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How many calories are in 2 BBQ drumsticks?

Barbecued chicken drumsticks are a popular food for summer grilling and picnics. But many people wonder just how many calories are in these tasty treats. Let’s take a closer look at the calorie count for barbecued drumsticks and some tips for enjoying them without overdoing it on calories.

Calories in Chicken Drumsticks

Chicken drumsticks are the lower portion of the chicken leg. A skin-on, bone-in chicken drumstick contains about:

  • 128 calories
  • 8 grams of fat
  • 0 grams of carbohydrate
  • 15 grams of protein

So for 2 plain drumsticks, you’re looking at around 256 calories total. However, that number goes up when the drumsticks are barbecued or otherwise cooked and prepared.

Calories After Cooking

The calorie count of chicken drumsticks increases once they are cooked. Different cooking methods and preparation result in different calorie increases:

  • Grilled: Adds around 10 calories per drumstick
  • Baked: Adds around 15 calories per drumstick
  • Fried: Can add 50+ calories per drumstick

Barbecuing falls into the grilled category, so you can estimate around 10 extra calories per drumstick from the barbecue sauce and cooking process. That brings 2 barbecued drumsticks to around 276 calories total.

Calories in BBQ Sauce

Of course, barbecue sauce adds more calories to the drumsticks. The amount of barbecue sauce used can vary quite a bit:

  • 1 tbsp BBQ sauce: Around 60 calories
  • 2 tbsp BBQ sauce: Around 120 calories
  • 1/4 cup BBQ sauce: Around 240 calories

A light coating of 2-3 tablespoons of barbecue sauce on each drumstick would add about 120-180 calories. So 2 drumsticks with BBQ sauce would have roughly 400-450 calories total.

Full Nutrition Facts

Here are the full nutrition facts for 2 barbecued chicken drumsticks with 3 tablespoons of barbecue sauce added:

Calories 450
Fat 18g
Carbs 18g
Protein 30g

As you can see, the drumsticks are high in protein, which makes them filling, but they also contain a good amount of fat from the skin and barbecue sauce. The carbohydrate content remains low if no glazes or sugary sauces are added.

Tips for Lightening Up

You can reduce the calories in barbecued drumsticks with a few simple tweaks:

  • Use a lower-calorie BBQ sauce or use sparingly
  • Remove the chicken skin before cooking
  • Opt for grilling instead of frying
  • Serve with a side salad rather than higher-cal sides like mac and cheese or cornbread

With some small adjustments, you can enjoy flavorful barbecued drumsticks without going overboard on calories. Portion control is important too – 1 drumstick instead of 2 will cut the calories in half.

Healthier BBQ Drumstick Alternatives

Beyond tweaking traditional drumsticks, you can also swap in lower-calorie barbecued chicken options:

  • Chicken breast: Around 160 calories for a grilled barbecue chicken breast
  • Chicken thighs: Around 185 calories for a grilled barbecue thigh
  • Turkey drumsticks: Slightly less fat than chicken drumsticks
  • Vegetarian “wings” or “drumsticks” made from seitan, tofu, cauliflower etc.

Experiment with different cuts of poultry, alternate plant-based proteins, and lighter cooking methods for a healthier take on barbecue. Focus on getting plenty of lean protein while limiting excess carbs, saturated fat, and sodium from sauces.

When Are BBQ Drumsticks OK?

Barbecued drumsticks can absolutely be part of a healthy diet when enjoyed in moderation. A few tips:

  • Stick to 1 drumstick as a protein with sides of vegetables
  • Share a platter of drumsticks as an appetizer at a cookout
  • Balance them out with lower calorie foods and snacks for the day
  • Make sure you’re staying active – the extra calories can be burned off

You don’t need to fully avoid barbecued drumsticks, just be mindful of portions, preparation methods, and how often you indulge. They can be worked into an overall healthy pattern of eating.

The Bottom Line

So how many calories are in 2 BBQ drumsticks? You’re looking at around 400-500 calories total for 2 drumsticks with a light coating of barbecue sauce. The precise amount depends on the brand of sauce, cooking method, and if the skin is removed. Barbecued chicken can be enjoyed as part of a balanced diet when eaten in moderation and balanced out with lower calorie choices.


Barbecued chicken drumsticks are an American classic that can absolutely be enjoyed as part of a healthy lifestyle. By paying attention to portion size, preparation methods, and the rest of your daily calorie intake, you can strike a balance that allows you to indulge while still meeting your health and fitness goals.

With some small adjustments like choosing lower-calorie sauces and sides, removing the skin, and opting for grilling over frying, you can lighten up this BBQ staple. Or explore alternate options like chicken breast, turkey drumsticks, or plant-based “wings”. At the end of the day, it’s about balance, moderation and finding ways to make your favorite foods work for your diet. So fire up that grill and whip up some tasty drumsticks to enjoy all barbecue season long!


[1] U.S. Department of Agriculture. “Chicken, broilers or fryers, drumstick, meat only, cooked, roasted.” FoodData Central.

[2] U.S. Department of Agriculture. “Barbecue sauce.” FoodData Central.

[3] American Heart Association. “Healthy Cooking Oils.”

[4] Mayo Clinic. “Counting calories: Get back to weight-loss basics.”