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Golden brown on the outside and tender and juicy on the inside, these easy Air Fryer Turkey Legs are perfectly rubbed with a smoky seasoned butter and air fried in no time! Yielding tender, juicy and crispy skinned turkey legs.
I just love using air fryer recipes for new and interesting ways to make weeknight dinners. And there are so many delicious recipes you can include with this juicy turkey leg entrée. For a complete meal, make Air Fryer Steak Fries or Air Fryer Sweet Potatoes. And finish off the meal with this recipe for Easy Air Fryer Apple Crisp and a hearty scoop of ice cream too!
Why You Will Love this Air Fryer Turkey Legs Recipe
- Hassle-Free Cooking | Easy cooking, fast results, and easy clean up—what’s not to love?!
- Low Fat Frying | You can still enjoy fried foods and use significantly less oil when you use an air fryer.
- Variation | Enjoy turkey multiple ways this season when you get a bit creative, trying new tried-and-true fresh recipes, like my Leftover Turkey Divan!
There are always the traditional recipes we all love for the holidays, like Homemade Turkey Gravy, perfect over this juicy meat. Add a side dish of Corn Casserole, some Broccoli Au Gratin, and some Easy Yeast Rolls, and you have a classic Thanksgiving dinner made easily for any night of the week.
- Turkey legs are slightly lower in calories than chicken, and air fryer doesn’t dry them out.
- Air Fryer cooking is fast, yes. But it uses much less oil than traditional frying for a healthier fried entrée.
Ingredients, directions and nutritional information in the printable recipe card at the end of the post.
- Turkey Legs/Drumsticks | I use about 2-3 lbs of dark meat turkey legs for this recipe.
- Butter | Softened butter is mixed with the seasonings for the rub, for a delicious herbed butter rub. We’ll reserve a bit and melt for basting the drumsticks.
- Smoked Paprika | For a smoky, great flavor, just like the theme parks or the Renaissance fair.
- Seasoning Salt | Use seasoning salt to taste to make the skin so delicious and savory.
- Garlic Powder | Garlic powder is perfectly blended into the butter mixture.
- Brown Sugar | Crispy turkey legs being the goal, the brown sugar crisps up so nicely and balances the savory, smoky flavors.
- Black Pepper | Use as much or as little as you would like.
- Thyme | Dried thyme or fresh thyme can be used here.
- Italian Seasoning | Italian seasoning should be a staple in every kitchen. It is just the right blend of herbs for this meal.
How to Make Air Fryer Turkey Drumsticks
Step 1 | Make the Seasoned Butter Rub
In a small bowl, combine softened butter with smoked paprika, seasoned salt, garlic powder, brown sugar, black pepper, thyme, and Italian seasoning. Stir until all the ingredients are mixed in.
*Important | Remove one tablespoon of the herb butter for basting; melt in the microwave, set aside.
- Before you get started, keep this tip in mind. Different air fryers will require different cook times, so be sure to adjust your cook times accordingly.
- Also, leaner turkey legs will take less time. So, start by reducing the time by 10 minutes per side. Then check the temperature progress and proceed.
Step 2 | Prepare the Turkey
I am not sure about you, but I like to rinse turkey before I begin cooking. Take the turkey legs out of the packaging and give them a good rinse.
Then, with paper towels, pat the turkey legs completely dry so the rub will stick. Then rub the herb butter all over the turkey legs, distribute the smokey herb butter all over the legs, including under the skin where you are able.
Step 3 | Get Ready to Air Fry Turkey Legs and Thighs
If you have not already, preheat the air fryer as directed on the recipe card below.
Now you are ready to place the seasoned legs in the air fryer basket. Make sure they are not touching so all the sides get nice and crispy.
Step 4 | Cook Your Turkey
In the preheated air fryer (400 degrees F), place turkey legs in basket without crowding and cook for the first 20 minutes. Then open the fryer and flip the turkey legs over, basting with 1 tablespoon of the reserved melted herb butter.
Now, close the air fryer and resume cooking for 20 more minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 160-165 degrees F with a meat thermometer.
Some larger legs may take a little longer.
Then, if they are browning too quickly, loosely tent the legs with aluminum foil and continue cooking until the correct temperature is reached.
