Chicken Drumsticks, Ethiopian Style

You can do this with chicken wings or thighs, too, but don't use breasts — they will dry out.

  • Prep time: 10 minutes
  • Cook time: 2 hours
  • Yield: Serves 6-8


  • 3-4 pounds chicken legs, thighs or wings
  • 2 Tbsp peanut oil, or melted butter (or ghee)
  • Salt
  • Lemons or limes for serving

Spice Mix:

  • 2 Tbsp sweet paprika
  • 1 Tbsp hot paprika, or 1-2 teaspoons cayenne
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground fenugreek
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves


1 Preheat oven to 325°.

2 Coat the drumsticks in the peanut oil or melted butter, then sprinkle with salt.

3 Spice the chicken: Mix all the spices together in a small bowl. In a large bowl, mix half of the spice mix with the chicken.

4 Place chicken in foil: Then arrange the drumsticks in a casserole dish lined with enough foil to make a package; you will be cooking these legs covered for most of the time.

Sprinkle more of the spice mix over the drumsticks. You can use all of the spice mix, or stop whenever you want. The more mix, the spicier the chicken.

Fold over the foil to seal up the drumsticks.

5 Bake: Bake at 325°F for 90 minutes. At 90 minutes, open up the foil packet to let the chicken continue to cook uncovered. Continue cooking for at least another 15 minutes, and as long as you like.

I like the meat to almost fall off the bone on my drumsticks, so I cook uncovered for another 30-45 minutes.

6 Serve: To serve, baste with a little of the sauce that forms at the bottom of the pan, and use the rest to flavor some rice or flatbread.

Squeeze some lemon or lime juice over the chicken right before you serve it.

A green salad is a good side dish, too.

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  • Jon

    I made these last year and they were terrific. I used hot paprika and a healthy dose of cayenne for a nice kick. Whole spices ground fresh for fenugreek, cumin, cardamom and clove. Cooled it down by serving them with a thin Bulgarian style yogurt. Great stuff.

    I wanted these last night but I was tired and used your method with some Baharaht Persian Spice Rub from World Market. It was different but the technique holds up well.


  • Alja

    Can I give this recipe six stars? One of my go to’s. Always comes out so crazy tender and just spicy enough so that my 92-year old mom will eat it. Thanks for sharing!


  • Corinne

    I love this recipe. I have never used Fenugreek before. The combination of these spices is warm and lovely. The fresh lime and a little naan for dipping ups the ante. I have made it several times and am making it today for a potluck! I want others to know what I know. Thanks for sharing!


  • Natalie

    Hello! This sounds like such a delicious recipe. I would love to make this this weekend, but was wondering if the chicken should be bone in and skin on? Also, I noticed basting the chicken is mentioned at the top of the page, but didn’t see it mentioned in the directions, should the chicken be basted during the cooking or only at the end for serving? Thank you so much for your help, looking forward to making this!

    • Emma Christensen

      Hi, Natalie! Emma here, managing editor. This recipe is for bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces. Baste at the end, but if you cook it for a little bit longer uncovered (as Elise says she likes to do!), then I’d recommend basting once or twice during that time as well. Enjoy!

      • Natalie

        Thank you very much, Emma! I can’t wait to make this :)

  • A Sato

    Is there a way to make this without covering with aluminum foil? I’ve heard that it’s not safe. Can I just cook this uncovered or will it dry out the chicken?

    • Elise Bauer

      Hello A Sato, if you use aluminum foil in a way that touches acidic ingredients like tomato sauce, then some of the aluminum may leach into the food and affect the taste. But that’s not the case here. There is no reason why you shouldn’t use aluminum foil in this recipe the way it’s described. If you cook the chicken uncovered, yes, it will dry out.

      • A Sato

        In my paranoia about using aluminum, I avoided using it! But the meat was incredibly juicy and tender. So it works wonderfully with or without foil!

  • Esther Hardman

    The true Ethiopian classic dish, this is not. But if you don’t have 5 hours of free time….then this is good in a pinch. And I use Penzey’s mix. Doubling the amount of spice and serving with quartered hard-boiled eggs.

  • Krystle

    I made this last night for the fam – it was good!

    I couldn’t find any fenugreek at Whole Foods. I Googled it and it suggested that curry could be a substitute (not sure if that’s true, but that’s what I did). I also didn’t have any cardamom, so I used a bit of cinnamon and nutmeg instead. There are so many spices and flavors that it really is a very forgiving recipe. I completely omitted the hot paprika and used smoked instead, since my stomach is kind of a baby.

    The recipe was so simple, which I appreciated. Mix some spices in a bowl? Check. Toss it on the chicken? Check. Toss the chicken in the oven? Check. That’s pretty much it. Simple dinner recipes that are tasty are hard to find, so this will go in my recipe box.

