Home » Recipes » Main Dish » Chicken » Air Fryer Chicken Legs

Air Fryer Chicken Legs

These Air Fryer Chicken Legs are incredibly easy and fast to make, but you wouldn’t know it by how crispy and juicy they turn out! Coated in seasonings and brushed with your favorite sauce (we use bbq sauce!), your chicken drumsticks will be bursting with flavor!

Crispy Air Fryer Chicken Legs

What do you call these? Chicken legs or drumsticks? We have heard them called both, but in this house we call them chicken legs. No matter what you call them, you are going to fall in love with cooking them in the air fryer.

Using the air fryer instead of a traditional oven cuts the cooking time in half. Also, with most air fryers, you do not have to preheat them, saving even more time! The air fryer also circulates the air around your chicken legs as they cook at a high heat, creating perfectly crispy skin with juicy dark meat underneath!

So, today, we give you the perfect basic recipe for air fryer chicken drumsticks to take and make your own. We like to coat these with BBQ sauce mostly, but we’ve tested many different types of sauces. Honey mustard and buffalo sauce were tied for our second favorite sauce to flavor our chicken legs with!

(If you want to try out some more easy air fryer chicken recipes, make these juicy chicken thighs or these flavorful chicken wings!)

Chicken drumsticks are brushed with bbq sauce in an air fryer.

Why You’ll Love This Air Fryer Chicken Legs Recipe

Here are a few reasons that you’ll fall head-over-heels in love with these chicken legs in the air fryer:

  • Super quick. Chicken legs in the oven take about 40-45 minutes to bake at 400°. Chicken legs in the air fryer take just about 18 minutes!
  • Crispy skin. You won’t get crispy skin like this any other way than frying the drumsticks. Air frying, however, requires just a little splash of oil to produce crispy skin because of the hot circulating air and basket design rather than a whole pan full of it.
  • Easy. Toss your chicken legs in your oil and seasonings, then into the air fryer they go – no preheating necessary for most air fryers. Bonus: Air fryers are very easy to clean, most you can even put into the dishwasher.

What Is the Best Air Fryer to Use?

Air fryers come in two different styles. The more popular type has a drawer/basket that slides in the front and usually doesn’t require preheating. The second type looks like a toaster oven and opens with a door, like a mini version of a regular oven. 

We have tried a few different air fryers and these are our 3 favorites depending on your budget and air fryer style preference:

Ingredients in bowls with a plate of chicken drumsticks.

Recipe Ingredients

You only need these 7 ingredients to make the perfect air fryer chicken legs. Chances are, you already have most of them in your kitchen. You probably only have to grab some chicken legs! (For the exact ingredient amounts and the full directions, check out the recipe card below.)

  • Chicken Drumsticks: Also called chicken legs, you want the lower leg, not the full leg (which includes the thigh).
  • Olive Oil: You can also use avocado oil if you like!  
  • Smoked Paprika: This adds great flavor and bright color, but it’s optional!  
  • Onion Powder: Onion flakes or onion salt will also work.
  • Garlic Powder: Granulated garlic or garlic salt could be substituted (in the latter case, though, be sure that you’re not already using onion salt!)
  • Crushed Red Pepper Flakes: If you want these legs to be extra hot and spicy, we would double (or triple) the crushed red pepper depending on how much heat you like. You can also sprinkle in some cayenne pepper too, if you really want to turn the heat way up! Or, toss these drumsticks in your favorite hot sauce upon coming out of the air fryer.
  • BBQ Sauce: Sweet Baby Ray’s has a bunch of BBQ sauce flavors that we love if you’re looking for suggestions!

Can I Use a Different Sauce?

Absolutely! You can even skip the sauce completely for a great crispy and juicy low carb chicken drumstick recipe. Or, you can switch up the sauce to a favorite of yours – these are our go-to sauces that we have tried and loved so far:

  • Buffalo Sauce
  • Honey Mustard
  • Hot Sauce
  • BBQ Sauce
  • Teriyaki Sauce

How to Cook Chicken Legs in the Air Fryer

Crispy air fryer chicken legs are an easy weeknight dinner that the whole family will devour – here’s how they come together:

  • Season the chicken legs. Toss together all of the ingredients – except for your sauce of choice – in a large bowl or bag. You want to make sure you rub the chicken legs well with the spices and oil to evenly coat them.
  • Prep the air fryer. Place your drumsticks into the air fryer basket or tray, making sure they don’t overlap and aren’t touching.
  • Air fry the chicken. Cook the chicken legs in the air fryer set to 400°F for 15 minutes.
  • Flip the chicken. Flip the legs and continue cooking for 5 minutes more. 
  • Add the BBQ sauce. Brush on your BBQ sauce, or sauce of choice, and continue to cook for an additional 3 minutes.
  • Serve. Serve the chicken immediately as-is, or with your favorite dipping sauce and sides.

Watch How to Make These Chicken Legs

Check out this video to see how these chicken legs are made in the air fryer in a few simple steps!

Tips for Success

These tips and tricks will help you achieve the crispiest, juiciest air fryer chicken legs possible!