Step 5 | Remove and Rest
Yes, you can rest too, but I am talking about resting the meat to retain all the juices. Carefully remove the turkey legs from the air fryer and allow the meat to rest on a plate or cutting board tented with foil for 5-10 minutes while you get the rest of the meal to the table.
Remember that allowing it to rest, allows the juices to return to the meat, cut it too soon and they will run out! Serve and enjoy!
How to Reheat Turkey Leg in Air Fryer
Remove the leftover turkey legs from the fridge and let them come to room temperature for 20-30 minutes. Then preheat the air fryer to 350 degrees and place turkey legs in the basket. Air fry for about 10 minutes, turning them over halfway through. Ta-da, that’s how to reheat turkey leg in the air fryer.
How to Quick Thaw Frozen Turkey Legs
Without removing the packaging, submerge frozen turkey legs in room temperature water for 2-3 hours. Remember to change the water if needed and keep it cold. Or remove them from the freezer and place the sealed package in the fridge overnight.
How to Roast Turkey Legs in Oven
I get it, you might not have an air fryer yet, but when you do give it a try, until then here are the instructions to roast turkey legs in the oven.
- Preheat oven to 450 degrees and for easier clean-up, line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil, then place an oven safe rack on top.
- Place turkey legs (with butter rub) on the baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes until skin starts to brown. (If not using butter, be sure to spray the legs and rack with spray oil. I like Avocado spray oil for its high heat tolerance.
- Cover loosely with foil to avoid over-browning and continue roasting for another 30 or so minutes. Turkey legs are done when instant-read thermometer registers 165 degrees F (make sure it isn’t touching the bone), and when pierced juices run clear.
- Remove from oven and allow to sit, covered, resting for 10 minutes. Don’t jump in too quickly, this will ensure that your turkey is tender, juicy and moist.
Variations & Substitutions
- Dairy Free | If you prefer not to use butter, make a dry rub and combine all the dry spices rubbing all over the dried turkey legs, then spray with some avocado oil or olive oil before air frying. That way, you still get that crispy skin on the outside and keep the meat juicy!
- Seasoning Mix | Out of Italian Seasoning? Switch it up for Herbs de Provence. You can also use poultry seasoning for this delicious recipe.
- Whole Turkey | Want to do the entire turkey? Go ahead and put the parts of the turkey in, as the size of your air fryer basket dictates. Be sure to adjust the cooking time according to directions. and remember, turkey wings will take less time.
Recommended Equipment to Air Fry Turkey Breast
- Turn your Instant Pot into an air fryer with this air fryer lid — one less appliance!
- Cosori Air Fryer is the next up, a dedicated air fryer with a larger square basket.
- Ninja Foodi Air Fryer & Indoor Grill — a nice wide and easy to operate air fryer. What I made these French toast sticks in.
- My favorite Breville Smart Oven Air Fryer Pro (it does it all!), love, love this air fryer, countertop oven.
- Meat Thermometer | Invest in one, they come in so handy for turkey’s or grilling. Use an instant read thermometer or a probe style.
Turkey Legs in the Air Fryer will last in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days. Keep them stored in a zippered bag or an airtight container.
Cool turkey legs completely, wrap well with foil or plastic wrap and then store in air tight freezer baggie. Freeze up to 3 months
- Turkey is fully cooked when it reaches 165 degrees F, and the turkey meat juices run clear. I recommend using a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the turkey leg for the most accurate results.
- If using a countertop air fryer, sometimes the turkey will brown too quickly before cooking all the way through. If you are able, lower the basket to the middle-lower portion of the air fryer oven and, if needed, tent it with foil towards the end.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you want to try and air fry frozen turkey legs, reduce the temperature to 360 degrees F and rub the legs all over with half the butter mixture. Roast for 25 minutes, then flip and baste with the remaining melted butter mixture. Resume air frying for another 20-30 minutes. If browning too quickly, tent the legs with foil.
Good question. Turkey legs are available at your local grocery store in the fall. But if you want them any other time of year, you may need to ask your local butcher.
That is the beauty of Air Frying! Whatever protein you put in the air fryer comes out crispy on the outside and moist and tender inside, like these air fryer steak tips. It cooks so fast, there is no need to worry about dry turkey legs when you follow the instructions.
