This simple recipe for oven baked chicken leg quarters uses just 3 basic ingredients to turn an often-overlooked cut of chicken into a tasty weeknight dinner! It’s perfect for a large family or a budget-friendly dinner.
I love to serve oven-baked chicken quarters with a side of rice drizzled with a quick pan sauce and Quick Oven Roasted Broccoli (bake it in your already hot oven to make the perfect side). It’s a quick dinner the whole family will love!
Quick and Easy Chicken Recipe
This is one of my favorite roast chicken recipes for three reasons:
- It’s a budget-friendly option, chicken leg quarters or whole chicken legs can often be purchased for less than $1.00 a pound.
- The easy recipe uses just 3 seasonings you probably have on hand.
- You can easily customize the marinade to suit your taste.
Table of Contents
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- Chicken legs are inexpensive, meaty, and moist. In many parts of the world, they’re considered the most flavorful part of the bird.
- The ingredients work together to make the perfect chicken marinade! The balsamic vinegar breaks down the fibers in the chicken to make it tender. The soy sauce gives it a salty savory flavor.
- The chicken quarters release chicken broth as they roast turning the marinade into a sauce to serve alongside your main dish (my kids love it over rice). It’s a delicious way to reduce food waste.
- Roasting the chicken at a high temperature produces crispy skin and juicy meat in a short time.
What Are Chicken Quarters?
A whole chicken leg consists of a chicken thigh and drumstick in one piece. This cut is sometimes called a thigh-drumstick piece or a chicken leg quarter (if it has part of the back of the chicken attached to it).
While this combo is well known by butchers, it is often overlooked by American grocery shoppers. In some stores it isn’t available at all, thigh-drumstick pieces are separated into two portions: the drumstick and the thigh.
Ever tried cooking with a whole chicken leg? You should give this cut of meat a chance for several reasons: it sells cheaply at the grocery store, it is much more flavorful than the chicken breast, and it stays juicy when roasted.
Chicken leg quarters: Chicken quarters are an affordable, dark portion of chicken containing both the chicken thigh and drumstick in one piece. They should have bones and the chicken skin should be attached.
Balsamic vinegar: Balsamic vinegar is a richly flavored vinegar used to enhance sauces, marinades, and salad dressings. It is made from freshly pressed grape juice that is boiled, fermented, and aged in wood barrels until it becomes slightly sweet, dark, and syrupy.
Soy Sauce: Soy sauce is a thin, brown liquid condiment used to add salt and umami flavor to dishes. Soy sauce is made by fermenting soybeans and wheat with salt. Reduced sodium or light soy sauce is used in this recipe to keep the chicken from becoming too salty.
Honey: Honey is a thick, golden liquid used to naturally sweeten sauces and marinades. It adds a rich flavor and floral notes to this recipe and help the chicken brown during cooking.
Optional ingredients: Add garlic, ginger, crushed red pepper, and/or mirin to the marinade to make the recipe your own. Get the details in Recipe Variations.
- Combine balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, and honey in a small bowl to make the marinade.
- Pat the chicken dry with a clean cloth or paper towel to remove excess moisture then place leg quarters in an oven-safe baking dish. Pour marinade over the chicken then turn the chicken pieces several times to make sure they are evenly coated. Leave the pieces to marinate with the skin side facing down.
- Cover and place in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. (I prefer to marinate the chicken quarters for at least one hour, it can be left overnight in the refrigerator.)
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (200 C). Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and turn chicken leg quarters so the skin is facing up. The marinade should remain at the bottom of the dish. Add 1/3 of a cup of water to the bottom of the pan to prevent the marinade from reducing too quickly.
- Place the dish in the middle of the oven then roast the chicken quarters for 30. Remove pan from oven and carefully baste the chicken with the marinade in the bottom of the pan.
