This sweet, smoky chicken legs recipe gets crisped in an air fryer

Sweet and Spicy Air Fryer Drumsticks

Total time:30 mins

Servings:2 to 3

Total time:30 mins

Servings:2 to 3


Sometimes a recipe makes a bold claim. I want to try it because it sounds good, but I end up cooking it with a bit of a cynicism — a we’ll see …

In her new cookbook, “The Quick & Easy Spiced Nice Cookbook,” Farrah Jalanbo wrote that these air fryer chicken legs taste like they have been “slow cooked in a smoker” — and, oh, goodness, she’s right.

The legs — a thrifty cut of the bird — are pierced and rubbed with a sweet and spicy paste of oil and honey whisked with Cajun seasoning, sweet paprika, smoked paprika, chili powder and garlic powder. They are then cooked in the air fryer — and turned several times — until well charred.

Jalanbo, a first-generation Syrian American, grew up in Southern California, but she writes in her first cookbook that because the family had close friends from all over the world, she grew up eating various Middle Eastern dishes as well as Mexican and South Asian food. So her cookbook is filled with “fusion recipes” that are “inspired by several different cuisines.” (She puts cumin and coriander in her sujuk quesadillas.)

On her TikTok, which has 1.8 million followers, you can watch her make these drumsticks. Her popular Spiced Nice Instagram account, which she started three years ago, has attracted more than 260,000 followers.

Jalanbo’s cookbook makes another bold claim: that the 60 recipes included will be ready in 30 minutes or less. I haven’t made them all, of course, but I did make her za’atar chicken skewers (with za’atar, sumac and garlic powder) and basil lemon meatballs (ground chicken with fresh basil, lemon and ricotta cheese as well as garlic powder and dried thyme). Both were full of flavor and came in right on time.

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Over and over again, as I looked through the cookbook, I’d think the ingredient list looked a little long but then realize it was just because she included teaspoons of various dried, ground spices.

Along with a few quick and easy weeknight meals, I got another little bonus from Jalanbo’s cookbook: inspiration to be a little freer and easier with my own spice cabinet. Why not add a little sambal chili paste to the eggs when I’m breading my chicken cutlets, as she does? Or how about goosing my salmon spice rub with a little ground cumin and sumac?

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Isn’t that what solid cookbooks are supposed to do? Give us good recipes, sure, but also inspire us and give us tools to do our own thing?

We ate these drumsticks for dinner with a lightly dressed mixed raw vegetable salad — made while the drumsticks cooked, so it was all ready in about a half-hour. The chicken would also make a great party dish or, with football season fast approaching, a game-day snack, too.

Sweet and Spicy Air Fryer Drumsticks

The air fryer produced the best result and required no preheating, but we got similar results cooking the chicken on a heatproof rack in a preheated oven or toaster oven, using the convection setting.

Storage: Refrigerate leftovers for up to 3 days.

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  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons Cajun seasoning
  • 3 1/2 teaspoons avocado or vegetable oil, plus more for greasing
  • 2 teaspoons sweet paprika
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine salt
  • 6 chicken drumsticks (about 1 1/2 pounds total)
  • Green salad, for serving

Place the honey in a large microwaveable bowl and heat it in the microwave on high for 20 seconds.

Remove the bowl from the microwave and whisk in the Cajun seasoning, oil, sweet paprika, smoked paprika, chili powder, garlic powder, pepper and salt until a smooth, red paste forms.

Using a sharp knife, lightly puncture the chicken all over to allow the marinade to get into the meat. Add the chicken to the bowl and rub the marinade into each piece until well coated.

Remove the basket from the air fryer and lightly rub it with oil. Arrange the drumsticks in the basket in a single layer. It’s fine if they touch, but allow for as much space as possible between the pieces.

Set the air fryer to 380 degrees — there is no need to preheat — and air-fry the chicken for 8 minutes; then, using tongs or a fork, flip the pieces and cook, flipping every 5 minutes, until the chicken looks dark red with charred spots and has an internal temperature of 165 degrees, about 15 more minutes total. Depending on the size of your drumsticks and the air fryer being used, they may need less time.

Per serving (2 drumsticks), based on 3

Calories: 521; Total Fat: 25 g; Saturated Fat: 6 g; Cholesterol: 184 mg; Sodium: 788 mg; Carbohydrates: 28 g; Dietary Fiber: 2 g; Sugar: 24 g; Protein: 45 g

This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not substitute for a dietitian’s or nutritionist’s advice.

Adapted from “The Quick & Easy Spiced Nice Cookbook” by Farrah Jalanbo (Page Street Publishing, 2022).

Tested by Ann Maloney; email questions to [email protected].

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