15 Chicken Leg and Thigh Recipes From Around the World
Chicken leg quarters are a bargain for frugal cooks, as they often come in 10-pound bags for a great price. Juicier than the ubiquitous chicken breasts, chicken leg quarters (the drumstick and thigh) are flavorful and don't dry out when cooked. Don't let the bones intimidate you — kids love drumsticks, whereas chicken thighs are meaty and simple to debone once cooked. (See also: 25 Things to Do With Rotisserie Chicken)
Bonus: repurpose the bones to make a rich chicken stock as the basis for many more meals.
To save yourself time, you might want to pre-cook a bunch of chicken leg quarters, shred the meat, and use it as needed, freezing any extra. Just season with salt and pepper, lay them on a baking sheet, and roast in a 400-degree oven for 30 minutes, or until cooked through.
In the following list of meal suggestions, I've drawn from chicken recipes from all over the world to bring variety to your table using this wallet-friendly staple.
1. Tandoori Chicken
You can buy pre-mixed Tandoori spices at Indian grocery stores and some large supermarkets (I typically find mine at Cost Plus World Market). A couple teaspoons of this slightly spicy, aromatic spice mix go a long way. Mix the spices with plain yogurt and marinate chicken leg quarters in the mixture (preferably overnight). Then bake in a 400-degree oven for about 35-40 minutes or grill on the barbecue until cooked through and slightly charred. This is an easy, hands-off recipe.
2. Chicken and Dumplings
I think I've made chicken and dumplings three times in the last month. It is so delicious and so simple to make!
You'll need 3-4 precooked chicken leg quarters (roasted or poached, both are fine). Shred all the meat off the bones.
In a large pot, saute an onion, 1 cup of carrots and 1 cup of celery, all chopped. Add a teaspoon of thyme and salt to taste.
After the vegetables start to soften, add ¼ cup of flour and cook, stirring, for a minute. Add 3 cups of chicken broth and bring to a simmer.Mix in the shredded chicken.
Over the top of the mixture drop in premade biscuits from a tube, or biscuits made from a mix (I like to use Trader Joe's Buttermilk pancake/biscuit mix). Cover the pot and simmer for 15 minutes, enough time to allow the dumplings to steam through. Hello, dinner!
3. Chicken Pizza or Calzones
You can easily make chicken pizza or calzones using store-bought pizza dough, which is far more affordable than restaurant pizza. Roll or stretch out the dough into personal-sized pizzas or calzones, add tomato sauce or pesto, shredded cheese, your precooked chicken, and other toppings of your choice. Bake in a 400-degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes depending on the thickness of the dough. (See also: Gourmet Pizza for Under a Buck)
4. Teriyaki Chicken
Marinate chicken leg quarters in store-bought teriyaki sauce and roast them in a hot oven (450 degrees) until browned and cooked through. This recipe from Real Simple saves time by having you add bok choy to the chicken during the last 10 minutes as it finishes roasting. Just add rice for a complete meal.
5. Coconut Crusted Chicken
This recipe is a fun and easy twist on classic fried chicken.
Season the chicken leg quarters with seasoning salt. Dip the legs in beaten egg, and then again in dried, unsweetened coconut.
Brown the legs in a skillet on the stove over medium-high heat, then transfer the chicken to the oven to finish cooking through (400 degrees for about 25 minutes). Bonus: this dish is gluten-free!
6. Chicken Tacos
Shred the meat off pre-cooked chicken leg quarters. Saute the meat with taco seasoning or your own blend of spices (I like to mix cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, and oregano). Serve with warm tortillas and a variety of toppings: shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, grated cheese, salsa, guacamole. Let everyone assemble their own tacos to cut down on prep time! This meal is great for feeding a crowd.
7. Chicken-Apple Quesadillas
This recipe for chicken-apple quesadillas is a great family-friendly meal. Take shredded chicken meat from precooked chicken legs and sandwich it between two flour tortillas, along with cheese, and thinly sliced apples. Cook in a skillet until the cheese melts and the tortillas are crisp.
8. Coq au Vin
Just because chicken leg quarters are a bargain doesn't mean you can't go gourmet with the preparation. Coq au Vin is a classic French recipe where chicken legs and thighs are gently braised with wine, mushrooms, and bacon. It's hard to go wrong with that combination! Coq au Vin recipes are easy to find on the Internet — here's a great one (use a regular onion instead of pearl onions to keep costs down, or look for frozen pearl onions). For a frugal take on Coq au Vin, use Trader Joe's "Two-Buck Chuck" (Three-Buck Chuck in some states) for the wine. (See also: 10 Great Wines Under 10 Dollars)
9. Chicken Fried Rice
There's no need to get takeout if you're craving fried rice — this dish is easy to make at home with a few staple ingredients.
