Looking for an easy budget-friendly dinner? Try our finger-licking-good Air Fryer Crispy Curry Chicken Legs for a spicy, savory, and sweet bite of Thai heaven. The secret is in the mild massaman curry paste marinade that uses ONLY ingredients you can easily find in the grocery store.
One bite and you will be hooked! These air fried chicken drumsticks get extra crispy with just 10 minutes of prep time, just like our Super Easy Baked Wing Ding. All the delicious flavors of deep-fried chicken but with less fat and no breading. Air frying, baking, and grilling instructions are included in the recipe for your convenience.
Red curry paste is a delicious blend of red chili pepper, garlic, lemongrass, galangal, shallots, coriander root and kaffir lime leaves and has so many uses. It can be found in the Asian Food section of the typical grocery store. We hope you’ll have a little left over to try our Thai Red Curry Salmon recipe. The Thai Kitchen brand has a gluten free red curry paste, if that is a concern for you.
Peanuts – dry roasted or cashews or other seeds like our Easy Roasted Pepitas. If you choose to use a but butter reduce the amount to 1 tablespoon.
Chicken drumsticks (legs) – can also use chicken thighs or wings but they less time to cook. Chicken leg quarters take longer to cook. If you want a vegan option, try substituting with eggplant.
Fish sauce – gives that salty savory finish. If you need to stay gluten-free use red boat.
Oil – healthy olive oil or can even use coconut oil
Honey or maple syrup to balance the heat.
Lime zest adds a pop of flavor. Usually, kaffir lime leaves are an essential Thai ingredient. However, regular limes are an easier to find ingredient.
Aromatic spices – cumin and curry
Massaman Curry Substitute?
If you live close to an Asian market it is so easy to come by premade massaman curry. You can certainly use pre-made massaman curry paste for this air fryer crispy curry chicken legs recipe and save some time. However, for the rest of us, finding that beloved rich and heavily spiced Massaman curry can be near impossible to come by. That is exactly why we created our adapted version with easy to find ingredients found in a western grocery store.
People love our massaman curry substitute because it has all the flavors of a mild massaman curry (แกงมัสมั่น) but without all the fuss. We’ve ‘doctored’ up a traditional red curry paste to transform it into some with thing those delicious Northern Thailand flavors.
Usually massaman curry has cardamon, cinnamon, cloves, star anise, cumin, bay leaves, nutmeg and mace added to it as well. If you have those spices on hand, feel free to add them. We chose the most important spices to deliver the maximum amount of flavor with the least amount of effort and time.
How to Make Thai Massaman Curry Paste ?
You can make curry paste in a food processor or with a mortar and pestle. If you are using a food processor you can add the ingredients in at the same time and then blend until smooth. You can add a tiny bit of water or coconut milk to get the mixture moving.
However, with a mortar and pestle it is best to add the ingredients in this order for the best results.
Add the garlic cloves with a little salt as an abrasive and bash well
Next add the peanuts and crush.
Now add the red curry paste and adjust to your spice level
Add the zest of a lime and mix
Cumin and cinnamon are added at this time
Next comes the fish sauce
Honey is drizzled in
Now a couple tablespoons of oil and stir
Healthy Chicken Marinade
The best way to infuse lots of flavor into chicken legs is to marinate them overnight in the refrigerator with aromatics and spices, just like we did with our Tea Smoked Chicken Legs. However, if you are in a rush, at least 15 minutes to a half hour of marinating time is best.
You really need to get in there and rubs the drumsticks all over with the Thai curry paste. However, you don’t want to be doing that with your bare hands. If you accidently wipe your eyes or anywhere else, you will know about it and you won’t ever do that again! There are a couple of ways to avoid the burn from chili peppers.
- Use disposable gloves when touching the marinated chicken drumsticks.
- Place the chicken drumsticks and the massaman curry paste in a plastic bag. Seal it up and rub it all around.
How to Get Crispy Chicken Skin?
- If using frozen chicken drumsticks, it is best to let them fully thaw first.
- Dry the drumsticks with a paper towel BEFORE seasoning and marinating.
- Season the drumsticks with salt and pepper before rubbing them with the massaman curry paste marinade.
- Pre-heating your air fryer for a good 5 to 10 minutes at 400 degrees F (204 degrees C) before air frying also helps.
- Spray your air fryer basked with spray oil to prevent sticking and tearing of the crispy chicken skin.
- In addition, spray the chicken on all sides with oil to ensure maximum crispiness before air frying.
- Do not open the door to your air fryer to keep checking on them - you will lose heat.
- Bring your marinated chicken breasts out of the refrigerator for a few minutes before putting them in the air fryer. This ensures more consistent cooking.
