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These foolproof air fryer chicken drumsticks are crisp outside and wonderfully tender and juicy inside. Ready in practically half the time of baking them, for an easy weeknight dinner!
Thanks to their dark meat, chicken drumsticks offer a richer flavor profile, stay moist, and are less prone to drying out. Plus, when cooked in an air fryer, you get the best of both worlds: crispy skin on the outside and tender, juicy meat inside.
Better yet, the process of making them is super fast and easy with a quick 30-minute marinade and cooking at a higher temp to help the skin crisp up perfectly in just 20 minutes. The results are crispier than baked chicken in less time, with way less oil than fried, and less mess, too. Plus, if you’re forgetful like me, you can even cook frozen drumsticks in the air fryer!
Table of contents
- Chicken drumsticks: Use skin-on chicken legs for super crispy results.
- Olive oil: Or another neutral cooking oil. Butter would also work (or a combination of butter and oil).
- Spices: I used a simple but super flavorful chicken seasoning:
- Garlic powder
- Smoked paprika
- Black pepper
- Lemon juice (or lemon pepper seasoning)
- Brown sugar (optional – for caramelization and very subtle sweetness).
How to make air fryer chicken drumsticks
Follow this foolproof method for delicious chicken drumsticks in an air fryer in under 30 minutes (marinating time not included)!
Marinate the chicken: Begin by patting the drumsticks dry with paper towels to help the marinade adhere better. Transfer the chicken to a large bowl or dish. In a small bowl, mix oil and spices thoroughly. Coat the chicken with the mixture, then cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, up to 12 hours, for enhanced flavor. Even a short marination time will significantly enhance the flavor of the air fryer drumsticks.
Cook the drumsticks: Preheat the air fryer to 400ºF/200ºC. Arrange the drumsticks in a single layer in the air fryer basket, optionally spraying lightly with cooking spray. Cook in batches if needed. Air fry for 20 minutes, flipping halfway through the cooking time.
To ensure the chicken is properly cooked, insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the drumstick, avoiding touching any bones. The temperature should read 170ºF/77ºC minimum. If it’s not ready, cook it for a few more minutes and check again.
Once cooked, remove the fried chicken drumsticks from the air fryer and allow them to rest for 10 minutes to allow the juices to redistribute and settle. Then serve and enjoy!
- Preheat the air fryer: Allow it to heat briefly before adding chicken for a crispier texture.
- Don’t crowd the chicken: It needs space for the air to circulate and for the drumsticks to become crispy.
- Keep the heat in: Avoid frequent opening to maintain optimal cooking temperature.
- Check for doneness: The internal temperature of the drumsticks should be 170-175ºF/77-79ºC.
- Leave the air-fried drumsticks to rest: For 10 minutes for the juices to settle and redistribute.
What to serve with air fryer chicken drumsticks
Air fryer chicken drumsticks are an excellent all-purpose, versatile protein dish. Here are my favorite side dishes to enjoy alongside:
- Potatoes: Mashed, baked, or even creamy au gratin potatoes.
- Salads: Fresh coleslaw adds a crisp contrast.
- Veggies: Enjoy alongside roasted broccoli & cauliflower, or asparagus.
- Dipping sauces: Raising Cane’s sauce, Garlic aioli, Alabama white sauce, etc.
Pair with your favorites for a satisfying meal!
How to store leftovers
- Leftovers: For a delicious twist, chop any leftovers into chunks and add them to salads. Alternatively, enjoy them chilled as part of a picnic spread alongside potato salad, coleslaw, pickles, and a variety of dips such as ranch dressing or hot sauce.
- To store: Allow the chicken to cool (for no longer than 2 hours), then transfer it to a covered dish/airtight container and store it in the refrigerator for 3-4 days.
- To freeze: Flash freeze the cooked & cooled drumsticks (not touching) on a tray until solid, then transfer them to a freezer bag and in freeze for up to 3 months. Thaw them in the refrigerator overnight before enjoying them, chilled or reheated.
- To reheat: You can reheat the meat either in the microwave (in 20-30 second increments) or air fry them once more until heated through and crispy.
If you try this air fryer chicken legs recipe, let me know how it goes in the comments below. I’d appreciate a recipe card rating and would love to see your recipe recreations – tag me on Instagram @Alphafoodie!
Best Air Fryer Chicken Drumsticks
- 19.4 oz chicken drumsticks 7 small ones
- 2 Tbsp olive oil or another neutral cooking oil or even 50/50 oil and butter
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1/2 lemon 1.5 Tbsp juice or 1 tsp lemon pepper seasoning
- 2 Tbsp brown sugar optional for caramelization and color
- Use paper towels to pat the drumsticks dry. Then transfer them to a large bowl or dish.
- In a small bowl, combine the oil and all the spices, and mix well.
- Coat the drumsticks with the spice mixture, then cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, up to 12 hours, for enhanced flavor. Even a short marination time will significantly enhance the flavor of the air fryer drumsticks.
- Preheat the air fryer to 400ºF/200ºC.
- Arrange the drumsticks in a single layer in the air fryer basket, optionally spraying lightly with cooking spray. Cook in batches if needed.
- Air fry the drumsticks for 20 minutes, flipping once halfway.To ensure the chicken is properly cooked, insert a meat thermometer into the thickest part of the drumstick, avoiding touching any bones. The temperature should read 170ºF/77ºC minimum. If it's not ready, cook it for a few more minutes and check again.
- Remove the air-fried chicken legs from the air fryer and allow them to rest for 10 minutes for the juices to redistribute/settle. Then, enjoy with your sides of choice!
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.