This recipe for sweet, smoky chicken thighs gets crispy in an air fryer


Sweet and tangy Air Fryer drumsticks

Total time:30 minutes

Servings:2 to 3

Total time:30 minutes

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 up with a bit of cynicism – and we’ll see…

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

The legs — a sparse cut of the bird — are pierced and rubbed with a sweet and spicy paste made from oil and honey, which is whisked with Cajun spices, sweet paprika, smoked paprika, chili powder, and garlic powder. They’re 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 around the world, she grew up eating a variety of Middle Eastern, Mexican, and South Asian dishes Food. So her cookbook is filled with “fusion recipes” that are “inspired by different cuisines.” (She puts cumin and coriander in her Sujuk quesadillas.)

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

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

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Time and time again, as I flipped through the cookbook, I thought the ingredient list looked a little long, but then I realized it was just because it contained teaspoons of various dried, ground spices.

Besides some quick and easy weekday meals, I got another little bonus from Jalanbo’s cookbook: inspiration to be a little freer and easier with my own spice cabinet. If I’m breading my chicken chops like her, why not add a little sambal chili paste to the eggs? Or how about I spice up my salmon spice rub with some ground cumin and sumac?

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

We had these chickens for dinner with a lightly dressed mixed raw salad – prepared while the chickens were cooking, so it was ready in about half an hour. The chicken would also make a great party dish or, with football season fast approaching, a game day snack.

Sweet and tangy Air Fryer drumsticks

The air fryer gave the best result and required no preheating, but we got similar results when we cooked the chicken on a heatproof rack in a preheated oven or toaster on 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 powder
  • 2 teaspoons chilli 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 to serve

Place the honey in a large microwave-safe bowl and microwave on high for 20 seconds.

Remove bowl from microwave and stir in 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 prick the chicken all over to allow the marinade to penetrate the meat. Place the chicken in the bowl and rub the marinade into each piece until well coated.

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

Set the air fryer to 380 degrees – no preheating required – and air fry the chicken for 8 minutes; Then turn the pieces with tongs or a fork and cook every 5 minutes until the chicken looks dark red with charred spots and has an internal temperature of 165 degrees, about 15 minutes total. Depending on the size of your drumsticks and the air fryer you use, they may take 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; fiber: 2 g; sugar: 24 g; Egg white: 45 g

This analysis is an estimate based on available ingredients and this preparation. It should not replace the advice of a nutritionist or nutritionist.

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

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

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