An Oldie but a Goodie: Honey-Baked Chicken Legs

Honey Baked Chicken Legs

During my recent trip home to CT, my mother taught me how to make her homemade hamburger helper, a favorite of mine and my siblings growing up, a meal we thought the toddlers in the house would enjoy as well. While the children ate it without complaint, each favoring a different component — macaroni, hamburger, melted cheese — it was the adults who really went to town on it, in particular my brother and brother-in-law who polished off the leftovers after a late-night game of darts (and a few too many whiskeys).

I don’t know if it’s the need to feed the toddlers I suddenly find at my feet or the trip home or the winter weather, but recently I can’t get enough of these old family recipes. My mother learned this one from her aunt Rene, who has been serving it at dinner parties since the 1960’s. It is truly a crowd pleaser.

Now, a note, likely an obvious one: For those of you who like savoring the flavor of chicken in its most unadulterated form, perhaps roasted with a few herbs and maybe a lemon wedge or two, this one is not for you. It’s all about the sauce, a mixture of honey and mustard, curry powder and mango chutney, that thickens and concentrates during the hour or so spent in the oven. It’s the kind of thing that is nearly impossible not to pick up off the plate with your hands, gnaw at the bone, lick your fingers when you’re finished. Sorry for the image.

All of that said, the chicken cooks perfectly — the tender, moist meat, which retains its heat so nicely, falls off the bone with every prod of the fork, making a more civilized approach to its ingestion certainly an option.

My Great Aunt Rene would be so proud — my children gobbled it up, and for the first time in a long time, not a word about ketchup was uttered.

This dish takes minutes to throw together. Here is what you need: honey, mustard, butter, curry powder, mango chutney.




Honey Baked Chicken Legs

Source: Great Aunt Rene
Serves 4 to 6

Note: With the exception of maybe undercooking it, there is no way to mess this dish up. Take a look after an hour — depending on how many legs you’ve placed in your pan, it will take more or less time to cook. I’ve had consistent results with about 1 to 1.25 hours.

2 lbs. bone-in skin-on chicken legs*
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons mango chutney
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder

1. Preheat the oven to 375ºF. Place chicken legs in a greased (I always forget) shallow baking pan skin side up. Combine remaining all ingredients and mix well. Pour over the chicken then toss with a spatula (or your hands) so that the pieces are nicely coated and so the sauce fills the underside of the chicken. Bake for 1.25 to 1.5 hours. Renie’s recipe says to baste every 15 minutes, but it’s not necessary to do this. I actually have better results when I don’t baste until after the hour mark. Also, keep an eye on it — the sauce chars quickly especially at the end.

*You can use all thighs all drumsticks or whole legs intact, but you want about 2 lbs. (or more or less) total



  1. says

    Looks delicious – I was surprised at how yellow the sauce looks before cooking!

    Two questions – can you taste the curry powder at all (I am not a fan) and is the mango chutney vital? Can I replace it with something else tangy?

    • says

      Explody Full — I know that curry powder is potent in the color department. The curry powder flavor is subtle — you might not know it’s there if you didn’t see the recipe. That said, if you don’t like it, you might be more aware of its presence. I think you could omit it. And the first time I made this recipe (in the past few weeks that is), I didn’t have mango chutney, so I used orange marmalade with no ill effects. That said, I do like the flavor of it better with the mango chutney — I have since made it twice more with the mango chutney. I think any sweet jam would make a fine substitute. Hope that helps!

  2. adelaide says

    thank you for sharing such wonderful, finger licking recipe!! i am also wondering where will I be able to find your mother’s homemade hamburger helper recipe! (the thought of macaroni, hamburger, and melted cheese just sound sooo heavenly together!!) I look around your recipe index, but fail to find it. thank you!!!

    Adelaide x

  3. Katie S says

    Looking for some serving suggestions. I have a bottle of Trader Joe’s mango chutney to use up and this recipe looks positively yummy! But my husband is not overly fond of sweeter mains. Anyone have some good serving/accompaniment suggestions?

  4. Ann says

    I’m putting this high on my “to try” list. But I hAve to admit that I’m even more intrigued by your mom’s hamburger helper recipe!

  5. Katie S says

    Alexandra – Thank you so much for the menu suggestions! So helpful (I wish my husband and son would be as responsive with suggestions for dinner ideas…). Arugula was already a probability on the menu; you just confirm that idea. We go thru large amounts of arugula in this house – I need to plant my little hydroponic garden soon so we can get some really spicy greens. The brown butter risotto sounds easy and interesting. I think I will give that a try, for sure. Thanks again :-)

  6. Kathleen says

    This sounds so perfect for a very cold Friday evening! Thank you so much :). Also, I would love the hamburger helper recipe too-just wanted to get on the email list or get my vote in for a blog post!
    Every recipe I make of yours receives a “this one needs to go in the recipe book in the favorite section” from my husband so thank you!

    • says

      Oh Kathleen, so nice to hear this! I think I will try to post the hamburger helper recipe in the next couple of weeks. I’m kind of craving it all of a sudden, and there seems to be enough interest out there to warrant a post. Will get that recipe to you shortly!

  7. says

    I made this last night and my family could not have been more happy! My husband, in particular, thought it was fantastic. It’s so easy, which makes it all the better. Thanks so much for sharing it!

