Make these Cajun blackened chicken thighs in your air fryer or oven for a fast and easy weeknight dinner. Serve them on their own with a simple side dish or chop them up to add to your favorite pasta dish like a Cajun chicken alfredo pasta.
Once you've got your hands on a jar of homemade blackening seasoning, you'll be looking for all the ways to use that delicious spice blend.
One of my very favorites is this Cajun blackened chicken thighs recipe because they are delicious served just on their own or chopped up and used in a pasta toss or sandwich.
Chicken thighs bake up so tender and juicy and the spicy sweet combo of that blackened spice blend is the perfect complement to the mild flavored meat.
Why This is the Best Recipe
Chicken thighs are a budget friendly and easy recipe to make for a fast family dinner on a busy weeknight but I think this is the best Cajun blackened chicken thighs recipe because:
- Not Too Spicy: Blackened seasoning definitely has a powerful punch of flavor but it isn't terribly hot on the spice scale. If you're concerned, be sure to make my homemade blackening seasoning so you can control just how much cayenne you put in.
- Tender and Crispy: When you bake the chicken thighs at a hotter temperature, they get wonderful crispy edges as the fat melts away from the meat.
- Quick Prep: The whole dish takes less than 5 minutes to prep and pop in the oven or air fryer. You can spend your time prepping other dishes for the meal or use this as a meal prep recipe for stocking in your fridge for later.
This whole chicken recipe needs just two things!
- Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs: These cook faster and easier than the bone-in kind and great if you plan to chop them up for using in other dishes.
- Blackening Seasoning: You can likely find a prepared blackened seasoning mix at the grocery store but chances are likely you have everything you need to make my homemade blackening seasoning in your pantry right now! BONUS: You can control just how hot the blend is when you mix your own.
Prep the Chicken Thighs
Boneless skinless chicken thighs are almost always packaged by the butcher in a tri-fold shape with the ends tucked under.
No matter how you plan to cook them, the first step is to open up the tri-fold and lay the chicken thighs as flat as you can.
Simply sprinkle the seasoning over both sides of the chicken thighs and you're ready to cook.
Since chicken thighs have so much natural fat in them, I don't even add olive oil to help the spices stick to the meat. I use the blackened seasoning as a dry rub and just really work it into the meat on both sides.
Air Fryer vs Oven: Which One Works Better?
Busy families love to have options when it comes to cooking their meal. My air fryer is one of my all-time favorite kitchen small appliances. I use it almost every night of the week in tandem with my oven to get dinner to the table faster.
I love how I can cook two things at different temperatures at the same time.
Over the years of testing recipes though, I've learned that some things do better in the oven or air fryer.
If I had to choose just one way to cook chicken thighs, I would generally choose my oven over my air fryer because chicken thighs can be very drippy once they've cooked. I don't enjoy cleaning up all that melted fat from my air fryer basket.
I also think the oven is a better choice if you plan to cook more than 4 chicken thighs at a time. Most air fryer baskets don't have room for more than that in a single layer, which is crucial to proper cooking and browning.
If you add too much chicken to your air fryer basket, it will steam instead of roast and make an even bigger mess. So be sure to just cook smaller amounts of chicken at a time in your air fryer.
Oven Baking Instructions
If you plan to bake your chicken thighs in the oven, line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil to help make clean-up easier.
I prep the chicken right on the pan.
Preheat the oven to 425°F. Bake the chicken thighs for 18 minutes and then flip the chicken and cook the other side for an additional 12 - 18 minutes.
The cooking time may vary depending on the size of the chicken thighs. Larger, meatier ones will take longer than smaller ones.
So be sure to test them with a probe thermometer and cook until they read 175°F at the thickest part of the meat.
Air Fryer Baking Instructions
PREP NOTE: Chicken thighs will make a big mess in an air fryer if you do not trim the visible fat away from the meat before you season them.
If you plan to cook your Cajun blackened chicken thighs in an air fryer, you may have to work in batches.
Preheat the air fryer to 400°F.
Arrange the chicken thighs in a flat, single layer with a little room for air flow around each thigh.
Bake the chicken for 20 minutes on the first side. Flip the chicken over and cook for an additional 15 - 20 minutes or until they read 175°F with a probe thermometer at the thickest part of the meat.
Baked Cajun blackened chicken thighs make an excellent dinner all by themselves or added to other main dish recipes.
There are so many ways you can serve them:
Condiments to Serve on Top
If you want to serve the Cajun blackened chicken as the main dish by itself, you may want to have one of these delicious condiments to serve on the side in a dipping cup or for spooning right on top.
What to Serve with Cajun Blackened Chicken
With the chicken as your main dish, it would pair really well with one of these classic side dishes:
- Savory Red Rice with Bacon: This tomato-based baked rice is one of my faves.
- Crispy Roasted Sweet Potatoes: The sweet and spicy flavor of the chicken pairs perfectly with sweet potato side dishes.
- Southern Macaroni Salad: This creamy pasta side dish will help cool down the spicy chicken.
- Old Fashioned Squash Casserole: The creamy, cheesy squash and zucchini dish is another great way to tamp down on some of the spice in the meal. The crisp tender vegetables have a burst of sweetness to them, too.
Cajun Chicken Main Dishes
If you prefer to stretch a smaller amount of chicken across a heartier meal, you may want to chop the blackened chicken and use it for one of these delicious dinner ideas:
- Blackened Chicken Alfredo Pizza: Use this chicken thighs recipe in my chicken spinach alfredo pizza recipe. You could add diced bell peppers for more color if you like.
- Cajun Chicken Alfredo Pasta: Add this chicken to a batch of pasta tossed with my homemade alfredo sauce. Roasted cherry tomatoes would make an excellent vegetable to mix in, you could even make them right on the pan with the chicken.
- Blackened Chicken Salad: Add chopped chicken to a bed of greens. Add sliced cherry tomatoes, chopped bell peppers, cubed hard boiled eggs, homemade cornbread croutons, and a drizzle of buttermilk herb dressing.
- Blackened Chicken Quesadillas: Chop the chicken more finely and add it with diced red bell peppers and onions to family-style quesadillas.
Cajun Blackened Chicken Thighs
- 8 boneless skinless chicken thighs about 3 pounds
- 2 tablespoon blackening seasoning homemade or store bought
Season the Chicken Thighs:
- Chicken thighs are usually packaged from the butcher tucked in a tri-fold shape, use a fork to unfold each thigh so they lay as flat as possible. Sprinkle the blackened seasoning over both sides of each chicken thigh.
- NOTE: Chicken thighs are a very fatty cut of meat. The fat will melt as it cooks and make a drippy mess in your air fryer. To help avoid this, trim as much of the visible fat from the meat before you toss it with the seasoning.
- Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil for easy clean up. Place the chicken thighs in a single layer on the baking sheet, underside facing up.
- Bake for 18 minutes and then turn the chicken thighs smooth side up. Continue to bake for another 12 - 18 minutes or until the chicken thighs register 175°F with a probe thermometer when tested at the thickest part of the meat.
Air Fryer Instructions:
- Preheat the air fryer to 400°F.
- Working in batches if necessary, arrange the chicken thighs in a single flat layer. Cook for 20 minutes on one side.
- Flip them over and cook for an additional 15 - 20 minutes on the other side. The chicken thighs should register 175°F when tested with a probe thermometer at the thickest part of the meat.
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