    Regarding the taste – it was spicy, but more of a warm spice than a hot spice. It was very good. The folding of the foil over the chicken did make it very tender indeed. My only concern was that the chicken still looked a little pink to me at the end. Maybe that’s just because drumsticks are dark meat. I cooked them for 325 for 90 minutes and then uncovered for 15 more. Next time, I’ll do uncovered for 30 minutes instead of 15, just to make sure. Maybe one day I’ll get myself a meat thermometer..thanks, Elise!

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Krystle, I’m so glad you made the recipe work well for you, even with all the substitutions!

  • Tracy

    So excited to read all the Madison references! I’m going to try these this weekend. For all of you Penzey’s lovers, they now have this as a ready made spice blend:

  • CodieD

    I made a double batch of thighs. HOLY YUM! My hubby and I cannot stop eating this chicken. It’s so good with some rice and veggies.

  • debeehr

    Did this with drumsticks twice–didn’t have any fenugreek unfortunately (I haven’t been able to find it). Even without it, it was great both times, and very quick to put together.

  • Christina

    I made this yesterday. It was so delicious, my husband could not get enough. I took the same method of cooking it and used different seasoning for tonight’s dinner. So excellent. Thank you!

  • Sherry in Union, KY

    Thank you for the wonderful recipe! I used wings instead of drumsticks, as I refuse to buy Tyson chicken, and the only organic chicken the store carried was breasts and wings. Despite the fact that I left out the fenugreek (store didn’t carry that either) and forgot to rub the wings with peanut oil, they were a big hit. These are spicy, so cut back on the cayenne if that’s not your thing.

  • Laurie Heil

    Hi I made this on the grill with drumsticks – absolutely delicious (even without the fenugreek) – thanks!

  • Eve Phillips

    I always have these spices to use in my daily West Indian cooking….So i’m definately trying this..its similar to my fish packets without the herbs and veggies!

  • Ramya

    I made it this past Sunday and the husband and I loved it. I do have to say that taste wise this was exactly how my mother’s Indian chicken fry tastes .. she pretty much uses the same spice mix, but uses fresh red onion, ginger, garlic and dried red peppers. She then slow roasts the blended paste over a low flame until it gives out a nice aroma (not raw smelling anymore), adds a diced tomato, roasts it a couple more minutes, adds the chicken and cooks till it’s done! She got the recipe from her grandmother who was also an awesome cook.
    PS: Maybe the Ethiopians stole it from the Indians ;) LOL.

  • Jess

    Excellent recipe!! The chicken is really aromatic and delicious, thank you so much! I used a whole chicken cut into four pieces and they stayed very tender and moist during cooking. Leftovers are really great for salad too. The only change to the ingredients is I used fresh garlic as I never know how to keep a jar of ground garlic without it clumping, appreciate if you have any tips for that :-)

  • Elsa

    I’m Eritrean, and we use berbere in a LOT of dishes. My personal favourite is my Mum’s meat sauce that you can eat on rice, spaghetti, or even on its own. Everytime I go home after being gone awhile, this is my requested dish. We haven’t tried them on drumsticks though {my Mum’s current recipe for that is out of this world!}, so I look forward to testing this recipe out. Thanks!

  • Evan

    I’ve used a similar approach in the past for a riff on jerk chicken thighs. I am wondering how you get that fantastic color on the chicken at such low heat. What I typically have done is cooked at a low, indirect heat for 90 minutes or so (and used some allspice wood chips for smoke throughout). At the very end I flip the thighs, skin side down, onto the hot side of the grill. I’ll watch closely and as soon as they get a bit of crispness going, I take them off.

    Did you get that beautiful skin just by extra time? Seems like you have gone only about 30 minutes longer and that is a pretty significant difference from what I see at ~120-150 minutes.

  • Mary

    Loved this recipe. What I don’t like is when someone reviews a recipe with five stars but they have adapted it. I don’t usually follow any recipe to a tee. I follow this one exactly. I used all the rub. I baked the legs and thighs as directed. They were soooooo good. My daughter in law will not usually eat any meat off the bone but she ate two thighs. I served it with cumin scented rice. The last 45 minutes the legs and thighs were in the oven I placed some baby bok choy on the top. Mmmmmm!!
    I use so many recipes from your sight and I just want to say THANK-YOU! In fact, my whole family is happier since I found!


  • Mary Morris

    This is “my” new all-purpose rub. A couple of days ago I tried it with chicken thighs and legs, and last night with a slab of baby back ribs, slow-roasted in the oven at 300 degrees for 3 hours. Both dishes were over-the-top delicious. The spiced meat also pairs well with traditional American sides, like the baked beans, potato salad and fresh pineapple we had last night. Good tip to pass along: Look for an Indian spice/grocery store in your area. They carry a wide array of spices at a very good price. Thanks again Hank for a winner!

  • msladygee

    I made this for dinner today and it was absolutely delicious! I only used one tsp. of cayenne pepper and it was good. Next time I may be bold enough to use the full 2 tsp. Needless to say this recipe is now in regular rotation!

