Crispy chicken pieces smothered in barbecue sauce makes a perfect 30 minute weeknight dinner. And with this recipe for air fryer BBQ chicken you don’t even need to fire up the grill!
An air fryer excels at cooking chicken, combining crispy skin with juicy, delicious meat. This air fryer BBQ chicken turns this summer staple into a simple, family friendly meal you can enjoy all year long.
Just coat the chicken pieces with seasoning and air fry them until they are perfectly done. Then add your favorite barbecue sauce and cook just a little longer to caramelize the sauce and seal in the flavor.
Why You Will Love Air Fryer BBQ Chicken
- It is a super simple meal that you can make in less than 30 minutes.
- There is no need to stand over a hot grill, worry about the weather, or heat up your kitchen.
- This easy recipe is perfect for prepping on the weekend for easy chicken all week long.
Air Fryer Chicken
Chicken is one of my favorite things to make in my air fryer. And chicken is healthy, affordable and easy to make, so I serve it multiple times a week.
Barbecue chicken is my husband’s favorite way to eat chicken and I love that with this recipe I can get all the barbecue flavor he loves without actually using a grill. It is so convenient!
Since I like variety in my meals that means I need lots of different chicken recipes. Whether it is traditional air fryer fried chicken or a simple dinner like air fryer chicken caprese there are tons of quick, easy and delicious ways to make chicken.
Chicken : My family likes chicken drumsticks and chicken thighs best, so I use a mixture of chicken legs and bone in thighs in this recipe. You could also use all drumsticks, all thighs, chicken breast or a whole cut up chicken.
Barbecue sauce : The best barbecue sauce is definitely a matter of debate. So use your family’s favorite sauce! I used Dinosaur Barbecue’s Sensuous Slathering Sauce.
Spices : The chicken pieces are seasoned with a mixture of paprika, garlic powder, salt and pepper. My homemade dry rub recipe or a store bought spice rub would also work well.
How to Make Air Fryer BBQ Chicken
Mix the paprika, garlic powder, salt and pepper together in a small bowl. Then use it to coat the outside of the chicken legs and thighs.
Tip: Pull the skin up and get some seasoning on the chicken meat underneath. It gets a little messy, but the extra flavor is worth the effort.
2. Air Fry
Put the chicken pieces skin side down into the basket of your air fryer. There is no need to add any extra oil, the chicken has enough fat to brown nicely without it.
I can fit 7-8 pieces of chicken in my 5.8 quart Cosori air fryer, depending on the mix of chicken legs to chicken thighs. Don’t overcrowd the chicken in the basket and don’t overlap the pieces.
Set the air fryer at 370 degrees F for 18 minutes. There is no need to flip the chicken over as it cooks, although it won’t hurt anything either.
After 18 minutes use an instant read thermometer to check the chicken and make sure it is at 165 degrees F. If it isn’t cooked through add another 2-3 minutes of cooking time until it is done.
Always use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature, don’t try to cook based just on time. A thermometer is not expensive and the peace of mind they give you is priceless. Food poisoning is not fun! This is my favorite inexpensive meat thermometer, which you can buy on Amazon.
3. Add BBQ Sauce
Once the chicken is cooked flip it over, so the skin side up, and use a pastry brush or spoon to cover the chicken with barbecue sauce. Then set the air fryer at 350 degrees F and let it cook for another 2 minutes. This will coat the chicken with the sauce and bake it on.
Tip: Don’t put the barbecue sauce on the chicken earlier. If it cooks more than a few minutes it is likely to burn.
How to Serve
Serve the chicken with barbecue sauce on the side for dipping or drizzling on top. Sides like corn on the cob or mashed potatoes go well with air fryer BBQ chicken. Another easy option is to make a quick salad like Cajun pasta salad or this pesto pasta salad recipe while the chicken cooks.
How to Store
Leftover chicken keeps well in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. And this BBQ chicken tastes great served cold! The leftovers make a great lunch like a salad or a wrap.
If you don’t want to serve your leftover chicken cold you can easily heat it up in the air fryer. Just add the pieces to the basket and cook at 320 degrees F for 5 minutes. Then add more barbecue sauce and enjoy.
The air fryer cooks chicken very quickly which helps seal in the juices and reduces the need for marinade. So unless there is a specific flavor I want to infuse into the chicken I don’t marinade it before air frying.
You can also make this with chicken breasts. The cooking time will be longer if you are using bone in chicken breasts and about the same with boneless ones.
Find More Easy Air Fryer Dinners
- 8 chicken drumsticks or chicken thighs, bone in
- 1 Tablespoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pepper
- 1/2 cup barbecue sauce
- Combine the paprika, garlic powder, salt and pepper in a small bowl and mix. Use the spice mix to coat the chicken. Lift the skin up and put some of the spices under the skin for extra flavor.
- Put the chicken pieces in the air fryer basket with the skin side down in a single layer. Don't overcrowd the basket and don't stack the chicken.
- Set the air fryer at 370 degrees F for 18 minutes. After it is done cooking use an instant read thermometer to check that the internal temperature has reached 165 degrees F. If not cook the chicken for another 2-3 minutes and check again.
- Once the chicken is at 165 degrees F flip the pieces over and brush them with barbecue sauce.
- Set the air fryer at 350 degrees F and cook for another 2-3 minutes to caramelize the sauce and coat the chicken.
- Serve with extra barbecue sauce.
If you add the barbecue sauce too early it will burn in the air fryer.
If you prefer you can use 1 1/2 Tablespoons of a premixed barbecue spice rub like my homemade dry rub to coat the chicken.
You can use this recipe with chicken breasts. Bone in breasts will require more cooking time and boneless breasts will take about the same amount of cooking time. To be sure always use a thermometer to check the internal temperature of the chicken.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 316Total Fat: 14gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 182mgSodium: 752mgCarbohydrates: 11gFiber: 1gSugar: 8gProtein: 35g
Nutrition facts are estimates.