Easy Chicken Masala Recipe in the Air Fryer

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Last Updated on May 21, 2024 by Chef Mireille

Let’s add an Indian twist to an easy weeknight dinner in the Air Fryer. Marinated chicken pieces are cooked to perfection with a flavorful blend of spices in the Air Fryer resulting in whole skin on chicken pieces that are crispy yet juicy, tender and succulent. This Easy Chicken Masala Recipe in the Air Fryer is simple enough for anyone to master, yet is packed with flavor to impress your friends and family. Oven methodology instructions are also included, if you do not have an Air Fryer.

Indian Cuisine is one of the most popular cuisines worldwide, however many people often feel overwhelmed by the cooking techniques or the laundry list of ingredients. This easy recipe is great for Indian food lovers who love the flavors of Indian food but not the time involved and some more complicated Indian recipes.

Masala Chicken Legs Recipe cooked in the Air Fryer on a plate garnished with chopped cilantro leaves.

While Chicken Tikka Masala recipe made with boneless skinless chicken breasts or chicken thighs may be much more popular, by using whole chicken pieces you get a lot more flavor from the bones.

Boneless chicken may be easier to eat and faster to cook, but there is so much flavor that bones provide that you’re missing out on and by cooking it in the Air Fryer, it will be done in just 20 minutes even when using really fat chicken legs like I used here. It ends up having the flavor and texture similar to chargrilled chicken.

Masala vs Curry

However, before we get to the recipe many people often wonder what is the difference between a curry and a masala. After all both curry powder and masala is a mix of spices.

Masala literally means spice mix and anything cooked with a masala generally refers to something cooked with a medley of spices, whether utilizing whole spices or ground spices.

Many people mistakenly believe that curry denotes something cooked with curry powder. However, it is actually the British who coined the term curry and there is no one formula for curry powder.  There is great variety both regionally within India and worldwide with Indian descended populations from Jamaica to Fiji on the variety of spices used.

History of Curry

There are two schools of thought in how the British came up with the word curry. Some people believe it is an adaptation of the word karhai, which is the primary cooking vessel used in India. It looks similar to a wok. Others believe it is an adaptation of the Tamil word kari which means sauce.

Essentially, the primary difference between a masala and a curry is that a curry refers to either vegetables and/or meat cooked in a sauce with a medley of spices.

Recipe Notes

  • Although you can cook the chicken the same day as marinating the chicken, for better results with more flavor marinate the chicken overnight. You can even put the chicken in the marinade and then store in a freezer bag in the freezer until ready to cook so this is a great meal prep recipe.
  • Remember to preheat your Air Fryer to ensure the crispy skin texture of the chicken.
  • The spice level is mild to moderate, so this is a very user friendly Indian Chicken Recipe that just about every one will love, with no too spicy complaints.
How to Make Masala Chicken Legs in the Air Fryer Recipe garnished with chopped cilantro.

Variations

  • Chicken Masala Curry – If you’d like a way to turn this into a great curry, simply add some water or chicken broth and a little turmeric to the spice paste to make a curry sauce, simmer it on the stove then add boneless chicken pieces and simmer on the stove until the chicken is cooked through. If you’d like a thick sauce, add a little coconut cream or coconut milk at the end.
  • Chicken Masala Gravy – Add water to the masala paste and cook boneless chicken pieces in the gravy with onions and tomatoes.
  • Chicken Tikka Masala – Marinate boneless chicken thighs or boneless chicken breast and then put the chicken pieces onto skewers and cook in the Air Fryer or on a grill.

The mixture of yogurt and spices in the marinade of this Easy Chicken Masala Recipe results in chicken pieces that are both crispy and tender at the same time. There are not too many exotic ingredients used in this recipe, so most of them you will probably already have in your pantry.

Ingredients

  • black peppercorns
  • ground cumin
  • red chili powder (cayenne pepper)
  • garam masala
  • ajwain
  • salt
  • ginger garlic paste
  • plain yogurt (or Greek yogurt)
  • lemon juice
  • oil
  • cilantro/ coriander leaves (optional garnish)
  • whole chicken pieces (legs or thighs)

Now you’ll see how easy it is to make chicken legs in the air fryer!

