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How many calories are in chicken thighs and drumsticks with skin?

Chicken thighs and drumsticks can be a tasty and healthy addition to your diet. However, the calorie content of chicken pieces with skin can vary greatly depending on the cut and preparation method. In this comprehensive guide, we will break down the calorie counts in chicken thighs, drumsticks, and other parts to help you make informed choices.

Quick Answer

On average, a 3 ounce serving of chicken thigh with skin contains about 184 calories. A chicken drumstick with skin has around 111 calories per 3 ounce serving. However, the exact calorie count can range quite a bit based on factors like whether the chicken is enhanced, fried, or cooked skin-on versus skinless.

Calories in Chicken Thighs with Skin

Chicken thighs are often considered juicier and more flavorful than chicken breasts due to their higher fat content. A skin-on, bone-in chicken thigh contains around 184 calories in a 3 ounce portion. That same serving size of skinless, boneless thigh has around 109 calories.

Here is a comparison of calorie content in 3 ounces of chicken thighs prepared different ways:

Chicken Thigh Preparation Calories
Skin-on, bone-in thigh 184
Skinless, boneless thigh 109
Skinless, boneless thigh, grilled 120
Breaded, fried chicken thigh with skin 245

As you can see, the skin adds a significant number of calories. Frying or breading chicken thighs also increases the calorie density quite a bit compared to a plain grilled thigh.

Enhanced vs. Unenhanced Chicken Thighs

Some store-bought chicken legs and thighs may be enhanced or injected with a saline solution. This both flavors the chicken and adds moisture to prevent drying out during cooking. However, enhanced chicken thighs can contain significantly more sodium and calories than unenhanced varieties.

A 3 ounce serving of enhanced chicken thigh with skin has about 228 calories, while an unenhanced thigh has around 184 calories. Check the packaging labels closely to see if your chicken has been enhanced to determine accurate calorie counts.

Calories in Chicken Drumsticks with Skin

Chicken drumsticks are very popular for their convenience, kid-friendly shape, and juicy flavor. A skin-on, bone-in drumstick contains around 111 calories in a 3 ounce portion. Going skinless drops the calorie count down to around 94 calories.

Here are the calories for 3 ounces of chicken drumsticks prepared various ways:

Chicken Drumstick Preparation Calories
Skin-on, bone-in drumstick 111
Skinless drumstick 94
Skinless drumstick, grilled 105
Breaded, fried drumstick with skin 145

Again, keeping the skin on and deep frying significantly increases the calorie content compared to grilled, skinless drumsticks. Though fried chicken may taste great, limiting intake of the crispy skin can help keep calories in check.

Jumbo vs. Small Chicken Drumsticks

Larger, jumbo chicken drumsticks can pack over 50 more calories per serving compared to small or medium sizes. A jumbo drumstick with skin contains about 160 calories in 3 ounces, while a small drumstick has closer to 120 calories.

The size of chicken pieces can vary quite a bit from package to package. Weighing drumsticks or thighs with a food scale helps determine accurate calorie counts based on the true portion sizes being consumed.

Calories in Other Parts of Chicken

Calories counts differ across all parts of a chicken. Here’s how many calories are in 3 ounce servings of different chicken pieces:

Chicken Part Calories (3oz portion)
Chicken thigh with skin 184
Chicken drumstick with skin 111
Chicken wing with skin 90
Chicken breast with skin 175
Chicken breast without skin 124
Chicken tenderloin 108
Chicken gizzard 143
Chicken heart 141
Chicken liver 121

Chicken breasts and tenderloins are leaner than dark meat cuts like thighs and drumsticks. But in all cases, removing the skin significantly reduces calories and fat.

Does Cooking Method Change Calories?

The cooking method can alter the calorie content of chicken pieces. Frying chicken adds a significant amount of extra calories from the oil. Meanwhile, grilling, baking, or roasting chicken without added fats or breading keeps calories lower.

Here’s how the calorie counts in a 6 ounce boneless, skinless chicken breast compare across cooking methods:

Cooking Method Calories
Grilled 187
Baked 187
Pan-fried 276
Deep fried 318

As the table illustrates, deep frying adds over 130 extra calories compared to grilling or baking. The same principle applies to chicken thighs, drumsticks, wings, etc.

Is Rotisserie Chicken Healthy?

Many grocery stores sell whole rotisserie chickens that are roasted on a rotisserie spit. In a 3 ounce serving, rotisserie chicken with skin has around 140 calories, while the skinless breast contains 110 calories. So rotisserie chicken can be a healthy option if you remove the skin before eating.

