Crispy butterflied chicken legs on a wooden plate with sauce.

These Crispy Butterflied Chicken Legs are juicy and tender on the inside with a deliciously crispy skin on the outside. Dip them in a dreamy, creamy cilantro sauce for a flavor combination like no other. It’s an air fryer recipe you’ll instantly want to add to your easy dinner rotation.

Crispy butterflied chicken legs on a wooden plate with sauce.

Air Fryer Butterfly Drumsticks

If you’ve never butterflied chicken before, you’re seriously missing out! I used chicken legs because they’re a great budget-friendly option. Plus, chicken on the bone always turns out more flavorful and juicy!

Why butterfly your chicken, you ask? This cooking technique allows the chicken legs to cook faster and more evenly. Not only that, butterflying creates a larger surface area, which will make the chicken skin come out extra crispy and delicious.

Crispy butterflied chicken legs dipped in sauce.

Why You’ll Love It

  • A great chicken recipe for those following a low-carb/ keto diet.
  • You’ll get a deliciously crispy bite, every time!
  • The meat cooks faster, so you can eat sooner.
  • The creamy cilantro sauce pairs so well with the flavorful chicken drumsticks.

Ingredients You’ll Need

  • Chicken Drumsticks: Drumsticks are a cost-effective option with lots of flavor.
  • Olive Oil: This helps the chicken to get nice and crispy.
  • Chicken Seasoning: I used a seasoning blend of salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika, oregano, and cumin.
  • Garlic: Garlic creates a flavorful base in the cilantro sauce.
  • Cilantro: The fresh, herby taste of cilantro pairs so well with the chicken!
  • Lime: Lime adds a citrusy element to the sauce.
  • Sour Cream: Sour cream is what makes the sauce thick and creamy.
  • Chile Lime Seasoning: My favorite! Adds a kick of flavor you can’t resist.

How to Make Butterfly Chicken Drumsticks

The steps are simple, and I’m outlining them below, but be sure to scroll to the bottom of the page to view the full, printable recipe card. You can also watch how it comes together in my Instagram reel!

A plate of crispy butterflied chicken legs with ingredients and sauce.

STEP 1 – BUTTERFLY CHICKEN LEGS

Take a chicken drumstick and cut the  meat down the length of the bone (but not through the bone) with a really sharp knife. 

Then use the knife to open it up like a book. Repeat with the other chicken legs.

STEP 2 – SEASON

Next, add the chicken to a bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and add salt, fresh ground pepper, garlic powder, paprika, oregano, and cumin

Massage the spices into the chicken to make sure all surfaces are evenly coated. Let the chicken soak in the seasoning for about 1 hour if possible, but not required.

STEP 3 – AIR FRY

Preheat the air fryer to 400°F. Once preheated, place the chicken legs in the air fryer basket. 

Let the chicken cook for 15 minutes on the first side, then flip and air fry for another 10 minutes.

Pro Tip: Time varies by air fryer, so just keep an eye on it. 

STEP 4 – MAKE CILANTRO SAUCE

In a food processor, mix the garlic, a large handful of fresh cilantro, lime juice, sour cream, a couple pinches of sea salt, and chile lime seasoning. Process well, then adjust to taste. 

Pro Tip: Salt is key in this recipe! It brings all the flavors to life.

STEP 5 – SERVE & ENJOY

Once the chicken legs are cooked through, golden brown, and crispy, allow them to cool before serving

Drizzle with the cilantro sauce, and enjoy!

Serving Suggestions

These crispy butterflied chicken legs taste great on their own as a low-carb appetizer or snack, but they’d taste even better paired with some delicious sides. 

Enjoy this chicken with veggies like our Thomas Keller Zucchini, Keto Brussels Sprouts, or Air Fryer Acorn Squash. This dish would also taste excellent with this Mediterranean Cucumber Salad and Air Fryer Pasta Bake.

FAQ

What are butterflied chicken drumsticks?

This butterflied chicken drumsticks recipe uses a cooking technique that involves splitting the chicken leg into two pieces. 

More commonly done with chicken breasts, this technique gives cooks a larger cooking surface and more even cooking compared to leaving the drumstick whole. It also helps to make sure that the inside of the chicken is cooked all the way through while ensuring that the outside does not burn or overcook. 

A serving of crispy butterflied chicken legs on a wooden plate over a gray marble surface.

How will I know when my butterflied drumsticks are done?

You’ll know when you’re butterflied drumsticks are done cooking when the internal temperature reaches 165°F (74°C). To get an accurate temperature reading, I recommend using an instant-read meat thermometer. 

You won’t need to worry much about this, though, as butterflying your drumsticks will help ensure that they cook evenly and quickly. 

Can I cook these chicken legs in the oven?

Sure! Just preheat your oven to 425°F, place the chicken legs on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or foil, and bake for about 35 minutes (+/- a few minutes). Check periodically to make sure the skin is getting crispy, and the legs are cooked through.

Storage

Store any leftover butterflied chicken legs in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

To reheat, place the chicken in an air fryer set to 400°F and air fry for 6 to 8 minutes or until heated through.

More Recipes You’ll Love

Yield: 2-4 servings

Crispy Butterflied Chicken Legs

Crispy butterflied chicken legs on a wooden plate with sauce.

If you've never butterflied chicken before, you're seriously missing out! I used chicken legs because they're a great budget-friendly option. Plus, chicken on the bone always turns out more flavorful and juicy!

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes

Ingredients

  • 6 chicken drumsticks, butterflied
  • 1 or 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4-6 pinches sea salt, divided
  • fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1/2 tablespoon oregano or thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • a large handful fresh cilantro
  • juice of 1 1/2 limes
  • 4 heaping tablespoons sour cream
  • 1 tablespoon Chile lime seasoning

Instructions

    1. Take a chicken drumstick and cut the meat down the length of the bone (but not through the bone) with a really sharp knife. Use the knife to open it up like a book. Repeat with the other chicken legs.
    2. Add the chicken to a bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and add salt, fresh ground pepper, garlic powder, paprika, oregano, and cumin. Massage the spices into the chicken to make sure all surfaces are evenly coated. Let the chicken soak in the seasoning for about 1 hour if possible, but not required.
    3. Preheat the air fryer to 400°F. Once preheated, place the chicken legs in the air fryer basket. Let the chicken cook for 15 minutes on the first side, then flip and air fry for another 10 minutes. Time varies by air fryer, so just keep an eye on it.
    4. In a food processor, mix the garlic, a large handful of fresh cilantro, lime juice, sour cream, a couple pinches of sea salt, and chile lime seasoning. Process well, then adjust to taste. Salt is key in this recipe! It brings all the flavors to life.
    5. Allow the chicken legs to cool before drizzling with cilantro sauce. Serve and enjoy!

Notes

Store any leftover butterflied chicken legs in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days

To reheat, place the chicken in an air fryer set to 400°F and air fry for 6 to 8 minutes or until heated through.

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