In this Colombian chicken drumsticks recipe, chicken legs are marinated in a mixture of Colombian style spices and baked to a crispy perfection.
Inspired by my travels to the Cartagena Caribbean coast of Colombia, this easy recipe will give you crispy baked chicken drumsticks every time!
Drawing inspirations from the Caribbean coast of Colombia
In February last year, I packed up my very young daughter (4 months at the time) and slightly older son (2 and 4 months), and took them to the Caribbean coast of Colombia - more specifically, the city of Cartagena.
If you are new around these parts, my husband is Colombian, hailing from Bogota. In Bogota, ajiaco Bogotano is the most popular preparation of Colombian chicken; but the Caribbean coast is hot - and therefore, baked chicken recipes are much more popular.
In Cartagena, we found the use of special Caribbean ingredients was on the rise in high class restaurants. But beyond them, food was often cooked simply, yet the results were often exceptionally tasty - all due to simple preparations that took their time, and cooks that took care with the ingredients.
Lime, cilantro and cumin were extremely common in Cartagena cooking, and they are the star of our marinated chicken drumsticks recipe.
If you ask me, I swear that the secret to Colombian baked chicken legs is marinating time, simple but flavorful ingredients - and love. For another marinated chicken recipe, try my chicken kofta kebabs.
For more Colombian recipes:
The art behind Colombian chicken recipes
We tried many chicken dishes in Cartagena, but all Colombian chicken recipes had a common theme: a marinade is first made by blending ingredients into a sauce. The chicken is then coated in this sauce, and left to marinate in spices for a few hours, and preferably overnight. The marinated chicken is then baked in a hot oven until it is crispy on the outside, and juicy and delicious on the inside.
Colombian chicken legs are then served with lime, coriander and a side of aji, and they make for a delicious, easy weeknight family meal.
What is the secret to getting perfectly crispy baked chicken drumsticks?
My friends, I have a few very simple tricks that guarantee you will get crispy baked chicken legs, every single time.
My crispy chicken recipe secrets are:
- Set the oven to high heat, preferably 400F.
- Keep the chicken legs separate, without overlapping and covering each other.
- Bake the chicken drumsticks for a while - 40 minutes to an hour, depending on how many drumsticks you are roasting. Your roasted chicken drumsticks should be blackened in spots up top, and golden brown all over.
For even grilling and even crispier skin on all sides, turn the drumsticks over halfway through the bake.
Why I love this Colombian chicken legs recipe
This is by far one of the easiest chicken drumsticks recipes I have ever tried! I love it because it is:
- Easy - with very few ingredients and about 5 minutes of hands on work, this is my go-to weeknight chicken recipe.
- Kid friendly recipe - my toddler’s favorite protein is chicken, and my baby girl has been loving chicken drumsticks since she started eating solids! She likes to grab it by the bone and gnaw on it to her little heart’s content. They both love the simple seasoning and lack of spice in this recipe - and I can add a bit of spicy Colombian aji to make it more piquante for me !
- Healthy - This recipe has little fat and no weird ingredients. It’s low in carbohydrates and high in protein, which is always nice!
- Gluten-free - As long as you make sure your seasonings are gluten free, this is a gluten free chicken drumsticks recipe.
- Freezer-friendly - I make a BIG batch of these in one go and freeze the extras - and then it’s ready for the next time I don’t have time to cook dinner!
- Can be made ahead - You marinate the chicken drumsticks overnight, and bake them the next day. That way, it’s very little hands on work!
- Flavorful - this simple Colombian chicken recipe involves simple ingredients and flavorful seasonings that help the chicken stay moist and yummy.
INGREDIENTS YOU NEED for this chicken drumsticks recipe
- Chicken drumsticks - naturally, you need chicken drumsticks to make this chicken drumsticks recipe. You can also use whole chicken legs or bone-in chicken thighs, but you may have to cook them longer.
- Oil or cooking spray - choose whichever oil you like for these. My preference is for a neutral oil
- Garlic - fresh garlic cloves are best for making the chicken drumsticks marinade for this recipe.
- White onion - a regular white onion, plus scallions, helps give flavor and acidity to this marinade. This helps make the chicken flesh softer, so don’t skip it.
- White vinegar - like the onions, the vinegar adds acidity and makes the chicken softer and more flavorful. Acid is key to a good Colombian chicken recipe.
- Sugar - Sugar helps balance out the acidity, and it also helps the chicken skin caramelize. You can also use honey or agave syrup in its place.
- Limes - limes are EVERYWHERE in Colombian cooking, and they are actually called “lemons”. So imagine the hilarity when I ask my husband to hand me a lemon. You need fresh limes for this recipe, as we both use the lime sauce and roast the lime halves to serve with the chicken. I have also had Colombian roasted chicken served and made with specialty limes that are a cross with oranges… If you can get those, they are even better!
- Cilantro - fresh cilantro gives this dish a ton of flavor. I’d say it is as important as the limes. If you hate cilantro, you can use parsley, but it will taste different.
- Scallions - scallions and onions are often used together in Colombian style recipes.
- Cumin - The only dry spice you really need here. You can also use dry coriander instead.
- Paprika - used more for color. Feel free to skip if avoiding nightshades or just don’t have on hand. You can replace it with ground coriander seeds.
- Salt and pepper
See recipe cards for exact quantities.
- Baking sheet
- Mixing bowl
How To Make Colombian Roasted Chicken Drumsticks
Prepare the Colombian chicken marinade:
In a high-powered blender or food processor, combine the scallions, garlic, onion, cilantro, vinegar, lime juice, cumin, paprika, sugar, salt and pepper. Process until well combined into a paste (you may need to add a bit of water to get your blender moving). I like my paste to be a bit wet and very spreadable.
