Honey-Soy Chicken Drumsticks, Thighs or Wings

honey-soy chicken drumsticks

In the spirit of old-fashioned, unsubtle, crowd-pleasing recipes, I offer another oldie but goodie from The New New York Times Cookbook (Craig Claiborne, 1979), a recipe my mother pulled out for nearly every cocktail party she hosted and attended for at least two decades. The original recipe calls for wings, which people go gaga over, but the sauce and cooking method work just as well with drumsticks and thighs, if you’re looking for a super-easy dinner adored by children and adults alike.

While the chicken bakes for a fairly long time — an hour to an hour and 15 minutes — in the brief time it takes for your oven to preheat, your chicken can be prepped and smothered with the magic sauce, a mixture of honey, soy sauce, ketchup, garlic and oil, leaving you with an hour of freedom, perhaps to prepare a simple salad or side dish, perhaps to sit down with a good book and a nice cocktail. As with the honey-baked chicken legs, it’s hard not to play caveman while eating these drummies — a fork and knife just can’t get the job done. What can I say? This is not gourmet cooking, and it’s not gourmet eating — you might just want to break out the moist towelettes for this one.

sauce ingredients

sauce and drummies

unbaked drummies

Don’t be alarmed when you open your oven and find this:
pan, just out of the oven

Once the bubbling subsides, your chicken will surface…
just-baked chicken drummies

…piping hot, meat falling off the bone.
cut-up chicken drumstick

meat from just-baked chicken drummies

Try not (initially at least) to curse my name during the post-dinner clean-up:
soiled pan

After a quick soak and a teensy bit of elbow grease, just a few burnt edges will remain.
clean pan

Honey-Soy Chicken Wings

Source: My mother via The New New York Times Cookbook (Craig Claiborne, 1979)

Notes: If making a small batch — 5 drumsticks or 4 thighs, etc. — halve the sauce recipe but keep the cooking time the same.

Wings are perfect for a Super Bowl party. Definitely cook the wings until the sauce is thick, which usually means 1 hr and 15 minutes. Wings are very forgiving — don’t worry about overcooking them (within in reason).

18 chicken wings or 10 drumsticks or 4 thighs and 5 drumsticks, etc.
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons oil — peanut, canola, vegetable, etc.
2 tablespoons ketchup
1/2 cup soy sauce
1 cup honey
2 to 3 cloves garlic, minced

1. Preheat oven to 400ºF. If using wings: wash and dry, cut off wing tips and place on a rimmed baking sheet. If using the larger quantity of drumsticks and/or thighs: wash and dry and place in a 9X13-inch pan; if using the smaller quantity, wash and dry and place in a 8×8-inch (or something similar) pan. Season lightly with salt (as soy is salty) and pepper to taste.

2. Combine remaining ingredients and pour over chicken. Toss chicken (with your hands, if you don’t mind, or with tongs, if you do) and then arrange skin-side down in the baking pan. Place in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove pan, turn chicken over, and return to the oven for another 30 minutes. Remove pan and turn chicken over once more. I find that the chicken is usually done at this point, but my mother likes to cook hers for another 15 minutes, which is what the original recipe calls for, too, although the original recipe also calls for a 375ºF oven temp. It’s your call — you can’t mess it up. I suggest turning the oven down to 375ºF if you do bake it for an additional 15 minutes.

I have been making this a lot recently. When we have visitors, I double up on the drumsticks,
chicken drummies, lots of them

or use a combination of thighs and drumsticks:
thighs and drummies

86 Comments

  1. Made two pans of this tonight! One pan was with less honey since I thought it would be too sugary. The other pan was exactly as called for in the recipe. However, neither glazed at an hour’s cook time. Should I have left it in the oven longer? Super juicy and flavorful though!