  • Barb Davis

    Faithfully followed the recipe except that I used a bit of butter rather than ghee. Knock your socks off delicious. Can’t wait to make this for a large crowd.

  • Christian Gehman

    @Hank — so now, does it seem possible that the Berbers were the originators not only of the spice blend we call “curry” but also … the progenitors of Creole Cuisine? Or did they, like everyone else, get the chilies second hand from the Meso-Americans … ??

  • Christian Gehman

    As for tips on cooking — drumsticks have a LOT of cartilage (and skin) … braising makes the cartilage soft and yummy; roasting or grilling makes the skin crispy. A combination of the two techniques (braising, then roasting) can result in the best of both worlds.

  • CAG

    One question: I love the plate! Would you divulge the pattern? It is exactly what I’ve been looking for.
    This sounds delicious especially with the rice and a nice beer on a Fall evening. Lovely. Thank you!

    Hi CAG, that plate is in the pattern of “Ruska” from Arabia Finland. ~Elise

  • Christian Gehman

    Chicken backs are also good for a slow cooked recipe like this. Thank you, Elise, for passing on Hank’s recipe. Steve Straub has a good idea for tuning up the Bayou Blast … When cooking these in the oven, a little bit of liquid, plus slow cooking them covered for a while before removing the lid might help the legs braise instead of roasting. Then boost the flame up to brown them. Slow grilling outdoors would be best, but … sometimes in the winter I’m glad I have an oven. Would there be any reason not to include some burberry-sprinkled vegetables? … like onions, carrots, whole garlic cloves, potatoes …

  • T. Hannibal Gay

    About eighty percent of the spice mix is identical to Bayou Blast, that Cajun spice that Emeril calls his Essence. In fact the next time I make up some Bayou Blast, I’ll double the recipe and take half of it and add the ginger, cardamom and fenugreek to make some berbere. I wonder if you can do this with chicken tenderloins coated with some chicken fat? Maybe I call them Ethiopian Fingers.

  • Steve Straub

    Ok, I’m going to make this tonight! Thanks for the fast reply.

  • Syd

    Drew and Azze, I went to Whole Foods yesterday and found a bottle of ground fenugreek seeds, so that’s what I bought. It smells wonderful, so even if it’s the wrong type, it’ll probably still work.

  • Cristal Moore

    YUM! I just made a half recipe (home alone today), and baked it in a glass casserole with lid. Came out as pictured. Looking forward to trying it on the grill when I have company!

  • Steve Straub


    I normally grill chicken pieces for about 30 minutes on indirect heat yet you recommend 90 minutes. Doesn’t the extra time dry out the chicken and why the extra hour? The recipe looks really delicious, I’m just curious about the technique. THANKS!

    Nope, but I like my chicken legs so the meat is almost falling off the bone. You could check at about an hour. It all depends on the heat, too. I probably cook at a lower temperature. ~Hank

  • Cathy

    Could a Dutch oven replace the foil packet?

    Not sure, but I always cook the chicken in one layer, so if you do that, it should work. I would not pile them up, though. ~Hank

  • Drew


    Fenugreek was a new term to me (though I have the luxury of lots of Ethiopian restaurants in the Wash, DC area), so I looked it up. If I were to shop for what is used in this berbere recipe, would it be ground dry fenugreek leaf-herbs or the ground fenugreek seeds that I am looking for? From what I’ve read, both forms have different culinary applications.


    It’s the ground seeds. They are available at most big supermarkets. ~Hank

  • Susan

    Hi, my son is allergic to fenugreek (and its relation the peanut). Is there anything I can substitute for that spice that won’t have him reaching for his epipen? Could I try powdered maple syrup? Thank you

    I would just leave it out. ~Hank

  • Pam

    What a small world. I loved the Horn of Africa in Madison. I think it closed in 2000. This spring I took a class on how to make injera from a Madison non-profit called “Clinic at a Time.” All proceeds go to needed medical equipment for Ethiopian hospitals. They make a lot of the proceeds by teaching parents of adopted Ethiopian children how to make injera. I’m very happy to have this berbere recipe since the berbere spice I purchased online was disappointing. Thank you so much!

  • mantha

    Oh, this is a good one! Licking the screen. I love the idea of using ghee — it has a flavor that regular butter doesn’t seem to match.

    I would recommend Penzey’s (see website) for any of the spices — I have used their stuff for years, and it’s always strong, aromatic and fresh on delivery. Their telicherry black pepper is a heavenly perfume.

    Beautiful photo, as always.

  • Azze

    Where can I find ground fenugreek?

  • gina

    Yum, we love drumsticks around here. Any tips for cooking on the grill? I can’t bear the thought of the oven these days.

    Sure. I’d get one side of the grill hot and leave the other side cool(ish). Put the drumsticks on the cool side and cook them that way. Should take 90 minutes or so. ~Hank