Air fryer chicken drumsticks are a healthier alternative to traditional fried chicken. They’re juicy on the inside and flooded with flavour. With a dash of olive oil and an irresistible blend of spices, this will become your new go-to quick and healthy dinner recipe! The air fryer does the heavy lifting here; the drumsticks take only 5 minutes to prepare, and no flour is needed. It’s a diabetes-diet friendly, heart smart, and gluten free recipe.

a pile of chicken drumsticks on a board with a plant in the background.

Air fried chicken legs

As a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator, I love sharing healthier ways to enjoy most-cherished foods more often. Chicken drumsticks are one of my all-time favourites!

In fact, this air fryer chicken legs recipe was originally created by Mr. D years ago. The kids love chicken legs, but we don’t fry foods very often. So, he came up with a way to make them in the air fryer. And they are utterly delicious!

If you’ve never had air fried chicken, you are in for a real surprise! Honestly, these are better than any fried chicken I’ve ever had. The spices in this recipe give the chicken heaps of juicy flavour. And, because they are cooked in the air fryer, they are an easy and healthy option too, just like my high protein chicken patties.

Ingredients

food ingredients arranged on a wooden board styled with a plant kitchen towel. Ingredients include raw chicken drumsticks and ramekins of spices.

To make air fryer chicken drumsticks, you will need 5 minutes of prep time and an air fryer. Here is a low down on the ingredients and steps involved:

  • Chicken drumsticks: fresh, bone-in, skin-off chicken legs work best for this recipe. I haven’t tried it with chicken breasts, but I imagine boneless, skinless chicken breast would work too. If you use frozen chicken drumsticks, ensure they are thawed before cooking.
  • Salt and pepper: to help bind the spices to the chicken and provide a bit of salty flavour. In my opinion, coarse pepper works like a charm here.
  • Cumin: This dish is delicious because of the wonderful combination of spices, particularly cumin.
  • Garlic powder:  to bring out the savoury flavours in the chicken. You could also use onion powder instead.
  • Smoked paprika:  for a bit of sweetness, smokiness and spice.
  • Oregano:  for a sprinkle of herby flavour. I find oregano to be milder in taste, which is why I like to use it in this recipe. You could also use thyme or basil.
  • Olive oil: for a dash of healthy fat and to help the spices stick to the chicken. You could also use avocado oil or another neutral flavoured oil.

How to cook chicken drumsticks in the air fryer

It’s probably one of the easiest recipes you’ll ever make! Here’s how we roll.

  1. Begin by scoring the surface of the drumsticks. That’s because it allows the marinade to penetrate better and helps the drumsticks cook evenly. I do two scores on the fleshy side and one on the bone side (Step 1).
  2. Next, combine the spices and olive oil in a small bowl (Steps 2-3).
  3. Then, rub each chicken leg with the oil and spice mix. Be sure to coat each drumstick evenly (Step 4).
  4. Cue the air fryer! Place the chicken drumsticks in the baskets – side by side. It’s best to arrange them in a single layer, alternating the bone and fleshy sides. Next, cook the drumsticks on 400F for 25 minutes, flipping them over at the halfway point (Step 5).
  5. And that’s it, folks! When they are finished cooking, remove them from the air fryer and let them rest for 5 minutes before serving (Step 6).

You can find the complete ingredient list and detailed instructions in the recipe card below.

Tips

  • Try and opt for similar-sized drumsticks. and be sure to score the surface of the chicken before marinating. This will help the spices penetrate better and ensure the chicken cooks evenly.
  • Cook the chicken at a high temperature to get that nice crispy outer flesh. I find 400F to be the perfect temperature. You want to flip the chicken over at the halfway point to ensure even cooking.
  • In my opinion, it’s important to let the chicken rest for 5 minutes before serving to lock in all the juices.

What to serve with air fried drumsticks?

You can serve chicken drumsticks with any of your favourite sides. I like to keep things light, so I typically pair them with a grain-based salad or vegetables to create healthy dinner options. You can serve them as:

In my opinion, this recipe is not only quick and easy, but it’s also affordable. I am no stranger to eating at home as a way to save money. A package of chicken drumsticks usually costs around $8. And you probably have most of the spices in your pantry already. So, there’s no need to go out and buy anything unique.

If you love sauces and dips, try serving these air fryer chicken legs with:

a perspective image of a pile of cooked chicken drumsticks topped with chopped herb.

Drumstick calories and nutrition

One chicken drumstick (raw) without skin provides 142 calories, almost 24 grams of protein and 4.5 grams of fat. Chicken legs have no carbohydrates (or dietary fibre), making them a low carb food – or “keto chicken legs.”

Chicken drumsticks are a good source of:

  • protein: which supports muscle growth and repair.
  • B vitamins: which are important for energy metabolism.
  • selenium: a mineral with antioxidant properties.
  • zinc: it helps with immune health, wound healing, blood clotting, thyroid activity, and more. 
a pile of cooked chicken drumsticks on a wooden board.

