Crispy, juicy, Southern fried chicken legs made with buttermilk in the air fryer and without excess grease and oil! This air fryer fried chicken recipe is the best way to enjoy fried chicken.
I long suffered through making fried chicken with a traditional deep fryer. The results included, yes, fried chicken, but I had to use a lot of oil and grease to get there. Plus, the clean-up was a complete nightmare!
The best way to fry up chicken drumsticks and bone-in thighs is with your air fryer. Keep reading — I’m going to show you how to make fried chicken in the air fryer!
Here’s what I’m going to teach you in this post:
- The ingredients you’ll need to make Southern fried chicken in the air fryer
- How to make fried chicken in the air fryer from start to finish
- Specific heating instructions for your air fryer fried chicken thighs, plus directions on reheating fried chicken in the air fryer
I made this recipe using the 5.8 QT Cosori Air Fryer. Its square basket makes it the perfect size for our family of 4.
How to Make Air Fryer Fried Chicken
A full printable version of this recipe with ingredient measurements is available at the bottom of this post.
STEP ONE: In a large, shallow bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and eggs until the mixture is well combined. In a second bowl, add the flour, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper and whisk well.
STEP TWO: Dip each piece of chicken in the flour, shaking off any excess. Next, dip it in the buttermilk. Roll it again in the flour, covering it completely. Set on a baking sheet and set aside while you dredge the remaining pieces.
STEP THREE: Spray all sides of the breaded chicken pieces with olive oil spray, as well as the inner basket of the air fryer. Place 4 or 5 pieces of chicken in the bottom of the basket (or as many will fit in a single layer).
STEP FOUR: Cook at 360 degrees F for 15-20 minutes. Carefully flip the chicken and cook for another 5-10 minutes, or until cooked to 165 degrees internally. Use a food-safe thermometer to check!
Tips to Make the Best Air Fryer Fried Chicken
- Add a little bit of hot sauce into your buttermilk for some additional heat.
- Use perforated parchment paper in your air fryer basket to prevent your chicken drumsticks from sticking.
- Keep your chicken in a single layer for crispy results.
- Fried chicken in the air fryer is best served fresh, but you can also reheat it.
Reheating Fried Chicken in the Air Fryer
You can reheat your air fryer fried chicken if you have any leftovers. Simply preheat your air fryer to 370 degrees F and cook for about 10 minutes, or until warmed.
I Don’t Have Buttermilk, So Can I Use Something Else?
Fried chicken without buttermilk just isn’t as tasty, but it’s easy to make your own! Simply combine the milk of your choosing with vinegar or lemon juice. Stir, and let sit for 5-10 minutes. You’ll want to use 1 tablespoon of vinegar or lemon juice for every 1 cup of milk.
I love using homemade buttermilk in recipes like these air fryer fried chicken thighs, as well as these air fryer ravioli!
What are the Best Chicken Pieces to Use?
Bone-in chicken thighs and chicken drumsticks are great options. For both, opt for skin-on in order to get an extra crispy outside layer!
Can I Stack Fried Chicken in the Air Fryer?
Don’t stack your fried chicken in the air fryer. The coating from one piece of chicken can stick to the other pieces and will come off. Plus, your food won’t cook evenly!
Do I Need to Preheat My Air Fryer?
Some air fryer recipes will let you skip the preheating step, but not this one. You need to preheat your air fryer for this air fryer fried chicken thighs recipe. That extra heat will ensure that the breading crisps up quickly and efficiently!
How Long Do I Cook Air Fryer Fried Chicken?
Preheat your air fryer to 360 degrees F. Once you’ve prepared and breaded your chicken, cook for 15-20 minutes. Flip the chicken and cook for an additional 5-10 minutes. Total cook time shouldn’t be more than 30 minutes!
Why Is There Still Flour on My Fried Chicken in the Air Fryer?
It’s very important that you spray all sides of your chicken pieces with olive oil spray if you want to avoid any loose flour. This will make sure that the flour coating turns brown and crisps up nicely. It will still be much more healthy than traditional Southern fried chicken!
Other Air Fryer Recipes You’ll Love:
- Air Fryer Chicken Tenders – No Breading (or my Air Fryer Chicken Tenders recipe with panko!)
- Air Fryer Chicken Legs
- Frozen Chicken Thighs in the Air Fryer
- Air Fryer Whole Chicken
- Air Fryer Chicken Breast
- Air Fryer Marinated Chicken Thighs
- BBQ Drumsticks in the Air Fryer
- Air Fryer Orange Chicken
- Air Fryer Bone-in Chicken Breasts
- Air Fryer Chicken Wings — Buffalo Style
And check out our massive list of the best air fryer chicken recipes here!
- 3 pounds bone-in chicken thighs and drumsticks
- 1 ½ cups buttermilk
- 2 large eggs
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 teaspoons paprika
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons onion powder
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- Olive oil spray
- Preheat your air fryer to 360 degrees F.
- In a large shallow bowl, whisk together the buttermilk and eggs until well combined.
- In a second shallow bowl, add the flour, paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper and whisk well.
- Using tongs or your hands, dip each piece of the chicken in the flour, shaking off any excess. Next, dip it in the buttermilk, then roll it in the flour, covering it completely. Set on a baking sheet and set aside. Repeat with the remaining chicken.
- Spray all sides of the chicken pieces with olive oil spray, as well as the inner basket of the air fryer.
- Place 4-5 pieces of chicken in the bottom of the air fryer basket, or as many that fit in your air fryer basket or oven in a single layer.
- Cook for 15-20 minutes. Carefully flip the chicken and cook for another 5-10 minutes until 165 degrees internally.
How to Reheat Fried Chicken in the Air Fryer:
1. Preheat your air fryer to 370 degrees.
2. Place the leftover fried chicken in the air fryer and cook for 7 to 10 minutes, until heated thoroughly and crispy.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 558Total Fat: 28gSaturated Fat: 8gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 20gCholesterol: 281mgSodium: 943mgCarbohydrates: 28gFiber: 1gSugar: 2gProtein: 49g
This nutrition information is based on the exact products I used in this recipe. Brands and sizes of products could alter exact nutrition and should always be calculated independently.