Nope, the air fryer with its quick and cooking heat, keeps the breasts nice and moist.
More Turkey Recipes
- Juicy Turkey Air Fryer Turkey Breast
- Easy Air Fryer Turkey Thighs
- Best Instant Pot Turkey Breast Recipe
- Simple Tender Tasty Turkey
- Easy Turkey and Wild Rice Casserole
- Turkey Roasting Guide + Turkey Printable
Remember that all air fryers heat and cook a little differently; start with a little less time and use an instant-read thermometer to check the internal temperature of the turkey legs. Not to mention, the size of the turkey legs matters! Properly cooked poultry should be cooked to 165 degrees F. Be sure to let it rest for 10 minutes before enjoying.
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Easy Crispy Air Fryer Turkey Legs
- 2-3 pounds turkey legs, (about 2 large turkey legs), rinsed, dried well with paper towels
- 6 tablespoons butter, softened, salted or unsalted
- 1 1/2 teaspoons smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon seasoning salt, like Lawry's
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon brown sugar, light or dark
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme, or fresh thyme, chopped, 1 tablespoon
- 1 teaspoon Italian Seasoning, or Poultry seasoning or Herbs de Provence
- Combine soft butter with smoked paprika, seasoned salt, garlic powder, brown sugar, black pepper, thyme and Italian seasoning until mixed. Remove one tablespoon of herb butter for basting and melt.
- With paper towels pat the turkey legs completely dry. Rub the smokey herb butter all over the legs including under the skin where you are able.
- Preheat the air fryer for 2-3 minutes to 400 degrees F. Place legs in the air fryer basket, without touching. Air Fry at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes. Flip turkey legs and baste with 1 tablespoon melted herb butter. Cook for 20 more minutes or until internal temperature reaches 160-165 degrees F. Some larger legs will take a little longer, if browning too quickly, loosely tent legs with foil and continue cooking until correct temperature.
- Remove from the air fryer and allow the turkey legs to rest (tented with foil) for 5-10 minutes before serving.
✱ Kathleen’s Tips
- If using a countertop air fryer, turkey will often brown too quickly before cooking all the way through. Lower the basket to the middle-lower portion of the air fryer and if needed tent with foil towards the end.
- How to reheat turkey legs in air fryer | Remove the turkey legs from the fridge and let come to room temperature for 20-30 minutes. Then preheat the air fryer to 350 degrees and place legs in the basket, air fry for about 10 minutes, turning them over half way through.
- How to quick thaw frozen turkey legs | Without removing packaging, submerge frozen turkey legs in room temperature water for 2-3 hours. Or remove them from the freezer and place in the fridge overnight.
- Can I air fry frozen turkey legs? | If you want to try and air fry frozen turkey legs, reduce the temperature to 360 degrees F and rub legs all over with half the butter mixture. Roast for 25 minutes, then flip and baste with remaining butter mixture (melted) air frying for another 20-30 minutes. If browning too quickly, tent with foil.
- Remember that all air fryers heat and cook a little differently, start with a little less time and use an instant read thermometer to check the internal temperature of the turkey legs. Legs should be cooked to 165 degrees F.
- Do I need to brine my turkey legs? Nope, the air fryer with its quick and cooking heat, keeps the breasts nice and moist.
- Lean turkey legs will need less time to cook, start by cooking for 10 minutes per side, check the temperature and adjust as needed.
- Turkey Legs in the Air Fryer will last in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days. Keep them stored in a zippered bag or an airtight container, cooled completely first.
- Cool turkey legs completely, wrap well with foil or plastic wrap and then store in air tight freezer baggie. Freeze up to 3 months
The Fresh Cooky is not a dietician or nutritionist, and any nutritional information shared is only an estimate. We recommend running the ingredients through an online nutritional calculator if you need to verify any information.
About Kathleen Pope
Recipe Innovator | Food Photographer | Food Writer
Hi, I’m Kathleen Pope. Here at The Fresh Cooky you will find easy, mostly from-scratch, trusted recipes for all occasions. From speedy dinners to tasty desserts, with easy step-by-step instructions. I am here to help teach you how to make mouthwatering recipes without spending hours in the kitchen. Read more about Kathleen here.