Following are drumstick nutrition facts per one chicken leg without skin (raw):

Nutrient and caloriesAmount%DV
Calcium11 mg1%
Copper0.1 mg11%
Dietary Fiber0 g0%
Fat4.5 g6%
Folate/Folic Acid4.9 mcg1%
Iron1 mg6%
Magnesium24.4 mg6%
Niacin6.3 mg39%
Pantothenic Acid (vitamin B5)1.3 mg27%
Phosphorus212 mg17%
Potassium274 mg6%
Protein23.7 g47%
Riboflavin (vitamin B2)0.3 mg23%
Selenium26.6 mcg48%
Sodium139 mg6%
Thiamin (vitamin B1)0.1 mg8%
Total carbohydrate0 g0%
Vitamin A8.5 mcg1%
Vitamin B120.6 mcg25%
Vitamin B60.5 mg29%
Vitamin C0 mg0%
Vitamin D1.2 mcg6%
Zinc2.5 mg23%
Calories142 kcal

Nutrition highlights per serving

Two of my air fryer chicken drumsticks provide 12 g of protein and are:

  • Low in calories (100 kcal)
  • Low in fat – including saturated fat
  • Low in carb (2 g)
  • Reduced in salt

*Nutrient claims based on a 2000-calorie diet.

a pile of chicken drumsticks on a board with a plant in the background.

Storage

You can store air fried chicken drumsticks in the fridge for 3-4 days or in the freezer for 2 months. To reheat, cook in the air fryer on 400F for 5 minutes or until heated through. You can also reheat them in the oven at 375F for about 10 minutes.

How long to cook chicken drumsticks in an air fryer?

It usually takes 25 minutes to cook chicken drumsticks in the air fryer. However, this will vary depending on the size of your drumsticks and the make/model of your air fryer. Of course, this recipe uses fresh chicken drumsticks and not frozen chicken.

I recommend checking them at the 20-minute mark and then cooking for an additional 5 minutes if needed. You’ll know they are done when the skin is nice and brown, and the internal temperature of the chicken legs reaches 165F.

Can I put raw chicken in an air fryer?

Yes, you can cook raw chicken in an air fryer. However, it’s important to note that chicken should always be cooked to an internal temperature of 165F to ensure food safety.

When cooking chicken in the air fryer, I recommend using drumsticks or thighs as they tend to stay juicy.

I suggest lining the air fryer basket with parchment paper for easy clean-up.

close up image of chicken drumsticks arranged in a pile.

Why is my air fryer chicken tough?

If your air fryer chicken is tough, it’s likely because it was overcooked.

To avoid overcooking your chicken, I recommend checking it at the 20-minute mark and then cooking for an additional 5 minutes if needed.

Another reason your air fryer chicken might be tough is because it was frozen. If you want to cook frozen chicken, it’s best to thaw it first. I do not recommend cooking frozen chicken in the air fryer as it can produce tough, dry meat.

What are your favourite healthy home meals? Have you tried my air fryer chicken drumsticks before? Leave me a comment below!

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close up image of chicken drumsticks arranged in a pile.
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Get the Recipe:

Healthy & Moist Air Fryer Chicken Drumsticks

Prep Time: 5 mins
Cook Time: 25 mins
Total Time: 30 mins
Yield: 10 drumsticks
Air fryer chicken drumsticks are a healthier alternative to traditional fried chicken. They're juicy on the inside and flooded with flavour. With a dash of olive oil and an irresistible blend of spices, this will become your new go-to quick and healthy dinner recipe! The air fryer does the heavy lifting here; the drumsticks take only 5 minutes to prepare, and no flour is needed. It's a diabetes-diet friendly, heart smart, and gluten free recipe.

Ingredients
 

Equipment

  • 1 air fryer

Instructions
 

  • Score the surface of the drumsticks. I do 2 scores on the fleshy side and one on the bone side
  • Combine the spices and olive oil in a small bowl
  • Add the spice-oil mix to the chicken. Using your hands, rub each chicken leg with the mixture. Be sure to coat each drumstick evenly
  • Place the chicken drumsticks in the air fryer baskets. It's best to arrange them in a single layer, side by side, alternating the bone and fleshy sides
  • Cook the drumsticks on 400F for 25 minutes, flipping them over at the halfway point
  • Check that they have finished cooking, then remove them from the air fryer and let them rest for 5 minutes before serving.

Video

Notes

  • Try and opt for similar-sized drumsticks. and be sure to score the surface of the chicken before marinating. This will help the spices penetrate better and ensure the chicken cooks evenly.
  • Cook the chicken at a high temperature to get that nice crispy outer flesh. I find 400F to be the perfect temperature. You want to flip the chicken over at the halfway point to ensure even cooking.
  • In my opinion, it’s important to let the chicken rest for 5 minutes before serving to lock in all the juices.

Nutrition Information:

Calories: 50kcal (3%)Carbohydrates: 1gProtein: 6g (12%)Fat: 3g (5%)Saturated Fat: 0.5g (3%)Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.4gMonounsaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0.01gCholesterol: 27mg (9%)Sodium: 267mg (11%)Potassium: 86mg (2%)Fiber: 0.2g (1%)Sugar: 0.04gVitamin A: 110IU (2%)Vitamin C: 0.01mgCalcium: 8mg (1%)Iron: 0.4mg (2%)

Keep in mind that the nutritional values provided are approximations and suggestions. This nutrition facts table cannot account for your individual needs. Your body — including your hunger and satiety cues — change daily. It’s perfectly fine to eat more or less on different days. Instead of letting food guilt take over, consider mindful eating.

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Cuisine: American
Course: Main
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Desi~liciously Yours, Shahzadi