This air fryer cornish hen recipe gives you tender, juicy meat encrusted with perfectly seasoned crispy skin in less than 40 minutes.
While I typically like to make an air fryer whole chicken for my family, to change things up, this air fryer cornish hen comes in a clutch.
I love it because it’s much faster and easier than roasting it in the oven (although roasted hens are pretty epic too). If you are worried about the texture of the cornish hen, don’t fret- it’s just as juicy and crispy as you’d expect.
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What are cornish game hens?
Cornish hen looks and tastes very similar to regular chicken but are smaller and yield more tender and flavorful meat. Because of their size, they make a great option for a dinner for two or three people.
Here are some reasons why you’ll love this recipe:
- Super speedy. With a cook time of 40 minutes, your bird is juicy on the inside and crispy on the outside.
- No excess oil. Hot air rapidly circulates around the hen in the air fryer. This, plus only 1 tablespoon of oil, creates a crispy golden-brown skin and juicy, tender meat.
- Individual servings. If I’m making this for myself or my other half, it’s the perfect size for cooking. I mean, essentially, they are mini rotisserie chickens. Saying that, it’s also easy to double or triple for families and get-togethers!
- Mess-free. Just like air fryer bacon, air fryer burgers, and air fryer brats, the clean-up after cooking cornish hen is a breeze! The air fryer contains all of the excess grease instead of splattering it all over your kitchen.
This homemade recipe is so simple and, besides the poultry and some seasonings, there isn’t anything else needed to make. Here is what you’ll need:
- Cornish hen. Use a Cornish hen that’s small enough to fit in your air fryer basket. Pick up as many as you need so everyone gets their own hen!
- Ground spices. Garlic powder and onion powder provide an aromatic, savory flavor, while paprika adds a touch of warmth and smokiness.
- Dried herbs. I used dried rosemary, thyme, and dried basil leaves, but oregano, parsley, and sage also taste great on poultry. Fresh herbs can also be used if you prefer.
- Olive oil. Only a small amount of oil is needed to coat the skin and help it cook to golden brown and crispy perfection.
- Salt and pepper. To help the incredible flavors in this recipe taste balanced.
How to cook a Cornish hen in the air fryer
What I love about this recipe is that NO marinating or resting is needed. After your quick prep, the air fryer takes care of all the hard work.
Step 1- Make the spice blend: Combine the spices and herbs in a small bowl.
Step 2- Season: Pat the Cornish hen dry, rub it with oil, and season with salt and pepper. Then rub the spice mix all over.
Step 3- Air fry: Place the bird in the air fryer basket and cook until it’s golden brown. Let it rest before slicing and serving.
Recipe tips and variations
- Preheat the air fryer: A hot, preheated air fryer will always give you an evenly cooked Cornish hen with extra crispy skin. Yum!
- Use a meat thermometer: It’s the best tool to use if you’re unsure if the bird is cooked through or not. Stick the thermometer into the thickest part of the hen as it cooks. You’ll know it’s ready to come out of the air fryer when the internal temperature is between 160ºF and 165°F.
- Let it rest: Let the Cornish hen rest on a cutting board for 5 to 10 minutes after air frying. This gives those wonderful meaty juices time to settle, giving you the most moist and tender meat.
- Change the dry rub: Pat the hen dry with paper towels before seasoning it with blackened seasoning, Cajun spice rub, lemon pepper, Italian seasoning, Greek seasoning, or poultry seasoning.
- Use a marinade: Let the hen soak for 1 to 4 hours or overnight in teriyaki sauce, honey mustard, 4-ingredient chicken marinade, or hot honey.
- Sides are a must: Serve this dish with simple side dishes, like salad, potatoes, and cranberry sauce.
To store: Transfer the leftovers to an airtight container and store it in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
To freeze: Once the Cornish hen has cooled to room temperature, place it in a large ziplock bag and freeze for up to 3 months. Let it thaw in the fridge before reheating.
To reheat: Heat the leftover Cornish hen in a 360ºF air fryer until the skin is crispy again and the meat is heated through.
More air fryer recipes to try
Frequently asked questions
This can happen if you don’t pat the meat dry with paper towels. First, there’s too much oil on the surface, or the cornish hen is too big/crowded in the air fryer.
For sure! But it’s always best to thaw the birds in the refrigerator before air frying.
Brining poultry is always a surefire way to infuse the meat with incredible flavors. It also tenderizes the meat and adds more moisture! It’s an optional step but a great method to use if you want to take this recipe over the top.
To brine Cornish game hens, make a brine solution by dissolving salt and sugar in a large pot of water. Soak the hens in the brine for 2 to 4 hours before cooking.
Air Fryer Cornish Hen
- Preheat the air fryer to 200C/350F.
- In a small bowl, combine the spices, except for the salt and pepper.
- Pat dry the cornish hen with a paper towel. Rub the olive oil all over the bird, season with salt and pepper, then rub the spice mix all over, including all cavities and underneath the skin.
- Place the cornish game hen in the air fryer basket and cook for 30 minutes breast side down.
- Let the cornish hen rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.
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