    Reply
    • San, glad to hear that the chicken was super juicy and flavorful, but am a little confused about it not being glazed after an hour in the oven, especially with the pan that had the complete amount of honey. What kind of pan were you using? I doubt this would make much of a difference, but I am a little curious. And you could have continued to cook them for another 15 minutes — my mother always does — which would helped to caramelize and concentrate the sauce a little further.

      Reply
    • Anne — I don’t know how breasts would fare with this recipe. For one, I think they would be finished cooking way before the glaze starts caramelizing and thickening. I don’t know how to advise. Definitely use bone-in, skin-on breasts; and I would check them after 30 minutes. At this point, you could probably scoop the glaze out of the pan into a saucepan and let it reduce further stovetop? And then maybe pour the glaze over the breasts after five minutes or so? Wish I could offer some better guidance. I don’t cook with chicken breasts that often.

      Reply
      • Chicken breasts come out too dry, in my opinion, for this recipe…and I can do breasts to perfection on the grille. Use wings, thighs and legs for this one, but i always do the wings in a separate pan as they will cook faster. Also, i prefer to cook longer until they are just about to fall off the bone! 1 1/2 hrs or more. Messy and delicious…serve with a water bowl to wash your hands.
        If you are set on boneless breasts(with or without the skin), then pound out breasts to even thickness, grille almost until they are done on both sides, then put the glaze on …and don’t take your eyes off them, because this sauce will fire up due to high sugar content, turning once to get a little char on them. These are very quick on the grille.

        Reply
  2. These look so fun. Made the curry/honey ones again last night (with rice and Madhur Jaffrey’s cabbage with fennel etc seeds recipe posted on Food 52–really nice combo). Will def try these next time we have chicken.

    Reply
    • Lucy T — I have been making the Madhur Jaffrey cabbage recipe via Food52 too! It is indeed delicious, and I can’t believe I haven’t thought to pair it with the honey baked chicken legs — a perfect match!

      Reply
  3. I make a very similar recipe, maybe a bit less honey, but wow, it is indeed a crowd pleaser!

    I smiled when you mentioned ‘cursing your name’, because it’s true that at first the clean up seems impossible, but all that sugar dissolves easily. I leave the dish soaking overnight, and voila’ – smooth ride next day

    Loved the photos, and I should add it to my Pinterest board, so I can make it exactly as you did

    Reply
  4. I tried this with wings, and I think these are wonderful! You are right–this is very family friendly food. Even my aunt who is afraid of “ethnic” (anything that is not a chicken breast is ethnic) cuisine loves this. But this is a great dish for all those people with a fear of dark meat to embrace. It might even make some converts to the best part of the chicken. And if you like wings, then there is no reason not to like dark meat–they are sort of a hybrid.

    Reply
  5. Could you put heavy duty foil down first and line the pan w/out changing the texture of the chicken? This is how my family cooks chicken all the time. Mostly the chicken pan comes up clean once you throw away the foil.

    Reply
    • Agnes — I have never tried this, but if you have had success with it, by all means give it a go! I have read that foil can alter the taste of foods, so I usually use parchment paper, but again, I don’t know if there is any truth to this notion.

      Reply
  6. I had the same result as San. They tasted absolutely delish, but the glaze never thickened after an hour. I used a disposable aluminum pan for ease of clean up. I didn’t feel that the taste was altered in any way by using this pan, but I am going to try it later this week using a glass dish and will report back with the results. This recipe is very good.

    Reply
    • Tammy — I am happy to hear that you liked the flavor but am sorry to hear about the unthickened glaze. I will be curious to hear how the glass dish performs versus the disposable aluminum pan. Also, next time around, I think if after the hour the sauce still is not thickened, you should turn down the temp to 375 and bake for an additional 15 minutes or so. My mother always does the additional 15 minutes, and I have noticed that when I make this that the sauce really does transform in the last 10 minutes or so of baking, so maybe you just need to let yours go a little bit longer. Good luck with the second round! And thanks for writing in with your results.

