The secret to these juicy, flavor-packed baked chicken drumsticks is in the marinade! Loaded with Mediterranean flavors including lemon, garlic, oregano, and extra virgin olive oil. This easy chicken dinner is perfect for any night of the week. Add a side of tangy tzatziki sauce, Greek salad, or roasted veggies.
Be sure to watch the video and read the tips below!
Chicken legs are of the most convenient, inexpensive ingredients for an easy dinner. And you'll love how versatile this baked chicken drumsticks recipe is.
These chicken legs with a pop of earthy spices including oregano, coriander, and cumin, is something you find in a Mediterranean kitchen. Pair it with a nice French chardonnay, and you’ve got yourself a show-stopping entree--on a budget!
Like my popular lemon chicken thighs, this juicy chicken pairs well with tzatziki for dipping along with a number of salads and sides--from mustard potato salad, Greek fries; baked zucchini; or a big three bean salad (lots more ideas below.)
What’s in the chicken marinade?
The secret to juicy, flavor-packed chicken drumsticks is in the marinade, which is made of some Mediterranean pantry essentials like extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, lots of fresh garlic and a few spices. Here's what's in it:
- Oregano: this herb is native to the hills of the Mediterranean, so adding this gives a sense of terroir, or “taste of the place”.
- Black Pepper
- Coriander: ground coriander will add a nice warm and slightly nutty kick to the chicken drumsticks.
- Sweet Paprika: is made from red peppers and add depth and slightly sweet, fruity flavor.
- Cumin: I prefer ground cumin here for more concentrated flavor
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil: lathering your chicken drumsticks in olive oil will keep them moist while cooking. I use my Private Reserve Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil which .
- Lemon Juice: this tart lemon is what makes this marinade so fresh, just make sure to cup your hands under the lemon while you’re squeezing to catch any seeds.
- Lemon Zest: for even more of a bright concentrated flavor, add lemon zest (I use this zester <-affiliate like)
- Garlic: not only is fresh garlic good for your health, improving cholesterol levels and combating sickness, but it is straight up delicious on baked chicken.
How do I bake chicken legs so they’re not dry?
We all know the heartbreak of cutting into a piece of chicken we’ve lovingly cooked and realizing it’s too dry.
This is where a good marinade is key, keeping the chicken juice and making sure it is well-flavored. Extra virgin olive oil will keep the chicken moist as well as help the chicken carry the flavors. That is why you should make sure to massage the chicken with the spices and olive oil, lemon juice and zest. Even if you only have 30 minutes for the chicken to sit in the marinate, it will make a difference. And if you have time, let them marinate in the fridge for a few hours.
Should I bake the chicken legs covered or uncovered? I recommend cooking them uncovered so that the chicken skin can get nice and crispy.
Should you remove skin from chicken before baking?
In this case, I prefer to leave the skin on the drumsticks until they are fully baked. This helps with flavor and also keeps the chicken nice and tender. Plus, I like to put the drumstick under the broiler briefly, which helps the skins crisp up for great presentation. I do remove the skin before eating the drumsticks, although those super crispy bits are super tasty. It's a matter of preference.
Step-by-Ste: How to cook chicken drumsticks in the oven
Step 1: Salt chickenPat chicken dry and season well with kosher salt (I use Diamond Crystal brand kosher salt<--affiliate link. If you use Morton's or another kind, watch as they are more salty.)
Tip: Be sure to lift the skin and apply salt underneath for best flavor. And if you have the time, arrange chicken drumsticks on a tray and chill in the refrigerator uncovered for a few hours. You can do this overnight. This is a trick I use when I want the skins to crisp up really well the next day when I cook them (I talk about this salting trick here)
Step 2: Place chicken in a large ziplock bag and apply marinade.
Stir spices (oregano, black pepper, coriander, paprika, and cumin) together in a small bowl so they're well integrated and each piece of chicken will be coated evenly. Add spices in the ziplock bag.
Add minced garlic and onion quarters (yellow, sweet or white onions will work). Zest two lemons (the white “skin” of the lemon should be revealed so they’re not yellow anymore). Add the zest in. Add the lemon juice from the two lemons. Then add at least ¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil, this pour of olive oil is what will help bring everything together.
Once everything is added, shut the ziplock bag shut well. Toss the chicken around and massage each piece to make sure it is well coated in the marinade.
TIP: allow time for the chicken to marinade--at least 30 minutes or refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours. Make sure to shake the bag and flip it on different sides so that the marinade can distribute to each side leaving no chicken piece untouched.
TIP: If you are not sure where to buy quality olive oil and spices, please browse through The Mediterranean Shop online!
Step 3: Arrange chicken in baking dish
Heat the oven to 450 degrees F. Yes, this will bake quickly and will remain juicy, while the skin crisps nicely.
Lightly oil a casserole dish with olive oil and arrange the chicken drumsticks. Pour the marinade on top.
Cut another lemon into round slices, remove the seeds and tuck each piece of lemon slices between the chicken. Trust me, a bit of crispy chicken with a caramelized lemon rind is heavenly!
