Southwest-Spiced Air Fryer Chicken Legs Recipe

Crispy fried chicken is a perennial family favorite, but there's no doubt that the added breading and oil used for frying make this dish a little less healthy than you might prefer. Enter: the air fryer. Using this handy small appliance and a few cooking tips, you can master a perfectly crispy chicken leg that's sure to satisfy your pickiest eaters without the added breading and oil. "Here are a few methods and ingredients to keep the chicken legs golden and crispy. First, pat the chicken legs dry with a paper towel. [This] removes moisture that can prohibit them from getting crispy. Then, add both baking powder and brown sugar to the spice rub. The baking powder helps keep them crisp and the brown sugar encourages browning‌," says recipe developer Kate Shungu of Gift of Hospitality

Not to mention using the air fryer speeds up a dish that can otherwise take close to an hour to cook if you're opting for baking over frying. "Chicken legs can take at least 40 minutes in the oven, so I love the air fryer method as a shortcut on busy nights," Shungu says. "In a standard-size air fryer, they take less than 15 minutes to cook for 2 people, and less than 30 for 4 people." So go ahead and grab your chicken and spices, and get to cooking up this lean and delicious dinner. 

Gather the ingredients for Southwest-spiced air fryer chicken legs

This recipe requires quite a few ingredients, but many of them are spices that you likely have stocked in your kitchen. You'll need to gather a package of chicken legs, chili powder (Shungu says you can use ancho or chipotle if desired), cumin, baking powder, brown sugar, dried oregano, garlic powder, salt, olive oil, fresh cilantro, and a lime. 

Preheat the air fryer and prep the chicken

Start by preheating your air fryer to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Lie your drumsticks out on a plate or cutting board and pat them dry with a paper towel. Remember, this step is important as it helps to ensure a crispy fry. 

Combine the spices

In a small bowl, combine the chili powder, cumin, baking powder, brown sugar, dried oregano, garlic powder, and salt. Mix well with a whisk or spoon. 

Coat the chicken in spice

Sprinkle the spice mixture generously over the chicken legs, coating them on all sides.

Drizzle chicken with oil

Drizzle the chicken legs with the oil, also on both sides.

Cook in the air fryer

Place the drumsticks in a single layer in the air fryer and cook them for 6 minutes. Flip the chicken over and continue cooking for 6–8 minutes, or until the drumsticks are golden brown on the outside. A meat thermometer should hit 165 degrees Fahrenheit when inserted into the center of the drumstick. 

You may need to cook your drumsticks in batches, depending on the size of your air fryer and how many drumsticks you're cooking.

Plate, garnish, and serve

Remove the chicken legs from the air fryer, place them on a serving platter, and sprinkle them with chopped cilantro. Add the lime wedges to the platter for squeezing juice over the top. You can serve these drumsticks with anything that goes well with chicken (rice is a popular option), but don't limit yourself. "I like serving these with mac and cheese and Southwest salad on the side," says Shungu. 

If you have any leftovers, Shungu suggests storing them in the fridge, and reheating them in the air fryer for 5-6 minutes before serving. 

Southwest-Spiced Air Fryer Chicken Legs Recipe
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Using a handy air fryer, enjoy a perfectly crispy chicken leg that's sure to satisfy your pickiest eaters without any added breading and oil.
Prep Time
10
minutes
Cook Time
30
minutes
Servings
4
Servings
southwest-spiced air fryer chicken legs
Total time: 40 minutes
Ingredients
  • 1 2-pound package chicken legs (drumsticks)
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder (such as ancho chile powder or chipotle chile powder)
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon brown sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
  • 1 lime, cut into wedges
Directions
  1. Preheat air fryer to 400°F.
  2. Pat the drumsticks dry with a paper towel.
  3. In a small bowl, combine the chili powder, cumin, baking powder, brown sugar, dried oregano, garlic powder, and salt. Sprinkle generously over the chicken legs, coating them on all sides.
  4. Drizzle the chicken legs with the oil.
  5. Place in a single layer the air fryer and cook for 6 minutes. Flip and continue cooking for 6–8 minutes, or until the drumsticks are golden brown on the outside and a meat thermometer reaches 165°F when inserted into the center of the drumstick. You may need to do this in batches depending on the size of your air fryer.
  6. Remove from the air fryer, place on a serving platter, and sprinkle with chopped cilantro. Add lime wedges to the platter for squeezing over the top.
Nutrition
Calories per Serving 131
Total Fat 11.4 g
Saturated Fat 2.2 g
Trans Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 25.8 mg
Total Carbohydrates 3.2 g
Dietary Fiber 0.8 g
Total Sugars 0.7 g
Sodium 135.1 mg
Protein 4.9 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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