- Return chicken to the oven for 10-15 minutes of additional cook time. Use a meat thermometer to check that the chicken has reached an internal temperature of 170 F / 77 C. If the chicken is not hot enough continue baking for 10-minute increments until it reaches 170 F / 77 C.
- Remove the chicken from the oven, and place leg quarters on a serving dish. Pour or spoon pan juices into a small bowl or gravy boat and serve over rice.
- For a thicker sauce combine ½ cup chicken broth or water and 1 tbsp cornstarch. pour the pan juices into a small saucepan and whisk in cornstarch mixture. Continue to stir as you heat the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 3 minutes, stirring often.
- Spray or wipe the baking with olive oil or vegetable oil before you start the recipe to make cleaning up easier.
- For a thicker pan sauce, transfer the pan juices to a saucepan after cooking the chicken and stir in 1/2 cup cold water or low sodium chicken broth mixed with 1 tbsp corn starch. Heat over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens (about 3 minutes), serve over chicken or rice.
- Sprinkled the baked chicken quarters with thinly sliced green onions and sesame seeds before serving to dress up the presentation.
- Strain the pan juices or reduction sauce through a sieve to remove any lumps (this step is purely for better visual presentation and does not affect the taste in any way).
- If you would like to marinate overnight, place pieces in a large zip lock bag or casseole container, pour over the marinade, and turn to coat. Turn the chicken several times while marinating. Before cooking, pour the entire contents into an oven-safe roasting pan and arrange chicken pieces skin side up.
Thigh-drumstick pieces, chicken leg quarters, chicken legs, and bone-in chicken thighs may be used interchangeably in this recipe; however, because these chicken pieces vary in size, be sure to cook whichever cut you use to a safe internal temperature of 165°F on a meat thermometer. For the most tender meat, some cooks prefer to roast the dark meat chicken until it reachers 175°F.
No, the skinless chicken breast will absorb too much marinade and roast too quickly leaving you with dry salty chicken. If you prefer white meat, substitute bone-in skin-on chicken breast for the chicken leg quarters. You can remove the skin before serving if desired.
Yes, substitute bone-in skin-on chicken breast for the chicken leg quarters.
Yes, regular soy sauce can be used in place of the reduced-sodium soy sauce in this recipe. Please be aware, the chicken will have a more salty flavor than the original recipe.
Yes, coconut aminos can be used in place of the soy sauce in this recipe. It gives the marinade a slightly smokey flavor.
Yes. Preheat air fryer to 400°F. Spray the cooking surface lightly with nonstick spray. Remove chicken from the marinade and place it in the air fryer basket skin-side-down. Pieces should not touch to get crispy skin. Cook leg quarters for 20 minutes then turn. After flipping them, continue to cook for 10-12 minutes (until the chicken reaches 170°F, on a meat thermometer). While the meat cooks, pour the marinade into a saucepan with 1/2 cup of water or chicken broth and boil for five minutes stirring often. The marinade must be boiled for at least 5 minutes to kill any bacteria if you want to use it as a reduction sauce.
The flavors of the marinade will intensify the longer the chicken stays in the mixture. For best results let the chicken marinate for at least 30 minutes, for a stronger flavor the marinade can be left on overnight if the chicken is refrigerated. Tip: marinate the chicken for at least one hour the first time you make the dish, then increase or decrease the time to adjust the flavor the next time you make the recipe.
The secret to this juicy flavorful chicken can be summed up with one word… marinade.
To make the basic marinade you simply combine balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, and honey in a dish and pour over chicken leg quarters in a plastic bag or oven-safe baking dish. Then turn the chicken pieces several times to make sure they are evenly coated stopping when the skin side is facing down. Place the chicken in a single layer, so each piece comes into even contact with the marinade.
Customize the flavor of the chicken by adding spices such as garlic, ginger, or crushed red pepper:
- Garlic Chicken Quarters: Add 2 minced garlic cloves (about 1 tsp) to the marinade in step 1 to make garlic chicken quarters.