  • Don’t overcrowd the basket. It is important that your drumsticks are in one even layer, and that they do not overlap or touch. This ensures that they will cook evenly and develop crispy exteriors!
  • Do not overcook the chicken. If you overcook your legs, they will become dry and will no longer be tender inside. If you are not sure if they are done, use a meat thermometer to make sure they have reached an internal temperature of 165ºF.
  • Preheat the air fryer, if required. Most air fryers do not require preheating, but some do! Be sure to read your manual to find out if yours is one of them.
  • Dry your chicken legs. Make sure your chicken legs are not wet before you season and cook them. Any water that is left on your chicken will steam it and produce a different texture in the chicken skin. So, if your chicken is wet, make sure you pat it with paper towels until dry.
Chicken legs in an air fryer basket being pulled out of the air fryer.

Serving Suggestions

There are so many side dishes that you can serve with these air fryer BBQ chicken legs. These are some of our usual choices:

  • Mac and cheese. BBQ chicken and mac and cheese are a heavenly match! This broccoli mac and cheese recipe will even throw some veggies in there for good measure.
  • Cornbread. Crispy chicken legs with a side of warm, crumbly cornbread? Yes, please!
  • Baked beans. These Southern baked beans pair so perfectly with air fryer chicken legs.
  • Veggies. These air fryer green beans are a tasty and very convenient choice!

Can I Make These Ahead?

YES! These are a great prep ahead party food or game day food. You can season the legs up to a couple of days ahead of time and store them in an airtight container in the fridge, or even freeze them. If you freeze them, make sure to let them thaw fully before cooking. 

When we prep them ahead, we toss them all together in a ziplock bag with the seasonings and then store them in that same ziplock bag. Super simple and easy!

Up close image of three Air Fryer Chicken Drumsticks in a air fryer basket.

How to Store & Reheat Leftovers

Once cooked, these crispy air fryer chicken legs will stay fresh at room temperature for about 3 hours. If you’re serving them at a party, they’re a perfect finger food!

Here’s the best way to preserve leftovers if you have them:

  • To store. In an airtight container in the fridge, these chicken legs will last for up to 4 days.
  • To reheat. The best way to warm this chicken up is in the air fryer or the oven at about 350ºF.

Can I Freeze These Chicken Drumsticks?

Sure! Once the chicken has cooled completely, go ahead and freeze it in an airtight container for 2-3 months. Remember to let it thaw overnight in the fridge before you eat it again!

Chicken leg being held with a bite taken out of it.

More Easy Air Fryer Recipes

Looking for more ways to use your air fryer? We are obsessed with our air fryer and how quickly and easily it cooks things. Here are a few reader favorites that use the air fryer:

Up close image of three Air Fryer Chicken Drumsticks in a air fryer basket.
4.6 from 22 votes
Print Pin Recipe
Yield: 6

Air Fryer Chicken Legs

These air fryer chicken legs are crispy, juicy, and made in less than 30 minutes! Covered in tangy BBQ sauce and red pepper flakes, they're an instant family favorite.
Prep Time5 minutes
Cook Time18 minutes
Total Time23 minutes


  • 6 chicken drumsticks
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • ¼ cup BBQ sauce, or your sauce of choice!


  • Place drumsticks in a large bowl or gallon size ziplock bag. Add olive oil, smoked paprika, onion powder, garlic powder, salt and red pepper flakes. Toss chicken drumsticks to coat.
  • Line drumsticks in air fryer tray making sure they don’t overlap and they aren’t touching.
  • Cook in air fryer set to 400°F for 15 minutes. Flip the legs and continue cooking for 5 minutes more.
  • Brush on BBQ sauce and continue for an additional 3 minutes. Serve immediately!



  • We used a 6 quart air fryer and it can easily fit 6 to 8 standard sized chicken drumsticks.
  • To store. In an airtight container in the fridge, these chicken legs will last for up to 4 days.
  • To reheat. The best way to warm this chicken up is in the air fryer or the oven at about 350ºF.
  • To freeze. Once the chicken has cooled completely, go ahead and freeze it in an airtight container for 2-3 months. Remember to let it thaw overnight in the fridge before you eat it again!


Serving: 1drumstick, Calories: 227kcal, Carbohydrates: 5g, Protein: 22g, Fat: 13g, Saturated Fat: 3g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 9g, Cholesterol: 116mg, Sodium: 210mg, Sugar: 4g

Let Us Know What You Think!

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating

4 comments on “Air Fryer Chicken Legs”

  1. Melissa Miller

    Way too spicy 🥵 especially for the kiddos. Made half by the recipe, the other half with olive oil sprinkled with Oregano, Basil & Parsley. A much milder flavor that was still satisfying. Added the bbq sauce as instructed.

    1. You can leave the skin or remove it, it’s up to you and your personal tastes. We like the crispy skin!

  2. Good recipe but definitely needs some salt and pepper in the spice mix.
    Will tweak it next time I make it.
    Also would cut pepper flakes in half.

Scroll to Top