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Barbecue Air Fryer Chicken Legs

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With summer right around the corner, barbecue season is fast approaching, and this recipe for air fryer chicken legs screams summer! As much as I love to use the grill, the air fryer comes in handy when it is raining or simply not a good time to fire it up. This delicious air fryer BBQ chicken recipe is perfect for those quick dinners when you need a barbecue.

These easy-to-make air fryer chicken legs are ready to serve in under thirty minutes. Top them with this homemade Kansas City-style version or your favorite store-bought barbecue sauce. The homemade BBQ sauce is crazy good, packed with a beautiful balance of sweet and spicy flavors, and incredibly easy to make. Although if you are not a fan of BBQ sauce, feel free to substitute with your preferred chicken coating. Try this honey mustard sauce, it is one of my favorite sauces to put on my air fryer BBQ chicken.

These air fryer barbecue chicken drumsticks are sure to be a family favorite, especially if you are looking for a simple weeknight dinner. They also make for a fantastic lunch option since they taste just as delicious the next day. Regardless of when you choose to eat this excellent air fryer chicken, the meal will leave you feeling oh so satisfied.

BBQ chicken legs on a serving platter.

Why You Will Love This Recipe

I love these air fryer chicken legs so much, and I am sure you will too! Here are some reasons that you will enjoy this dish:

  • Super quick and easy to make in the air fryer.
  • Extraordinarily versatile and can be paired with a myriad of scrumptious side dishes.
  • A hearty, protein-packed dish that will keep you full.
  • This air fryer version is similar in taste and appearance to chicken drumsticks fresh off the grill!
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Ingredients

Ingredients needed to make bbq air fryer chicken legs.

Instructions

Step 1: begin the marinade

In a large bowl or plastic bag, place your chicken drumsticks and coat them in olive oil. Shake or toss the chicken legs to completely coat them.

Step 2: add the seasoning

Once the chicken drumsticks are thoroughly coated in olive oil, toss in the barbecue seasoning dry rub and ensure they are entirely coated. If you have the time, let the chicken legs rest in the fridge for up to 8 hours. The dry rub will act as brine, bring more flavor to your chicken, and help it be more tender and juicy.

Step 3: cook the chicken legs in the air fryer

Place the chicken drumsticks in your air fryer basket. Be sure to space them out so that they do not steam; the skin can get crispier if there is plenty of space between them. Cook them at 370°F for 18 minutes, flipping them halfway through the cooking time.

Step 4: add the BBQ sauce

Brush the BBQ sauce over the tops of the drumsticks and cook in the air fryer at 390°F for 2 minutes. Flip them and coat the other side before cooking them for another 2 to 4 minutes. 

Tips For Success

  • Any brand of BBQ dry rub and BBQ sauce will work. One of my go-to store-bought BBQ sauces is from the brand Sweet Baby Ray’s. My absolute favorite BBQ sauce is my Kansas City-Style BBQ Sauce. It is sweet and tangy! For a delicious homemade seasoning blend, try out this barbecue dry rub.
  • Ensure that the chicken legs are spaced out in the air fryer basket so that heat can circulate each piece evenly. If you own a small air fryer, you will need to cook the drumsticks in batches. Overcrowding the air fryer basket will cause the chicken legs not to cook evenly.
  • Spice things up! The BBQ dry rub already contains various spices, including cayenne, chili powder, and smoked paprika. Although, if you are looking for more heat, add some extra cayenne or swap out BBQ sauce for a hot buffalo sauce.
  • Avoid adding your BBQ sauce to the drumsticks until the end of the cooking time to ensure that it doesn’t burn and leave a sticky topping on your air fryer chicken legs. 
BBQ chicken legs in an air fryer basket.

FAQ

How should I store this dish?

You can store the chicken drumsticks in the refrigerator for approximately three to four days. They may also last in the freezer for up to three months in a tightly sealed bag or container. To reheat your chicken once it is thawed, throw it back in the air fryer for three to five minutes to warm up. Be sure not to leave it in there for too long as the chicken will lose its moisture over time.

What should I serve with these air fryer barbecue chicken legs? 

These tasty air fryer chicken legs can be paired with virtually any side dish. I love to serve them alongside this incredible smoked jalapeño popper mac and cheese. Although, some roasted, grilled, or air-fried vegetables are also great options. Some ideas for vegetables you can use are asparagus, cauliflower, broccoli, portobello mushrooms, corn on the cob, and zucchini.

How will I know if my chicken is finished cooking?

According to the FDA, it is recommended to cook your chicken to an internal temperature of 165°F. I usually take my chicken out of the air fryer when it reaches 155°F to 160°F. By the time the chicken finishes resting, it often reaches an internal temperature close to 165°F.

What else is cooking?

If we are talking barbecue, then we should definitely also include these cowboy baked beans in the conversation. There are 6 different types of beans in this recipe and they are baked in a delicious BBQ sauce and topped with bacon. This dish makes a perfect side on your big cookouts and I can guarantee that it will be a huge hit at your party!

At your next BBQ, you are going to need some dip. This guacamole has a special ingredient and gives it just a hint of spiciness and a wonderful tangy flavor. Make sure to whip up a big batch because it is going to disappear quickly!

Air fryer drumsticks next to some bbq sauce.

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BBQ chicken legs in an air fryer basket.

Barbecue Air Fryer Chicken Legs

Yield: 6 chicken legs
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 22 minutes
Total Time: 32 minutes

These are seriously the best air fryer BBQ chicken legs ever. They get coated in a BBQ dry rub which acts as a brine to keep them moist and infuse flavor into every bite. At the end of the cooking time, coat them in BBQ sauce and cook them a little more to get the sauce thick and sticky. They are finger-licking good.

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Place the chicken legs in a sealable plastic bag or large bowl. Add the olive oil and coat the chicken thoroughly in the oil. 
  2. Add the dry barbecue seasoning rub and toss the legs around until they are completely coated in the dry rub. If you have the time, let the chicken sit in the fridge for 8 hours (it acts as a dry brine and makes the chicken juicy and fully seasoned). 
  3. Place the chicken legs in your air fryer and cook at 370°F for 18 minutes (turn them halfway through the cooking time). 
  4. Brush some BBQ sauce over the tops of the drumsticks and cook at 390°F for 2 minutes. Turn them, coat the other side and cook them for another 2 to 4 minutes. 

Notes

  • Any brand of BBQ dry rub and BBQ sauce will work. If you want to make your own seasoning and sauce, check the post for recipes. 
  • Don’t overcrowd the air fryer. Make sure the chicken legs get spaced out so heat can circulate around them. If you have a small air fryer you will need to cook the drumsticks in batches. 
  • Don’t put the bbq sauce on the drumsticks until the end of the cooking time or it will burn on top of the chicken legs. 
  • The FDA recommends that you cook chicken to an internal temperature of 165°F. You can get away with cooking chicken legs a bit higher since they are higher in fat. The BBQ dry rub also acts as a brine and helps keep the chicken moist. 

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 553Total Fat: 26gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 16gCholesterol: 331mgSodium: 627mgCarbohydrates: 12gFiber: 0gSugar: 9gProtein: 64g

Nutrition information is a guideline only, is calculated automatically by third party software, and absolute accuracy is not guaranteed.

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