Learn how to air fry frozen chicken thighs! You’ll love using the air fryer as a quick way to defrost and cook frozen chicken. This air fryer frozen chicken thighs recipe has a simple BBQ seasoning and crispy skin. It makes a great protein-packed main dish for family dinners, and is keto, low carb, and gluten free. Use the principles you learn here to make frozen chicken breast in the air fryer as well!
Sometimes I’ll spring for a big pack of chicken thighs or chicken breasts at a bulk store like Costco. Since I have a small family, anything more than a pound or so of chicken ends up in the freezer. The issue then becomes remembering to thaw chicken well before dinnertime.
Well, that problem is a thing of the past after I learned how to cook frozen chicken thighs in the air fryer. That’s right folks, you don’t have to thaw chicken before air frying.
I’m going to show you how to cook bone in skin on chicken thighs in the air fryer. However, you could also air fry frozen chicken breast and frozen chicken tenderloins. Smaller pieces of chicken and chicken without skin and bones will simply take less time.
You're getting time and temperature estimates below to air fry all of your favorite types of frozen chicken. We’re going to be getting a homecooked meal done and on the table fast tonight!
- 📋 Calories, Net Carbs, Protein
- ⭐ Benefits
- 🥘 Ingredients
- 🍽 Equipment
- 🔪 How to Make Air Fryer Frozen Chicken Thighs
- ️⏲ Cooking Time and Temperature
- 🍗 Fresh and Frozen Chicken Time and Temp Chart
- 🌡️ Leftovers
- 🧂️️ Seasonings
- 🥗 Side Dishes
- 💭 Expert Tips from a Dietitian
- 🔥 How to oven bake frozen chicken?
- 👩🏻🍳 More Air Fryer Frozen Chicken Recipes
- The Disclaimer…
- 📖 Recipe
- 💬 Comments
📋 Calories, Net Carbs, Protein
One serving of Air Fryer Chicken Thighs (bone in, skin on) has 375 calories, 0 grams net carbs, and 28.5 grams protein. This nutrition information is for a 6-ounce chicken thigh and will vary depending on the size of your portion. Sodium content will also vary, depending on the brand of BBQ seasoning you use.
Why make frozen raw chicken thighs in an air fryer? Here are a few of the benefits of this air fried chicken:
- Fits special diets: This easy 4-ingredient recipe is low carb, keto, gluten-free, Paleo, and dairy-free. Sometimes simple recipes are best to fit everyone’s diet preferences and to avoid the major allergens.
- No need to baste, hands-off: You need to flip and season the chicken for this recipe, but that’s about it. You can spend your time in the kitchen making the sides, or just put your feet up and relax.
- Fast and energy efficient: It takes longer to bake frozen chicken in the oven and you’ll use more energy. Additionally, air frying doesn’t heat up the house like the oven does.
- Nutritious: Chicken is a healthful whole food! It’s packed with high-quality protein, as well as essential vitamins and minerals such as niacin and vitamin B12. It’s the type of main dish that will nourish you and help keep you full.
- Delicious: If tender and well-seasoned chicken with crisp golden skin sounds good, you’re going to like this recipe. Our family thought these chicken thighs were pretty darn tasty, and we hope yours does too!
To make frozen chicken in the air fryer, you need:
- Pack of bone in, skin on chicken thighs
- BBQ seasoning (I LOVE this one)
- Baking powder
- Cooking oil spray (non-aerosol)
I used four chicken thighs that were 6 ounces (170 grams) each for this recipe. That is 1.5 lbs. (680 grams) of chicken thighs in all. The size of the chicken thighs you use will impact the cooking time.
Try to use chicken pieces with a similar size, weight, and thickness. You also want to use pieces that are uniformly thick for more even cooking. (Sometimes chicken breasts and thighs are thin along the edges and thicker in the middle.)
For chicken that is extra tender and juicy, I highly recommend keeping the skin on your chicken. The skin provides a protective barrier to help keep the chicken from drying out while it air fries. (Plus, it just tastes good!)
I usually use and avocado oil cooking spray. Feel free to use olive oil cooking spray or your preferred type. I’ve heard reports that aerosol cooking sprays can damage air fryer baskets, so I would stay away from that type.
You need three things for this frozen chicken thigh recipe:
- Air Fryer
- Meat thermometer
- Paper towels
The meat thermometer is the best way to make sure your chicken was cooked properly. I would not try to guess whether your chicken is done based on appearance alone.
My air fryer recipes are developed using a 10-Quart Kalorik Digital Air Fryer Oven. It has two trays, but we only need one for this recipe. If your air fryer basket is very small, you may only be able to cook 1-2 pieces of chicken at a time.
