This easy cornish hen recipe roasts the petite poultry with warming herbs and spices, giving you crispy and juicy results every time. It’s an impressive dish that needs very little prep.
A whole roasted chicken is typically my go-to for special events or dinner parties, but sometimes, I’ll switch things up with this roasted cornish hen recipe instead.
Rubbed with aromatic herbs and flavorful spices, this recipe transforms the humble cornish game hen into a dish that brings rustic charm to any table. Paired with mashed potatoes and your favorite roasted vegetables, it’s perfect for cozy family dinners, special dinner parties, and elegant holiday feasts!
Table of Contents
What is a cornish game hen?
A cornish game hen is a cross between the Cornish and White Plymouth Rock chicken breeds, so yes, these hens are indeed chickens. However, they typically weigh no more than two pounds, making them smaller than the average roast chicken you’ll find in the grocery store.
Because of their small size, cornish hens are particularly perfect for dinners where you want everyone to have their own roast chicken! Here are a few more reasons why I love this recipe:
- Easy to make. Just like classic roasted chicken recipes, you don’t need to be a master chef to make cornish hens at home.
- Tender and flavorful. While these birds are known for their succulence, roasting them with aromatic herbs and spices makes every bite even more delicious.
- Stunning crowd-pleaser. I’ll serve individual roasted hens when I want my family or guests to enjoy a sophisticated, gourmet touch to casual and elegant dinners.
Short on time? My air fryer cornish hen recipe shaves about 20 minutes off of the cooking time but has the same great-tasting results!
- Cornish hen. I made this recipe with one 1 ½ pound cornish hen, which was enough to serve 1 to 2 people. If you’re serving it as part of a larger meal with appetizers and sides, one cornish hen should be enough for 3 to 4 people or you can double or triple the amount of hens. Lastly, this recipe works with frozen cornish hens but you’ll need to thaw them in the refrigerator before cooking.
- Fresh herbs. Roasting the bird on a bed of fresh rosemary sprigs and fresh thyme sprigs infuses it with aromatic and herbaceous flavors.
- Lemon slices. The lemon slices impart tangy, citrusy undertones.
- Olive oil. Just a drizzle to help the skin become golden and crispy.
- Dried herbs and spices. I used Italian seasoning, smoked paprika, garlic powder, red pepper flakes, salt, and black pepper.
How to roast a cornish hen
I’ve included step-by-step photos below to make this recipe easy to follow at home. For the full printable recipe instructions and ingredient quantities, scroll to the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
Step 1 – Season. Stir the dry rub seasonings together in a small bowl, then sprinkle the mixture all over the cornish hen.
Step 2 – Assemble. Place the rosemary, thyme, and lemon slices on the bottom of a roasting pan. Place the cornish hen on top and drizzle with olive oil.
Step 3 – Roast. Roast the hen in the oven until it’s golden brown and cooked through.
Step 4 – Rest, then serve. Set the hen aside to rest before carving and serving. Enjoy!
How do you carve cornish game hen?
After letting the hen rest, place it on a cutting board and use a sharp knife to cut through the joint connecting the thighs and drumsticks to the body. Separate the breast meat by slicing down the center along the breastbone and gently pulling it away. Finally, slice the breast meat into individual servings, and you’re ready to enjoy your beautifully carved bird!
What to serve with this
My family loves cornish hen with simple side dishes, like mashed cauliflower, roasted potatoes and carrots, or balsamic roasted brussels sprouts. You can even roast the veggies in the roasting pan with the cornish hen, like in this sheet pan chicken and veggies recipe.
When company is coming over, I’ll pair the chicken with elegant sides. My preference is air fryer asparagus, wild rice, roasted honeynut squash, risotto, and/or creamed spinach.
Recipe tips and variations
- Bring to room temperature. I highly recommend letting the hen sit on the kitchen counter for about 30 minutes before cooking. Room temperature meat always cooks more evenly than cold meat.
- Checking for doneness. I like to use a meat thermometer to check that the hen is cooked through. To do so, stick the thermometer into the hen as it cooks. You’ll know it’s done when its internal temperature is between 160ºF and 165°F.
- Let it rest. I know how tempting it is to dig right in, but letting the cornish hen rest for about 20 minutes after roasting helps its natural juices soak back into the meat.
- Swap the seasonings. You can swap the seasonings in the recipe for a poultry seasoning blend or your favorite chicken dry rub instead.
- Consider marinating. For a flavorful twist, try marinating the cornish hen for 1 to 4 hours in my 4-ingredient chicken marinade, chicken drumstick marinade, or chicken thigh marinade.
How to store leftovers
To store: Let the leftover cornish hen cool to room temperature, then transfer it to an airtight container. Store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
To freeze: Let leftovers cool, then freeze in a freezer-safe bag for up to 3 months. Let it thaw in the fridge before reheating.
To reheat: Reheat the cornish hen in a baking dish in the oven at 350ºF until the skin is crispy again and the meat is heated through.
More chicken recipes to try
- Spatchcock Chicken – A simple technique that guarantees irresistibly crispy skin and juicy meat.
- Smoked Chicken Breast – Tender chicken breasts thanks to simple seasonings and a smoker.
- Instant Pot Whole Chicken – The easiest way to cook the entire bird for weeknight dinners.
- Bacon Wrapped Chicken Breast – Because everything’s better with bacon!
Cornish Hen Recipe
- 1 cornish hen 1 1/2 pounds approx.
- 2 sprigs fresh Rosemary
- 2 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 small lemon sliced
- 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
- Preheat oven to 210C/425F.
- Make the dry rub; combine the dry rub ingredients in a small bowl.
- Pat dry the Cornish hen and generously season with the prepared spice rub.
- Add rosemary, thyme, and lemon slices into a roasting pan. Add the Cornish hen to the roasting dish and drizzle it with olive oil.
- Roast the Cornish hen for 1 hour or until the thickest part reaches 165F.
- Remove the Cornish hen from the oven and let it rest for 20 minutes before serving.
Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links. I may earn a small commission for my endorsement, recommendation, testimonial, and/or link to any products or services from this website.