      Reply
  7. Thank you so much for sharing this! My cooking time was less than an hour, and the drumsticks were tender and coated with glazy goodness. A hit with my two girls. This is going to be a repeat for us!!!

    Reply
  8. These are on my list to make this week. My girls love anything with soy sauce! Do you think buckwheat honey would be too strong a flavor for this dish? I have a lot left over (from a honey cake recipe) and thought I might use it. Thanks for all these crowd-pleasing dishes from your family!

    Reply
    • Wendy — Thank you for your nice comment! I haven’t used buckwheat honey, so I can’t say for sure, but my instinct is telling me that you should be fine. Soy is a strong flavor as well, and the chicken cooks for about an hour, so I feel like it all kind of melds together and not one flavor really dominates. I hope that makes sense. Good luck with it!

      Reply
  9. Made this, this past weekend and served it with steamed brown rice and seamed broccoli. The chicken was awesome! Can’t wait to make again! Thanks for the wonderful recipe.

    Reply
    • Monique — those sides sound perfect with this chicken! I love the idea of mixing a little broccoli and a little brown rice with all of that yummy sauce. Great idea. Thanks for writing in!

      Reply
  10. Made this last night for dinner and it was a success!! Literally one of the best tasting chicken I’ve ever had. Even my picky mother loved it! Thanks so much for this recipe!

    Reply
  11. Isn’t it funny how those recipes get around? I’ve been making your Suzanne Goin kale recipe and the Jaffrey cabbage more than any other veggie recipes this winter. Both addictive! Anyway, am back to say I finally made this chicken, last night. No surprise: it was delicious. Did it full-on and used wings, and my husband told me he loved it no fewer than seven times. Seven! So you are due a big thank-you.

    We had it with a bit of this Cypriot grain salad, which balanced out the naughtiness of having chicken wings for dinner nicely. Just a bit of it, as the salad is sort of a meal in itself. Thought you might like the recipe: http://merci-mama.com/cypriot-grain-salad-best-salad-ever/

    Reply
    • Lucy T — I love it. Yes, I don’t think this recipe is ever better received than when it is made with wings. SO good. I wished I had remembered it before the Super Bowl, not that I had a big night planned. So glad to hear that your husband approved.

      That Cypriot grain salad is making my mouth water. Thanks so much for sharing the recipe. My mother brought me a bag of freekah ages ago, and I have been meaning to try it. My aunt is coming to town this weekend and insists on cooking…I think I’ll point her this way.

      PS: The cabbage from my CSA just keeps on coming, so I don’t think the Jaffrey recipe will be disappearing anytime soon :)

      Reply
  12. I wonder if the few people who had issue with the sauce thickening had rinsed their chicken before hand and had too much residual water left on the pieces. This could do it by inadvertently adding water to the sauce lengthening the reducing time. If that’s the case, they just need to be thoroughly dried next time prior to adding the sauce to them. Anyway, just a thought! I’m planning on making this tomorrow and look forward to it!

    Reply
    • Lauren — great point. I hadn’t thought about that. It is so true how important it is to really dry meat to get good browning when searing and, in this case, to make sure the sauce thickens properly. Thanks so much for writing in. Hope you like the chicken!

      Reply
  13. I changed a little bit on this recipe. I cooked this in the crockpot on low on 8 hours. I used dried garlic and added a little garlic powder. So yummy.. thanks

    Reply
  14. could this recipe be done the same with chicken breasts? i have a few people in my family who aren’t a fan of chicken on the bone.

    Reply
    • Stephany — I don’t know how breasts would fare with this recipe. For one, I think they would be finished cooking way before the glaze starts caramelizing and thickening. I don’t know how to advise. Definitely use bone-in, skin-on breasts; and I would check them after 30 minutes. At this point, you could probably scoop the glaze out of the pan into a saucepan and let it reduce further stovetop? And then maybe pour the glaze over the breasts (and I suppose remove the meat from the bone for the people who don’t like meat on the bone?) after five minutes or so? Wish I could offer some better guidance.

