not brown too much.
The frying times were PERFECT!!! Juicy and tender on the inside super crispy outside. For those making it the first time just cut by six minutes.
Mine were so burnt on the outside following the directions exactly. I wonder if it would help to lower the temp??
Sorry to hear that, Kim. I’ve had one person have the same issue with the air fryer chicken wings recipe I posted here on my blog. Some air fryers run hotter so it can happen. Or the heating element is designed to be closer to the food rack. I would either lower the temperature or cut the time to 10 min, flip and cook for another 5 and observe the results. Then check for doneness and add more time, in small increments, if needed. The following time use the adjusted temp/time.
Do you adjust cooking time for bone-in vs. boneless? I’m new to air frying but I thought any method of cooking would take longer for bone-in meat. Thank you!
Yes, but not significant. The skin will protect the meat. If you want to be sure, check after 20 minutes and pull if you like them. I like my skin-on thighs cooked well-done and crispy so I tend to cook longer regardless.
Hi, I am new to air fryer so I was wondering if you cook the chicken with non stick paper underneath as on the photo? Thax
Wax paper won’t work. Parchment paper can take up to 425F so technically you could use it but why? Air frying is all about hot air circulation, you don’t want to restrict it unnecessarily.
Thank you…I was only wondering as I spotted it on the photo. I will try your chicken it looks good.
No problem. Enjoy!
They make perforated parchment paper for AF’s now. Still circulates but makes clean up even faster! You can find it on Amazon.
Thanks for the tip, Cindy. I will check it out.