Ready for one of the most delicious air fryer chicken recipes you've ever tasted? Let me introduce you to Air Fryer BBQ Chicken Thighs!
Boneless skinless chicken thighs are seasoned with a simple seasoning blend, brushed with tangy barbecue sauce, and air fried to perfection.
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This chicken comes out so flavorful, and so juicy, it's completely melt-in-your-mouth delicious!
The air fryer is a great way to get a delicious and flavorful meal on the table in less time than it would take to fire up the grill and without cranking up the oven. This easy recipe is perfect for a busy weeknight and makes a meal the whole family will love!
How To Make BBQ Air Fryer Chicken Thighs
Full ingredient amounts and instructions can be found on the printable recipe card at the bottom of the post.
Equipment You'll Need
6qt Air Fryer: I use a 6-quart capacity sized fryer which will fit 1.5lbs of chicken easily. A smaller air fryer will work too, you just may need to cook your chicken in batches.
Instant Read Thermometer: This thermometer will read the internal temperature of meat instantly.
Pastry Brush: A heatproof silicone pastry brush is great for brushing the chicken with BBQ sauce during the cooking process
Skinless boneless chicken thighs: Chicken thighs are super juicy and flavorful and don't dry out during the air frying process like different cuts of chicken do. I like boneless and skinless thighs because they cook quicker, there are no bones to discard, and all the BBQ sauce goes directly onto the meat.
Olive oil: This helps the dry spices stick to the meat and prevents the chicken from sticking to the air fryer basket. I spray the air fryer basket with olive oil cooking spray as well for extra insurance. Feel free to use avocado oil!
Garlic powder: For extra flavor and spice
Coarse kosher salt: To season the chicken and make it more flavorful
Black pepper: For extra seasoning and spice
Your Favorite BBQ sauce: You can use any store-bought BBQ sauce that your family loves or make your own. I have a delicious and easy Homemade BBQ Sauce with Blueberries recipe on the blog!
Combine the garlic powder, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. In a separate bowl, measure out ½ cup of the BBQ sauce. Set the bowls aside and preheat your air fryer to 400 degrees F.
While the fryer is preheating, remove the chicken thighs from their packaging. If the thighs are folded over on themselves, unfold them so that they lie flat. No need to pound them out.
Add the chicken thighs to a large bowl and add the olive oil and spice mixture. Use a spoon or tongs to gently coat the chicken in the oil and spices.
Once the air fryer is hot, spray the air fryer basket with cooking spray and place the thighs, smooth side down (this would be the skin side if your thighs had skin) in a single layer.
The chicken thighs should lie completely flat in the air fryer basket, not folding, or overlapping any other pieces. Work in batches if needed. Air fry the chicken for 10 minutes at 400 degrees F.
After 10 minutes, pull out the air fryer basket and baste the top and sides of the chicken thighs with half of the BBQ sauce. Do not flip the chicken at this point. Return the basket to the fryer and cook the chicken for 3 minutes more.
Next, flip over the chicken and baste the top generously with the other half of the BBQ sauce. Discard any leftover BBQ sauce in the dish and wash the pastry brush, since they've been in contact with raw chicken.
Cook the chicken thighs for another 3-5 minutes until fully cooked. The thighs are done when the internal temperature reads 165 degrees F on a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh.
Brush the thighs with ¼ cup of BBQ sauce and air fry for 1 more minute, if desired. Transfer to a serving plate or cutting board.
For best results, let the chicken thighs rest for 5 minutes before slicing to allow the juices to redistribute throughout the meat. Serve and enjoy!
Variations and Substitutions
This air fryer BBQ chicken recipe provides flexibility to use what you have on hand and customize the flavors according to your preferences. Here are just a few suggestions:
- Kick up the heat by adding cayenne pepper or chili powder to the dry spice mixture
- Toss the chicken in a little brown sugar along with the other spices for an extra touch of sweetness
- Add onion powder to the garlic, salt, and pepper mix for extra flavor
- Use your favorite BBQ dry rub for a richer flavor and smokiness
Tips For Making BBQ Chicken Thighs In The Air Fryer
- Do not overcrowd the air fryer basket, work in batches if needed. This will ensure the chicken thighs are crisp around the edges and well-coated with sauce.
- Brush on the BBQ sauce during the last 10 minutes of the cooking process to keep it from burning.
- Use a meat thermometer for testing doneness. This will make sure your chicken is cooked to a proper temperature and won't get overcooked.
- Smaller pieces of chicken will cook in less time than thicker pieces. Feel free to remove the fully cooked chicken thighs from the fryer and set them on a plate wrapped with aluminum foil while you wait for the larger chicken pieces to finish cooking.
- Let the chicken rest before serving. Resting will allow the juices to redistribute throughout the chicken, and make the chicken tender and juicy.
Cool leftover chicken thighs completely and store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Leftovers can be reheated (see below) and are best eaten within 3-4 days of their original cook date.
Leftover BBQ chicken thighs can be reheated in the air fryer at 375 degrees F for about 5 minutes or until heated through. Reheated chicken can be served as an easy main dish or chopped up to top BBQ Chicken Nachos or on top of BBQ Chicken Naan Pizzas.
It takes approximately 15-20 minutes to fully cook chicken thighs in the air fryer. Cooking time will vary depending on the size and thickness of the chicken thighs and the model of air fryer.
Once the internal temperature reaches 165 degrees F on a meat thermometer, your chicken thighs are done and ready to come out of the air fryer. Larger chicken thighs may take 2-3 minutes longer to cook than smaller ones.
More Air Fryer Recipes
- 1 ½ lbs boneless, skinless, chicken thighs
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon black pepper, coarsely ground
- ¾ cup BBQ sauce, divided
- Combine the garlic powder, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. In a separate bowl, measure out ½ cup of the BBQ sauce. Set the bowls aside and preheat the air fryer to 400º F.
- Remove the chicken thighs from their packaging. If the thighs are folded over on themselves, unfold them so that they lie flat.
- Add the chicken thighs to a large bowl and add the olive oil and spice mixture. Use a spoon or tongs to gently coat the chicken in the oil and spices.
- Once preheated, spray the air fryer basket with cooking spray and place the thighs, smooth side down in a single layer. Do not overlap with other pieces of chicken. Work in batches if needed.
- Air fry the chicken for 10 minutes at 400º F.
- Next, pull out the air fryer basket and baste the top and sides of the chicken thighs with half of the BBQ sauce. Do not flip the chicken at this point.
- Return the basket to the fryer and cook the chicken for 3 minutes more.
- Flip over the chicken and brush the top generously with the other half of the BBQ sauce. Discard any BBQ sauce left in the dish and wash the pastry brush.
- Cook the chicken thighs for another 3-5 minutes until fully cooked. The thighs are done when the internal temperature reads 165º F on a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh.
- Brush the thighs with ¼ cup more of BBQ sauce and air fry for 1 more minute, if desired. Transfer to a serving plate or cutting board.
- Let the chicken thighs rest for 5 minutes before slicing. Serve with additional BBQ sauce and enjoy.
* Do not reuse the pastry brush or BBQ sauce leftover from basting the chicken while cooking, since those items have touched raw chicken.
Wash the pastry brush thoroughly and put a fresh ¼ cup of BBQ sauce in a clean dish before brushing on the chicken after cooking through.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 268Total Fat: 11gSaturated Fat: 3gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 8gCholesterol: 138mgSodium: 773mgCarbohydrates: 15gFiber: 0gSugar: 12gProtein: 28g