Although chicken feet are often discarded as a waste product, they’re common cuisine in various places around the world, including Mexico, South Africa, Asia, Jamaica, and Trinidad, where you can find them as street food or a festive dish.
Chicken feet are praised for their health benefits, which are mostly attributed to their high collagen content. Yet, they’re also regularly deep-fried and served with sauces, so you may wonder whether they’re healthy.
This article reviews all you need to know about chicken feet, including their benefits, downsides, and some popular ways to prepare them.
Chicken feet consist mostly of connective tissue — skin, cartilage, tendons, and bones. However, they’re still quite nutritious and deliver a fair amount of vitamins and minerals.
A serving of 2 chicken feet (70 grams) provides (
- Calories: 150
- Protein: 14 grams
- Fat: 10 grams
- Carbs: 0.14 grams
- Calcium: 5% of the Daily Value (DV)
- Phosphorous: 5% of the DV
- Vitamin A: 2% of the DV
- Folate (vitamin B9): 15% of the DV
About 70% of their total protein content is collagen, a structural protein that provides shape, strength, and resistance to your skin, tendons, muscles, bones, and ligaments (
Chicken feet are also a good source of folate (vitamin B9), which aids DNA synthesis and helps prevent birth abnormalities (
Their fat content mostly comes from the skin, which is usually removed for cooking. However, chicken feet are often deep-fried or served with sauce, which may significantly increase their carb, fat, and calorie content.
Chicken feet provide a fair amount of protein in the form of collagen, as well as fat and some vitamins and minerals.
The potential health benefits of chicken feet are largely tied to their high collagen content.
May improve skin health and appearance
Evidence suggests that collagen intake may improve the hydration, roughness, elasticity, and density of your skin (
A 6-month study in 105 women with moderate cellulite found that regular collagen ingestion significantly reduced cellulite and skin waviness compared with the control group (
Furthermore, in a review of 11 studies in 805 people, collagen intake showed promising short- and long-term results for wound healing and skin aging (
Additionally, animal studies note that collagen may increase skin hydration and reduce wrinkle formation caused by ultraviolet B (UVB) irradiation, which is a type of ultraviolet ray that causes sunburns (
Collagen may work by increasing levels of hyaluronic acid, a water-retaining molecule that’s believed to help prevent skin aging (
May help reduce joint pain
The collagen in chicken feet may relieve joint pain.
Research suggests that collagen may stimulate tissue regeneration to reduce symptoms of osteoarthritis. This type of arthritis wears or breaks down your cartilage, allowing bones to rub against each other and causing pain, swelling, and difficulty moving (
A 3-month study in 191 people with knee osteoarthritis concluded that a daily dose of collagen derived from chicken cartilage significantly reduced markers of pain, stiffness, and physical dysfunction (
A 12-week study in 139 athletes with knee pain found similar results. Those who took 5 grams of collagen daily experienced significant improvements in pain intensity during activity and a reduced need for additional treatment (
May help prevent bone loss
Collagen intake may improve bone formation and density in postmenopausal women.
A 1-year study in 102 women found that taking 5 grams of collagen peptides — a form of degraded collagen — per day increased bone mineral density and synthesis while decreasing bone degradation, compared with a control group (
Similarly, in a study in 39 women, those who took a collagen supplement showed significantly less loss of bone mineral density than the control group (
Researchers believe that collagen may provide these effects because it’s a major constituent of bone mass.
Due to their high collagen content, chicken feet are also associated with the following benefits:
- Aids blood sugar control. An animal study determined that chicken feet proteins may help improve blood sugar levels by stimulating glucagon-like peptide-1 (GLP-1), a hormone that activates insulin production (
- Promotes heart health. Collagen is a vital component of arteries and veins, alongside elastin. Research suggests that a good elastin to collagen ratio is crucial for preventing heart disease (
Most health benefits of chicken feet are due to their high collagen content, which may improve skin, joint, bone, and heart health.
Drawbacks of chicken feet include common preparation methods, overall cleanliness, and choking risks.
Chicken feet are often served deep-fried, which may negate any of their potential benefits.
Deep-fried foods are high in trans fatty acids (TFA), an unhealthy, unsaturated fat known to harm heart health (
Specifically, TFA may increase inflammation markers, total cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL (bad) cholesterol while decreasing HDL (good) cholesterol. In turn, this elevates your risk of atherosclerosis, or plaque buildup in your veins, and heart attacks (
Furthermore, TFA is linked to an increased risk of prostate and breast cancers (
Cleanliness and choking hazards
When buying chicken feet, be sure to inspect them carefully. Those that appear dirty or have ammonia-burned skin indicate poor hygiene management.
You should discard or avoid those with ammonia burns, which look like overgrown calluses and are often caused by the chicken standing on their own droppings.
If the feet you buy look unclean, thoroughly wash them to remove the dirt.
Lastly, chicken feet consist of multiple small bones, which pose a choking hazard for both children and adults.
Chicken feet are often deep-fried, a cooking method that may increase your risk of heart disease and certain cancers. Be mindful of their hygiene and small bones when buying and eating them.
Chicken feet are mostly used to prepare soups and stews and may be served as a snack, entrée, or side dish. However, you can find countless recipes online ranging from a classical soup to chicken feet salad, skewers, or fried appetizers.
If you’ve never had them before, try preparing a chicken feet bone broth, a preparation that can serve as a healthy, nourishing, and subtle way to ease into them.
Here’s an easy multi-cooker recipe to get you started.
- 10 chicken feet
- 2 tablespoons (30 mL) of apple cider vinegar
- 1 tablespoon (15 grams) of sea salt
- filtered water
- vegetables and herbs for flavor (optional)
If your chicken feet have the outer layer of skin on, they’ll have to be blanched first to remove it. To do so, place them in a pot of boiling water for 10–30 seconds, then put them in cold water. Pull off and discard the outer skin.
Place the feet in your multi-cooker and add filtered water until they’re completely covered. Add the vinegar, salt, herbs, and vegetables. Bring it to a boil, then reduce the temperature to a simmer.
Using a spoon, skim off any foam or scum that forms on top. Cook it overnight, then strain the feet, vegetables, and herbs from the broth.
Enjoy the broth right away or pour it into glass jars and refrigerate it for up to 1 week or freeze it for up to 6 months.
Alternatively, try this dim-sum-style recipe and eat them as you would a chicken wingette or flat — the middle part of a chicken wing.
Uncooked chicken feet will last up to 2 days if refrigerated or 9 months if frozen.
Chicken feet can be prepared in various ways, though bone broth is one of the healthiest and subtlest ways to try them if you’re new to them.
Chicken feet consist of skin, cartilage, tendons, and bones. Even without providing much meat, they’re high in collagen — the most abundant protein in your body.
This collagen content may help relieve joint pain, aid skin health, and prevent bone loss.
Although chicken feet are often deep-fried, using them for a bone broth is a healthier preparation method. Be mindful of their small bones, which may pose a choking hazard.