Crispy-skinned, spectacularly juicy, smoky paprika-rubbed Air Fryer Chicken Thighs are a no-effort recipe that earns unanimous praise and augments kitchen swagger.
Of the dozens (hundreds?) of recipes I’ve tested the last several months, air fryer chicken thighs are the first to earn the highest honor awarded in our household:
- Ben fervently declared that he’d love for me to cook “exactly this” every week, forever.
He even went so far as to call this the best chicken he’d ever had.
Between Baked Chicken Thighs, Pan-Fried Chicken Breast, and all of these healthy chicken recipes, that’s quite a statement.
I know he means it too, because, while he gets jazzed about other proteins like Air Fryer Salmon or Air Fryer Pork Chops, chicken rarely causes a heart flutter.
(Unless it’s Air Fryer Chicken Wings, but let’s be real—that’s more about the Buffalo sauce.)
On the diner’s end, these juicy thighs have everything going for them.
- The meat is juicier than you ever thought chicken could be.
- The seasoning tastes lightly smoky and complex, an ideal profile for chicken.
- The skin is so shatteringly crispy, even those who usually don’t eat chicken skin (me), will find themselves nibbling crunchy pieces.
But that’s not the end of the story.
From the cook’s perspective (that’s me and you), it’s hard to find an easier recipe, let alone one that’s this easy AND this fast.
- Bone-in chicken thighs cook in 16 to 20 minutes in the air fryer at 400 degrees F.
- You don’t need to spend time marinating the chicken thighs before air frying.
- The rub is made from common spices you likely already have in your pantry, like paprika and garlic powder.
How to Make Crispy, Juicy Air Fryer Chicken Thighs
For this recipe, you can use bone-in or boneless chicken thighs (I’ve included times for both), but I highly recommend using bone-in, skin-on for this recipe.
- As with this Baked Bone-In Chicken Breast, the skin locks in moisture, so you don’t need to spend time brining the meat for excellent results, the way you would with Air Fryer Chicken Breast.
- The bone flavors the meat from within and makes it harder to overcook the chicken.
- Bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs are a bargain compared to boneless.
- Chicken thighs are healthy! They don’t deserve the bad rap they sometimes get. Prepared the right way (like in the air fryer), they are an excellent, lean source of protein and contain important nutrients like zinc and iron.
- Chicken Thighs. Bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs are ideal for the air fryer. The meat stays tender and juicy during cooking, and the skin becomes crackly and crispy.
- Paprika + Smoked Paprika. The combination of paprika and smoked paprika provides the perfect balance of sweetness and smokiness.
- Garlic Powder. For a touch of addictive garlicky flavor.
- Salt + Pepper. Classic, can’t-miss flavor additions.
- Olive Oil. Helps the spice mixture adhere to the chicken thighs and the skin to crisp.
- Stir the spice mixture together in a bowl.
- Dry the thighs, then add them to the bowl. Coat the chicken with oil and the spices.
- Add the chicken thighs skin-side down to an air fryer.
- Air fryer chicken thighs for 16 to 22 minutes at 400 degrees F, flipping halfway through. Let rest for 5 minutes. ENJOY!
More Ways to Season Air Fryer Chicken Thighs
- Parmesan Air Fryer Chicken Thighs. Add 2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese to your spice mixture. (I’ll have this with Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad, please.)
- Spicy Air Fryer Chicken Thighs. Add 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper to the spice mixture.
- Brown Sugar Air Fryer Chicken Thighs. Add 2 teaspoons of brown sugar to the spice mixture. (For a BBQ-like finish, serve the thighs with my scrumptious Barbecue Sauce.)
- Italian Air Fryer Chicken Thighs. Add 2 teaspoons of Italian seasoning to the spice mixture.
- Curry Air Fryer Chicken Thighs. Add 2 teaspoons curry powder to the spice mixture. (This would be delish with Turmeric Rice.)
- Garlic Butter Air Fryer Chicken Thighs. Omit the smoked paprika, add an extra teaspoon of garlic powder, and swap the olive oil for melted butter. (Perfect for pairing with Garlic Pasta.)
- Lemon Air Fryer Chicken Thighs. Add zest of 1 lemon to the spice mixture. (Try this with Pasta al Limone or Lemon Rice. YUM!)
- To Store. Refrigerate chicken in an airtight storage container for up to 4 days.
- To Reheat. Gently rewarm leftovers in a baking dish in the oven at 350 degrees F or in the air fryer.
- To Freeze. Freeze thighs in an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
Meal Prep Tip
Up to 1 day in advance, coat the chicken thighs in the oil and spice mixture. Cover and refrigerate until you’re ready to cook.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
The Best Air Fryer
A faster and less messy way to enjoy your favorite crispy foods. This model is slightly larger than most, meaning you can cook more at once.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes! Unlike Crockpot Shredded Chicken, it is OK to put raw chicken in an air fryer. I would only suggest this with boneless, skinless chicken thighs, as the bone-in kind would be difficult to thaw. Air fry frozen chicken thighs at 360 degrees F for 12 minutes, flipping halfway through, then check for doneness.
While I love using bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs for this recipe, you can use boneless thighs instead. See the recipe notes for tips.
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- ½ tablespoon smoked paprika
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 4 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs (about 2 to 2 1/2 pounds), see notes to use boneless chicken thighs
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- Lemon wedges for serving
- Chopped fresh parsley or cilantro for serving
In a large bowl, combine the paprika, smoked paprika, salt, garlic powder, and black pepper.
Pat the chicken thighs very dry on both sides, then add to the bowl. Drizzle with the oil, then toss to coat in the spice mixture.
Preheat the air fryer to 400 degrees F. Add the chicken thighs in a single layer, skin-side down (make sure they are not touching; if they are, cook the chicken in batches).
Air fry the chicken thighs for 16 to 22 minutes, flipping halfway through, until an instant read thermometer inserted at the thickest part of a thigh (but not touching bone) reaches 155 degrees F. Set aside, cover, and let rest for 5 minutes (chicken is considered by the FDA cooked at 165 degrees F, but the temperature will continue to rise as it rests; air fryer models differ in cooking times, so check early to be safe). Serve hot, with lemon wedges (squeeze them over the top of your serving) and sprinkled with fresh herbs.
- FOR BONELESS THIGHS: Coat with the spice mixture as directed. Preheat the air fryer to 380 degrees F, then add the chicken smooth-side down. Cook for 6 to 8 minutes, flipping halfway through, until the chicken reaches 155 degrees F on an instant read thermometer. Let rest for 5 to 10 minutes (the temperature will continue to rise), then enjoy warm.
- TO STORE: Refrigerate chicken in an airtight storage container for up to 4 days.
- TO REHEAT: Gently rewarm leftovers in a baking dish in the oven at 350 degrees F or in the microwave.
- TO FREEZE: Freeze thighs in an airtight freezer-safe storage container for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
Serving: 1(of 4)Calories: 389kcalCarbohydrates: 2gProtein: 24gFat: 31gSaturated Fat: 7gPolyunsaturated Fat: 6gMonounsaturated Fat: 15gTrans Fat: 1gCholesterol: 142mgPotassium: 369mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 1407IUVitamin C: 1mgCalcium: 20mgIron: 2mg
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