  8. Lucy T. says

    Made this and we loved it! It reminded me of a glaze my mom uses for cornish game hens (not exactly the same but close–she has a soy sauce element in hers for sure).
    We had it with a celeriac puree recipe I had been saving from food52, which turned out to have you as one of its sources (I hadn’t read it closely before I decided to serve it with this so I thought that was serendipitous) and a really simple salad. It’s going into my permanent rotation for sure!

    • says

      Lucy T. — wonderful to hear this! My mom has a similar recipe as well that has a soy sauce element in it and she used to always make it with chicken wings to serve at parties…might have to try that on Super Bowl Sunday. Love the idea of the celeriac puree with this chicken and with any meat, really — what’s nice is that it really is on the light side as far as puréed starches go. Thank you for your nice comment.

  9. Becca says

    Hi Alexandra! I love your blog, and this recipe sounds amazing. I’m not a fan of dark meat (eeek I’m sorry!) and was wondering if you thought this sauce would work well with white meat? Thanks!!

    • says

      Becca –No worries… you certainly aren’t alone with that sentiment. I think it will work, but I think the breasts will definitely take less time — I would start checking them after 25 minutes — and bc of this, the sauce might not get as thick and concentrated as it does when it bakes for closer to an hour. Definitely do bone-in, skin-on breasts, and if you feel like it, you could always reduce the remaining sauce (when the breasts are done) in a saucepan for a few minutes if it’s not looking/fasting as concentrated as it should. If it tastes good, however, forget the reducing process. Report back if you make it — I think others would love to hear how this recipe works with breasts. Thanks! Hope you’re having a nice weekend.

  10. Dee G says

    Made this using a whole chicken that I cut up. My it was tasty! I can see why it was Rene’s go to company dish… Tanks for a great recipe.

    • says

      Dee G — so happy to hear this! I am wondering how the breasts fared? Did you have to alter the cooking time for them — take them out early? Or did you add them later? I have had a few questions about how this might turn out with bone-in breasts. Love the idea of using a whole chicken myself. Thanks so much!

  11. Tamara says

    Made this chicken last night, so delish! All 4 of my boys loved and went back for second servings. Thank you for sharing!

  12. Dee G says

    Regarding the whole chicken – I did take the breasts out after about 50 minutes. They didn’t have quite a much color. Next time I will run them under the broiler for a minute or so at the end. Making this again tonight with just the legs. Husband claims it’s his new favorite.

    It kind of reminds me of an old recipe I have for a microwaved chicken coated in a mixture of onion soup mix, lots of mayo, a jar of apricot jam (I always use my own rhubarb chutney instead) and russian dressing (I just add a little ketchup to the rest.) Looks awful to start with, but chicken looks and tastes great once it’s cooked…and it only takes about 20 minutes.

    • says

      Dee G — Thanks so much for reporting back regarding the breasts — I was wondering about the coloring, myself. I was was wondering what somebody should do if they only want to use breasts — it doesn’t seem as though enough time would elapse to let the sauce get nice and concentrated the way it does. Maybe reduce the sauce in a saucepan once the chicken comes out of the oven? Seems like a lot of work. So glad your husband likes this dish! If you feel like sharing your chicken recipe, I would love to try it out sometime!

  13. tony says

    Hi Alexandra!

    Was wondering what kind of Laguiole knife is show in the picture? Love the chicken and your crabcakes!!! Thanks so much for posting. Also I bought the Zuni cookbook after reading your blog!



    • says

      Tony — I actually got those knives at Marshalls. I haven’t been to a Marshalls in a long time, but I remember they always used to have them there. So, I can’t say for sure which ones I have, but they came in a set of 6 and they are considered steak knives. Hope that helps! I’ll inspect them further tonight and see if I can glean any other info about them. I hope you like the Zuni book! So many wonderful ideas in there.

  14. Julie says

    I’m making this tonight w/o the curry powder and insted of the mango stuff I’m trying apricot jam ( that’s all I have at this time) but it looks delicious with done white rice

  15. says

    Hi Alexandra! Remember me?!? I used to babysit for you ages ago (Nina Sylvester). Anyway, Barbara Webb told me about your blog and I wanted to tell you that I love it. This particular recipe is SO easy and has become a new family favorite! All three of my kids gobble it up and even ask for more. I am making it tonight and just wanted to let you know :). Take care.

  16. says

    Hi there, I made this for supper last night, accompanied by a potato mash to soak up all that lovely gravy. It was so good ! Thank you so much for sharing. DZ

  17. Boomdog02 says

    Making this tonight, and I’m thinking this would work well on Pork Cops as well.

    However one ingredient is missing…I recommend having a large, warm, damp dish towel per person for hand and face wiping, during and after eating!!!

    • says

      Haha, I love it! Yes, maybe even a steaming bowl of water for each person?!

      And the only thing with the pork cops (haha) is that I think they will be done way before the sauce thickens. So, I would suggest maybe trying to reduce the sauce stove top for a bit to thicken it before cooking it with the cops. Make sense?

  18. Sara says

    Yet another amazing recipe! Making this for the 5th or 6th time. I read lots of food blogs, but I make more of your recipes than anyone else’s and they are always amazing. Thanks for everythung you do!

    • says

      Sara, thank you so much for your kind words. It means so much. And I am so happy to hear that you like this one — my family loves this one, too!

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