Crispy Baked Chicken Legs

Crispy baked chicken legs give you the juicy crispiness of fried chicken without all the frying, for a comforting and delicious meal everyone will love! {Gluten-Free Adaptable}

Oven fried chicken leg served with rice and salad

Fried chicken is such a delightful food, isn’t it? There’s just one problem…the frying! That’s why my crispy baked chicken legs are the perfect solution. You’ll get that juicy, tender chicken meat locked into a crispy, crunchy topping without deep-frying, and your taste buds won’t know the difference.

Having a healthier way to prepare crispy baked chicken legs means you can seek out this comfort food more often without all the guilt. My recipe for crispy baked chicken legs uses a dry brine which quickly marinates the chicken to make it extra flavorful. The coating is made with breadcrumbs and cornmeal for some extra crunchiness. 

And that yellow color? Turmeric! Turmeric is the secret to adding a beautiful yellow color and it’s also extremely good for you. It has antioxidants that are beneficial for your health and well-being. 

Baked chicken legs

How to make crispy baked chicken legs

Although you need a bit of extra time to marinate the chicken, my recipe uses a very rich brine which reduces the marianting time to as little as 15 minutes. So you can easily make this dish on a weekday night.

  1. Coat both sides of the chicken with the dry spice mix.
  2. (Optional) separate partially the chicken skin from the meat and rub some spice mix underneath. This helps to create a crispier skin with better flavor. You can also skip this step and still achieve a very good result.
  3. Once marinated, coat the chicken with buttermilk.
  4. Coat the chicken with the dry coating.
  5. Make sure to press the dry coating so it does not fall off during baking.
  6. Bake the chicken for 10 minutes.
  7. Drizzle some oil onto the chicken. 
  8. Bake for 30 minutes, then flip the chicken and bake for another 5 minutes.

That’s it!

How to make crispy baked chicken legs
Crispy chicken leg close up

The chicken will be super flavorful with juicy meat and extra crunchy crispy coating. I really like the coating mixed with cornmeal. It provides a much better mouthfeel than the regular breadcrumb coating.

Craving crispy baked chicken legs on a weekday? They’re so easy that you can make them any night of the week. If you’d prefer though, you can also use these for meal prep. The coating holds up really well and stays quite crispy if you use your oven to reheat it. 

Crispy baked chicken leg served with rice and salad

How to serve crispy baked chicken

I enjoy serving crispy baked chicken legs over steamed rice. I also serve an Asian-style salad to balance things out for a well-rounded nutritious meal. Any salad will do, though. Or you can serve your chicken with pickles. I have some super simple and quick pickle recipes for cucumbers, peppers, and cabbage that you can make and keep in your fridge for moments like this. It’s a great way to have veggies on hand when you need them. 

Also, a nice cold beer really goes so well with the crispy, crunchy texture of this chicken. Pop open your favorite and enjoy!

Crispy fried chicken leg served with rice and salad

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Crispy baked chicken legs give you the juicy crispiness of fried chicken without all the frying, for a comforting and delicious meal everyone will love! {Gluten-Free Adaptable}

Crispy Baked Chicken Legs

Crispy baked chicken legs give you the juicy crispiness of fried chicken without all the frying, for a comforting and delicious meal everyone will love! {Gluten-Free Adaptable}
5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Main
Cuisine: Chinese
Keyword: home style
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Marinating time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 25 minutes
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 421kcal
Author: Maggie Zhu

Ingredients

  • 4 chicken leg quarters 1.5 to 2 lb / 680 to 900 g in total
  • Peanut oil or olive oil , for drizzling

Spice Mix (*Footnote 1)

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons ginger powder
  • 2 teaspoons Chinese chili flakes (or Korean chili flakes, or paprika)
  • 1 teaspoon white pepper powder
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric

Dry Coating

  • 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs (or gluten-free breadcrumbs)
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch

Wet Coating

  • 1/2 cup buttermilk (or milk if a thinner coating is desired)