Step 4: Bake
Place the chicken dish on the middle rack of your oven. Bake in 450 degrees F for about 35 minutes or until chicken is fully cooked and internal temperature at the thickest part of a drumstick registers 165 degrees f.
TIP: if you want crispier skins yet, place chicken under the broiler very briefly (watch carefully so it doesn't burn.)
How long does it take for drumsticks to cook in the oven?
You will need a high temperature heated oven to cook these marinated drumsticks. Preheat the oven to 450 F. Bake for 30-35 minutes.
If you want to turn them over on their opposite sides midway through cooking, that’s an option, but you can also leave them be for the whole 35 minutes, then stick them under the broiler very briefly if you're looking for even more color.
How can you tell when drumsticks are done baking?
Once baked or fully cooked, the chicken meat should be white. Also, the chicken juices should run clear, whereas at first before the chicken is fully cooked, the juices will be colored and may even be bloody. The surest way to know if your drumsticks are ready is to insert a meat thermometer (affiliate link) in the thickest part of the chicken (without touching the bone). When ready, chicken's internal temperature should register at least 165 degrees F.
Prepare ahead option
To save time, you can absolutely work ahead (one night in advance) on this chicken legs recipe. One of the things I like to do is prepare the chicken and allow it to marinate in the fridge overnight, that way, it's ready to bake after a long work-day. It helps to take it out of the fridge for a bit before baking so it's not too cold and so it cooks more evenly.
Leftovers and storage instructions
If you have leftovers, let chicken cool completely before storing in airtight container. Refrigerate for 2 to 3 days.
If you want to freeze the cooked chicken drumsticks, place them in a freezer bag and put them in for up to 6 months. Thaw before re-heating and enjoy!
What to Serve along?
I shared a few options earlier for what to serve with this lemon garlic chicken. And really, it's the kind of thing you can serve with almost anything. Here are just a few ideas:
Salads: Mediterranean orzo salad, kidney bean salad, 3-ingredient Mediterranean salad, Balela salad
Sides: Italian roasted veggies, Roasted Cauliflower, Greek potatoes, Skillet Zucchini
If you like this recipe, you should also check out my baked chicken thighs recipe. Browse all Mediterranean recipes and our collection of Mediterranean diet recipes.
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Baked Chicken Drumsticks with Lemon and Garlic
- 10 to 12 chicken drumsticks bone in, skin on
- Kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon dry oregano
- 1 tablespoon black pepper
- 1 ½ teaspoon coriander
- 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- 1 head garlic about 12 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
- 1 medium yellow onion cut into wedges
- Zest and juice of 2 lemons + 1 lemon sliced
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil I used Private Reserve Greek olive oil
- Pat chicken dry and season with kosher salt, be sure to season under the skin too. If you have the time, arrange the chicken on a tray or a shallow dish and chill in the fridge uncovered for a few hours or overnight (optional.)
- Place the chicken in a large zip bag. In a small bowl, combine spices (oregano, black pepper, coriander, paprika, and cumin.) Add the spices to the chicken in the bag.
- Add the garlic, onion, lemon zest, lemon juice, and olive oil. Zip the bag shut. Toss chicken around and massage to make sure it is well coated in the marinade. Let the chicken marinate for about 30 minutes, or if you have the time, refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours.
- When ready, heat the oven to 450 degrees F.
- Lightly oil a baking dish and arrange the chicken drumsticks (yes, include the onions and the marinade). Arrange lemon slices in between.
- Bake for 35 minutes or until the chicken is fully cooked and its juices run clear (internal temperature of chicken should register 165 degrees F using an instant read thermometer). If you like, broil for just a few minutes until skins are crispy to your liking.
- Cook's Tip: For best flavor, allow the chicken legs to marinate in the fridge for 2 to 4 hours, or 30 minutes at room temperature.
- Prepare ahead tip: To save time, you can absolutely work ahead (one night in advance) on this chicken legs recipe. One of the things I like to do is prepare the chicken and allow it to marinate in the fridge overnight, that way, it's ready to bake after a long work-day. It helps to take it out of the fridge for a bit before baking so it's not too cold and so it cooks more evenly.
- Leftovers: If you have leftovers, let chicken cool completely before storing in airtight container. Refrigerate for 2 to 3 days. If you want to freeze the cooked chicken drumsticks, place them in a freezer bag and put them in for up to 6 months. Thaw before re-heating.
- Visit our Online Shop to browse Mediterranean ingredients including extra virgin olive oils, spices and more!
I love lemon with Chicken ever since I age in Greek restaurants in NYC. My question here is may I substitute chicken thighs, which I prefer, for legs?
Sure, Susan. That'll totally work here.
That baking dish is beautiful!! Where can I find one like that? Love your site!!
Hi, Susan. Suzy purchased that baking dish a few years ago from Crate and Barrel.
Made it. Loved it. Will make it again. My second tried recipe and it's a keeper! Even the leftovers which we had the following night, were to die for!