Skip to Content

Which is better chicken legs or thigh?

Chicken is one of the most popular meats worldwide, and different cuts are better suited for different cooking methods and recipes. Two of the most commonly used cuts are chicken legs and thighs. Both have their own advantages and disadvantages when it comes to flavor, texture, ease of cooking, nutrition, and cost. This article will compare chicken legs vs thighs to help you decide which is better for your needs.

What’s the Difference Between Chicken Legs and Thighs?

Chicken legs and thighs come from the lower portion of the chicken. The leg includes the drumstick, while the thigh is the upper part of the leg.


The chicken leg contains the drumstick bone surrounded by dark meat. It has a tapered end that makes it easy to grab. The thigh contains the femur bone and lots of connective tissue intertwined with dark meat. It has a thicker, meatier texture than the drumstick.


Chicken legs are slimmer and smaller than thighs. The drumstick bone is visible on a chicken leg. Thighs have a thicker, fattier look and the bone is hidden within the meat.

Muscle Composition

Chicken legs contain less fat than thighs and are made up of mostly dark meat. The drumstick has leg and back muscles that get a lot of exercise, so the meat is lean with more connective tissue. Chicken thighs have leg and hip muscles mixed with more fat, making them juicier.

Bone Structure

Chicken legs contain only the narrow, tapered drumstick bone. Chicken thighs contain a thicker femur bone attached to the hip joint. This makes thighs trickier to debone than drumsticks.


Both chicken legs and thighs have skin on them, but thighs tend to have a bit more. The skin gets crispy when cooked and adds flavor. Legs have less skin overall compared to meaty thighs.


Chicken thighs and legs have a more intense chicken flavor compared to white breast meat. They both contain juicy, succulent dark meat with savory flavor from the fat and collagen.

Thighs tend to be juicier and more tender due to their higher fat content. Legs can have a slight tendency towards toughness since the drumette contains back leg muscles. With the right cooking method, this can be avoided.

Overall thighs taste slightly richer than legs, but both have that delicious dark meat taste. Using bone-in and skin-on thighs and drumsticks provides the most flavor.


Chicken thighs have a soft, tender texture when cooked properly thanks to the fat and collagen breaking down. If overcooked, they can become dry.

Legs have a dense, meaty texture while remaining juicy. The muscles get more of a workout, so they have a slightly chewier texture. Proper cooking is important to keep them from becoming tough.

Thighs tend to have a more supple, tender mouthfeel overall compared to legs. But legs shouldn’t be tough or chewy if cooked correctly either. It comes down to personal texture preference.

Ease of Cooking

Prep Work

Thighs usually require a bit more trimming of excess fat and skin before cooking compared to legs. Legs just need a quick rinse since the drumstick has a clean, slender shape.

Thighs can take more time to debone than legs. The femur bone is thicker and set deeper into the hip joint. Legs are quicker to debone with the thin, exposed drumstick bone.

Cooking Times

Chicken thighs often take slightly longer to cook than legs since they have more fat and connective tissue. Thighs can handle longer cooking times to fully break down without drying out.

Legs usually cook 5-10 minutes faster than thighs depending on the cooking method. The drumsticks don’t require as long to become tender.

So thighs need a little more time and attention during cooking compared to legs.


Chicken thighs work well with almost any cooking method including grilling, baking, sautéing, and more. Their fat keeps them juicy and suited for a wide range of recipes.

Legs also have a good amount of fat considering they are dark meat. They can be used in various recipes from stir fries to braises.

Overall, thighs may have a slight edge over legs in terms of versatility. But both thighs and legs can adapt well to many different cooking methods.


Here is a comparison of the nutrition for a 3 ounce serving of chicken thighs vs drumsticks:

Nutrient Chicken Thigh (with skin) Chicken Drumstick (with skin)
Calories 209 148
Fat 15g 8g
Saturated Fat 4g 2g
Protein 15g 16g
Sodium 64mg 89mg

Some key differences:

– Chicken thighs contain nearly twice as much fat and calories compared to legs. They have more saturated fat as well.

– Chicken legs are very lean with less total fat but still have a high protein content.

– Thighs provide around 13% of the RDI for fat while legs provide only around 6%.

– Both cuts are high in protein (around 30% DV) and low in sodium.

So thighs have more overall fat and calories while legs are lower in calories and fat. Legs make a great lean protein option while thighs offer more juicy fat.

Cost Comparison

Chicken thighs tend to cost slightly more per pound compared to chicken legs and drumsticks. Here are some average prices for each:

Chicken Cut Average Cost (USD)
Bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs $2-3 per lb
Bone-in, skin-on chicken legs/drumsticks $1.50 – $2 per lb

The price fluctuates based on the retailer, whether organic chicken is purchased, and seasonal availability.

On average, expect to pay about $1-2 more per pound for chicken thighs compared to legs and drumsticks. Sales prices may also bring down the cost of thighs closer to legs.

Chicken legs provide slightly more economical option. The meat to bone ratio is usually better with deboned thighs, but bone-in legs give more bang for your buck.

Appearance on the Plate

Chicken thighs often look more plump and substantial on the plate compared to smaller, slimmer legs. When serving boneless, skinless thighs, the thick oval shape can make for an attractive main protein.

Legs have a classic drumstick shape that looks great on a plate or platter. The bones help give a nice presentation when serving a whole leg quarter or fried chicken.

For appetizers, the dainty shape of a drumette makes a nice single-bite hors d’oeuvre.

So thighs work well for hearty main dishes while legs can excel as party foods or snacks. It depends on the dish you are creating and desired visual.

Common Recipes and Uses

Chicken Thighs

Chicken thighs work beautifully in:

  • Braises and stews like chicken cacciatore or chicken tagine
  • Casseroles like chicken pot pie or enchiladas
  • Grilled dishes such as BBQ chicken or jerk chicken
  • Skillet meals like chicken piccata or marsala
  • Fried chicken

The rich taste and tender texture of thighs is hard to beat!

Chicken Legs

Chicken drumsticks shine in:

  • Fried chicken
  • Chicken wings
  • Soups and stews
  • Curries
  • Grilled or baked drumsticks

Legs work great for hand-held snacks and finger foods. The small, handy drumstick size makes them perfect party food.


So which is better – chicken thighs or drumsticks? When comparing chicken legs vs thighs, neither cut definitively wins out. Here are some final considerations:

  • Thighs tend to have more tender, succulent meat with a richer taste.
  • Legs can have a slightly denser, chewier texture but offer great chicken flavor.
  • Thighs take a little longer to cook but have lots of fat for juiciness.
  • Legs cook more quickly and are great for quicker meals or snacks.
  • Thighs cost a bit more per pound on average.
  • Legs are more economical and provide good portion control.

The ideal cut comes down to your cooking needs, recipe, and personal preferences in taste and texture. For quick meals, snacks, and appetizers, juicy drumsticks can be perfect. Heartier braised dishes and skillet meals often shine with rich chicken thighs.

Both thighs and legs have their merits as flavorful dark meat options. Mixing up both cuts keeps meals interesting and provides dietary variety. Varying your protein choices between chicken thighs vs legs allows you to experience the best of both worlds!