Air-Fryer "Fried" Chicken Thighs


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.

Active Time:
15 mins
Additional Time:
4 hrs 15 mins
Total Time:
4 hrs 30 mins
4 servings

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


  • 2 cups buttermilk

  • 1 tablespoon hot sauce, such as Frank's RedHot

  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed

  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (about 1 pound total), trimmed

  • ½ cup all-purpose flour

  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder

  • ½ teaspoon salt

  • ½ teaspoon ground pepper

  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten

  • 1 cup whole-wheat breadcrumbs

  • Cooking spray


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

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

  3. 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.

  4. 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.)

  5. 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 (per serving)

353 Calories
18g Fat
20g Carbs
27g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 4
Serving Size 1 chicken thigh
Calories 353
% Daily Value *
Total Carbohydrate 20g 7%
Dietary Fiber 0g 1%
Total Sugars 2g
Protein 27g 54%
Total Fat 18g 22%
Saturated Fat 3g 17%
Cholesterol 123mg 41%
Vitamin A 139IU 3%
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Folate 41mcg 10%
Sodium 420mg 18%
Calcium 72mg 6%
Iron 3mg 14%
Magnesium 40mg 9%
Potassium 269mg 6%

Nutrition information is calculated by a registered dietitian using an ingredient database but should be considered an estimate.

* Daily Values (DVs) are the recommended amounts of nutrients to consume each day. Percent Daily Value (%DV) found on nutrition labels tells you how much a serving of a particular food or recipe contributes to each of those total recommended amounts. Per the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the daily value is based on a standard 2,000 calorie diet. Depending on your calorie needs or if you have a health condition, you may need more or less of particular nutrients. (For example, it’s recommended that people following a heart-healthy diet eat less sodium on a daily basis compared to those following a standard diet.)

(-) Information is not currently available for this nutrient. If you are following a special diet for medical reasons, be sure to consult with your primary care provider or a registered dietitian to better understand your personal nutrition needs.

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