You can air fry frozen chicken with your Ninja Foodi, Cosori, Philips, Pampered Chef Air Fryer, Actifry, Nuwave, Instant Vortex, Cuisinart, Power Air Fryer, or other air fryer. However, air frying times may vary a bit between air fryer brands. Always keep a close eye on the food the first time you try a new air fryer recipe.
🔪 How to Make Air Fryer Frozen Chicken Thighs
Preheat the air fryer to 375 degrees Fahrenheit (190C) for 5 minutes. Mix the barbecue seasoning and baking powder together in a small bowl. Set the seasoning aside.
Put your chicken (skin side up) on a hot tray. It’s OK if the pieces are stuck together initially, you just don’t want them stacked on each other.
Spray the top of the chicken with cooking oil spray. Put the tray with the chicken in the top rack position if you have an air fryer oven.
Some say that some water or bread in the drip pan can help stop the air fryer from smoking while cooking greasy foods. I’ve never had this issue, but it’s worth mentioning.
️⏲ Cooking Time and Temperature
How long to air fry frozen chicken? What temp to cook frozen chicken in air fryer? Air fry frozen chicken thighs for a total of 30 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit (190C).
Start by air frying for 5 minutes to defrost the chicken. Then remove the chicken from the air fryer and separate the pieces (if they were frozen together).
Flip the chicken over so it is skin side down. Be sure to keep the chicken in a single layer for even cooking. Air fry for 10 minutes at 375F/190C (top rack).
Take the chicken out of the air fryer and pat away moisture with paper towels. Flip the chicken so it’s skin side up. Blot the skin with paper towels and spray the skin with cooking oil spray.
Sprinkle the chicken skin with the BBQ seasoning and baking powder mixture. Air fry the chicken for 15 minutes at 375F/190C (top rack for air fryer ovens).
Check the chicken with a meat thermometer to ensure it reached the minimum safe internal temp of 165F (74C). You may need to extend the cooking time if it’s not at a safe temperature. Smaller chicken thighs and boneless chicken thighs will take less time to cook.
Let the air fried chicken thighs rest for 5-10 minutes before enjoying.
🍗 Fresh and Frozen Chicken Time and Temp Chart
Here’s an air fryer time and temperature chart for various types of chicken. Please remember that these are estimates that may need to be adjusted for your air fryer:
|Type||Fresh or Frozen||Air Fryer Temp||Air Fryer Time (minutes)||Notes|
|Boneless skinless chicken thighs||Fresh||350F (175C) Preheat air fryer||15-20||Flip halfway through cooking time|
|Bone in skin on chicken thighs||Fresh||375F (190C) Preheat air fryer||22-25||Flip halfway through cooking time|
|Boneless skinless chicken thighs||Frozen||375F (190C) Preheat air fryer||25-28||Flip halfway through cooking time|
|Bone in skin on chicken thighs||Frozen||375F (190C) Preheat air fryer||30||Details in recipe card below|
|Boneless skinless chicken breasts||Fresh||350F (175C) Preheat air fryer||20-22||Marinate chicken, flip halfway through cooking time|
|Boneless skinless chicken breasts||Frozen||375F (190C) Preheat air fryer||25-30||Flip halfway through cooking time|
Remove the skin and bones from your leftover cooked chicken. You can store the cooked poultry in the fridge in a food safe container or in the freezer. If storing in the freezer, use a vacuum sealed bag or freezer bags with the air pressed out.
What are some good seasonings for chicken? If you don’t like my suggestion to use BBQ seasoning, no worries. Here are some other herbs and spices you can use on chicken:
- Onion powder
- Garlic powder
- Smoked paprika
- Jerk seasoning
- Cajun seasoning
- Italian seasoning
- Lemon pepper
- Salt and pepper
🥗 Side Dishes
What to serve with air fryer frozen chicken? Chicken goes with pretty much everything! Here are a few side dishes for chicken you might enjoy:
- Air Fryer Frozen French Fries
- Air Fryer Frozen Sweet Potato Fries
- Rice or Riced Cauliflower
- Air Fryer Carrots
- Air Fryer Frozen Vegetables (Roasted Veggies)
- Frozen Diced Hash Browns in Air Fryer
💭 Expert Tips from a Dietitian
This is a level 2 recipe (transition or weight maintenance). The nutrition information for this recipe is likely an overestimate that doesn’t account for cooking losses. That said, skin on chicken thighs are not the leanest chicken option to be found.
You can lower the fat and calories of this entrée by using chicken breasts rather than chicken thighs. If you are on Weight Watchers (WW) or otherwise need a lower calorie option, you can also remove the skin.
I don’t usually see bone in, skinless chicken thighs sold in the stores around here. You may have to get boneless chicken thighs if you want them without skin. That will alter the cooking times (refer to the cooking time chart I provided above).