Instructions

  • Combine all the spice mix ingredients in a small bowl and mix well. Sprinkle 3 tablespoons of the mix over the chicken legs and rub it in so that the legs are evenly coated.
  • (Optional) Use your finger to separate the chicken skin from the thigh meat, making sure the edges stay attached. Rub some dry spices under the skin. This step helps the skin to crisp up even more and makes the meat more flavorful.
  • Let the rubbed legs rest, uncovered, in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to an hour, or 15 to 20 minutes at room temperature.
  • Combine the dry coating ingredients and the 1 remaining tablespoon of the spice mix in a big shallow plate. Stir to mix well. Add the buttermilk to another low, shallow dish.
  • Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Line a baking tray with foil for easy clean-up and place a baking rack on the tray. Generously spray the rack with cooking oil.
  • Once the legs are done marinating, prepare your coating station with the plate of chicken legs, the dish of buttermilk next to that, then the dry coat mixing (I also recommend having a spoon to scoop the dry mix over the chicken).
  • One at a time, hold the tip of the drumstick using one hand, dip the leg into the buttermilk, and flip to coat the other side. Let the excess buttermilk drip off, then place the leg into the dry mix. Scoop the dry mix over the leg and gently press it in, turning and repeating until the leg is coated. Gently shake off any excess coating and lay the leg on the rack, skin side up.
  • Add the legs to the oven and bake for about 45 minutes in total, until the chicken is crispy and lightly browned. After 10 minutes take the legs out and drizzle them with a small amount of oil and bake for another 20 minutes. Gently flip the chicken to crisp the bottom, for 10 minutes or so. For the last 5 minutes, flip the chicken right-side-up again to finish up. Once done, test the chicken by inserting a thermometer into the thickest part of the thigh and it should read at least 165°F (74°C). Or you can insert a sharp paring knife into the thigh and the juice should run clear. Bake for another few minutes if the chicken is not yet fully cooked.
  • Once baked, let the chicken cool off for 5 minutes. Serve over steamed rice as a main dish. Enjoy!

Notes

  1. This recipe produces a bit more spice mix than you’ll actually use.

Nutrition

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 421kcal | Carbohydrates: 17.8g | Protein: 39.7g | Fat: 20.1g | Saturated Fat: 5.6g | Cholesterol: 132mg | Sodium: 1081mg | Potassium: 421mg | Fiber: 1.1g | Sugar: 3.1g | Calcium: 67mg | Iron: 3mg

If you give this recipe a try, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it (once you’ve tried it), and take a picture and tag it @omnivorescookbook on Instagram! I’d love to see what you come up with.

More delicious chicken dinner recipes

Lilja Walter is a part of the Omnivore’s Cookbook team and worked closely with Maggie to develop and test this recipe.

Disclosure

Omnivore's Cookbook is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.
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Meet Maggie

Hi I'm Maggie Zhu! Welcome to my site about modern Chinese cooking - including street food, family recipes, and restaurant dishes. I take a less labor-intensive approach while maintaining the taste and look of the dish. I am originally from Beijing, and now cook from my New York kitchen.

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Recipe Rating




10 thoughts on “Crispy Baked Chicken Legs

  1. Winky

    I want to cook this for my parents-in-law next time I visit them. It is easy to cook and looks yummy. The most important is that it requests less oil than fried chicken. A really good offer and nice dish for me to present. Thanks.

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      Hi Winky, thanks for commenting on my blog and I’m glad you like this dish. 🙂
      Yes, it’s a healthier version of fried chicken and the taste is still great. Hope you have fun cooking and let me know how it goes!

      Reply
  2. Anna

    5 stars
    5 stars! Absolutely delicious! Was this an old recipe? Anyways, it’s a keeper. The chicken legs were juicy and the chicken skin was crisp. I’ve substituted cornmeal with semolina and it works just as well. The shirt marination time was a bonus too! Love your recipes!

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      Hi Anna, I’m glad to hear you like the recipe! I published the old recipe a few years ago but recently just updated it with a better method. So it’s old and new 🙂 Have a nice day!

      Reply
  3. Kendall

    Oops! No buttermilk in China. Since American buttermilk is just a kind of unflavored yogurt, I wonder if that will be a good substitute.

    Reply
  4. Kay Lee

    Hi, I am interested in trying this recipe, however, I need some clarification on the dry spice mix. According to the recipe, for a serving of 4, the instructions says to rub the 4 chicken quarters with 3 Tablespoon of the spice mix. Then it says to add the last tablespoon of the spice mix to the panko/cornmeal mix. So, a total of 4 Tablespoons is needed for the recipe. However, when I add up the ingredients for the spice mix, it only adds up to 2 1/2 Tablespoon plus 1 Teaspoon. Am I not understanding something in your recipe? Thank you.

    Reply
    1. Maggie Post author

      Sorry for the late reply. We tested the spice mix and it came out to just over 4 tablespoons.
      I wonder if you’ve measured the salt in teaspoons instead of tablespoons? I know it sounds like a lot of salt. The dry rub does need a good amount of salt to marinate the chicken, and some of them will be lost in the dripping juice once you roast the chicken.

      Reply
  5. Sashi Sehgal

    5 stars
    A lovely recipe, beat KFC hands down. Really nice coating. Never used polenta/cornmeal before (used some to make some chips too!). Great chicken, doing again tonight! Thanks Maggie.

    Reply