How to Cook the Simplest Baked Sticky Chicken Legs

Close-up of two sticky chicken drumsticks on a plate with a side of roasted vegetables.
Recipe At-A-Glance
...
Gluten-Free40 minutes (plus marinating time)
This easy recipe for Baked Sticky Chicken Legs will become your favorite chicken recipe! It's a family favorite recipe that comes together fast.

Share this post:

Every home cook needs a really good baked chicken legs recipe in their back pocket—and we’re giving you ours today! This chicken drumsticks recipe is so easy to make, so packed with flavor, and such a family favorite that you’ll be putting it on your menu weekly!

Baking dark meat chicken—like these drumsticks—is a fast way to get tender, juicy meat with minimal prep time. Let’s get baking!

Baked sticky chicken legs garnished with cilantro on half of a foil lined sheet pan.

What’s the difference between chicken legs and chicken drumsticks?

It depends! The terms are used pretty interchangeably, but sometimes they can refer to two different cuts of chicken. Sometimes, “chicken legs” can mean just the chicken drumstick, but sometimes, you’ll also see chicken thighs and drumsticks together sold under the name “chicken legs” or “chicken quarters.”

For this recipe, we tend to rely on using just chicken drumsticks, but it’ll also work great with chicken quarters (the leg and the thigh). So use whatever you can easily get!

Overhead of a plated sheet pan dinner of chicken drumsticks and roasted vegetables.

How do you make baked chicken drumsticks?

If you can whisk together a few ingredients and turn on an oven, you can make this baked chicken legs recipe! Here are the basics:

  1. If using frozen chicken, make sure to remove from the freezer and thaw completely before cooking. Pat dry with paper towels.
  2. Whisk together a simple, sweet marinade in a small bowl.
  3. Place the chicken drumsticks in the marinade, toss to coat, and then stash in the fridge for at least two hours, but preferably overnight.
  4. When it’s time to cook, line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil, lay out the drumsticks, and bake.
  5. While the legs are cooking, reduce the marinade in a saucepan until thick and sticky.
  6. Brush the reduced marinade on the legs, and the pop them under the broiler to caramelize and finish cooking.

How long should you cook drumsticks in the oven for?

Because we are cooking the chicken legs at such a high temperature, they will be cooked all the way through in under half an hour. This high temperature during baking time gets the marinade to caramelize and begins the process of creating a truly sticky and delicious chicken leg!

Wholefully Protip

The “sticky” in this recipe name is no joke! Line your baking sheet with parchment paper or foil and spray liberally with cooking spray to save yourself a major cleanup job later.

A dinner platter of baked chicken legs and vegetables sits beside a foil lined sheet pan with the remaining drumsticks and vegetables.

Do you cover chicken when baking?

No need! In fact, you want the heat to be able to get to the skin of the chicken to get it crispy, sticky, and caramelized.

What should the temperature of chicken be?

To make sure your chicken is safe to eat, you’ll want the internal temperature at the thickest part of the drumstick to read 165°F when it’s time to serve. However, because we put these chicken legs back under the broiler to finish them off, we recommend taking them out of the oven the first time around 160°F—the 3-5 minutes under a hot broiler will then finish off the cooking time.

Wholefully Protip

When reading with an instant read thermometer, make sure the probe doesn’t touch the bone to get an accurate temperature.

Overhead close view of a baked sticky drumsticks on a dinner plate with a side of roasted broccoli and cauliflower.

What should I serve with baked chicken legs?

These baked chicken drumsticks are a great pair for a ton of amazing side dishes. Here are some of our favorite recommendations:

A fork rests on a plate filled with two sticky drumsticks and roasted broccoli and cauliflower.

How do you keep chicken from drying out in the oven?

One of the biggest benefits of working with dark meat (chicken legs and chicken thighs) is how much fat and moisture the meat inherently has. It’s much harder to overcook dark meat than it is white meat (like chicken breasts)! Follow our directions, keep an eye on the internal temperature using a meat thermometer, and you’ll be golden.

Close-up of a sticky chicken drumstick garnished with chopped fresh cilantro on a foil lined sheet pan.

Is it really safe to use this marinade as a sauce?

Yep, we’ve taken a few precautions to make sure that there are no food safety issues with having this marinade do double-duty as a glaze:

  • We keep the chicken refrigerated through the whole marinating time, so it never gets into the temperature “danger zone” where bacteria can quickly multiply.
  • We are bringing the marinade to a rapid boil before brushing it on the chicken. This boil time kills any microorganisms that might be present in the marinade.
  • The drumsticks are then put until the broiler for a few minutes, which really makes sure to nix any bacteria that could cause issues.
  • We do recommend making sure you use clean utensils and bowls when you brush the sauce onto your finished drumsticks.
 
Close-up of two sticky chicken drumsticks on a plate with a side of roasted vegetables.

Baked Sticky Chicken Legs Recipe

Yield: 2
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Additional Time: 2 hours
Total Time: 2 hours 40 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 tablespoon tamari or coconut aminos
  • 2 tablespoons orange marmalade
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 4 chicken drumsticks
  • 1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
  • 1 tablespoon chopped cilantro

Instructions

  1. In a large zip-top bag, combine vinegars, honey, garlic, tamari or coconut aminos, marmalade, salt, and pepper. Add in drumsticks, seal bag, and toss to coat. Stash bag in fridge for 2-3 hours (or overnight) to marinate, rotating bag occasionally.
  2. When ready to cook, preheat oven to 425°F. Cover a baking sheet in parchment paper. Remove drumsticks from bag and lay on baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, or until juices run clear and the internal temperature reaches 165°F.
  3. Meanwhile, pour remaining marinade into a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5-10 minutes, or until marinade is thick.
  4. When drumsticks are finished cooking, preheat broiler. Using a pastry brush, coat drumsticks in reduced marinade. Broil for 3-5 minutes, or until browned and sticked. Flip and repeat with other side.
  5. Before serving, sprinkle drumsticks with sesame seeds and cilantro.

Notes

You may have heard that it is unsafe to reuse a meat marinade, and this can be true. But in this case, you're keeping the meat refrigerated at all times, and then rapidly boiling the marinade afterward, which not only helps thicken the sauce, but also serves the purpose of cooking out any bad bugs that might have made it in, making it safe to use.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 2 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 485Total Fat: 17gSaturated Fat: 5gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 231mgSodium: 890mgCarbohydrates: 36gFiber: 1gSugar: 32gProtein: 45g

At Wholefully, we believe that good nutrition is about much more than just the numbers on the nutrition facts panel. Please use the above information as only a small part of what helps you decide what foods are nourishing for you.

Cassie is the founder and CEO of Wholefully. She's a home cook and wellness junkie with a love of all things healthy living. She lives on a small hobby farm in Southern Indiana with her husband, daughter, two dogs, two cats, and 15 chickens.

Leave a Reply

Starter Guide

The free Living Wholefully Starter Guide is packed full of tips, tricks, recipes, and a 14-day meal plan to get you started on the road to vibrant health.

Meet Cassie
Meet Your Host

Hello. My name is Cassie, and I’m a healthy home cooking expert.

I'm a Certified Holistic Nutritionist, and I've been developing healthy recipes professionally for over 15 years. Food is my love language, and my kitchen tips and nourishing recipes are my love letter to you!

Learn More About Me →

Skip to Recipe