When it comes to chicken, many have a preference for white meat or dark meat. Some prefer the more mild flavor of white meat while others argue it can't compare to the more flavorful taste of dark meat. When cooked properly, both white and dark meat make a delicious meal. 

White meat and dark meat come from different parts of a chicken. While chicken breast and wings are considered white meat, dark meat comes from the legs of the chicken. Regarding the taste and nutritional value of white meat vs. dark meat chicken, dark meat is more flavorful, but white meat is lower in calories and fat.

Keep reading for a closer look at the difference between white meat vs. dark meat chicken.

Different cuts of chicken displayed on cutting boards
White meat and dark meat come from different parts of the chicken, leading to different flavors and nutritional values.

©Bon Appetit/Shutterstock.com

White Meat vs. Dark Meat Chicken: What Is the Difference?

If you’ve ever attended a barbecue, someone probably asked if you wanted white or dark meat chicken. Most Americans prefer white meat over dark meat and white meat is often the preferred choice by health professionals as well since it’s higher in protein and lower in fat.

One of the main differences between white meat and dark meat is the amount of myoglobin in the muscles. Myoglobin is a protein found in skeletal muscle that plays a significant role in oxygen storage. It also impacts the color of the meat.

Chicken meat is made of two different muscle fibers: white fibers and red fibers. Myoglobin is one of the proteins that help convert the fat in red muscle fibers into energy, and it also gives the red fibers a darker color. To understand the difference between white and dark meat, it’s important to know that white meat only contains about 10% red fibers while dark meat contains about 50% red fibers. The higher percentage of red fibers is what leads to the darker color and higher amount of fat.

What Is the Difference in the Flavor of White Meat vs. Dark Meat Chicken?

The two types of muscle fibers that make up chicken meat have different functions. White fibers are responsible for quick movements while red fibers are used for slower, long-duration movements. The color and amount of proteins and tendons in the fibers are different. Simply put, the composition of the muscle fibers impacts the consistency and flavor of the meat.

Red fibers are fueled by fat, leading dark meat to have more flavor and fat than white meat. Since white meat is mostly made up of white fibers, it also has lower calories, fat, and not as much flavor. 

You can’t change the composition of white or dark meat, but the flavor will also have a lot to do with how you cook the meat. Both white and dark meat can be delicious in numerous recipes if you cook and season them properly.

Can You Substitute White Meat for Dark Meat?

There's no reason why you can't substitute white meat for dark meat in an entree, or vice versa. However, due to the differences in the contents of white meat vs. dark meat, you will likely have to adjust your cooking times to fit the type of meat you’re using.

Since dark meat chicken is higher in fat, it can cook for a lot longer without drying out. On the other hand, white meat is leaner and will dry out quickly when it’s overcooked. Depending on what you’re using the chicken for and how you’re cooking it, this is something to keep in mind.

Whether the chicken meat is boneless or skinless is also going to impact the cooking time. If the meat is bone-in, it’s going to take longer to cook than boneless chicken. Whether you want to use dark meat or white meat for a recipe is ultimately up to you, but if you use white meat as a substitute for dark meat, cook it for less time to avoid dry chicken.

Is White Meat Healthier Than Dark Meat?

How healthy your chicken dish is will depend on how the chicken is cooked, but there is a difference in the nutritional value of white meat vs. dark meat chicken. Skinless chicken breast, for example, is lower in calories and fat than the dark meat of a chicken thigh or drumstick. However, there are nutrients in dark meat chicken that aren’t as high in white meat. While white meat is higher in protein, dark meat contains more zinc, iron, and vitamin C.

The method you use to cook your chicken is going to have a significant impact on how healthy it is as well. Of course, fried chicken breast isn’t necessarily healthier than baked chicken thighs. 

When you choose a method such as grilling or searing, chicken breast is going to be leaner and better for those on a low-fat diet. Both dark and white meat chicken be healthy when you cook them without frying or unnecessary additives. The best way to ensure you’re getting a variety of vitamins and nutrients is to eat a combination of white and dark meat chicken.

Closeup of a raw chicken and stuffing in a pot
Both white and dark meat chicken can be a healthy part of a balanced diet.


Nutritional Value of White Meat vs. Dark Meat Chicken

Since white and dark meat chicken are made up of different percentages of muscle fibers, there is a difference in their nutritional value.

Both white and dark chicken meat are a great source of protein. Although most poultry meat can be beneficial, chicken meat especially is seen as a beneficial part of a balanced diet. Here’s an idea of the difference between a cut of white meat vs. dark meat:

Nutritional ValuesWhite Meat (100 g)Dark Meat (100 g)
Protein31 g23.25 g
Total Fat3.57 g8.75 g
Saturated Fat2.172 g2.43 g
Cholesterol58 mg75 mg
Vitamin B-310.604 mg6.264 mg
Vitamin B-60.6 mg0.33 mg
Vitamin C0 mg0 mg
Iron1.04 mg1.33 mg
Zinc1 mg2 mg

Does White Meat Taste Better Than Dark Meat?

Many people have a specific preference for either white meat or dark meat. Typically, dark meat is seen as more flavorful than white meat because of its high fat content. Dark meat is also juicier since white meat can easily be overcooked.

More Americans may prefer white meat to dark meat simply because it’s often portrayed as healthier than dark meat. White meat does have a milder flavor than dark meat, so some may also prefer it to the richer flavor of dark meat. Either way, both white and dark meat chicken can taste great when cooked properly.

White Meat Chicken Recipes

Dark Meat Chicken Recipes


What part of the chicken is white meat?

If you’re looking to cook white meat chicken for a meal, the chicken breasts and wings are white meat. 

What’s the best way to cook white meat chicken?

Due to its lower fat content, it’s easier to overcook white meat leading to it drying out. White meat chicken can be cooked in various ways. Some of the best ways to cook it are to broil or saute the chicken. Chicken breast is also great for grilling or cutting up and adding to a stir-fry recipe.

What part of the chicken is dark meat?

The parts of the chicken that are considered dark meat are the chicken thighs and drumsticks.

What’s the best way to cook dark meat chicken?

Dark meat is the fattier part of the chicken, so it will cook a little differently than the chicken breast or wings. Roasting and frying are some great alternatives for cooking dark meat chicken. 

Because of the fat content, it’s harder to overcook it and this makes it perfect for slow cooking or cooking in a soup or stew as well.


You may enjoy white and dark meat chicken or strongly prefer one over the other. Dark meat and white meat come from different parts of the chicken and differ in flavor and nutritional value. Overall, both white and dark meat chicken can be a delicious and healthy staple in your diet.

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