Grilled chicken legs with the best garlicky harissa marinade! Warm spices and plenty of citrus give these grilled chicken drumsticks a decidedly Mediterranean twist. So easy and delicious. 

how to grill chicken drumsticks with the best marinade.

Next-level grilled chicken drumsticks!

Few foods are as well-loved as chicken cooked over an open flame. But today's grilled chicken drumsticks recipe is next-level delicious, thanks to a bold and appropriately spicy garlic and harissa marinade!

I’m no stranger to using harissa on chicken thighs and even salmon–the spicy Tunisian paste made with chile peppers and warm spices including cumin, coriander, and caraway does wonders to elevate flavor! 

For today’s grilled chicken legs, you can make my harissa paste recipe or, if you're short on time, buy a quality jar of it via our online shop to make the marinade. Combined with loads of garlic, lime juice, and a few robust spices, harissa makes an exceptional red marinade for chicken legs that will have you coming back for more.

Let’s talk marinade, how to grill chicken legs perfectly, and more! 

grilled chicken legs in a blow plate. A close up shot.

What you need for the chicken marinade 

Anytime you have a chance to marinate your chicken ahead of time for 2 to 4 hours, or even for just 30 minutes, do it! It makes a difference in infusing the chicken with flavor and in gently tenderizing it. And when your Mediterranean chicken marinade is made of harissa paste, loads of garlic, and a few spices, you just can’t go wrong! Here is what you need for the marinade: 

  • Garlic - You need a whopping 15 cloves, peeled and roughly chopped. Don’t worry about being too precise: The garlic gets tossed into the food processor along with the other marinade ingredients. 
  • Harissa paste - Made with chiles, garlic, bell peppers, and more, harissa is simply packed with flavor! You can either use homemade or quality store-bought harissa paste; both will work very well! 
  • Herbs and spices - Warm nutmeg, tart sumac, and earthy dried thyme play up the Eastern Mediterranean vibes even more. 
  • Lime or lemon juice - Citrus is an important component of this marinade, because the acidity helps to tenderize the chicken legs. 
  • Extra virgin olive oil - Olive oil helps to transfer fat-soluble flavors into the chicken, as some flavors will not penetrate the meat without the aid of a cooking fat.

How to grill chicken drumsticks?

For juicy, grilled chicken legs, cook them on a medium-heated grill for about 30 to 40 minutes, leaving the grill covered, and turning the chicken over every 7 minutes or so. And for the best flavor, budget some time to marinate the drumsticks before grilling. It's worth it!

How make grilled chicken legs

Here are the steps for how to make this chicken recipe, I've included photos for my visual learners (the print-friendly recipe with ingredient measurements is just below):

  • Make the marinade. In a food processor, blend 15 cloves roughly chopped garlic, 6 tablespoons harissa paste, 1 teaspoon nutmeg, 1 ½ teaspoons sumac, 1 teaspoon dried thyme, fresh lime juice (either 2 large limes or lemons), and 4 tablespoons olive oil.

    harissa marinade for grilled chicken legs.
  • Marinate the chicken legs. Pat chicken dry (20 drumsticks) and season with kosher salt and black pepper. Apply the spice rub to the chicken, making sure to also get under the skin. Do not discard the remaining marinade. Place the chicken in a jumbo zip-top bag and pour the remaining marinade on top. Seal the bag and massage the chicken so it’s well-coated in the harissa-garlic marinade. Refrigerate for 2 to 4 hours or overnight. 

    uncooked chicken legs in a Ziploc bag with harissa marinade.
  • Grill. Heat an outdoor grill to medium. A gas or charcoal grill is fine. Grill the drumsticks, covered, for 35-40 minutes or until well done (they should have an internal temperature of 165 degrees F). As they grill, turn the chicken legs every 7-8 minutes or so using tongs. Once cooked, arrange the grilled chicken on a large serving platter and enjoy with some sides (ideas below!). 

    chicken legs cooking on the grill.

How long to grill chicken legs?

Like I mentioned earlier, over medium heat, bone-in chicken legs will take anywhere from 30 to 40 minutes to cook through. Be sure to cover the grill so the drumsticks cook on the inside as well without the outside becoming burned.  Chicken drumsticks are fully cooked when the juices run clear (not bloody or pink) or when the internal temperature is 165 degree F when measured with a meat thermometer near the bone.

