Air fryer chicken legs are a family-loved, easy dinner recipe. No one can resist chicken drumsticks with juicy meat inside and crispy skin outside!
Family dinners just got quicker and easier with this air fryer chicken legs recipe. It might sound cliche, but this recipe belongs in your dinner rotation for busy weeknights.
You already know that air fryer rotisserie chicken is my favorite way to cook a whole bird. But, when I'm in a hurry, these air fryer drumsticks deliver the same comfort and juicy goodness in a fraction of the time.
You only need five minutes of active prep to toss together the simple chicken seasoning mixture, coat the drumsticks, and prep is done! The drumsticks go into the air fryer and come out juicy and crispy in as little as 20 minutes.
If you're an air fryer beginner, I'm confident you'll nail this chicken drumsticks recipe on the first attempt. The skin is perfectly crispy and, since dark meat is naturally juicy, you can't mess these up. These legs are a lot like my baked chicken legs – same juicy results, different method!
How to season air fryer chicken drumsticks
To season drumsticks, you'll find my customizable chicken seasoning in the recipe card below. It's made with paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, chili powder, salt, and pepper. I find that smoked paprika is a key player in the best chicken recipes. It's what makes my baked chicken thighs pop with so much color and sweet, smoky flavor.
Tempering chicken - (optional) Let chicken rest at room temperature for 20 minutes to remove the chill. During cooking, this helps chicken reach minimum internal temperature more efficiently and prevents over cooking the surface.
Don't wash the chicken - Rinsing chicken only adds extra tasks and contaminates kitchen surfaces. The most effective technique to remove bacteria is to cook chicken to a safe minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
Remove excess moisture - Always pat chicken dry to remove excess moisture from the skin before adding oil or seasonings. This prevents it from steaming in the air fryer and promotes crisping of the skin.
Don't stack the chicken legs - Circulating hot air is what effectively gives chicken legs crispy skin and juicy meat so quickly. When loading your air fryer basket, leave a minimum ¼-inch space between chicken drumsticks to ensure proper cooking and crispy skin.
How to cook chicken legs in the air fryer
Enjoy these step by step instructions. You'll find the full recipe below.
Step 1: (recommended) Allow chicken legs to rest at room temperature about 20 minutes to remove the chill. This promotes more efficient cooking. Preheating your air fryer is optional.
Step 2: Use a paper towel to remove excess moisture from chicken legs.
Step 3: Combine chicken seasoning and toss with oiled chicken legs to coat. Those chicken seasoning clusters you see in my photos turn into crispy flavor nuggets in the air fryer.
Step 4: Place chicken legs in the air fryer in a single layer with a minimum ¼-inch space between each leg. Air fry the drumsticks for 10 minutes at 380 degrees Fahrenheit.
Step 5: (optional) If your air fryer only has one heating element, use tongs to flip chicken legs over about halfway through the cycle to promote crispy skin all over.
Step 6: Air fry the chicken legs an additional 10 minutes, or until they reach the safe minimum internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. (This step makes it a total of 20 minutes).
Note: For crispier skin, continue air frying until the chicken center registers up to 190 degrees Fahrenheit, flipping as needed to prevent overcooking.
To serve, transfer chicken legs to a plate, cover, rest 5 minutes, and serve warm.
The air fryer I use for this recipe
I generally use the Cosori 5.8 quart XL for air fried chicken legs. It has a spacious air fryer basket that accommodates up to six full-sized drumsticks. Of course, any air fryer will be your best friend for this recipe.
Temperature setting for air fryer drumsticks
I prefer to set the air fryer at 380 degrees Fahrenheit for this recipe. It's the perfect temperature to effectively air fry chicken drumsticks without over cooking the outside or under cooking the center. This results in perfectly crispy skin and juicy meat every time.
How long to cook chicken legs in an air fryer
Air fried drumsticks take approximately 20 minutes to arrive at the safe minimum internal temperature when the air fryer temperature is set to 380 degrees Fahrenheit. If you want extra crispy skin, you can air fry the drumsticks longer until they reach your desired texture.
Cooking tips for success
Preheating an air fryer doesn't guarantee browner or crispier skin – longer air frying time does that. I don't preheat the drawer-style air fryer, but I recommend preheating a larger air fryer oven because it takes longer to come to temperature.
If your air fryer has only one heating element, I recommend flipping chicken legs at least once during cook cycle to distribute heat more evenly, which makes them crispy all over.
During cooking, it's ok to open the air fryer to quickly check the progress of chicken at any point. This will allow you to see if the chicken is too close to the heating element and you can rearrange pieces as needed.
Allow chicken to cool completely. Refrigerate air fried chicken drumsticks in an airtight container up to 5 days or freeze up to 90 days (longer if vacuum sealed). If frozen, thaw overnight in the refrigerator.
To reheat, place 1 to 6 chicken legs in the air fryer basket and cook 8-12 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until warmed through. You can flip legs halfway through, or not. Either way, this method revives the crispy skin and keeps the meat juicy. They're so shockingly delicious – you might just change your mind about reheated leftovers. Here's my photo for proof, but you'll have to try it and taste for yourself.
Serve air fryer chicken legs with french fries, a classic red potato salad, or this zesty Greek chickpea salad. If you like your chicken with sauce, serve these drumsticks with homemade bbq sauce or Avocado Ranch dressing.
More air fryer recipes
- Air Fryer Pork Tenderloin
- Air Fryer Chicken Breast
- Air Fryer Mushrooms
- Air Fryer Asparagus
- Air Fryer Honey Hot Wings
Did you make this Air Fryer Chicken Legs recipe? I'd love to get your feedback in the comments below. It helps me and our reader community.
Air Fryer Chicken Legs
- 6 Chicken Leg Drumsticks
- 2 teaspoons Olive Oil, or preferred oil
- 1 teaspoon Paprika
- 1 teaspoon Garlic Powder
- 1 teaspoon Onion Powder
- ½ teaspoon Chili Powder
- ¼ teaspoon Sea Salt
- ⅛ teaspoon Black Pepper
- Use a paper towel to remove excess moisture from the surface.
- (optional) Rest CHICKEN LEGS at room temperature for 20 minutes to remove the chill.
- In a small mixing bowl, combine PAPRIKA, GARLIC POWDER, ONION POWDER, CHILI POWDER, SALT, and PEPPER.
- Coat CHICKEN LEGS in OLIVE OIL and toss in seasoning blend to coat.
- Place chicken legs in the air fryer basket in a single layer with at least ¼-inch space between each piece.
- Air fry chicken legs at 380 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 minutes.
- Flip chicken legs over and air fry an additional 10 minutes, or until the center reaches a safe internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Serve warm.
Traci's Recipe Notes
To reheat: Preheat air fryer to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place chicken legs in air fryer basket and cook 8-12 minutes, flipping as needed.
- 5.8 quart basket air fryer (Cosori XL) or other air fryer model
- serving platter
Nutrition data provided as courtesy estimates using unbranded ingredients from a nutrition database. Please consult preferred resource for precise data.