For Dark Meat Lovers: Our Best Chicken Leg and Thigh Recipes


Chicken legs and thighs are the unsung heroes of the poultry realm—juicy, meaty, inexpensive, and highly versatile. They're the gateway to worlds of flavor. Here, the best recipes to make them at home.

01 of 19

While our test kitchen advocates buying a whole chicken and cutting it into parts, when they do buy chicken pieces, they make sure its legs or thighs. Just as a whole chicken can be cut into pieces, chicken legs can be used whole or cut to separate the thighs and drumsticks. It's easy enough to divide chicken legs into thighs and drumsticks at home or you can ask the butcher at your grocery store to do this for you.

Like most budget-friendly cuts of meat, chicken legs are tougher and contain more fat than ultra-lean breasts, but they also deliver more flavor. They can be cooked on the stovetop, in the oven, in a pressure cooker, or even grilled in any recipe that calls for drumsticks or thighs. Chicken thighs and drumsticks are also sold on their own. Thighs are our test kitchen's absolute favorite chicken part. This dark meat cut has more fat, more flavor, and a more tender texture than chicken breast, and thighs are much better value than chicken breast. Chicken thighs are generally sold as bone-in thighs, with or without skin, or as boneless skinless chicken thighs.

Like thighs, chicken drumsticks are much juicer and have more flavor than chicken breast. An often overlooked cut, drumsticks are worth trying, particularly if you and your family are fans of bone-in meat. They offer the finger-food fun aspect of chicken wings but there's more meat to enjoy. Since drumsticks, like thighs, also have more fat and connective tissue, they are better suited to a wider range of cooking methods than chicken breasts. They do well with high-heat, quick-cooking methods, like grilling or roasting, as well as slower-cooking methods, like baking or braising, which renders them fall-apart tender. You can substitute drumsticks for bone-in thighs in almost any recipe, as the two cuts cook in about the same amount of time and have a similar flavor.

Here, our favorite recipes that utilize these tasty cuts.

02 of 19

Roasted Chicken Thighs with Tomatoes, Olives, and Feta


Roasting chicken thighs with grape tomatoes, olives, and shallots couldn't be simpler. The resulting tender meat and crisp skin are set off by fresh mint and briny feta.

03 of 19

Pan-Roasted Chicken with Za'atar, Potatoes, and Greens

Pan-Roasted Chicken with Za'atar, Potatoes, and Greens
Courtesy of Linda Pugliese

Sheet pan suppers for the win! Here, chicken thighs and drumsticks are rubbed up with the Middle Eastern spice mixture known as za'atar and roasted along with fingerling potatoes, red onion, kale, and lemon.

04 of 19

Spicy Basil Chicken Stir-Fry

spicy basil stir-fry served on rice
Justin Walker

Better than takeout, chicken-thigh style: This fast, Thai-inspired dinner features a flavorful sauce made with soy sauce, oyster sauce, and sugar. There's also fiery Thai chiles and plenty of fresh basil.

05 of 19

Butter Chicken

indian butter chicken
Bryan Gardner

Chicken thighs are marinated in spiced yogurt, then broiled and stewed in a tomato cream sauce for this popular Indian dish.

06 of 19

Red-Hot Chicken and Peppers

Sidney Bensimon

What makes these roasted chicken legs red hot? A fiery combination of hot sauce, smoked paprika, and roasted red-pepper brine.

07 of 19

Fried Chicken Sandwich

Fried Chicken Sandwich
Chris Simpson

It doesn't get more crowd-pleasing than a buttermilk fried chicken thigh in a squishy bun. The homemade tartar sauce doesn't hurt either.

08 of 19

Arroz con Pollo

Bryan Gardner

The traditional Spanish chicken-and-rice casserole gets its distinctive flavor from white wine, saffron, and plenty of aromatics. Nestle seared chicken legs and thighs into the seasoned rice and cook everything together in the oven.

09 of 19

Grilled Chicken and Vegetable Skewers


Deliciously charred kebabs of chicken-thigh meat, zucchini, cipollini onions, and cremini mushrooms get Mediterranean flair from a simple seasoning of lemon juice and chopped parsley.

10 of 19

Thyme-and-Sesame-Crusted Chicken Thighs

thyme-and-sesame-crusted cutlets with copper cutlery
Justin Walker

The most delicious breaded chicken cutlets. We start with chicken thighs which are butterflied into cutlets—the recipe explains how. It's a smart move for flavor and for budget, they're much better priced than chicken breast cutlets. Then panko provides the crunchy coating for these quick-cooking cutlets.

11 of 19

Maple-Mustard Chicken Legs with Potatoes and Carrots

Marcus Nilsson

Pantry ingredients deliver big flavor here: two kinds of mustard—smooth Dijon and whole-grain—and maple syrup are transformed into a flavorful paste for chicken legs.

12 of 19

Slow-Cooker Spicy Buffalo Chicken Sandwiches

spicy buffalo chicken sandwich
Stephen Kent Johnson

Savor the flavor of spicy buffalo wings in sandwich form when you simmer chicken thighs in your slow cooker with crushed tomatoes and hot-pepper sauce. Serve the shredded chicken on hamburger buns with pickled vegetables on the side.

13 of 19

Grilled Chicken Salad

Dana Gallagher

Yes, your green salad needs some dark meat! Drumsticks are given a quick turn on the grill along with boneless skinless breasts, then tossed with butter lettuce, peas, fresh mint, and a garlicky lemon-Dijon dressing.

14 of 19

Chicken Posole

chicken posole

Whole chicken thighs serve as the satisfying base of this classic Mexican soup. They're browned then simmered with tomato paste, Savoy cabbage, chicken broth, herbs, and aromatics.

15 of 19

Tequila-Lime Chicken Drumsticks

Nicole Franzen

Tequila and lime don't just pair well in a margarita; they also make a tasty marinade for baked chicken when mellowed with honey. The best part? The drumsticks are equally delectable warm or at room temperature, so feel free to make ahead.

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Braised Chicken with Tomatoes and Freekeh

braised chicken with tomatoes and freekeh served in a casserole dish
Kate Mathis

In this easy one-pot dinner, chicken legs are braised with freekeh, a roasted, cracked wheat. Olives and cherry tomatoes round out the dish, it's a super tasty take on chicken and rice.

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Thai Coconut Chicken with Pineapple Salsa


Ginger, garlic, coconut milk, and a splash of fish sauce create layers of flavor in this quick and easy Thai-inspired supper that starts with boneless, skinless thighs. You'll want to spoon the spicy pineapple salsa on everything!

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Wine-Braised Chicken


Better known as coq au vin, this rustic French chicken stew gets its richness from bacon and red wine. Serve with crusty bread or buttered noodles.

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Roasted Chicken and Butternut Soup


Hearty and nutritious, this soup stars butternut squash and chicken thighs flavored with onions, cumin, and coriander. Roasting the chicken and vegetables before adding them to the broth adds wonderful depth of flavor.

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