Simple Pan Fried Southwest Chicken

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I made Pan Fried Chicken Legs for the first time about ten years ago and I haven’t stopped making them since then. Pan-fried chicken makes an appearance on our table at least once a month.

It still amazes me that just a spoonful of oil and a little bit of patience can result in juicy, tender chicken with golden crisp skin.

Southwest Pan Fried Chicken

Pan Fried Chicken Drumsticks

The other day, as I was mixing together a fresh batch of Taco Seasoning for some Spanish Rice I was cooking, it occurred to me that I could use that combination of Mexican spices as a rub for the chicken I was planning to make that night for dinner.

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The chicken turned out great and every member of the family voted the meal a success. This is a great variation on one of our family’s favorite meals.

How to Long To Fry Chicken Legs

Never cooked chicken on the stove top before? I’m happy to report that this method of cooking chicken is as easy as it is tasty.

This recipe starts by mixing southwestern herbs and spices together in a bowl. My spice blend includes cumin, chili powder, paprika, garlic and onion powder.

Sprinkle the spices on the chicken then use clean hands to rub the spice blend into the chicken skin. Once your chicken thighs are nice and spice-covered, place them in a hot skillet with just a tablespoon of oil.

For this chicken recipe, I prefer refined coconut oil or a light flavored olive oil. You don’t want any flavors in the oil to dominate the chicken.

Then comes the waiting. Let the chicken cook (skin side down) uncovered until the skin is deep golden brown and crispy. For me, this usually takes about 25 minutes, but depending on the size of your chicken pieces it could take up to 30 minutes.

Pan Fried Southwest Chicken Drumsticks

How To Cook Chicken On The Stove

Note: if the outside of the chicken starts to blacken or burn before the inside is cooking, you need to turn the heat down. Keep a close eye on your chicken as it cooks to ensure this doesn’t happen!

Frying chicken on the stove top is one of the best ways to cook chicken with perfectly crispy skin, in my opinion.

That said, sometimes you just want to toss your chicken thighs in the oven and walk away. For delicious oven baked chicken recipes, check out this Crispy Oven Baked ChickenCrunchy Baked Chicken and my full list of The Best Baked Chicken Thigh Recipes.

Pan Fried Chicken Legs

I’ve used both chicken thighs and drumsticks to make pan fried chicken with good results. Cooking drumsticks with this method requires a little more hands-on attention.

Cook them for 15 minutes on one side, rotate a third and cook 15 minutes more. Rotate a final time and finish cooking the drumstick for about another 15 minutes. Your chicken is done when the meat closest to the bone is cooked through!

Pan Fried Southwest Chicken is crispy and juicy with just the right amount of spice for everyone to enjoy. I love that it only uses a spoonful of oil so the chicken is crisp without dripping with grease!

If you like more heat on your chicken, feel free to add a little more red pepper flakes or chili powder to the spice blend.

Southwest Pan Fried Chicken

We enjoyed our chicken legs with a side of Chipotle Lime Rice and Jalapeno Corn Coleslaw.

I’m excited to add this chicken to our meal plan rotation along with other chicken dinnertime favorites like Sticky Asian ChickenIndian Chicken Bites and Pan Fried Italian Chicken Thighs.

Next up, I plan to try this 15 Minute Parmesan Crusted Chicken Breast from 15 Spatulas and this Sesame Chicken recipe from Crunchy Creamy Sweet!

And for more great southwest flavors, you’ll want to try these Southwest Chili Lime Steak Bites soon!

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Southwest Pan Fried Chicken

Simple Pan Fried Southwest Chicken

4.62 from 13 votes
It still amazes me that just a spoonful of oil and a little bit of patience can result in juicy, tender chicken with golden crisp skin!
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 50 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes
Servings: 4 -5 servings


  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil or light flavored olive oil
  • 4-6 chicken thighs or drumsticks depending on size (I prefer smaller pieces)
  • 2 teaspoons of chili powder I used NM Red Chili Powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon onion powder


  • In a small bowl, stir together all of the spices. Pour the oil into a large stainless or cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Generously sprinkle the chicken all over with the spices. Use your hands to rub it into the skin.
  • Place the chicken in the hot skillet, skin side down. Cook uncovered* for about 20-25 minutes. Let the pieces cook until the fat has rendered and the skin is deep golden brown and crisp; this could take as long as 30 minutes. Reduce the heat as needed if the skin starts to burn before it is evenly golden brown.
  • (If you are cooking drumsticks, I like to cook them for 15-20 minutes, then turn a third of the way over and cook another 15 minutes and then turn the final third of the way over and let them finish cooking for about 15 minutes more.)
  • When the meat closest to the bone is cooked through, the chicken is done. Enjoy!


A splatter screen for your skillet and a bowl of vinegar set next to the stove will cut down on both the mess and the lingering arona of this recipe.
Tried this recipe?Mention @barefeetkitchen or tag #barefeetkitchen!

{originally published 10/1/13 – recipe notes and photos updated 2/26/21}

How To Pan Fry Chicken Drumsticks

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Mary Younkin

Mary Younkin

Hi, I’m Mary. I’m the author, cook, photographer, and travel lover behind the scenes here at Barefeet In The Kitchen. I'm also the author of three cookbooks dedicated to making cooking from scratch as simple as possible.

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  1. Parker says

    A simple recipe with a wonderfully complex result. The cocktail of spices was just right without one overwhelming the other and the tips for an even fry were on point. This will become a staple in my drumstick frying repertoire.5 stars

  2. Helen says

    My husband loves these drumsticks! I added a mixture of the Serrano and habanero yellow bird hot sauces at the end as a marinade to make it extra spicy, and it was wonderful! Juicy and full of flavor! Thank you for sharing this recipe.5 stars

  3. H. S. Friesen says

    Rating 5. Used no salt butter, 2 tablespoons for 6 large drumsticks. Used no sodium salt instead of kosher, and added a little liquid smoke halfway through. Excellent recipe.5 stars

  4. Justin says

    Cooked drumsticks in my stainless steel pan, followed the recipe exactly, first side completely burned after 15 minutes. I really can’t figure out how it wouldn’t burn.3 stars

    • Mary Younkin says

      Hi Justin, I’m so sorry for your frustration! It sounds like the heat was too high. Unfortunately, “medium heat” can vary greatly on different stovetops. This is a slow cook method and the meat honestly shouldn’t even be browning very much in the first 15 minutes. I’m guessing that on your stove you need a medium-low heat. Also, you’ll want to use as heavy a skillet as possible. If you’re using a thin pan, it’s much harder to distribute the heat evenly.

  5. Kimberli says

    OMG this was so amazing; my ovens went out! My repair dude is working on it I was desperately searching for a stovetop chicken!!! I had no idea I could do this and I thought that lil bit of oil was going to be demise but oh OMG if you keep it on low to medium and yes it does take forever and you just got to turnin every 15 minutes trust n believe it just makes it’s own juice… the only thing different; I marinated the chicken legs in my own special recipe dried them off and put my own secret rub on them omg … I had no idea this was amazing who knew you could cook chicken on a pan on a stove top and be amazing lol I don’t need my oven ever again for chicken…thank you best recipe EVER!!5 stars