Nutrition Facts for Chicken Thighs and Drumsticks

In addition to calories, chicken thighs and drumsticks contain a variety of vitamins and minerals:

  • Protein – Thighs and drumsticks are high in protein, with about 15-18g per 3 ounce serving.
  • Fat – Skin-on thighs and drumsticks have about 9-12g of fat per serving, mostly from skin.
  • Vitamin B6 – Supports red blood cell production and immune function. Skinless thighs contain about 0.5mg vitamin B6 per serving.
  • Niacin – This B vitamin aids metabolism and nerve function. Chicken drumsticks provide about 4mg niacin per serving.
  • Phosphorus – Important for bone health. A skinless thigh contains around 85mg phosphorus.
  • Selenium – This mineral has antioxidant properties and supports thyroid function. Skinless drumsticks have about 16mcg selenium per serving.

Chicken also provides iron, zinc, potassium, and magnesium. Removing the skin significantly lowers the fat content while maintaining the protein, vitamins, and minerals.

Tips for Preparing Low-Calorie Chicken

Here are some tips for keeping calories low when cooking chicken thighs, drumsticks, and other pieces:

  • Remove the skin before cooking or eating to reduce calories, fat, and sodium.
  • Opt for grilling, roasting, baking or poaching instead of frying.
  • Avoid enhanced chicken that contains added water, salt, and preservatives.
  • Trim off any excess fat before cooking.
  • Use reduced-calorie ingredients like mustard instead of high-calorie sauces and dressings.
  • Try lighter cooking methods like sautéeing in broth or poaching in lemon water instead of oil.
  • Use herbs, spices, citrus and vinegars to add bold flavor without adding calories.

Healthy Ways to Eat Chicken Thighs and Drumsticks

Chicken thighs and drumsticks make tasty, lean protein options when prepared using healthy cooking methods and removal of skin. Here are some healthy recipe ideas:

Mediterranean Baked Chicken Drumsticks

Coat 4-6 skinless drumsticks with a mixture of lemon juice, garlic, oregano, olive oil, salt and pepper. Bake at 400°F for 30-40 minutes until cooked through and browned. Serve with roasted vegetables and quinoa or whole grain couscous.

Thai Chicken Thighs

Marinate 4 boneless, skinless thighs in a mix of low-sodium soy sauce, lime juice, grated ginger, garlic, chili paste, and a touch of brown sugar for 30 minutes. Grill or sautée chicken and serve over salad or rice noodles.

Jerk Chicken Drumsticks

Rub 4 skinless drumsticks with a Caribbean jerk seasoning blend made with allspice, thyme, garlic, brown sugar, chili peppers and olive oil. Grill until cooked through, about 20-25 minutes. Serve with pineapple salsa over brown rice.

Balsamic Chicken and Vegetable Salad

Brush 4 boneless, skinless thighs with balsamic vinegar and grill until no longer pink inside, 8-10 minutes per side. Thinly slice chicken and serve atop a salad of mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, bell pepper strips, red onion, and cucumber. Drizzle with more balsamic vinaigrette.

Chicken Thigh and Drumstick FAQs

Are chicken thighs or drumsticks healthier?

Chicken thighs and drumsticks have a similar calorie and nutrition profile. Both are higher in calories than chicken breast due to their higher fat content. But thighs and drumsticks provide juicy, flavorful meat. They can be part of a healthy diet if you remove the skin and avoid frying.

Should I remove chicken skin before or after cooking?

It’s easiest to remove chicken skin prior to cooking. Use a sharp knife to carefully slice under the skin and peel it off raw chicken pieces. Leaving the skin on during cooking helps seal in moisture. Just be sure to remove it before eating.

Is chicken thigh meat dark or white?

Chicken thighs contain dark meat, which has a slightly higher fat content than white breast meat. The darkness results from myoglobin proteins in the leg muscles. While slightly fattier, dark meat is also more moist and flavorful when cooked.

Can you bake chicken drumsticks from frozen?

It’s best to thaw frozen chicken drumsticks before cooking for food safety reasons. But in a pinch, you can bake frozen drumsticks straight from the freezer at a slightly higher temperature – around 375°F. They will take 10-15 minutes longer to cook than thawed chicken.

The Bottom Line

Chicken thighs and drumsticks can make flavorful additions to a healthy diet when prepared properly. A 3 ounce serving of chicken thigh with skin has about 184 calories, while a drumstick has 111 calories. Removing the skin cuts calories significantly. Grilling, roasting and baking are healthier cooking methods than frying. While higher in calories than breast meat, thighs and drumsticks provide juicy texture, bold chicken flavor, and nutrients like protein, B vitamins and minerals.