When I get chicken thighs, I usually feel like getting them with the skin is worth it. The bit of seasoned crispy chicken skin might just be my favorite part! Plus (as mentioned earlier) the skin helps keep the chicken from drying out during air frying.
If you prefer chicken with the skin, remember that a single food choice won’t make or break you meeting your health goals. It’s what you’re doing consistently (with diet, physical activity, sleep, etc.) that matters most.
You can take this main dish and make it a low-calorie meal by adding lots of low-oil non-starchy veggies on the side. Alternatively, pile on the starchy carbs (rice, potatoes, bread, etc.) if you need a higher energy meal. I like the diabetes plate (¼ protein, ¼ starches, ½ non-starchy veggies) as a general healthy eating guide.
No, you should not rinse raw chicken before cooking. According to the NHS, doing so can spread harmful bacteria, increasing your risk of food poisoning. If you want to get moisture off raw chicken, pat it dry with paper towels that will be discarded.
You can cook frozen boneless skinless chicken thighs in the air fryer as well. Try cooking them in an air fryer preheated to 375F/190C for 25-28 minutes. Flip halfway through cooking time, and ensure they’ve reached the minimum safe temp of 165F/74C after cooking.
According to the USDA, you should not cook chicken from frozen in the microwave. That’s perhaps for the best, since your chicken skin will not crisp up with microwave cooking.
According to the USDA, you should never leave poultry in the food safety danger zone (40-140F/4-60C) for more than 2 hours. Chicken can be thawed in the fridge, in cold water, and in the microwave. Don’t leave frozen chicken out to thaw at room temperature.
The USDA says you should not cook frozen chicken in an Instant Pot or Crock Pot using the slow cooker setting. You can pressure cook frozen chicken as long as it reaches a safe internal temp of 165F/74C. You also want to ensure the chicken isn’t in the food safety danger zone (40-140F/4-60C) for more than 2 hours.
🔥 How to oven bake frozen chicken?
Here’s a cooking times and temps chart for oven baked frozen chicken thighs. Remember to check and make sure they reach a safe temp of 165F/74C after cooking. (Convection ovens can follow the air fryer recipe directions, with adjustments as needed.)
|Type||Oven Temperature||Time (minutes)|
|Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs||375F (190C)||50-60|
|Bone in Skin on Chicken Thighs||450F (232C)||40-55|
|Boneless Skinless Chicken Breasts||425F (218C)||45|
👩🏻🍳 More Air Fryer Frozen Chicken Recipes
Want more recipes for cooking frozen chicken in the air fryer? Here are a few options for you:
- Air Fryer Frozen Chicken Nuggets
- Air Fryer Frozen Chicken Wings (Air Fryer Buffalo Chicken)
- Frozen Popcorn Chicken in Air Fryer
- Air Fryer Frozen Chicken Tenders
- Air Fryer Chicken Leg Quarters
All recipes on this website may or may not be appropriate for you, depending on your medical needs and personal preferences. Consult with a registered dietitian or your physician if you need help determining the dietary pattern that may be best for you.
The nutrition information is an estimate provided as a courtesy. It will differ depending on the specific brands and ingredients that you use. Calorie information on food labels may be wildly inaccurate, so please don't sweat the numbers too much.
For more information on how the three recipe levels may help with a weight management goal, refer to my overnight oats no sugar post. Let's get cooking!
Air Fryer Frozen Chicken Thighs Recipe (Crispy Skin!)
- Preheat the air fryer to 375°F (190°C) for 5 minutes.
- Mix the BBQ seasoning and baking powder together in a small bowl. Set the seasoning aside.
- Put your chicken (skin side up) on a hot air fryer tray or hot air fryer basket. It’s OK if the pieces are stuck together initially, you just don’t want them stacked on each other.
- Spray the top of the chicken with cooking oil spray. Put the tray with the chicken in the top rack position if you have an air fryer oven.
- Air fry for 5 minutes to defrost the chicken. Then remove the chicken from the air fryer and separate the pieces (if they were frozen together). Flip the chicken over so it is skin side down. Be sure to keep the chicken in a single layer for even cooking. Air fry for 10 minutes at 375°F/190°C (top rack).
- Take the chicken out of the air fryer and pat away moisture with paper towels. Flip the chicken so it’s skin side up. Blot the skin with paper towels and spray the skin with cooking oil spray.
- Sprinkle the chicken skin with the BBQ seasoning and baking powder mixture. Air fry the chicken for 15 minutes at 375°F/190°C (top rack for air fryer ovens).
- Check the chicken with a meat thermometer to ensure it reached the minimum safe internal temp of 165°F (74°C). You may need to extend the cooking time if it’s not at a safe temperature. Let the chicken rest for 5-10 minutes before enjoying.