Air Fryer Chicken Thighs with Brown Sugar and Spices

Air Fryer Chicken Thighs with Brown Sugar and Spices is a quick, easy, and delicious weeknight dinner.

Air Fryer Chicken Thighs with Brown Sugar and Spices On Oven Fryer Tray with Beautiful Brown Color

Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been on a chicken binge; I’ve fried it, air fried it, baked it and broiled it. I’ve discovered new recipes and in one case, relied on one that is very old. But cool weather is coming and it’s time for something other than barbecue chicken, starting with this recipe for Air Fryer Chicken Thighs with Brown Sugar and Spices.

Honestly I’ve had almost this same exact recipe on this blog since 2012 as Spiced Honey Brushed Chicken Thighs. I’ve told that story a few times, how that recipe was so dang good that I stood over the stove and ate a couple of those thighs before remembering they were for dinner and forced myself to step away from the stove.

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While I wanted to make something similar using my air fryer, I opted to substitute the honey with brown sugar and mix everything together in a rub eliminating the need for the final steps of removing and slathering honey on each side with a couple of minutes of additional time once that is complete.

I love that recipe but this one for Air Fryer Chicken Thighs with Brown Sugar and Spice is even easier and requires less attention…there is certainly a time and place for that.

Spice Mix Used for Air Fryer Chicken in a Small Glass Bottle

A friend of mine got a new air fryer last week, she actually got something new from the folks that make the Instant Pot Pressure Cooker; it’s a Air Fryer Lid with an accompanying basket that fits inside the 6qt Instant Pot and turns the unit into an air fryer. Jan was going to town…chicken, cauliflower, and more. She was actually my inspiration to try this recipe.

The appliance I use for air frying is a Cuisinart Toaster Oven/Air Fryer unit. I bought it when my toaster oven died; it has several functions and I clearly don’t use it enough for air frying, these thighs were fantastic.

Jan made chicken thighs using this recipe. The rub I love is a bit heartier with some heat, so I used it and to balance the omitting of honey, upped the brown sugar quotient a bit to balance the spices in my mix. I simply omitted the vinegar; I did not want to take any chances on losing that nice crust that resulted from this method.

The rub is easy enough too; I suggest at least doubling the amounts and having some ready to go for next time…there will be a next time, I’m sure of it! I think the ingredients that I used are ones that most everyone can find already in their pantry:

  • Brown sugar
  • Garlic powder
  • Chili powder
  • Cumin
  • Paprika
  • Cayenne pepper
  • Salt

One thing I do when I cook boneless chicken thighs is that I keep them folded in half, so that even though they are boneless, they maintain the same shape as if bone in. It’s mostly aesthetics, I like the way they look, but I also think it keeps them from cooking too quickly and drying out.

The suggested cooking time for Air Fryer Chicken Thighs with Brown Sugar and Spices is 20 minutes total; 10 minutes per side. But do check the internal temperature of your chicken before considering it done.

Boneless thighs should be cooked to 165 degrees Fahrenheit internally to be safely cooked. Bone in dark meat can actually benefit from going up to 180 degrees internally, this insures that the meat will be tender enough to pull away from the bones easily.

Air Fryer Chicken Thighs with Brown Sugar and Spices Served on a White Plate with Pasta

These air fryer chicken thighs could not have been easier. I covered the bottom tray with aluminum foil for the drippings so when the meat was done, I simply let the drippings cool in the foil, folded it all up and pitched it and cleanup was done. Win win for quick cleanup, right?

You want an additional step for even easier cleanup? Buy some parchment paper liners (affiliate link) for your air fryer to put on top of the tray. I’ll still wash my tray because it’s had grease on it that seeps through but food won’t stick to the liners and it’s wonderful!

This recipe for Air Fryer Chicken Thighs is so variable. I do think the brown sugar in this mix helps to brown the chicken nicely so even if you decide to try something different, add a touch of sugar to your mixture. For a recipe of this size and quantity I would suggest at least 2 teaspoons of granulated white sugar or brown sugar depending on what you are mixing up.

Want to try barbecue chicken? Simply roast your chicken with a favorite rub in the air fryer and then slather on your warm barbecue sauce after it comes out of the oven and is plated. Honestly…this simple preparation will open doors to a world of variations…all simple to make, great to eat, and easy to cleanup.

PIN IT! Air Fryer Chicken Thighs with Brown Sugar and Spices’

Air Fryer Chicken Thighs with Brown Sugar and Spices On Oven Fryer Tray
Air Fryer Chicken Thighs with Brown Sugar and Spices Served on a White Plate with Pasta and Bread
Air Fryer Chicken Thighs with Brown Sugar and Spices Served on a White Plate with Pasta

Air Fryer Chicken Thighs with Brown Sugar and Spices

Air Fryer Chicken Thighs with Brown Sugar and Spices is such an easy and delicous dish; perfect for your air fryer.
4.86 from 50 or more votes
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Chicken and Turkey, Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 8 Servings
Calories 264 kcal


  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika I had smoked and used it
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 8 chicken thighs


  • Mix together the brown sugar and spices and rub them on the top and bottom of the chicken thighs. I usually put half the thighs into a bowl, shake half the spice mix over them and then turn them to coat on all sides. Repeat with the next half.
  • Place the chicken thighs in the air fryer according to manufacturer’s directions for 10 mins at 350 degrees. Using tongs, flip the thighs over and cook an additional 10 minutes or until the thickest part of the chicken reaches 165 degrees.
  • Remove to a serving plate and keep warm.


To prevent the chicken fat in the bottom of the fryer from smoking, pour a bit of cold water into the bottom of the fryer before starting the cooking process.


Nutrition Facts
Air Fryer Chicken Thighs with Brown Sugar and Spices
Serving Size
1 Serving
Amount per Serving
% Daily Value*
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Keyword air fryer, brown sugar, chicken, dinner
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  1. 5 stars
    This is exactly the recipe I was looking for. This dish is both very attractive in terms of look and taste. I like it, thanks.

  2. What’s engaging chicken! Is really easy like your instruction? I fried chicken much time but I’ve never got a good result like this. The chicken is cooked evenly, excellent color. I like to serve this fryer chicken with salad and cucumber. Thanks your recipe!

  3. That chicken is gorgeous! So nicely browned. I don’t have an air fryer, but I do have a convection oven — which is basically the same thing, just a whole lot bigger. Bet I can figure out how to cook this in my oven. 🙂 This look like such a nice recipe — thanks.

    1. My oven is both…I see a bit of a difference but there is one. I’ve used convection baking for a long time, this can make the process a bit quicker for those without a convection oven. Not sure I would buy a stand alone product but I like having the unit I do!

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