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Air fryers need a lot less oil to create a deep-fried crispy crust. Here, chicken thighs are marinated in buttermilk and dredged in a simple breadcrumb coating. With the help of a little cooking spray, they cook up nice and crispy with a lot less fat. Serve them with your favorite dipping sauce or slice them up to top a salad.

Eatingwell.com, August 2018


Read the full recipe after the video.

Recipe Summary

15 mins
4 hrs 30 mins

How To Make Fried Chicken Thighs Healthier

"Healthy" and "fried" are two words that don't often go hand-in-hand, but with the help of an air-fryer, you can get the benefits of fried chicken thighs (think crispy golden crust) with much less oil (which means less fat and calories.) Here's how to make healthier fried chicken thighs:

Marinate Your Chicken Thighs

Whether you're deep frying or air-frying, chicken thighs can benefit from a marinade. We marinate our chicken thighs in buttermilk with garlic and a dash of hot sauce. This flavors and tenderizes the meat and helps keep it moist when it's cooked. You can marinate the chicken for as little as 4 hours, or overnight. We use boneless, skinless chicken thighs trimmed of excess fat. This helps keep saturated fat in check and allows for quicker cooking.

Give Them a Crispy Coating

We dredge our chicken thighs in a whole-wheat breadcrumb coating which will eventually become that signature, crispy golden crust we all crave when it comes to fried food. Whole-wheat breadcrumbs offer an added boost of fiber, but plain white breadcrumbs will work well too. Once the coating is applied, it's time to cook them! It's important to spray both sides of the chicken thighs with cooking spray. This helps achieve an even, crispy crust as the hot air from the air-fryer circulates around the chicken eliminating the need for cups of oil to get crispy results.

Cook Them In Batches For The Best Results

Since air-fryer sizes vary, you may need to cook the chicken thighs in batches. It's important to keep the chicken thighs in a single layer vs. cramming them into the air-fryer basket. A crowded basket will steam as opposed to "fry" and the chicken thighs won't cook evenly. To keep the first batch crispy and fresh as the second batch cooks, pre-heat your oven to warm and line a baking sheet with foil. Transfer your first batch to the baking sheet and let it sit in the warm oven while the second batch cooks.

What To Serve With Fried Chicken Thighs

Fried chicken thighs are best served right away. You can enjoy them on their own with a side of mashed potatoes and a green vegetable, or add them to the top of a salad. Or you can slice them up and serve them with your favorite dipping sauce from ketchup to creamy ranch dressing.

Additional reporting by Hilary Meyer


Ingredient Checklist


Instructions Checklist
  • Combine buttermilk, hot sauce and garlic in a medium nonreactive bowl. Add chicken thighs. Cover and marinate for at least 4 hours or overnight.

  • Combine flour, garlic powder, salt and pepper in a shallow dish. Add eggs to another shallow dish and breadcrumbs to a third shallow dish.

  • Working one at a time, remove the chicken thighs from the marinade. Coat with the flour mixture, then the egg. Finally, coat both sides with breadcrumbs. Coat both sides of the chicken with cooking spray.

  • Lightly coat the basket of the air fryer with cooking spray. Place the chicken thighs in a single layer in the basket. (Depending on the size of your air fryer, you may have to cook in batches.)

  • Cook the chicken at 400 degrees F until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center of the chicken registers 165 degrees F, turning the thighs over halfway through, about 16 minutes. (If cooking in batches, cooking time for the second batch may be shorter.)

Nutrition Facts

1 chicken thigh
353 calories; protein 26.9g; carbohydrates 20.2g; dietary fiber 0.4g; sugars 1.8g; fat 17.5g; saturated fat 3.4g; cholesterol 122.6mg; vitamin a iu 138.9IU; vitamin c 0.2mg; folate 40.6mcg; calcium 71.5mg; iron 2.5mg; magnesium 39.8mg; potassium 269.2mg; sodium 420.1mg; thiamin 0.2mg.

3 lean protein, 2 fat, 1 starch, 1/2 medium-fat protein