What to serve along 

I like to serve this chicken drumsticks recipe with grilled watermelon or simple roasted carrots. And you can’t go wrong with a salad, like a no-mayo potato salad, kidney bean and cilantro salad, or couscous salad

grilled chicken legs on a blue serving platter with charred bell peppers and fresh herbs.

Leftovers and storage

Store leftover grilled chicken drumsticks in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Reheat them in a skillet over medium heat (perhaps with a little olive oil) until warmed through. 

More grilled chicken recipes

4.78 from 22 votes

Next-Level Grilled Chicken Legs (Best Marinade)

Suzy Karadsheh
how to grill chicken drumsticks with the best marinade.
In this grilled chicken recipe, humble chicken legs are dressed in a garlic and harissa marinade. Spicy. Tangy. Simply addictive! If you have the time, let the chicken marinate for 2 to 4 hours. If not, even allowing the legs 30 minutes in the marinade will work wonders to infuse the meat with flavor! Serve these grilled chicken drumsticks with grilled watermelon, roasted carrots, no-mayo potato salad, kidney bean and cilantro salad, or couscous salad.
Prep – 10 mins
Cook – 40 mins
Marinating time 2 hrs
Total – 50 mins
Cuisine:
Mediterranean
Serves – 10 servings
Course:
Entree

Ingredients
  

  • 15 garlic cloves, peeled, roughly chopped
  • 6 tablespoon harissa paste
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 ½ teaspoom sumac
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 large limes or lemons, juice of
  • 4 tablespoons Extra virgin olive oil
  • 20 large chicken drumsticks
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 large red onion, sliced

Instructions
 

  • To make the garlic-harissa marinade, in a food processor, blend the chopped garlic, harissa paste, nutmeg, sumac, thyme, lime juice and olive oil.
  • Pat the chicken drumsticks dry and season lightly with salt and pepper.
  • Now apply the garlic-harissa marinade to the chicken drumsticks, particularly underneath the skin. Do not discard the remaining marinade.
  • Place the chicken drumsticks with the sliced onions in a large jumbo kitchen bag with a seal. Pour the extra marinade on top. Seal the bag shut and massage the contents so that the chicken is well covered in the garlic-harissa marinade.
  • Refrigerate for four hours or overnight.
  • When ready, heat an outdoor grill to medium. Grill the drumsticks on medium heat, covered, for 35-40 minutes or until well done. As they grill, turn the drumsticks every 7-8 minutes.

Video

Notes

  • Marinating tip: If you have the time, chicken should be marinated in the refrigerator for 2 to 4 hours or overnight before grilling. If not, try letting the chicken sit in the marinade for around 30 minutes.
  • If you choose to substitute harissa with a different chili paste, select one that does not have sweet undertones. You want to go spicy-tangy for this recipe. And of course, if you prefer a less spicy drumstick, reduce the amount of harissa or chili paste to your taste.
  • What to serve along? Try grilled chicken drumsticks with grilled watermelon, simple roasted carrots, no-mayo potato salad, kidney bean salad, or couscous salad.
  • How to store leftovers: Leftover chicken legs will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4 days. Reheat in a skillet over medium heat (maybe with a little olive oil) until warmed through.
  • Visit Our Shop to browse quality Mediterranean ingredients including olive oilshoney, spices, and more. You can find quality harissa paste there, too! 

Nutrition

Calories: 315kcalCarbohydrates: 6gProtein: 27.4gFat: 19.8gSaturated Fat: 4.6gPolyunsaturated Fat: 3.6gMonounsaturated Fat: 9.7gTrans Fat: 0.1gCholesterol: 139.3mgSodium: 396mgPotassium: 420.3mgFiber: 1gSugar: 2gVitamin A: 142.2IUVitamin C: 7.6mgCalcium: 34.4mgIron: 1.4mg
Tried this recipe?

*This post first appeared on The Mediterranean Dish in 2015 and has been recently updated with new information and media for readers' benefit.

Share it with the world

I'm Suzy; born and bred right on the shores of the Mediterranean. I'm all about easy, healthy recipes with big Mediterranean flavors. Three values guide my cooking: eat with the seasons; use whole foods; and above all, share! So happy you're here...
Learn More

Get our best recipes and all Things Mediterranean delivered to your inbox.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.

