My foolproof crispy air fryer chicken thighs are an easy way to make this underrated cut your favorite part of the chicken, without losing any of the flavor.
When it comes to chicken, we often only remember the really bad pieces. The under-seasoned one, the dry one, the so-barely-cooked-it-should-be-criminal one. And with my championing of the humble air fryer, I’ve decided to try and solve all those problems and air-fry chicken thighs.
Not content with just one way? These air fry chicken thighs go two ways – dry rub or marinated.
Chicken Thighs Vs Drumsticks
I think chicken thighs are a better cut of the chicken than drumsticks. Though these crispy chicken thighs might not have the holdability of a drumstick, thighs are generally a much cheaper cut of meat. So they are a great choice for a budget-friendly dinner. Thighs have a higher concentration of fat too, making for a juicier piece of meat, though it can take longer to cook.
Is It Better to Marinate Chicken Thighs or Dry Rub Chicken Thighs
It depends on who you ask. Both marinades and dry rubs are designed to bring flavor to the chicken. While both work for chicken thighs, a dry rub is usually the best option.
Chicken thighs in an air fryer already have a lot of moisture – a marinade is best for tougher cuts of meat. The extra flavor will come from the spices and herbs so a chicken dry rub will better compliment air fried chicken thighs.
How to Season Chicken Thighs
What you’ll need for bone-in chicken thighs in the air fryer:
- Chicken thighs: You’ll want these with the skin still on.
- Olive oil: Or another neutral cooking oil. It will allow the seasoning to adhere to the chicken. If preferred, you can also use butter.
- Seasoning: You can adapt this to your tastes, but I like using lemon pepper seasoning (or just lemon juice and black pepper), salt, smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, dried oregano, and red chili powder.
How to Make Crispy Chicken Thighs in Air Fryer
There are just a few easy steps to make these perfectly crispy chicken thighs.
Prepare the Air Fryer
For crispy air fryer thighs, preheat the air fryer to 400ºF/200ºC and spray the basket with cooking spray.
Chef’s Note: if you want to marinate the chicken thighs first, don’t preheat the air fryer just yet.
Should I Remove Skin From Chicken Thighs Before Air Frying
No – the skin is what helps make your air fryer chicken thighs crispy! It’ll also carry the flavor of the spices as the chicken cooks.
Using a Dry Rub
If you’re using a dry rub for your airfry chicken thighs, first pat dry the thighs with a paper towel and remove any extra skin. Cover the chicken with the seasoning mixture and oil and rub well to completely coat it.
How to Marinade Chicken Thighs
If you prefer to marinade, pat the thighs dry. Cover well with the spice rub to make sure they’re fully coated. Then, place the thighs in an airtight container and place them in the fridge.
How Long Should I Marinate Chicken Thighs
For this chicken thigh-in air fryer recipe, you’ll want to marinade for 1-4 hours in the refrigerator. You can marinate overnight, but make sure they don’t marinate for longer than 48 hours as the chicken will fall apart when cooked.
How Long to Cook Chicken Thighs in Air Fryer
Place chicken thighs in the air fryer basket, skin side down.
How long to air fry chicken thighs will depend on their size. I recommend 25 minutes. After the first 15 minutes, flip the chicken and cook for about 10 minutes more. If you want very crispy skin, cook the chicken for a few minutes extra.
Once cooked fully, the internal temperature at the thickest part should be 165ºF/74ºC. You can use an instant-read thermometer.
How Long to Cook Frozen Chicken Thighs in Air Fryer
How to cook chicken thighs in the air fryer changes when you’re working with frozen meat. It should take around 25- 30 minutes to cook, but make sure to double-check the internal temperature of the frozen chicken thighs in the air fryer before serving.
How to Freeze Cooked Chicken Thighs
Let your chicken thighs in the air fryer cool completely before freezing. Arrange them on a baking sheet so they’re not touching. Place in the freezer for at least 2 hours to flash freeze them, then place in a freezer-safe bag and store for up to 3 months.
Sides With Chicken Thighs
The options are almost endless but here are my favorite chicken side dishes:
- Potatoes, either smashed or mashed.
- Nice with rice – I love Jasmine and egg fried rice. Check also my One Pot Chicken and Rice recipe.
- Veggies galore – try it with my roasted green beans, Mediterranean roasted vegetables, or spiced corn ribs.
- They are also great with salads.
With. The skin protects the chicken from drying out and will keep your air fryer chicken thighs extra crispy.
A meat thermometer should read 165ºF/74ºC when put inside. You can also check by digging a knife in; if the juices run clear, it’s clear, it’s cooked.
Chicken thighs have a higher fat content than breast and retain moisture and flavor better.
Keep the skin on or use lemon juice, salt brine, or olive oil to keep it moist.
Remove the basket and use a spatula to flip the thighs. Spray more cooking oil in the basket and keep cooking.
Yes, you can.
More Chicken Recipes
- Chicken Brine Recipe
- Shredded Chicken Tacos Recipe
- Air Fryer Whole Chicken
- Crispy Air Fryer Chicken Tenders (From Scratch)
- Frozen Chicken Tenders in Air Fryer
If you try this air fryer chicken thighs 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!
Crispy Air Fryer Chicken Thighs 2 Ways
- 22.5 oz chicken thighs with skin on (4 medium)
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning or juice of 1 lemon and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon red chili powder (optional)
If Using a Dry Rub
- Preheat the air fryer to 400ºF/200ºC and spray the basket with cooking spray.
- Pat dry the thighs with a paper towel and remove any extra skin. Cover the chicken with the spices and oil and rub well to completely coat it.Then place the chicken thighs skin side down in the air fryer basket.
If Marinating the Thighs
- If you prefer to marinade, pat the thighs dry. Cover well with the spice rub to make sure they're fully coated. Then, place the thighs in an airtight container and place them in the fridge.
- Marinade for 1-4 hours in the refrigerator. You can marinate overnight, but make sure they don't marinate for longer than 48 hours as the chicken will fall apart when cooked.
- When you are ready to proceed, preheat the air fryer to 400ºF/200ºC and spray the basket with cooking spray. Then place the chicken thighs in the air fryer basket, skin side down.
Air Frying Chicken Thighs
- Cook for 25 minutes. After the first 15 minutes, flip the chicken and cook for about 10 minutes more. If you want very crispy skin, cook the chicken for a few minutes extra.Once cooked fully, the internal temperature at the thickest part should be 165ºF/74ºC.
How to Store
- Store: Keep the cooked chicken thighs in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. Reheat: You can reheat them in the air fryer for about 5 minutes. Freeze: Let the chicken thighs cool completely before freezing. Arrange them on a baking sheet so they're not touching. Place in the freezer for at least 2 hours to flash freeze them, then place in a freezer-safe bag and store for up to 3 months.
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