Soul Food Recipes

Southern Air Fryer Turkey Legs


Experience the legendary taste of turkey legs at home without the hassle of setting up a grill or roasting a whole turkey. 

These Southern air fryer turkey legs are seasoned with a perfectly savory and smokey poultry seasoning blend to bring out the best-smoked turkey flavor. 

Southern Air Fryer Turkey Legs

The outcome is nothing less than turkey legs with tender, juicy meat inside and a seasoned, flavorful outside, with a mouthwatering, smoky flavor that’ll have you licking your fingertips!

Thanksgiving is all about family, friends, and delicious, home-cooked food. But there’s no reason to let that holiday dinner become a week-long project!

The solution is simple: an air fryer recipe for cooking turkey legs.

With a smoky flavor and crispy skin, this country fair-style turkey leg recipe in the air fryer will surely be a delicious addition to your holiday feast! You can skip the oily mess and greasy pans by cooking this turkey recipe in the air fryer. 

How do you keep turkey legs from drying out?

How do you keep turkey legs from drying out?

First, boil the legs in an apple cider vinegar brine to tenderize the turkey leg dark meat. Then, toss these brine-infused turkey legs in the air fryer for an easy, crispy, delicious appetizer or main dish.

Crispy on the outside. Juicy on the inside. And seasoned to perfection, just like the ones you love to get at Disney parks and the state fair! 

Even more, air fryer turkey legs are the perfect way to get your turkey fix all year long! 

Serve ’em for soul food Sunday dinnersholiday feasts, or even just for a quick weeknight dinner after a hectic day! 

I’ve adapted this recipe from my Instant Pot smoked turkey legs recipe HERE, accelerating the cooking time thanks to the air fryer!

What do you need to make air fryer turkey legs?

What do you need to make air fryer turkey legs?

You can buy turkey legs already cut and pre-packaged from your local butcher or grocery store. You only need turkey legs, vinegar, garlic and herb seasoning, and poultry seasoning. To cook, boil, and then air fry according to the easy step-by-step recipe instructions below.

Kitchen equipment for Southern air fryer turkey legs

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Ingredients for the Southern air fryer turkey legs brine

  • 4 turkey legs
  • 3 quarts of water
  • 2 tablespoons of salt
  • 4 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar
Ingredients for the Southern air fryer turkey legs

Ingredients for Southern air fryer turkey legs

Instructions for Southern air fryer turkey brine

  1. You can use a large pot on the stovetop over medium-high heat or open the Instant Pot lid and pour the water, salt, and vinegar into the stainless-steel inner pot (the brine).
  2. Add the turkey legs to the salt brine inside the inner pot.
  3. To boil the turkey legs in the brine, turn on the Instant Pot sauté setting for 30 minutes. (This is because the max amount of time using the sauté setting is 30 minutes.) you’ll need to add 10 minutes immediately when the first 30 minutes finish for a total of 40 minutes on sauté.
  4. With the Instant Pot lid off, allow the turkey legs to boil on the sauté setting. (It will take approx. 18-20 minutes for the pot with the turkey legs to get to a slow boil/simmer.)
  5. When cooking is finished (after 40 minutes), drain the water by gently sliding the turkey legs from the inner pot into a colander. 
  6. Set the turkey legs aside and allow them to cool.
Instructions for Southern turkey legs in the air fryer

Instructions for Southern turkey legs in the air fryer

  1. Mix the poultry seasoning and the roasted garlic & herb seasoning in a small bowl to create a Southern spice rub for the turkey legs.
  2. Rub on and coat the turkey legs with the seasoning mixture.
  3. Spray the air fryer basket or tray with olive oil, avocado oil, or coconut oil. 
  4. Place the seasoned turkey legs in the air fryer basket or on the air fryer tray.
  5. Ensure the turkey legs are skin-side up, and be careful not to overcrowd the legs.
  6. Air fry at 360 degrees F for 18 minutes.
  7. Halfway through, after about 9 minutes have passed, flip the turkey legs over in the air fryer and return to cooking.
  8. Serve this Southern air fryer turkey legs recipe right away, and enjoy!

What do you serve with air fryer turkey legs?

Air fryer turkey legs taste delicious, but adding extra flavors complements your meal. If you’re craving these tasty turkey legs, try serving them with finger-licking soul food sides

Some of the best options are soul food collard greensSouthern black-eyed peasSouthern creamy mashed potatoesfresh cranberry sauceSouthern cornbread dressing, and homemade cornbread.

What size turkey leg would you recommend for this recipe?

Southern air fryer turkey legs FAQs

What type of air fryer is best for cooking turkey legs?

The type of air fryer for this recipe is up to you! What’s important is that the turkey legs fit into the air fryer basket or onto the air fryer tray.

How many turkey legs will fit in an air fryer?

This answer will vary depending on the size of your air fryer basket or tray.

What size turkey leg would you recommend for this recipe?

An average size, 1-2 pound turkey leg should fit in most air fryers to work for this recipe.

How many turkey legs will fit in an air fryer?

Do you put oil on turkey legs before frying?

The oil or spray is added to the air fryer basket or tray. So, there’s no need to add oil to the turkey legs because the meat is already brined for tenderness before air frying.

Can you cook frozen turkey legs in an air fryer?

You can cook turkey legs in an air fryer – that’s what this recipe is all about! But frozen turkey legs in the air fryer may risk the meat not cooking thoroughly or evenly. 