How to Make Chicken Masala Recipe in the Air Fryer

  • Make some slashes in the chicken pieces with a sharp knife. This will ensure the masala paste permeates through the large chicken pieces.
  • Crush the black peppercorns.
  • Add all of the other dry spices and mix to combine.
  • Add the yogurt, ginger garlic paste, lemon juice and oil.
step by step photos for making masala paste for Chicken Masala Recipe
  • Whisk together to make a masala paste.
  • Add the chicken pieces to the masala and coat well.
  • Marinate in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
step by step photos for making Chicken Masala in the Air Fryer by first marinating the chicken pieces in an Indian masala paste.
  • Preheat your Air Fryer to 390 F.
  • Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade and place on a plate. 
  • Pat dry the chicken pieces.
  • Spray the Air Fryer basket with cooking spray and add the chicken pieces to the Air Fryer basket.
  • Spray the top of the chicken with cooking spray.
  • Set the Air Fryer timer for 20 minutes.
  • Check to make sure internal temperature reads at least 165 F.

If you’d like, you can serve it with some chutney like this Coriander Mint Chutney or this Green Coconut Chutney.

Photo of finished Chicken Masala Recipe in the Air Fryer. Single piece of chicken being held up.

Cosori Air Fryer

I have a Cosori Air Fryer, which is a big upgrade from my previous Combo Instant Pot/ Air Fryer. I love this Air Fryer for many reasons like the square basket instead of a round basket which accommodates more food, but the main one is the food cooks evenly without me ever having to flip things over or shake the ingredients. I just set the timer once, let it cook and come back with the alert and it’s ready!

Not to mention, I love the top display instead of the front display. So much easier on the back without having to bend over to see the front panel.

Are you ready for an Air Fryer upgrade? Get your Cosori Air Fryer today!

Oven Instructions are also included below!

Chicken Masala in the Oven
Oven Baked Chicken Masala

Make it a Meal

Chicken Masala Recipe in the Air Fryer on a plate garnished with chopped cilantro leaves.
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Chicken Masala in the Air Fryer

Masala Roast Chicken is an easy roast chicken recipe with Indian spices that is full of flavor.
Prep Time15 hours
Cook Time20 minutes
Marinating Time1 hour
Total Time1 hour 35 minutes
Course: Chicken Recipes
Cuisine: Indian
Servings: 4 people
Calories: 588kcal

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon red chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ajwain seeds
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 3 tablespoons plain yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons ginger garlic paste
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 2 lbs. chicken whole chicken pieces chicken legs or chicken thighs
  • non stick cooking spray
  • chopped cilantro

Instructions

  • Using a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder, coarsely crush the whole black peppercorns.
  • Transfer the peppercorns to a large bowl.
  • Add the paprika, red chili powder, garam masala, ground cumin, ajwain and salt to the bowl.
  • Add yogurt, ginger garlic paste, oil and lemon juice.
  • Whisk to thoroughly mix the dry spices and wet ingredients together to make the masala.
  • Make some slits in the chicken pieces. This will make sure the marinade really gets into the chicken pieces.
  • Add the chicken into the masala and toss well so that the chicken pieces are well coated.
  • Transfer to the refrigerator and leave to marinate for at least 1 hour, but preferably overnight.

Air Fryer Instructions

  • Preheat Air Fryer to 390 F.
  • Remove the chicken from the marinade and pat dry the chicken pieces with paper towels.
  • Spray the Air fryer basket with cooking spray.
  • Add the chicken pieces to the Air Fryer in a single layer.
  • Spray the chicken pieces with the cooking spray.
  • Set the Air Fryer for 20 minutes. (You may need to flip the chicken if you do not have a Cosori Air Fryer).
  • Use an instant read thermometer and check that the chicken is cooked to at least 165 F.
  • Garnish with chopped cilantro leaves.

Oven Instructions

  • Preheat oven to 400 F.
  • Spray a baking dish with cooking spray.
  • Remove the chicken pieces from the marinade and place in a single layer in a baking dish.
  • Bake for 30 minutes.
  • Flip the chicken over and bake for 20 minutes.
  • If you are using skin on chicken, place the chicken in the broiler for 10 minutes, flipping over halfway to get the crispy skin.

Video

Notes

For the oven version, you may prefer to use skinless chicken.

Nutrition

Calories: 588kcal | Carbohydrates: 5g | Protein: 39g | Fat: 45g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 10g | Monounsaturated Fat: 20g | Trans Fat: 0.2g | Cholesterol: 213mg | Sodium: 1084mg | Potassium: 575mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 891IU | Vitamin C: 4mg | Calcium: 64mg | Iron: 3mg
Did you try this recipe? Leave a comment below.Please follow me on Instagram @chefmireille or tag me #chefmireille with your pics! I’d love to share them!

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