- Spicy Chicken Quarters: Add ½ – 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper to the marinade in step 1 make spicy chicken quarters.
- Teriyaki Chicken Quarters: Add 1 tablespoon mirin (sweet rice wine), ½ tsp minced ginger, and 1 tsp minced garlic to the marinade in step 1 to make balsamic teriyaki chicken quarters.
Chicken leg quarters are marinated and roasted in balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, and honey for deliciously moist chicken that makes its own sauce as it bakes. Serve the chicken and sauce with rice and broccoli or green beans for a quick and affordable dinner.
- 2–3 pounds chicken leg quarters with skin (about 3 to 4 leg quarters)
- 1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
- 1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
- 2 TBSP honey
- 1/3 cup water
- 1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth (optional, see notes)
- 1 TBSP corn starch (optional, see notes)
- Minced garlic (optional, see notes)
- Crushed red pepper (optional, see notes)
- Minced ginger (optional, see notes)
- Mirin rice wine (optional, see notes)
- Add balsamic vinegar, soy sauce, and honey to a small dish. Stir gently to combine.
- Lightly grease the bottom and sides of a 9×13 glass casserole or roasting pan with olive oil or unflavored cooking oil spray.
- Pat chicken quarters dry with a clean cloth or paper towel. Arrange the chicken pieces skin-side up in a 9×13 inch oven-safe baking dish.
- Pour marinade over each piece of chicken then turn the pieces several times to make sure they are evenly coated. Leave the pieces to marinate with the skin side facing down.
- Cover and place in refrigerator for at least 30 minutes. For a stronger flavor, the chicken can be left in the marinade from 1 hour to overnight. (I recommend trying the recipe with a shorter marinade time and working up to the fuller flavor of the overnight marinade.)
- Preheat oven to 400 F / 200 C. Remove the chicken from the refrigerator and turn chicken leg quarters so the skin is facing up. The marinade should remain at the bottom of the dish. Add 1/3 of a cup of water to the bottom of the pan to prevent the marinade from reducing too quickly.
- Place the dish in the middle of the oven then roast the chicken quarters for 30. Remove pan from oven and careful baste chicken with the marinade in the bottom of the pan.
- Return chicken to the oven for 10-15 minutes. Use a meat thermometer to check that the chicken has reached an internal temperature of 170 F / 77 C and the juices run clear. If the chicken is not hot enough continue baking for 10-minute increments until it reaches 170 F / 77 C.
- Remove the chicken from the oven, and place leg quarters on a serving dish to rest for 10 minutes.
- Prepare the sauce while the chicken rests: pour the pan juices from the bottom of the roasting pan into a small saucepan and heat over medium until boiling, allow to reduce until slightly thickened about 3 minutes.
- Serve the chicken with rice, oven-roasted broccoli or green beans, and reduction sauce.
- Customize the flavor of the chicken by adding garlic, ginger, or crushed red pepper:
- Add 2 minced garlic cloves (about 1 tsp) to the marinade in step 1 to make garlic chicken quarters.
- Add ½ – 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper to the marinade in step 1 make spicy chicken quarters.
- Add 1 tablespoon mirin (sweet rice wine), ½ tsp minced ginger, and 1 tsp minced garlic to the marinade in step 1 to make balsamic teriyaki chicken quarters.
- You may strain the mixture through a sieve before boiling to remove any lumps (this process is purely for better visual presentation of the reduction and does not affect the taste in any way).
- For a thicker sauce stir together ½ cup chicken broth or water and 1 tbsp cornstarch in a small cup until there are no lumps. Pour the pan juices into a small saucepan and whisk in cornstarch mixture. Continue to stir as you heat the mixture to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 3 minutes until the mixture thickens, stirring often.
- Serving Size: 1 piece of chicken
- Calories: 405
Keywords: Oven Baked Chicken Leg Quarters
Tip: Don’t skip the reduction sauce, it really takes the meal to the next level!