I’m all about cooking chicken drumsticks in the air fryer right now. These air fryer teriyaki chicken drumsticks are incredibly simple to put together and quick to cook making it a great weeknight dinner and the meat stays so tender and juicy.
For more quick and easy dinner recipes try this oven baked teriyaki salmon or this creamy peppercorn chicken too.
Why you’ll love air fryer teriyaki chicken drumsticks
- They cook quickly and many air fryers will fit the whole batch in one go.
- The meat stays juicy and succulent.
- The simple but flavourful marinade doubles as a sauce.
- Easy to prep ahead too
This is just good, tasty food. The marinade is a total of 4 ingredients and becomes the sauce as well. Served simply with some steamed rice and cucumber ribbons, it’s such a great family dinner.
Ingredients you’ll need
Just 7 ingredients is all you need for this air fryer drumstick recipe.
- Drumsticks: I use quite large drumsticks and aim for 2 per person. Use drumsticks with skin on so they don’t dry out.
- Soy sauce: I use a light soy sauce. It has the perfect umami flavour and saltiness and is all the seasoning the chicken needs.
- Brown sugar: The sugar adds sweetness to the marinade and gives you a nice thick sauce to drizzle over.
- Mirin: Mirin is a sweet Japanese rice wine and balances the salty soy flavour. It’s available in most grocery stores in the Asian section or you can buy it online.
I definitely recommend using mirin for the most authentic flavour. If you can’t find it, you could substitute quarter cup of honey three-quarters of a cup of water or sake instead. You could also use a combination of sweet sherry and water 1:1.
- Cooking sake: Another Japanese rice wine, this one is not sweet. It adds a flavour and seasoning and again is available in most grocery stores in the Asian section or you can buy it online. If you can’t get hold of it, use Chinese cooking wine or dry sherry instead.
- Sesame seeds: Toasted sesame seeds are added at the end to garnish and add a little nutty flavour.
- Spring onion / scallions: Slice spring onions finely and scatter them over the chicken at serving time.
In addition, I serve my air fryer teriyaki chicken drumsticks with plain steamed rice, cucumber ribbons and a sprinkling of togarashi or dried chilli flakes.
How to make it
For me this is now the best way to cook chicken drumsticks – in the air fryer. It’s quick, ready in half the time and the meat stays perfectly juicy. Here’s how you make it.
- Marinate the chicken drumsticks: Combine the sauce ingredients in a bowl (photo 1) or zip lock bag, then add the chicken and turn to coat well (photo 2). Chill and let them marinate for 1 or up to 8 hours.
- Cook the drumsticks: Place the marinated drumsticks in your air fryer (photo 3) and cook at 180C / 350F for 10 minutes.
- Cook the sauce: While the drumsticks are cooking, tip the marinade into a saucepan (photo 4) over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Let it boil for 8-10 minutes until thickened slightly (photo 5).
- Turn the drumsticks: After 10 minutes, brush some of the reduced sauce onto the drumsticks, turn and coat the other side, then cook for another 10 minutes or until cooked through (photo 6).
- Reboil the easy teriyaki sauce: After brushing the part-cooked drumsticks, I always bring that sauce back to a boil for 30 seconds or so to make sure there is no raw chicken juice in it.
- Toast the sesame seeds: While the drumsticks are on their second cook, I toast the sesame seeds in a dry frying pan (photos 7&8). over low-medium heat, shaking the pan often, until they’re golden. This is an optional step but the toasted seeds add a really lovely nuttiness.
To make these a quick weeknight meal, place the drumsticks in their marinade first thing in the morning, so they’re ready to go at dinner time.
Do I need to preheat my air fryer?
This may depend on your air fryer. While many people recommend always preheating the air fryer, I never do and I’ve never had any problems. Preheating ‘might’ save you a minute or two in cooking.
My air fryer is a Philips XXL which has a 1.4kg capacity. I can fit 8 drumsticks in mine, in two layers of 4 and they cook perfectly. That means I can cook this dinner all in one batch in a fairly regular sized air fryer.
Can you cook frozen chicken drumsticks?
If you’ve forgotten to get them out of the freezer in time, cooking frozen chicken drumsticks is still possible.
To air fry them from frozen you’ll need to add at least 10 minutes to the cooking time and always check the internal temperature reaches 75C / 165F with a meat thermometer to make sure they’re cooked all the way through.
If you haven’t marinated them before you froze them, you’ll need to just give them a good brush with the sauce at the halfway mark.
How long to bake chicken drumsticks?
I use large drumsticks and with all 8 in the air fryer at once, these take around 20 minutes to cook.
Can this recipe be baked in the oven?
If you don’t have an air fryer, you can bake these teriyaki chicken drumsticks in the oven too.
For best results, cook them on a wire rack over a baking tray lined with foil or baking paper to catch any drips. The cooking temp for chicken drumsticks should be 200C / 395F / 180C fan forced for around 40 minutes.
As always, test the temperature to make sure they’re fully cooked. The internal temperature should be 75C / 165F.
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If you try these air fryer teriyaki chicken drumsticks, please take a moment to leave a rating and comment below. I love hearing from you and it helps other readers too! You can also take a photo and tag @sugarsaltmagic on Instagram.
More recipes you’ll love
- Karaage Chicken (Japanese Fried Chicken)
- Honey Pepper Pork Stir Fry
- Chicken Basil Pesto Pasta
- Lime Chilli Coconut Chicken
- Salt and Pepper Chicken Wings
- Roasted Miso Mushrooms
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Air Fryer Teriyaki Chicken Drumsticks
- 1 cup light soy sauce
- 1 cup mirin
- ⅔ cup cooking Sake
- ½ cup brown sugar
- 8 large chicken drumsticks
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
- pinch of chilli flakes or togarashi optional
- Sliced spring onions
For best results, always weigh ingredients where a weight is provided
- Air fryer (mine is Philips XXL)
Plan ahead for marinating – at least 1 hour. To get ahead on a weekday, marinate them first thing in the morning so they're ready to cook in the evening.
- In a large bowl or large ziplock plastic bag, combine the soy sauce, mirin, sake and brown sugar. Mix well.
- Add the chicken drumsticks and turn to coat well. Refrigerate (covered) for 1 – 8 hours – turn 4-5 times during this time if you can.
- Place the drumsticks in the air fryer basket with some space around them and cook at 180C / 350F for 10 minutes.
- While they’re cooking, pour the marinade into a saucepan and bring to a boil for 10 minutes or until slightly thickened and reduced. Don’t let it get too syrupy or it may burn and become bitter.
- After 10 minutes, brush the sauce over the drumsticks, turn and coat the other side, then cook for another 8-10 minutes or until the internal temperature in the thickest part of the chicken is 75C / 165F.
- Return the sauce to the heat and let it boil for another minute just to make sure there is no raw chicken juices in it from brushing it over the chicken.
- If not already done, you can take this time to toast the sesame seeds in a dry pan over low-medium heat. Toss them regularly until golden.
- Serve the drumsticks over rice and ribbons of cucumber with the spring onions, sesame seeds and chilli flakes if using scattered over.
- Cooking time is a guide and will depend on the size of your drumsticks.
- I fit 8 drumsticks, in 2 layers of 4 in my air fryer, separated by a rack. I have a 1.4kg capacity air fryer.
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