Chicken drumsticks were my go-to protein to feed friends when I was on a college student’s budget. They were affordable, filling, easy to bake in the oven, and well-suited for a picnic basket. When I finally got a real job, I passed over the drums in the market for the breasts and thighs.
Over the past few years I mainly used chicken drumsticks for making an overnight pot of healing bone broth. Then, I got my air fryer. I had weekend guests coming and all I had in my freezer was drumsticks for my broth. I also had fresh Brussels sprouts. All I could think of to do was roast the Brussels sprouts and chicken in the air fryer.
That quick meal was a game changer. The sprouts were crispy and the chicken was juicy on the inside with crunchy skin on the outside. I am back to feeding friends and family chicken drumsticks for an affordable and easy meal. I have experimented with a few different styles of air fried drumsticks. The possibilities are endless.
A Few Words About the Recipes
Drumsticks with Spice Rub: This recipe leans toward Asian spices, specifically those found in curry powder blends. This particular blend does not have cayenne, so it isn’t hot. You could certainly add some heat. I like this mix because it gives the skin a nice color and a unique flavor without overwhelming the meat. You might want to serve these with a yogurt sauce and some roasted broccoli florets.
Fried Drumsticks: Chicken drumsticks are actually perfect for breading and frying. You can definitely make “fried” chicken in the air fryer that is healthier than classic fried chicken cooked in oil. I was afraid the coating would not stick, but it did. This recipe calls for kefir or buttermilk as the marinade and binder. There are no eggs, but you could add an egg wash if you would like.
The ingredients in parenthesis are gluten-free substitutes for some of the main ingredients. Gluten seems to be a hot topic these days, so I always try a gluten-free version for most recipes. It doesn’t always work, but this recipe worked well for me. Complete the meal with air fried pickles and some grilled corn.
Sweet and Sour Glazed Drumsticks: I started out with the idea of doing a classic BBQ chicken recipe. While the drumsticks were cooking, I checked my pantry and fridge for ingredients to make an easy BBQ sauce. I got distracted by what I had on hand, specifically coconut aminos, and went in a more teriyaki direction with a glaze. Feel free to skip my glaze and use your favorite BBQ sauce for the last cook. That’s pretty easy.
The glaze or sauce will drip through the holes of the basket or crisper plate. I figured that would be a mess I would just have to deal with later. It actually turned out to be an asset. The sauce in the bottom of the bucket had reduced and thickened slightly. It was not too greasy. In fact, it was a great consistency and really tasty, so I spooned the warm sauce over the chicken. These drums never made it to the table. We ate them standing up in the kitchen while they were hot and sticky.
Air Fryer Chicken Drumsticks with Spice Rub (Gluten-Free, Paleo, and Keto)
- 4 chicken drumsticks
- 2 tsps extra virgin olive oil
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1/2 tsp ground coriander
- 1/4 tsp ground cumin
- 1/4 tsp ground ginger
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
Total time:38 min – Prep time:5 min + 20 minutes to rest – Cook time:13 min per batch – Serves:2 people
1. In a small bowl, mix the olive oil and spice together. Coat the drumsticks all over with the spice rub and set aside so the chicken can come to room temperature, approximately 20 minutes.
2. Preheat the air fryer to 390°F for 3 minutes.
3. Place the drumsticks, skin side down, in the air fryer basket or crisper plate. Cook for 6 minutes. Flip the drums over and cook for an additional 5 to 8 minutes until the internal temperature reaches 165°F when checked with a digital meat thermometer. The skin should be golden and crisp.
4. Remove the drumsticks to a serving platter and tent with foil. Allow the chicken to rest while you cook some broccoli florets to serve with your meal.
Air Fryer Breaded “Fried” Chicken Drumsticks (with a Gluten-Free Option)
- 4 chicken drumsticks
- 1/2 cup Kefir or buttermilk
- 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs (1/2 cup GF chickpea crumbs or GF panko breadcrumbs)
- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour (1/4 cup GF garbanzo bean flour + 1/4 cup GF coconut flour)
- 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 tsp dried oregano
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/4 tsp garlic powder
- 1 TBS extra virgin olive oil
Total time: 1 hour 25 min – Prep time: 10 min + 1 hour marinating – Cook time: 15 min per batch – Serves: 2 people
1. Place the chicken in a sealable plastic bag. Pour the kefir or buttermilk all over the drumsticks. Seal the bag and place it in the refrigerator for 1 hour (or longer).
2. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator 15 minutes prior to cooking so it can come to room temperature.
3. Preheat the air fryer to 375°F for 3 minutes.
4. In a shallow bowl, combine the breadcrumbs, flour, baking powder, paprika, salt, pepper, oregano, cayenne, and garlic powder. Stir in the olive oil until the crumbs are damp.
5. Remove the drumsticks from the kefir and shake off the excess. Place them in the bowl of dry ingredients and coat completely.
6. Put the drumsticks, skin side down, in a single layer in your air fryer basket or on the crisper plate. Cook for 8 minutes. Turn the chicken over and continue to cook until the coating is golden brown and crunchy and the internal temperature is 165°F when checked with a digital meat thermometer, approximately 7 to 8 minutes.
7. Remove the drumsticks to a serving platter and tent with foil. Allow the chicken to rest while you cook some fried pickles or grill some corn to serve with your meal. Ranch dressing goes well with fried chicken and pickles.
Air Fryer Chicken Drumsticks with Sweet and Sour Glaze (Gluten-Free)
Chicken and Seasoning
- 4 chicken drumsticks
- 1 tsp ground ginger
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 2 TBS coconut aminos
- 2 tsps toasted sesame oil
- 1-1/2 to 2 tsps apple cider or rice vinegar
- 1 tsp honey
- 1 tsp ketchup
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
- 2 tsps raw sesame seeds
Total time: 1 hour 3 min – Prep time: 10 min + resting for 35 minutes – Cook time: 18 min per batch – Serves: 2 people
1. In a small bowl, mix together the ginger, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Coat the drumsticks all over with the dry rub seasoning. Set aside for 30 to 40 minutes.
2. Preheat the air fryer to 360°F for 3 minutes.
3. Place the seasoned chicken, skin side up, in the basket or on the crisper plate and cook for 7 minutes. Flip the drumsticks over and cook for an additional 6 minutes.
4. Make the glaze while the chicken is cooking: In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the coconut aminos, sesame oil, vinegar, honey, ketchup, cayenne, and sesame seeds until well combined.
5. Open the air fryer and spoon 1/2 of the glaze over the chicken. Roll the drumsticks over and spoon the remainder of the glaze over the top. Cook until the glaze is brown and glossy and the internal temperature of the meat is 165°F when checked with a digital thermometer, approximately 3 to 5 minutes.
6. Remove the chicken to a serving platter. Pour some of the glaze that is in the bottom of the air fryer bucket over the chicken. Serve with steamed white rice and lots of napkins.