- Turn your chicken legs midway turning the cooking process to ensure all sides are crispy and delicious.
Our Air Fryer Crispy Curry Chicken Legs were cooked in our COSORI Air Fryer Toaster 12-in-1 Countertop Convection Oven. Depending on the size of your air fryer, you may or may not be able to air fry all the drumsticks at the same time. For optimal results, you do not want your chicken legs touching so all the surfaces get extra crispy from the forced air.
If you do not own an air fryer- no worries. We have also included baking directions below in the recipe card. You can also grill your chicken drumsticks if Mother Nature is cooperating.
Rocking Side Dishes
We have made this finger licking massaman chicken curry recipe three times this week. It’s that good! Try these tasty Thai Cuisine side dishes for a complete meal.
If you want Thai inspired menu, try our Grilled Watermelon Salad and a side or starter of our Gluten-Free Thai Shrimp Pancakes.
Are you hosting a gathering? Start your guests off with a Tropical Fruit Rambutan Cocktail and then finish off the night with a cool and refreshing No-churn Dairy Free Mango Swirl Ice Cream.
Frequent asked Questions (FAQ’s)
The approximate cook time is between 20 to 25 minutes depending on the size of your chicken legs (drumsticks).
Chicken drumsticks need to be cooked until the internal meat thermometer reaches 165 degrees F (74 degrees C) and the juices run clear. Make sure to check the temperature in the thickest meatiest part of the leg and not near the bone for an accurate reading.
The best way is to preheat your air fryer or oven to 400 degrees F (205 degrees C) and then place the chicken legs back in the air fryer for approximately 6 minutes or until warmed through and the skin is crispy again.
According to the USDA, you can keep cooked chicken up to 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator or can be frozen for up to 4 months.
More Delicious Thai Recipes
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Air Fryer Crispy Curry Chicken Legs
- air fryer Oven and Grilling Directions included
Massaman Curry Paste (or use store-bought)
- 3 extra large garlic cloves or 6 medium peeled
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup peanuts roasted
- 1 to 2 tablespoons Thai red curry paste
- 2 teaspoons lime zest or zest from 1 lime
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1.5 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 tablespoons fish sauce
- 6 chicken legs (drumsticks) prepped and dried well with a paper towel or about 2 pounds (each leg is about 4 ounces and has about 1.5 ounces of chicken meat without the skin and bones – plan on two per person or more if you have a hungry crew.)
- salt and pepper as desired
- massaman curry paste ingredients above or can use store bought
- 3 tablespoons honey or maple syrup or sugar alternative of choice
- 1 tablespoon oil
- spray oil to prevent sticking
Garnishes - optional
- peanuts roasted and crushed
- cilantro, green onions and chili peppers
Make the massaman curry ( or you can use pre-made from the market )
- Place all ingredients for the massaman curry (garlic, salt, peanuts, Thai red curry paste, zest of 1 lime, cumin, cinnamon and fish sauce) in a food processor or use mortar and pestle to blend well. If having a hard time getting the ingredients to blend in the food processor, add 1 teaspoon of water or coconut milk at a time just to get it going. On the other hand, if you are using a mortar and pestle, bash and blend together all ingredients, except the fish sauce. Stir fish sauce in last so you don't make a mess.
- Stir in honey and oil into the massaman curry paste. Set aside.
- Dry chicken drumsticks well and season on all sides with salt and pepper.
- Place the chicken legs in a big bowl or in a large sealable plastic bag. Add in the homemade massaman curry paste with the added honey and oil and rub well to cover the whole surface of the chicken legs. We used gloves and did this with our hands. Allow to chicken legs to marinate for at least 30 minutes or overnight covered in the refrigerator. Marinating allows the flavors to develop and penetrate the chicken. If you do not have the time to marinate, these massaman glazed chicken legs are still delicious.
Air Fry Directions
- Preheat your air fryer to 400 degrees F (204 degrees C) for 5 to 10 minutes.
- Spray the air fryer tray and the chicken legs with spray oil. Air fry chicken drumsticks for about 15 minutes and then flip over on the other side and cook for another 10 to 15 minutes. Chicken drumsticks are cooked when the juices run clear, the chicken is golden brown and/ or the meat thermometer reads 165 degrees F. Cook time will vary, depending on how large your drumsticks are.
Oven Baked Chicken Drumstick Directions
- Preheat the oven to 390 degrees F or 200 degrees C. Line the baking tray and grease well to prevent sticking. Bake the chicken drumsticks uncovered in the middle rack of the oven for about 1 hour to 1 hour and 10minutes or until the chicken juices run clear, the chicken legs are golden brown and/or the meat thermometer reads 165 degrees F.
