Air fryer turkey thighs are seasoned with a home-made poultry dry rub and then air fried until crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside. You will need only a few ingredients and about only 30 minutes to make a delicious and healthy recipe.
These crispy turkey thighs served with Sheet Pan Potatoes and Broccoli are a perfect way to jazz up your weeknight dinner and will look great on a holiday table alongside these Purple Sweet potatoes puree or roasted green beans and carrots.
You can find turkey thighs at your local butcher shop, Sprouts, or Whole foods stores during the fall and winter months.
If I do not want to roast the whole bird, I usually go for parts of the birds with skin and bones, in particular thighs or drumsticks. They are meaty and come out juicy inside with delicious crispy skin on the outside. The meat is great to serve as a main dish, and the leftovers reheat well to make a great sandwich the next day. Turkey breast is easier to overcook and can be quite dry without skin and dark meat.
Air frying is the best way to cook meat with the bones and the skin. It saves time and you will need less oil compared to frying. To make this recipe we will be using a homemade poultry rub that can also go on chicken, pork, and beef.
Here is why you will love this recipe:
- Holiday worthy - no need to cook the entire turkey when making Thanksgiving dinner for 2-3 people. It will save you time and money.
- Crispy and juicy - the meat is tender and juicy inside and the skin comes out super crispy, just the way everyone loves.
- Quick - air fryer will cook the meat much faster than the oven.
- Minimum ingredients - this recipe requires only a few simple ingredients.
See the recipe card below for ingredient quantities.
- Turkey thighs - skin on and bone in turkey thighs are the best. You can also use this recipe to make turkey drumsticks and wings.
- Olive oil - I used olive oil but any vegetable oil will work well. You will need oil only for rubbing the meat. Butter is another option, but it might smoke in the air fryer.
- Salt - sea salt by taste, I usually use about ½ teaspoon for two large thighs.
- Spice mix - you will need paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, dried thyme, dried rosemary, dried sage, and black pepper. Use can use a store bough poultry seasoning, Italian seasoning, or Herbes de Provence. You can use fresh herbs as well, but I prefer using dried ones when cooking in the air fryer.
🍖How to make air fryer turkey thighs
First, make the poultry dry rub. In a small bowl, add salt, garlic powder, garlic onion, dried thyme, dried rosemary, dried sage, and black pepper. Mix to combine. You might have some seasoning left, depending on the size of the thighs.
Note: You can leave out the salt and rub it separately on the meat. This way you can easily see how much salt you used.
Remove the meat from the packaging and place it on a plate or a cutting board. Pat dry the thighs with some paper towels to get rid of any extra moisture. Now, rub turkey parts with olive oil on both sides. Rub the meat with the spice mix on both sides generously. Cover the meat with some plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 30 minutes to marinade. If you are in a hurry you can start cooking it right away.
Cover the air fryer basket with some parchment paper. It is optional but will make the clean-up even easier. Place seasoned turkey thighs in the prepared air fryer basket skin side up. I could tightly fit two pieces in my Ninja Air Fryer. The meat should be in a single layer. Air fry it in two batches if needed.
Air fry at 380 degrees F for 20-30 minutes until the skin is golden and crispy. You do not have to flip the thighs. Make sure the meat is fully cooked by Inserting the thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh without touching the bone. The internal temperature needs to reach 175°F.
I always use a meat thermometer when cooking meat. It prevents it from overcooking and always guarantees the meat reached a safe temperature.
Usually, turkey and any other poultry are safe to consume once they reached 165°F degrees.
When cooking a whole bird or large parts with bones, we recommend that temperature reaches 170°F-175°F. For the breasts - 165°F.
Simply insert the thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh or other parts without touching the bone and make sure it reaches the recommended temperatures above.
Fatty dark meat with bones will remain juicy even if it is slightly overcooked. It is much better than seeing the red juice near the bone while eating your dinner.
- do not wash the meat, just pat dry with some paper towels for crispier skin.
- make sure to wash hands with soap and disinfect the surfaces after handling raw meat.
- for the best results let the seasoned meat marinade in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
- you can use this recipe to make turkey wings, legs, breasts, and other parts of the bird.
- use a meat thermometer to ensure the turkey thighs are fully cooked.
- cooking time may differ depending on your air fryer and the size of the thighs.
🔪Recommended equipment and tools
- Air fryer: I used a Ninja XL air fryer. You can use other types and brands.
- Small bowl: to mix the spice and herb mix.
- Paper towels: to pat dry the meat.
- Parchment paper: optional, but makes the clean-up much easier.
- Main course: serve it with different sides such as potatoes, rice, or any roasted veggies.
- Salads and sandwiches: dark turkey meat remains juicy after reheating. Add it to your favorite salads, sandwiches, or wraps.
- Pasta and rice: you can use cooked meat to make macaroni and cheese, rice casseroles, or any other dishes that require cooked chicken meat.
⏲️To store and reheat
Place the leftovers in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
If you want to freeze the thighs, separate the meat from the bone and freeze it in a freezer-safe bag or container for up to 3 months.
These juicy turkey thighs reheat well. Just microwave them for 1-2 minutes or reheat them in the air fryer until hot again.
💭Frequently asked questions
Absolutely, you will need to add another 10-15 minutes of cooking time if cooking from frozen. Good news, when using air fryer no need to thaw the meat.
When cooking in the air fryer, plan on about 10 minutes per one pound of a whole bird or its parts at 380°F-400°.
Yes, use the air fryer settings and the crisp plate following the rest of the recipe directions.
🥘Other poultry air fryer recipes
Air Fried Turkey Thighs
- 1 Air fryer Ninja XL or other
- 1 set of measuring spoons
- 2 turkey thighs
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- ½ teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ¼ teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- ½ teaspoon dried rosemary
- ¼ teaspoon dried sage
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- Pat dry turkey thighs with some paper towels. In a small bowl, combine ½ teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon paprika, ½ teaspoon garlic powder, ½ teaspoon dried thyme, ½ teaspoon dried rosemary, ¼ teaspoon onion powder, ¼ teaspoon black pepper and ¼ teaspoon dried sage.
- Rub each turkey thigh with olive oil and then with the spice mix and refrigerate for 30-40 minutes to marinate. If in a rush, you can cook it right away.
- Lay some parchment paper over the air fryer basket for easier clean up. Place the turkey thighs in the basket facing the skin side up.
- Air fry at 380°F for 20-30 minutes until the meat is golden and crispy and internal temperature reaches 175°F. You might need to cook the meat longer if the thighs are very large.
- pat dry chicken thighs with paper towels for crispy skin.
- marinate is optional but makes the meat more flavorful.
- cooking time will depend on your air fryer and on the size of the turkey thighs.
- always use food thermometer to ensure the meat is fully cooked. Turkey thighs with bones need to reach 175°F.