      Reply
  15. Halved the recipe and made it with 4 thighs (cooking for one). My intention was to have leftovers. They were delicious, needless to say there are no leftovers. I added a little Sriracha sauce. Next time I will add more Sriracha for a spicy kick. Thinking the messy pan was worth it!! Thank you for this quick, easy and yummy recipe.

    Reply
  16. Made this tonight and it was great! I used boneless chicken breasts and cooked at 350 for about an hour (flipped them once). The sauce was not thick so I then took the chicken out and mixed some cornstarch with water and added it to the sauce in the baking pan…stirred until it thickened…added chicken back in and cooked for about 5 more minutes. It still wasn’t as thick as yours but it tasted so great. The chicken was tender and moist. Thanks!

    Reply
  17. Did this per instructions. Did NOT wash per current thinking so it was definitely dry. Although the liquid reduced, it was still like water after an hour. Have to do the corn starch method. It’ll still taste good in any case.

    That’s my experience.

    Reply
    • Len, that’s too bad. I still have never done the corn starch method, and if you ever feel like giving it another go, the sauce tends to thicken up quickly at the tail end of cooking, so I think if you had let the chicken in for another 10 to 15 minutes, the sauce would have thickened up, and I think you’ll find that with bone-in, skin-on dark meat, the meat would not be overcooked, so leaving it in for a few extra minutes wouldn’t ruin the dish. Just a thought!

      Reply
  18. I have these in the oven right now! I’m looking forward to some sticky chicken goodness! The teens asked “what’s for dinner,” and I told them “sticky chicken”! I used McCormick’s Pepper Medley Grinder for the pepper to give it a little more of a kick! :)
    It smells good! I’ll report back!

    Reply
  19. This was very good! Our family of four polished off 10 drumsticks without batting an eye! My sauce didn’t thicken as well as it should have, so when the chicken was cooked I took it out and put it in another dish. Then I poured the sauce into a saucepan and turned up the heat… I whisked in cornstarch and thickened up the sauce before pouring it over the legs. It was a hit! Hubby said he really liked it. The teens enjoyed it, too! Thanks!! I’m sure I’ll make this again! I served it with some steamed broccoli and some miniature corn on the cobs. I put some of the sticky sauce on my corn, and it was delicious! :)

    Reply
    • Judy, thanks so much for reporting back! And well done on the improvisation at the end with the cornstarch and sauce — a few other people have had issues with the thickening, too, and I’m not sure how to explain this. I need to make these again, soon. The sauce recipe is great, too, with wings — perfect to make for a football-watching event. Love the idea of serving the sauce over the corn…yum! Happy Holidays!

      Reply
  20. I have made this multiple times now and it’s always my boyfriend’s favorite! Will be making it again for an easy but delicious crowd-pleaser at our simple Christmas Eve dinner tonight, this time to be shared with my parents — thank you!!

    Reply
  21. I just made this right now and it came out perfectly. It’s so delicious! I had a disposable aluminum tray handy; saved me some elbow grease :) Thank you for a wonderful recipe that I’ll be using often.

    Reply
  22. I have these in the oven right now as well – just finished the first 30 minute cooking leg and flipped the drumsticks. The sauce isn’t very thick yet but I’ll probably take your advice and do that extra 15 mins at 375 once the entire hour is up. Thanks for this recipe!! They smell great already :)

    Reply
    • Andrea, I don’t see why not. I must admit I do not know my crockpot very well, but I think it will definitely work. If at the end, the sauce is too soupy, just transfer it to a small saucepan and reduce it till it’s thick.

      Reply
  23. Just popping in to say that I am once again making this awesome recipe! It seems that when my husband is traveling and I don’t know when his flight arrives, this is my go-to meal. I always have the ingredients and it’s just as good a couple hours later as it is when it’s fresh from the oven! I added a little sambal oelek, ginger and char-siu to the mix for some extra spice. Thanks again for another winner!