To use frozen turkey legs, boil them in the vinegar brine first to thaw and tenderize. Then continue in the air fryer for a delicious outer skin crisp!

How long does it take to make these air fryer turkey legs? 

How long does it take to make these air fryer turkey legs? 

For tender, juicy Southern air fryer turkey legs recipe, use this two-step process:

  1. Boil the turkey legs in a vinegar brine for 40 minutes. 
  2. After that, air fry the for about 18 minutes. 

Should you flip the turkey legs while cooking in the air fryer?

Be sure to flip each smoked turkey drumstick or leg halfway through (after about 9 minutes) to get an even amount of cooking and a crispy texture on both sides.

What temperature should a turkey leg be cooked to?

Air fry the turkey legs at 360 degrees F to reach 165 degrees F as the internal temperature. You can always use a meat thermometer to double-check this.

Should you brine turkey legs before air frying?

Brining meat before cooking has many benefits. It tenderizes the meat so it can absorb flavor and render it juicy. 

Can you freeze these Southern turkey legs for later?

Pro tip: Yes, I often make an extra turkey leg to freeze for when I make black-eyed peas or collard greens later! 

What do you serve with air fryer turkey legs?

Store turkey legs in an air-tight container or freezer bag and freeze for up to 3 months.

The turkey leg is much healthier than using a ham hock for flavor in your soul food collard greens recipe.

Did you enjoy this Southern air fryer turkey legs recipe?

Again, there’s no reason to let a holiday dinner or Thanksgiving turkey become a week-long project!

You can break down the turkey into smaller dishes to easily prepare, like an easy-to-make, delicious Southern turkey breast recipe, flavorful soul food turkey wings, turkey thighs, or this turkey leg recipe.

Should you flip the turkey legs while cooking in the air fryer?

And it gets even better when it comes to air fryer turkey legs! The turkey meat is tastier and juicier, and the skin is crispy!

Because unlike deep frying, air fryers enable you to cook food in less time, providing a crisp exterior and a moist interior. 

Turkey legs in an air fryer are perfect for those who want to avoid the hassle of roasting a whole turkey. There is no basting or stuffing, and the turkey legs still get cooked thoroughly, with crispy skin, without drying out.

Do you put oil on turkey legs before frying?

Have you had it?

Would you make it? 

Comment below and lemme know. 

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Southern Air Fryer Turkey Legs Recipe
Southern Air Fryer Turkey Legs

Southern Air Fryer Turkey Legs

Thanksgiving is all about family, friends, and delicious, home-cooked food. But there’s no reason to let that holiday dinner become a week-long project!The solution is simple and tastes just like your favorite state-fair meat: a Southern air fryer turkey legs recipe!

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Air Frying Time: 18 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour 3 minutes

Course: Side Dish

Cuisine: Soul Food, Southern Food

Keyword: air fryer turkey legs, smoked turkey legs, Southern air fryer turkey legs, turkey drumsticks recipe, turkey leg recipe, turkey legs brine

Servings: 4 turkey legs

Calories: 1018kcal

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Ingredients for the Southern air fryer turkey legs brine

  • 4 turkey legs
  • 3 quarts water
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Ingredients for Southern air fryer turkey legs

  • 2 tablespoons seasoning Famous Dave’s Country Roast Chicken/Poultry Seasoning (or similar)
  • 2 tablespoons seasoning Weber Seasoning Roasted Garlic & Herb (or similar)

Instructions for Southern air fryer turkey brine

  • You can use a large pot on the stovetop over medium-high heat or open the Instant Pot lid and pour the water, salt, and vinegar into the stainless-steel inner pot (the brine).

  • Add the turkey legs to the salt brine inside the inner pot.

  • To boil the turkey legs in the brine, turn on the Instant Pot sauté setting for 30 minutes. (This is because the max amount of time using the sauté setting is 30 minutes.) you’ll need to add 10 minutes immediately when the first 30 minutes finish for a total of 40 minutes on sauté.

  • With the Instant Pot lid off, allow the turkey legs to boil on the sauté setting. (It will take approx. 18-20 minutes for the pot with the turkey legs to get to a slow boil/simmer.)

  • When cooking is finished (after 40 minutes), drain the water by gently sliding the turkey legs from the inner pot into a colander.

  • Set the turkey legs aside and allow them to cool.

Instructions for Southern turkey legs in the air fryer

  • Mix the poultry seasoning and the roasted garlic & herb seasoning in a small bowl to create a Southern spice rub for the turkey legs.

  • Rub on and coat the turkey legs with the seasoning mixture.

  • Spray the air fryer basket or tray with olive oil, avocado oil, or coconut oil.

  • Place the seasoned turkey legs in the air fryer basket or on the air fryer tray.

  • Ensure the turkey legs are skin-side up, and be careful not to overcrowd the legs.

  • Air fry at 360 degrees F for 18 minutes.

  • Halfway through, after about 9 minutes have passed, flip the turkey legs over in the air fryer and return to cooking.

  • Serve this Southern air fryer turkey legs recipe right away, and enjoy!

Southern Air Fryer Turkey Legs Recipe Card

Calories: 1018kcal | Carbohydrates: 10g | Protein: 134g | Fat: 46g | Saturated Fat: 14g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 13g | Monounsaturated Fat: 14g | Cholesterol: 481mg | Sodium: 7518mg | Potassium: 2048mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 272IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 378mg | Iron: 17mg


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