My Air Fryer Chicken Thighs are the perfect option for an easy weeknight meal! Prepare the thighs, throw them in the air fryer, and dinner is served in less than 20 minutes. Plus, no need to worry about breaking out the deep fryer. Less oil, less mess… once you make chicken thighs in the air fryer you’ll never turn back!
Air Fryer Chicken Thighs
Chicken is on the menu at least a few times a week in our house… it’s so versatile and easy to make, plus it’s one of the more wholesome meat options out there.
There are seriously so many ways to prepare chicken. Use it as a blank canvas and get creative!
Some of my go-to’s include this unique Tuscan Chicken Shepherd’s Pie, classic chicken noodle soup, creamy chicken and dumplings… the list goes on!
I also can’t forget about my favorite fried chicken recipes!
Crispy and crunchy French fried onion chicken and this Olive Garden-inspired crispy chicken fritta are both super tasty.
Today, I want to introduce a super simple way to make fried chicken: with your air fryer!
These air fryer chicken thighs are totally delectable, easy to make, and don’t require a lot of excess oil, like traditionally fried recipes.
They’re also made from scratch, so you know exactly what you’re feeding your family. Score!
Use this chicken thighs air fryer recipe the next time you aren’t sure what to serve for dinner. Thank me later!!
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
- Chicken Thighs – I almost always use skin-on-bone-in chicken thighs for this chicken thighs air fryer recipe.
They’re easiest to find, and I like the flavor. That said, you can also use boneless!
Opt for whatever’s easiest for you, and make sure to adjust the time and temperature if needed.
- Cornstarch – My secret weapon for extra crispy chicken thighs in the air fryer!
Cornstarch will absorb any excess moisture in the poultry, plus it improves the overall browning process. I don’t recommend skipping it!
- Seasonings – I’m using my preferred mixture of Cajun seasoning, onion powder, and ground black pepper.
But, don’t be afraid to experiment! Feel free to customize the spice level or use a milder alternative like Ranch dressing mix, Italian seasoning, Lemon Pepper Seasoning, BBQ rub, or your favorite.
- Light Brown Sugar – Another key component of the seasoning mix! I love the way the warm, molasses-y sweetness plays off of the heat in the Cajun spice blend.
Tips and Tricks to Make Crispy Chicken Thighs in Air Fryer
- Preheat for extra crispiness.
If you’ve been air frying for a while now, you’ve probably noticed that some recipes require preheating while others do not.
This crispy chicken thighs air fryer recipe is one that definitely benefits from some solid preheating!
When you preheat your air fryer, it means that the chicken will start to cook immediately, which will result in some really crispy thighs!
- Thoroughly dry the chicken thighs.
Take the extra time to pat the chicken thighs dry with a paper towel before adding your seasoning.
Removing any excess moisture helps the seasonings adhere better and promotes a crispy texture during air frying.
If you haven’t figured it out yet, this air fryer chicken thighs recipe is all about crunchy results!
- Not all air fryers are created equal.
The time and temperatures that are listed on the recipe card may need to be adjusted, depending on the size of your chicken thighs.
As another note, I came up with the time and temp that works for making chicken thighs in the air fryer for my specific model.
Yours may be different — play around with it to determine what works best for you.
- Preheat your air fryer
- Create your custom seasoning mix if using
- Pat the chicken thighs dry
Kitchen Tools You Will Need
- Air Fryer – Remember, different brands and sizes may require different cooking times, so be familiar with your model and make adjustments as needed.
- Mixing Bowls – I like to have a variety of sizes on hand, and this set has them all.
- Tongs – I love this set of 3, and I use every pair of them. They are so handy and grip amazingly well!
- Digital meat thermometer – The easiest way to check the temp on the thighs. Not only will you know when it’s safe to eat, but you can make sure it’s not overcooked and dried out as well.
Storing and Reheating Leftover Chicken Thighs in Air Fryer
Before storing, make sure your air fryer chicken thighs have cooled to room temperature.
Then, place leftovers in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.
You could also freeze them! Store in a freezer-safe, airtight container or bag, and they’ll keep for up to 4 months.
Use your air fryer to reheat! Set the temperature to 350°F and air fry for 3-5 minutes or until heated through.
You can use the same temperature if using your regular oven, but you’ll need to let them heat for 10-15 minutes.
The microwave is a good option for single servings — heat in 30-second bursts until heated through.
If working from frozen, thaw in the fridge overnight first.
Air Fryer Chicken Thighs FAQ
There are a few ways! First, make sure to preheat your air fryer for at least 2-3 minutes before getting started. You want the temperature to be as hot as possible so that the thighs begin cooking immediately.
Don’t forget to pat the poultry thoroughly before seasoning, then add that all-important addition of cornstarch. Finally, air fry in a single layer — don’t crowd that basket!
Bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs generally result in the crispiest skin. The bone helps conduct heat, and the skin provides a protective layer, which allows it to crisp up more effectively.
Now, boneless thighs can still be crispy… you just have to adjust the cooking time accordingly.
A good marinade will add a lot of flavor to your chicken thighs air fryer recipe, but you won’t get the same crunchy exterior.
Excess moisture from the marinade will prevent the skin from crisping up, so if you choose to go that route know that your version won’t come out exactly as is shown in my pictures. It will still likely be very tasty, but it won’t be crunchy!
With love, from our simple kitchen to yours.
Air Fryer Chicken Thighs (Crispy Recipe!)
- 4 chicken thighs, skin-on, bone-in, approximately 2 pounds total
- 2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning, or your favorite – see notes
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon packed light brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons cornstarch
- Preheat the air fryer at 375 degrees F for 2 to 3 minutes or until your chicken is ready to go into the air fryer (whichever is longer). Preheating helps the chicken start cooking immediately for a crispy exterior.
- Dry the chicken: Pat the chicken thighs dry with a paper towel. Drying the chicken helps the seasonings adhere better and promotes crispiness. Place the dry chicken in a large bowl.
- Make the rub: Combine Cajun seasoning, onion powder, black pepper, and brown sugar in a small bowl. Mix well. A well-mixed rub ensures each bite is flavorful.
- Season the chicken: Evenly sprinkle the mixture onto the chicken thighs and massage/press the rub into the chicken skin. Rubbing the seasoning in helps it penetrate the meat for more flavor.
- Add cornstarch: Gently sprinkle cornstarch over the chicken and toss to coat evenly. Cornstarch aids in creating a crispy texture when air fried.
- Arrange in air fryer: Place the chicken thighs in a single layer in the air fryer basket. Arranging them with space between them ensures even cooking and crispiness on all sides.
- Cook: Air fry at 375°F for 14 minutes, flipping halfway through with tongs. Flipping ensures even cooking and crispiness on both sides.
- Check temperature: Confirm chicken reaches an internal temperature of at least 165 degrees F using a meat thermometer. This is the safe cooking temperature for poultry to ensure it's fully cooked.
All nutritional information is based on third party calculations and is only an estimate. Each recipe’s nutritional value will vary depending on the ingredients used, measuring methods, and portion sizes.
Originally published January 2024
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