A delicious, inexpensive, fast chicken dinner. Loaded with flavor and ready in 30 minutes tops. There is no good reason not to try this air fryer chicken thighs recipe today!


  • Bone in, skin on chicken thighs
  • Vegetable Oil
  • Smoked Paprika
  • Dry Thyme
  • Garlic Powder
  • Liquid Smoke
  • Salt and Pepper

Why Chicken Thighs?

Because of FLAVOR! The dark meat is where the flavor is. There are actual scientific reasons for this. It has to do with the fat content, and most flavor compounds being fat-soluble. Blah blah blah science talk mumbo jumbo. If you are interested look it up.

Because inexpensive! The cheapest cut of chicken anywhere is the lowly bone-in, skin-on chicken thigh. Around $5 can buy enough to feed 4 people. That’s just over a dollar per person for high-quality protein.

Because air fryer friendly. The high-fat content in the thigh meat makes it difficult to “dry out” the meat. The internal fats in the thigh render as they cook keeping the meat moist and tender. This combined with the air fryer’s ability to crisp chicken skin makes for an amazing chicken dinner.

4 chicken thighs in the bottom of the air fryer. they are spaced so that air can move freely between the pieces.

It’s All in the Spice Paste

This spice paste is a flavor festival. Try experimenting with different spices and flavors. This recipe also works with chicken drumsticks. Just reduce the cooking time by 5 minutes or so. I have also used this rub to do a whole chicken in my air fryer just double the ingredients and follow the cooking instructions here – Whole Roasted Chicken in the Air Fryer.

Drop the Fork Fancy Pants!

If you are trying this with the bone-in thighs, I recommended, then it will be awkward trying to eat them with a fork and knife. You will look prissy and your dog will lose respect for you. Just pick them up and eat them like a Neanderthal! Just keep a napkin handy it will be fine, I promise.

Air Fryer Chicken Thighs – Smokey and Crispy

Chef Eric
A delicious, inexpensive, fast chicken dinner. Loaded with flavor and ready in 30 minutes tops, there is no good reason not to try this recipe today!
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course chicken, Dinner
Cuisine American, BBQ, Paleo
Servings 4 people


  • Air Fryer
  • Large Mixing Bowl
  • Tongs


  • 4 chicken thighs (bone in, skin on)

Spice Paste

  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tbsp liquid smoke
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp dry thyme
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper


  • Add all the spice paste ingredients to a large mixing bowl and mix well.
  • Trim excess skin and fat from chicken thighs and add to mixing bowl with spice paste.
  • Thoroughly coat thighs with paste and tuck sides around the bone to form a tight compact "roll"
  • Preheat air fryer to 350 F or 176 C. Place thighs skin side up leaving ample room for air flow around the thighs.
  • Air fry for 15-20 minutes till an internal temperature of 180 F or 82 C
  • For Extra crispy skin raise the temperature to 400 F or 204 C for the last 3-5 minutes of cooking.


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More Chicken

Check out our Beer Can Chicken and Baked Potatoes on the Insta-Rack! or our Hoisin Chicken and Rice in The Instant Pot.

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