- Preheat your grill to a medium heat or about 400 degrees F (204 degrees C). Clean, prepare and grease grill grates. Spray your chicken legs with a little oil spray or drizzle or a little extra olive oil to prevent sticking. Grill chicken legs on the grill covered (indirect heat) for about 35 minutes or until the internal temperature is at least 165 F and the juices run clear. Periodically turn the chicken legs so they get crispy on all sides.
- Garnish Air Fryer Crispy Curry Chicken Legs with roasted crushed peanuts, cilantro, chili peppers and fresh limes if desired. Enjoy!
Josiah - DIY Thrill says
These crispy curry chicken legs look irresistible, love how easy they are to make!
HWC Magazine says
Thank you Josiah! We are all about quick and easy lately as life has been super busy. Glad you enjoyed our Thai style crispy chicken legs.
Hey there Bobbi, thanks for the re-post for this one. I love Massaman curry, but the commercial jarred stuff we can get at the local Thai market has nuts in it (as do all I think) and as we are a nut-free house, I never make Massaman dishes. But, your post gave me the inspiration to make the curry paste using pumpkin seeds. What amount would you suggest I use in place of the nuts?
I will be grilling these on the Weber as we are seeing lovely spring weather over this way these days...
HWC Magazine says
Hiya Ron, glad to see you out and about! If you plan on using pumpkin seeds, sun flower seeds, etc. make sure you roast them first. Then, I would crush, about 2 to 3 tablespoons, with a mortar and pestle or in a food processor with your other ingredients. A little less to start with as they have different flavor profile compared to peanuts but you will get that texture you are looking for. Have fun grilling and chilling!
mimi rippee says
Yum. I need to get the air fryer out and cook more with it. This is a perfect example of what can be done, obviously. And I love drumsticks!
HWC Magazine says
Thank you Mimi. Air Fryer chicken legs is just the starter of all the delicious things you can make in a convection oven or counter top air fryer. We use ours every day.
Those spices sound incredible! I love how quick and easy this whole recipe is too.
HWC Magazine says
Thank you Hannah. This curry spice rub is also delicious on shiitake mushrooms and veggies too.
[email protected] is How I Cook says
Sounds mouthwatering! And now that I have an air fryer, I'll have to try that version! Really I should do more with it than roast potatoes! Great recipe and I hope you are doing well, Bobbi!
HWC Magazine says
Yeah for you Abbe! Seriously the air fryer has been a game changer in the kitchen and we never say that about any appliance. However, it has really made dinner time easier and quicker. We are doing well and hoping the same for you.
Have wandered back to the 'birth' of this very appetizing recipe and cannot find my name commenting - how come I did not find this delight !!! Well, I have now and shall copy perhaps buying the red curry paste . . . must say we are so fortunate here Down Under - no need to find an Asian market as there are long shelves of even the 'least common' ingredients at even the most ordinary country supermarkets . . . Oh, on my discovery tour was delighted to read your conversation with Chgo John way back when - do wish he was still commenting !!!
HWC Magazine says
Hiya Eha, This is an oldie but goodie 10 year recipe that has been revised to include optional cooking methods, helpful hints, video and a new photos. Trust me you are happy we updated the photos. (smiling) Would love walking through the Auzzie markets just to be able to get all of the ingredients you would ever need. You are very lucky! We miss Chgo John too - its been a long time. Stay well and take care
John / Kitchen Riffs says
This looks great -- love curry (any and all) and this is such a nice looking dish. I don't use drumsticks nearly enough for some reason. They're great in this recipe. Thanks!
HWC Magazine says
Thank you John. We don't generally use drumsticks for recipes either BUT whilst grocery shopping we had sticker shock looking at the price of chicken breasts. So there you have it - chicken legs it is tonight! Hope you give this budget friendly recipe a try soon. Take Care
All my favourite flavours made better in an air fryer! Love how you made the paste from scratch too. Delicious!
Heidi | The Frugal Girls says
Your flavors are dynamite. I can't think of a better way to do summer dinner... YUM!
HWC Magazine says
Thank you Heidi. The air fryer makes dinnertime so easy. The chicken skin is crispy but the meat is tender and juicy. Take Care
Love the simplicity
These look so good. Need to try these soon
These drumsticks sound great–I love garlic, so I know I would love these!
I am of the opinion you can never have too much garlic! 😉 Those who have to smell my breath after I have eaten might have another opinion.... lol
Healthy World Cuisine says
Great minds think alike!
Leslie Chapman says
I will have to make this for my fiance he will love it!
These look perfect. What an amazing recipe and yes you can never have enough garlic 🙂
Healthy World Cuisine says
Glad to hear we have another garlic supporter and thanks for your lovely comment. Take care, BAM