Air Fryer Chicken Drumsticks

published Jan 24, 2022
Air Fryer Chicken Drumsticks Recipe

The best part about these crispy chicken drumsticks is the creamy raita dip.

Serves2 to 4

Prep10 minutes

Cook17 minutes to 20 minutes

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air fryer chicken drumsticks on a turquoise plate, with a dipping sauce and fork and knife on the side
Credit: Tara Holland

Chicken drumsticks are an unsung hero. Not only are they an inexpensive cut of meat, but the dark meat is also packed full of flavor and the large surface area of chicken skin covering the leg means (if cooked correctly) you’ll have crispy chicken skin with juicy chicken meat in every single bite. The crispiness is where air frying comes in — once you’ve rubbed the skin in spices and olive oil, they will cook quickly at 400℉ in just 17 to 20 minutes. The drumsticks needs minimal supervision, which makes them the perfect midweek supper and a less messy alternative to fried chicken

This recipe, inspired by Indian flavors, is rubbed with a mildly spiced blend of curry powder, garlic powder, and Kashmiri red chili powder. (Paprika works well too). There’s also an optional raita dipping sauce made with yogurt, cucumber, mint, cilantro, lemon juice, and some spices. The coolness of the sauce offsets the subtle spice kick from the chicken. But if spice isn’t your jam, replace the curry and chili powder with 2 teaspoons of Italian seasoning, 1 teaspoon smoked paprika, and 1 teaspoon garlic powder. Or, simply season the drumsticks with salt and pepper and rub with olive oil before air frying. They would still be delicious.

Why Add Baking Powder or Baking Soda to Raw Chicken Skin?

There are also two teaspoons of baking powder in the spice rub blend for this recipe, and there is a whole science behind why you add baking powder or baking soda to the skin when frying or roasting chicken. The quick answer is that they both efficiently help create a crispier skin. The slightly longer answer is that they both contain slight alkaline levels, which do the following:

  1. Helps create the Maillard reaction, which results in golden-brown skin.
  2. Assists in breaking down the proteins, which yields crispy skin.
  3. Creates tiny bubbles (caused by a carbon dioxide reaction with the chicken’s natural juices), creating more surface area, which adds a double whammy of crispiness. 

Although not everyone agrees on whether you use baking powder or baking soda (if you Google it, you’ll see both suggestions in many fried chicken recipes), both have similar results. However, because baking soda has a distinctive, slightly metallic taste, baking powder works best for flavor. 

Credit: Tara Holland

Can You Stand Chicken Legs Up in the Air Fryer?

The crispiest skin is created by the contact with the piping-hot air fryer basket, so you get the best results by laying the drumsticks flat in one even layer in the basket. 

Dipping Sauces for Air Fryer Chicken Drumsticks

Although this recipe has a subtle Indian-spiced flavor profile, you could use other delicious dip options.

Air Fryer Chicken Drumsticks Recipe

The best part about these crispy chicken drumsticks is the creamy raita dip.

Prep time 10 minutes

Cook time 17 minutes to 20 minutes

Serves 2 to 4

Nutritional Info


For the chicken:

  • 2 teaspoons

    baking powder

  • 2 teaspoons

    curry powder

  • 1 teaspoon

    Kashmiri red chili powder or paprika

  • 1 teaspoon

    garlic powder

  • 1 teaspoon

    granulated sugar

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 6

    chicken drumsticks (about 1 1/2 pounds total)

  • 2 tablespoons

    olive oil, plus more for the basket

  • 1/4 bunch

    fresh cilantro

For the raita dip (optional):

  • 1

    Persian cucumber

  • 1/2

    medium lemon

  • 1/4 bunch

    fresh cilantro

  • 1/4 bunch

    fresh mint

  • 1 cup

    whole milk plain yogurt (8 ounces)

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    ground coriander

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    ground cumin

  • 1/4 teaspoon

    kosher salt


For the chicken:

  1. Heat an air fryer to 400ºF. Meanwhile, Place 2 teaspoons baking powder, 2 teaspoons curry powder, 1 teaspoon red chili powder or paprika, 1 teaspoon garlic powder, 1 teaspoon granulated sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt in a medium bowl and whisk until combined.

  2. Pat 6 chicken drumsticks thoroughly dry with paper towels. Toss and roll the drumsticks in the spice blend to coat all over. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons olive oil and rub all over chicken until thickly coated in oil and spices. If needed, reposition the skin to cover the meat and protect it from drying out.

  3. Brush the air fryer basket with a thin layer of olive oil. Air frying in batches if needed, place the drumsticks in a single layer in the basket and air fry for for 10 minutes. Flip the drumsticks and continue to air fry until cooked through and the skin is evenly browned and crisp, 7 to 10 minutes more. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool 5 minutes. If air frying in batches, carefully wipe out the basket and brush again with olive oil before the next batch and tent the first batch loosely with aluminum foil to keep warm. Meanwhile, finely chop 1/4 bunch fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems until you have 1 tablespoon. Make the raita if desired.

For the raita (optional):

  1. Prepare the following, adding each to the same small bowl as you complete it: Grate 1 Persian cucumber on the large holes of a box grater. Juice 1/2 lemon until you have 1 tablespoon juice. Finely chop the leaves from 1/4 bunch fresh cilantro and 1/4 bunch fresh mint until you have 2 tablespoons of each.

  2. Add 1 cup whole milk plain yogurt, 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander, 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Stir to combine. Taste and season with more kosher salt as needed. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

  3. When the chicken is ready, sprinkle with the chopped cilantro and serve with the raita.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: Toss the chicken in the spice blend and oil, cover, and refrigerate for up to 8 hours before air frying. Let the chicken to sit at room temperature for about 10 minutes before air frying.

Storage: Refrigerate leftovers in an airtight container for up to 4 days. Reheat in 390ºF air fryer for 10 minutes.