How many stars would you give this recipe?




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Comments

  1. 5 stars
    My husband’s new favorite!!! We do a lot of grilling so I was excited to try a new chicken recipe. Followed the recipe exactly but used thighs and legs. Loved the garlicky flavor along with the tangy heat from the harissa. Will be making this often!

  2. 5 stars
    Made this tonight with 8 thighs. Delicious! I only used half the harissa paste since my in laws don’t like spicy food and the heat was just right. I will definitely make again!

  3. Challenges, challenges! I cook for 2 & the trick is to get the desired tastes & consistencies without reducing the ingredient quantities to the point that they are lost. I'm going to try this soon & report back the results.

    1. 5 stars
      4 drum sticks. Basically divided everything by 4 or 5 or TLAR (That Looks About Right). Used the mini Cuisinart for the paste; perfect size for the amount I needed. My cook time was about 20 minutes for 170-180 F; still got nice char.
      Great flavors. Grilled nicely & will do again, especially if I'm cooking for a group.

    1. Sure! Hi Sharon. I would recommend first using a cast iron skillet or a griddle of sorts, to brown the drumsticks stove-top. Then, when the skin is nice and browned, move them to the oven, maybe with a generous drizzle of olive oil. Bake in a 400 degrees F heated oven until the internal temp of the chicken registers 165 degrees F. Hope this helps! Enjoy!

  4. Hi Suzy!! This looks absolutely amazing!! I would like to substitute the drumsticks for thighs though. For the recipe you have here, would 8 thighs be a good number?

    1. You can totally make this substitution. I think 8 to 10 thighs would work depending on the size of the thighs.

  5. 5 stars
    I made this exactly as the recipe reads using drums and thighs. I baked in the oven at 350 until meat thermometer read 165...absolutely delicious!!! The marinade is so good and flavorful! I bought the harissa paste on amazon (one in the yellow tube)...I did broil for a few minutes to caramelize the skin and this is oh-so-good! I’m thinking that marinade would make a fantastic dressing in a pasta salad...fantastic recipe!!

    1. Jean, so glad to hear your feedback! I haven't made this one in a while, and now I want to! So glad you enjoyed it. And thanks for sharing the baking instructions!

    1. Hi Sharon. If you have a cast iron skillet or a griddle of sorts, you can brown the drumsticks stove-top, then when the skin is nice and browned, move them to the oven, maybe with a generous drizzle of olive oil. Bake in a 400 degrees F heated oven until the internal temp of the chicken registers 165 degrees F. Hope this helps! Enjoy!

  6. 5 stars
    Hello Suzy, when do you plan to share harissa recipe, i wish to prepare it myself. Plz update, thanks 🙂

    1. Hi Shahid...Are you asking for a homemade harissa paste recipe? I am so glad you reminded me!! I will try and work on it in near future. Thanks so much!

      1. 1 star
        Hey Suzy, have you shared the recipe for a homemade harissa paste on the site. ? If yes, plz share the link. Thank you.

  7. 5 stars
    Crazy delicious! I used half lemon juice, half lime, and had the happy accident of grilling them a bit too low for :40, then raised the heat for :10, and they were perfect. I got such glowing reviews at a Mediterranean-themed potluck last night, that I currently have a new batch marinating for dinner tomorrow! Thank you!

    1. Amber, that is so great to hear! I'm glad you enjoyed the grilled chicken drumsticks. Isn't that marinade so good?!!! Thanks so much for taking the time to share!

  8. I'm always looking for new, healthy ways to cook chicken breasts. Have you ever used subbed breasts for drumsticks and, instead of the grill, have you ever prepared this recipe in the oven?

    1. Hey Misty. Great questions. This particular recipe, I have only tried with drumsticks. But I am sure it would be great with chicken breasts as well. I would marinate the chicken breasts (bone-in, skin on) overnight (be sure to work some of the marinade underneath the skin). To roast, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and roast for 40-45 mins (if you are doing 4 or so chicken breasts, for example). Adjust the amount of the marinade according to how much chicken you decide to make. Here is another roasted chicken breast recipe that you might like https://www.themediterraneandish.com/zaatar-roasted-chicken-breast-recipe/

  9. 5 stars
    Wow, looking at that chicken marinating in the harissa marinade, I just want to reach in and put it on my grill. The finished dish is gorgeous!