Enjoy the most mouthwatering blackened chicken drumsticks cooked to perfection in your air fryer. Seasoned with herbs and spices in the tradition of Cajun cuisine, transform ordinary chicken into an extraordinarily flavorful feast!
Why I Love This Recipe
We’ve already said mouthwatering. Let’s throw in bold and bursting with flavor. You get the idea. These chicken drumsticks are loaded with flavor and are so easy to cook. After applying the seasoning, they air fry for only 20 minutes and the results are irresistible. A ha! Another word to describe this great recipe!
What is Blackened Seasoning?
Blackened seasoning comes from the culinary traditions of Cajun cuisine in Louisiana. It’s an awesome blend that adds depth and character to dishes. Its flavor profile is a mix of smoky nuances with an array of spices, delivering a distinct and memorable taste. Despite its origins in a specific cultural tradition, the beauty of blackened seasoning lies in its simplicity, making it easy for even novice cooks to infuse their meals with a touch of Southern charm.
Does blackened seasoning mean the food is burnt? Lol, no not at all. But we will get some really nice color, char and crispness from our seasonings and the air frying process.
Equipment and Ingredients
I’m using a standard 6qt basket-style air fryer for this recipe. If you have a tray-style air fryer, that’s just fine as well. You’ll want to make sure the air fryer has the capacity to hold 6 chicken drumsticks in a single layer, not touching, with ease. If your air fryer is smaller than 6 quarts, consider doing the recipe in batches or use fewer drumsticks.
We like to stick to pantry-friendly ingredients and this recipe makes use of some great ones.
The star of the show is, of course, the chicken drumsticks. We’ll use 6 for this recipe.
Smoked paprika will give us the flavor depth and color that is so common in blackened dishes.
Onion powder and garlic powder will provide their respective flavors.
White pepper and black pepper, when used in blackened seasoning, provide a well-rounded heat, with black pepper offering the immediate punch and white pepper lending a more subdued and intricate warmth. The combination ensures a multi-layered peppery experience, making the seasoning more dynamic and flavorful.
Thyme and oregano are two herbs that we use sparingly to provide a robust and rounded flavor profile to chicken, making the dish more aromatic and layered in taste.
Cumin, with its distinct earthy and warm profile, is a game-changer when added to blackened seasoning. It introduces a depth characterized by its slightly nutty, spicy, and citrus undertones.
Finally, the cayenne. We already get some zing from the pepper, but the cayenne brings it all home. Stick to a small amount of ¼ tsp or less, especially if you’re sensitive to spicy dishes.
We’ll also use one tablespoon of olive oil to help bind all the ingredients to the drumsticks and help with crisping the skin.
Mix all the dry ingredients in a small bowl and set aside. Now, pat the chicken dry with paper towels. Patting chicken drumsticks dry with a paper towel helps ensure even browning and crispiness by removing excess moisture, and it helps prevent steam from forming, which can make the skin soggy instead of crispy.
Use a large zip-top bag or large bowl and toss the drumsticks with the oil. Then add the seasoning until the drumsticks are well coated.
Preheat your air fryer to 400°F. When ready, add the drumsticks in a single layer, not touching if possible. Do two batches if your air fryer doesn’t comfortably hold all six. Use the air fry setting at 400°F and set the timer for 20 minutes. Turn the drumsticks twice during the cooking process.
When done, the internal temperature of the drumsticks should be at least 165°F when measured with an instant-read thermometer. However, the ideal temperature for chicken drumsticks is actually closer to 195°F. No kidding! In other words, you can and want to cook them past 165°F for ideal juiciness and crispness. Generally, I just shoot for anywhere between 185-195°F. No need to be exact with this.
When done, remove from the air fryer and let rest for at least 5 minutes before serving.
Goes Well With…
Instant Pot Mac and Cheese: It’s no secret how much I love a good macaroni and cheese. And it is really an ideal side dish for this recipe.
Country Creamy Cole Slaw: That cool, creamy crunch with vibrant flavors pairs so well with blackened dishes.
Air Fryer Brussels Sprouts: These little nuggets are pure gold when riding shotgun with our blackened chicken drumsticks.
Iron Skillet Cornbread: I mean… come on! Cornbread is THE side dish for blackened chicken.
Storage and Reheating
Store leftovers in an air-tight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Reheat chicken drumsticks in the air fryer at 350°F for about 5-10 minutes, flipping them halfway through until they reach an internal temperature of 165°F.
Reheat in a conventional oven preheated oven at 350°F for approximately 15-20 minutes or until they reach an internal temperature of 165°F.
For reheating in a microwave, place chicken on a microwave-safe plate, covered with a microwave-safe lid for 2-3 minutes or until heated through.
Frequently Asked Questions
It has a bit of a kick for sure. The black and white pepper will give it a nice boldness, while the smoked paprika will further deepen the flavor. However, unless a paprika specifically says it’s hot, it’s generally very mild. The real heat from this recipe comes from the cayenne. If you’re sensitive to spicy, reduce or eliminate the cayenne.
As mentioned above, the white pepper provides a subdued and intricate warmth and is awesome for filling out the flavor profile. However, if you don’t have any, just use black pepper in it’s place. For this recipe that simply means increasing the black pepper total to ½ tsp.
It sure can! The time and temp will be the same.