    Reply
  24. Would this recipe work if i used one of those aluminum baking dish that i can throw away afterwards instead of cleaning.. :)

    Reply
  25. Stumbled across this. Good find! Made this tonight. There’s a fine line between honey’s done and honey’s burnt. I call that the “Sweet spot”.
    Better “Soupy” than burnt.
    Of course I used my grill (As always).

    I will take your recipe and I will make it my own.

    CHEERS!

    Reply
  26. Hello…I am really wanting to make this…sounds delish but I scrolled thru to see if anyone had made this without the skin on the chicken before bugging you but couldn’t see anything. I hate the skin & won’t eat it but i can’t see having to take it off…it seems that’s where all the sticky flavor would be. I have no problem using thighs and legs since we eat chicken breast nearly every night but I just wondered if you or anyone else had ever cooked this without the skin? Looking forward to it on my menu this week but just wondered about skin or no skin…that is the question?;)

    Reply
    • Hi Gabby! I have two thoughts: 1. Leave the skin on during the cooking. Remove it (scrape off as much sauce as possible beforehand) and discard it after the cooking. Spoon sauce over the pieces before serving. This will prevent drying out. 2. Remove skin before cooking. Baste periodically during the cooking time. I have never tried this but it is worth a shot if you abhor skin :) I worry a little bit about the pieces drying out. Good luck with it! I love this recipe.

      Reply
  27. i just wanted to say hi – i came across your website in an attempt to see if my mother’s wing recipe would work for thighs. i wanted to make it so badly but the store didn’t have any wings. your site was the first result and wouldn’t you know, it’s pretty much the same recipe my mom has been making for ages too!

    she uses brown sugar in place of the honey, and each time she turns the chicken, she sprinkles on a bit more brown sugar and dribbles on a bit more soy sauce. even though they are done probably after 1.5 hours, she always manages to keep them in for 2.5 or yes, really, even THREE hours to ensure they are super sticky and delicious! (at 375 for the first 45 minutes, and 350 thereafter.) i haven’t yet been able to keep mine in that long without burning them, but i have hit the two hour mark with good results. i also saw some (albeit old) comments about foil – my mom always uses heavy duty foil with this to save the pan and make cleanup easier and i have never noticed a difference in taste. when i make it i just use a naked glass baking dish though – simply because i’m lazy and never seem to remember to buy foil to have on hand, haha.

    sorry for the novel, i just love running into other people on the internet who have the same memories about random stuff. great site!

    Reply
    • Love the novel! Thanks so much for writing in. My mother somehow lets her wings go for forever, too, without burning. Love the idea of brown sugar — going to try this. And I have never had adverse affects with foil either. It really can be a huge time saver. Thanks for your kind words!

      Reply
  28. I found your recipe but had no chicken on hand so I decided to slow cook a pork roast I had using the same recipe. It was absolutely amazing! All I did was put the roast on very low heat in the oven and covered it until it was done. I’m finally trying it today with the chicken legs and I know it’s going to be great! Thanks for sharing :)

    Reply
    • So happy to hear this! And, although I have never tried, I think this would be the perfect recipe to make in the crock pot. You are inspiring me. Let me know if you have success!

      Reply
  29. I have made this dish several times already ever since I discovered it a couple of months ago. It’s that good! I ran out if honey once and used maple syrup instead. It wasn’t as sticky but it still came out delicious. Thank you for sharing this recipe!

    Reply
  30. I am a complete chicken freak, always on the look out for delicious new recipies. My mother is a fantastic cook but she lives in devon while i live in the netherlands and your recipies bring me really close to her, i feel. I am going to try this when she is coming over for a holiday next week. Sure she and i will love it. Thank you very much for the recipy.

    Reply

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