In a large bowl, combine the chicken drumsticks and the marinade. Rub chicken drumsticks well until all the nooks and crannies are coated with marinade. Cover, and refrigerate the chicken to marinade overnight.
To roast the chicken drumsticks:
Preheat the oven to high on the grill/broil setting, or 400F. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper or a reusable silicone mat. Spray or drizzle with oil to prevent sticking.
Arrange chicken legs on the baking sheet without touching each other - this is crucial for getting them crispy chicken legs! Pour the remaining marinade over, if any is left in the bowl. Add the halves of 1 or 2 limes, cut in half, cut side facing upwards.
Broil the chicken legs for about 20 minutes, turn the legs over, and cook for 20 minutes more, until the chicken drumsticks are cooked through and the skin is browned in spots and golden all over. If you are making a very large chicken batch, you may need to cook them longer - the key is that the chicken should be browned in spots. The internal temperature of the chicken should measure 165F.
Let Colombian roasted chicken drumsticks rest for 5 minutes before serving with more cilantro and roasted lime wedges.
Colombian chicken drumsticks will keep in the fridge in a well sealed container for 5 days. Frozen chicken drumsticks will keep for 6 months.
- Let the chicken marinade for as long as possible - the longer it marinates, the better it will taste.
- Don’t crowd your chicken on the baking sheet. The chicken legs can touch each other, but not overlap.
- Squeeze out the roasted lime halves on the baked chicken legs right before serving. It’s a delicious and unexpected flavor!
- Try this chicken drumsticks roasting technique with your other chicken drumsticks recipes, and be amazed by the crispness and flavor you are able to achieve.
Variations on this chicken drumsticks recipe
This recipe is for a gluten free roasted chicken legs.
- Colombian roasted chicken thighs - you can use bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs in the same manner. You can also use whole chicken legs, with the thigh part. Both will require a longer time to cook.
- To make this recipe vegetarian, use tofu. Marinade it the same way you would the chicken. It will only need 15-20 minutes to cook - 10 minutes on one side, and then 5-10 on the other.
- For keto chicken drumsticks, omit the sugar.
If you'd like to make chicken drumsticks in the air fryer, try this keto chicken legs recipe.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes! When I am out of time, I often resort to cooking frozen chicken drumsticks. The flavor of the marinade will not permeate them as much, but you can still get nicely grilled and crispy chicken legs. Leave them to marinate as long as you can if possible.
I like to cook my chicken drumsticks at fairly high heat for a while, until I see that they have blackened in spots. This usually means I bake my chicken drumsticks for 40-60 minutes.
Yes, and in fact, you should. Make the chicken marinade on one day, leave it to marinade overnight, and then bake the next day when you are ready to eat.
I make double and triple batches of this recipe all the time, and then freeze at least one box for the next time I need dinner and have no time to make anything. Roasted chicken drumsticks freeze very well.
Yes, but keep in mind that it will change the flavor. You can use a combination of dried cumin and coriander, or only one of them as the seasoning. If you omit the fresh cilantro from the marinade, you can use parsley, or skip it altogether.
Yes, and you likely won’t even notice the difference in the flavor. The sugar helps it caramelize. You can also use honey or agave syrup in its place.
Yes, you will just need to bake them longer.
You can definitely make Colombian chicken drumsticks for a crowd. Just make sure to increase the seasoning quantities, and you can make a HUGE batch of these drumsticks all at once!
You can serve this healthy chicken drumsticks recipe with the following dishes:
Pin for Later!
Colombian chicken drumsticks recipe
- 9 chicken drumsticks skin on
- Cooking spray or oil
- ⅓ cup scallions roughly cut
- 2 cloves garlic peeled
- ⅓ cup white onion chopped
- ⅓ cup fresh cilantro roughly cut
- 2 tablespoons white vinegar
- ½ tablespoon lime juice
- ¾ tablespoon ground cumin
- ¾ tablespoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- Salt and pepper
- Limes cut in half
- In a high-powered blender or food processor, combine scallions, garlic, onion, cilantro, vinegar, lime juice, cumin, paprika, sugar, salt and pepper. Process until well combined into a paste (you may need to add a bit of water to get your blender moving).
- In a large bowl, combine chicken and marinade. Rub chicken drumsticks well until coated with marinade. Refrigerate the chicken to marinade overnight.
- Preheat the oven to high on the grill/broil setting. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper or a reusable silicone mat. Spray or drizzle with oil.
- Arrange chicken legs on the baking sheet without touching each other. Pour the remaining marinade over, if any is left in the bowl. Add the halves of 1 or 2 limes, cut in half, cut side facing upwards.
- Broil the chicken legs for about 20 minutes, turn the legs over, and cook for 20 minutes more, until the chicken drumsticks are cooked through and the skin is browned in spots and golden all over. If you are making a very large chicken batch, you may need to cook them longer - the key is that the chicken should be browned in spots. The internal temperature of the chicken should measure 165F.
- Let Colombian chicken drumsticks rest for 5 minutes before serving with more cilantro and lime wedges.
Welcome to At The Immigrant's Table! I blend my immigrant roots with modern diets, crafting recipes that take you on a global kitchen adventure. As a food blogger and photographer, I'm dedicated to making international cuisine both healthy and accessible. Let's embark on a culinary journey that bridges cultures and introduces a world of flavors right into your home. Read more...