Spicy Pan-Fried Chicken Drumsticks

Pan-fried spicy chicken drumsticks that come out juicy and delicious. The best chicken dish for a party menu.
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Make this Spicy Pan-fried chicken drumsticks recipe for the next time you have guests over for lunch or dinner. You can make it numbing spicy or mild as you prefer. Whichever way you make it, I promise you’re gonna love this.

My husband’s favorite chicken dish and also this is my go-to chicken recipe when I invite guests over. The main reason is it’s so easy to make. All I have to do is to marinate the chicken and then pan fry it. And the other reason is, these spicy pan-fried chicken drumsticks go so well with Sri Lankan festive rice and curry menus.

The recipe was adapted from chef Milinda Rathnamala’s roast chicken recipe. I tried the recipe years ago with a whole cut-up chicken and fell in love with it the first time I tried it. Over time I made some tweaks here and there to make the process easier and to develop it to best suit my taste buds. I hope you’d love it too.

Here are a few tips to get the chicken moist and delicious.
  • Use skin-on chicken drumsticks or thighs. The skin renders chicken fat to the dish when you cook it, which makes the chicken stay moist, and adds a really good flavor to the dish.
  • Do not skip adding oil and vinegar when you make the onion paste. When you crush the onions in a food processor or a blender, there is a huge chance that the onion paste gets bitter with oxidization. I’ve noticed that the oil and vinegar helps to prevent the onion from turning bitter
  • Cut the onions into chunks before you put them into the food processor/blender to make them easier to grind.
  • Do not keep the onion mixture on the counter for a long time period, or make it ahead. The onion paste can go bad quickly and taste weird if you leave it out.
  • Marinating the chicken in the onion mixture for a few hours is important. The vinegar in the marinade helps to weaken the collagen in chicken resulting in juicy and tender chicken.
  • First, sear the chicken (without the marinade) to get some nice brown spots. Browning adds flavor. Add the chicken to the oil and leave it without stirring or lifting the chicken pieces until one side turns brown. When one side is nice and brown then turn the other side down.
  • Cooking the chicken and the onion mixture in low heat is crucial. You need the onions to caramelize and slowly develop flavor. It also helps collagen in the muscles to gelatinize and make the chicken tender.
  • The onion mixture tends to stick to the bottom of the pan. So make sure you scrape the bottom from time to time and mix well with the chicken.
  • Browning the chicken and onion mixture is also crucial. The time for the onion to brown may vary. So keep a close eye and turn the chicken more often using tongs and scrape if the onion mixture/marinade sticks to the bottom and burns.

Serving suggestions:

This recipe makes 5 – 6 chicken drumsticks which are enough for 5 – 6 people. My favorite Sri Lankan festive menu with this spicy pan-fried chicken drumsticks is, Yellow rice, Red lentil curry/creamy potato curry, Green beans stir-fried, Eggplant Moju, a lettuce salad, and Sri Lankan fish cutlets. But the chicken is so flavorful you can just eat it by itself.

Ingredients and equipment I use (Affiliate Links):

5 from 1 vote

Spicy Pan-Fried Chicken Drumsticks

Difficulty: Beginner Prep Time 10 mins Cook Time 70 mins Rest Time 120 mins Total Time 3 hrs 20 mins
Servings: 5


Pan-fried spicy chicken drumsticks that come out juicy and delicious. The best chicken dish for a party menu.


For the marinade

Tempering ingredients



  1. Put all the ingredients for the marinade into a food processor/ blender and make it into a paste.

  2. Mix with chicken drumsticks, cover, and refrigerate for 2- 4 hours.

  3. Heat coconut oil in a large frying pan or a wok. Add ¼ tsp mustard seeds and ¼ tsp cumin seeds.

  4. When mustard seeds start to splatter and cumin seeds start to get golden, add the rest of the tempering ingredients and fry for about 30 seconds or until dried chilies start to get brown.

  5. Then take only the chicken pieces from the marinade (Keep the marinade, we are going to use it later), lay them in the pan, cook without stirring or turning the chicken pieces on medium heat until one side of the chicken pieces gets nice and brown. When one side is brown, turn the chicken pieces and let the other side also get brown.

  6. Then turn the heat to low, add your marinade, spread it around to mix with chicken drumsticks, cover, and cook for about 45mins chicken pieces are cooked. Make sure the mix them, turn them and, shake the pan to prevent the mixture from sticking to the bottom and also to encourage even cooking.

  7. After about 45mins, taste, and check for salt. Sprinkle some salt and mix if needed. (I usually do) If you’re using more chicken pieces, then it would take longer for your onions and the juices come out of the chicken pieces to cook down so adjust the cooking time accordingly.

  8. Turn the heat to medium and cook for roughly about 15mins until the marinade/onion mixture turns dark brown and the chicken pieces get nice brown spots. Turn the chicken pieces frequently and scrape the pan to prevent the marinade from burning. Use tongs to hold the chicken pieces and use the chicken piece to scrape/rub the pan. So the browned onions stick to the chicken pieces better. You can also scrape the pan with a spoon instead.

Keywords: Pan fried, Chicken drumsticks, Spicy, Spicy chicken, Sri Lankan spicy chicken drumsticks, Pan fried spicy chicken, Pan-fried, Hot chicken


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