Stir-fry your choice of vegetables in a little oil until crisp-tender. Add cooked chicken and stir until just heated through. Add a few cups of leftover rice, a little salt, and a small amount of low-sodium soy sauce (authentic fried rice goes light on the soy sauce). Stir fry until rice is piping hot. If you want to add eggs, push the rice to the side of the skillet, add a couple beaten eggs, and stir-fry until cooked. Mix the scrambled eggs into the rice, and serve!
10. Chicken Noodle Soup
Chicken soup is one of the most efficient ways to use chicken leg quarters — bones and all.
Cook the chicken leg quarters (roast or poach), and remove the meat from the bones. Put the bones into a large stockpot with a few aromatics (onions, celery, carrots) and simmer for a couple hours until soup is reduced by about half. Remove the bones and mushy vegetables.
Bring the soup up to a simmer again and add fresh vegetables. Simmer until vegetables are getting soft (about 15 minutes). Add a couple cups of precooked chicken and a handful of dry noodles and simmer until noodles are cooked. Alternatively, make chicken soup with broth you made from your last batch of bones to shave a couple hours off the cooking time.
11. Chicken Mole
Chicken and chocolate and a warm gooey sauce? Yes, please! I love this slow-cooker version from Martha Stewart — using the slow cooker means you can have this delicious dish on your table on a weeknight. Dark chocolate, spices, tomatoes, chilies, and chicken combine to make a truly special meal. This recipe uses boneless thighs, but you can use bone-in chicken leg quarters for even deeper flavor.
12. Chicken Adobo
Chicken Adobo is known as the national dish of the Philippines. It's a simple dish — essentially, chicken legs and thighs simmered in vinegar, soy sauce, and spices. Personally, I love this version with plenty of paprika, but non-paprika versions abound as well. This dish is delicious served over rice with plenty of the aromatic sauce drizzled over top. Add some steamed vegetables or a salad to round out the meal.
13. Chicken Salad
Chicken salad is such a great go-to dish for lunches and potlucks, but it can do double duty as a main course at dinner, too. My favorite version involves dried cranberries, slivers of red onion, chopped celery, and a mustard-mayonnaise sauce. I've also had a delicious chicken salad with chopped green apples, walnuts, celery and mayo. The sky's the limit when it comes to add-ins, so get inventive! I sometimes serve a "salad combo" dinner: a green salad, chicken salad, and a fruit salad, along with a couple breadsticks. It's light, healthy, and delicious. The next day, pack chicken salad for lunch stuffed in a pita or wrapped in a tortilla.
14. Chicken, Sausage, and Bean Cassoulet
Cassoulet was originally a peasant dish from the south of France, composed of white beans, sausage, and meat (often duck, but we'll use chicken). There are so many variations of this dish, from complicated haute cuisine versions to simple low-prep versions. This easy cassoulet recipe simply has you brown the chicken and sausage, add aromatic vegetables and beans, and slowly cook it in the oven for 2 hours, letting all the flavors blend and meld. It is hearty and filling — in fact if you cook this recipe you may find yourself eating it for the next few days. Add a fresh green salad to lighten it up. (See also: Thursday Night Soup: Delicious Soup From Leftovers)
15. Korean BBQ Chicken Legs
I often make this simple recipe for friends and it always garners rave reviews. While not an authentic Korean dish per se, it does make use of Korean condiments. The key ingredient is gochujang, a Korean chili paste that you can find at Asian grocery stores (look for the red plastic tub).
Place 4 chicken leg quarters in a large plastic freezer bag. Add 2 tsp minced garlic, 1/3 cup soy sauce, 2 tbsp gochujang, and 1 tbsp sesame oil. Close the bag and massage the condiments into the chicken. Let it marinate for at least 30 minutes. Grill and enjoy.
The glory of chicken is how it lends itself so readily to so many different preparations. It's the chameleon of animal proteins. If you ever find yourself getting stuck in a rut with your chicken leg quarters, try one of the suggestions above — you might find another favorite to add to the rotation.
What's your favorite way to prepare chicken leg quarters?
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