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Fancy and baked to crispy perfection these cornish hens will be the star of the show. Not only are they insanely delicious but they are so simple to make!

If you want to turn this into a full-on feast then you should cook these up with some sides like potatoes, salad, and carrots. They will complement these hens perfectly!

Cooked cornish hens in a baking dish with garnish.

Cornish Game Hens

Cornish game hens are similar to roasted chicken. They are a hearty and filling dinner that looks super fancy. And… the best part about them is that, unlike a turkey, they only take a few minutes to prep and cook! But they still pack a punch when it comes to looks and flavor. These cornish hens will deliver on everything and take your meal to the next level!

So now that you know that they are hearty and taste delicious, what exactly are cornish game hens? So this particular meat is just a smaller breed of chicken. Instead of weighing 4-6 lbs when fully grown, they mature at about 2 lbs. Because they are so much smaller, it makes them easier to prepare and cook! Plus the meat on cornish hens is super tender which is what makes them taste extra good!

Ingredients for Cornish Hens

Don’t let the fancy name hold you back from cooking up these bad boys. They are so easy and delicious, anyone can make them! See the recipe card at the bottom of the post for exact measurements.

  • Cornish game hens: You can find these in the freezer section near the frozen turkeys in your local grocery store. Try to find ones that are about 1.5 lbs each.
  • Lemon: The lemon slices will help add a bright and fresh flavor.
  • Onion: Bringing in that savory flavor, these onions really add to the delicious taste.
  • Garlic cloves: Make sure to peel your garlic cloves before adding them to your hens!
  • Rosemary and Thyme stems: These bring in that earthy flavor that is often used as in meat rubs.
  • Olive oil: These are used as the base of the rub to make all of the seasonings stick to the hens.
  • Dried Italian herbs: The first part of the rub. These flavors are classic.
  • Garlic powder and onion powder: Adding these in to the Italian herbs, these add a stronger flavor.
  • Kosher salt and Pepper: Use these to your liking!
  • Garnish ideas: You can use fresh lemon slices, fresh rosemary, fresh thyme, fresh parsley

How to Cook Cornish Hens

These hens are easy to prep and fast to cook. They are SOO GOOD and will be worth any time you spend cooking them!

  1. Preheat oven: Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Add lemon, onion and stems: Slice the lemon and onion, and place in the bottom of a 13X9 baking dish. Add the garlic, rosemary stems, and thyme stems. Set aside while you prepare the hens.
  3. Dry hens: Remove the hens from the packaging, and pat dry with paper towels.
  4. Tie legs: Tie the legs of the hens together using kitchen twine.
  5. Rub on olive oil: Rub 1 tablespoon of olive oil on each hen. Using your hands, rub generously all over the hen.
  6. Combine seasonings and rub on hens: In a small bowl, combine the Italian seasoning, garlic powder, dried herbs, and salt and pepper. Sprinkle liberally all over the hens.
  7. Add hens: Place the hens on top of the lemons and onions in the prepared dish.
  8. Bake: Bake about 45 minutes, or until the internal temperature reads 165°F. If the skin of the hens starts to darken, you can cover them with foil.
  9. Let them rest: Allow the hens to rest for 5 minutes before serving. To serve, cut hens in half. Each hen will serve 2 people. Serve with pan drippings, delicious sides, and fresh lemon and herbs to garnish.
4 pictures showing how to tie, rub and prepare a cornish hen.

Cooking Tips

These Cornish hens are incredibly delicious and full of flavor! I’ve come up with a few tips that will help yours turn out perfectly.

  • When are they safe to eat? You are looking for the hens to reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees F before they are safe to eat. You can use a in-oven meat thermometer that you can keep an eye on while its cooking. Or, you can stick a meat thermometer in it after you have taken them out of the oven. The best place to check the temperature will be in the thickest part of the breast.
  • Add some salt: To get the most flavor out of your cornish hens then you can rub some salt on the inside of the hen’s cavity. This helps draw out the moisture and makes the meat super tender and juicy.
  • Let them rest: The most important part when cooking meat in the oven is to let it rest! After you take these out of the oven, don’t cut into them right away. Let them sit for about 10 minutes. When you let meat rest, you give it time to absorb all of the juices it made while cooking. This is the easiest and best way to ensure that your meat doesn’t turn out dry. Don’t skip this step!
A cooked cornish hen on a plate with some mashed potatoes.

How to Store Leftovers

Leftover Cornish hens are so delicious! So if you are lucky enough to have some then once they are done cooling, put them in an airtight container and place them in your fridge. They will last up to 3 days.

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Cornish Game Hens

By: Alyssa Rivers
Fancy and baked to crispy perfection these cornish hens will be the star of the show. Not only are they insanely delicious but they are so simple to make!
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Servings: 6 people

Ingredients 

  • 3 Cornish game hens (approx 1.5 lbs each) thawed
  • 1 lemon, sliced
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 4 whole garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 fresh rosemary stems
  • 2 fresh thyme stems
  • 3 Tablespoon olive oil, divided
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian herbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper

Garnish Ideas:

Instructions 

  • Preheat oven to 400°F.
  • Slice the lemon and onion, and place in the bottom of a 13X9 baking dish. Add the garlic, rosemary stems, and thyme stems. Set aside while you prepare the hens.
  • Remove the hens from the packaging, and pat dry with paper towels.
  • Tie the legs of the hens together using kitchen twine.
  • Rub 1 tablespoon of olive oil on each hen. Using your hands, rub generously all over the hen.
  • In a small bowl, combine the Italian seasoning, garlic powder, dried herbs, and salt and pepper. Sprinkle liberally all over the hens.
  • Place the hens on top of the lemons and onions in the prepared dish.
  • Bake for about 45 minutes, or until the internal temperature reads 165°F. If the skin of the hens starts to darken, you can cover them with foil.
  • Allow the hens to rest for 5 minutes before serving. To serve, cut hens in half. Each hen will serve 2 people. Serve with pan drippings, delicious sides, and fresh lemon and herbs to garnish.

Nutrition

Calories: 528kcalCarbohydrates: 4gProtein: 39gFat: 39gSaturated Fat: 10gPolyunsaturated Fat: 7gMonounsaturated Fat: 19gCholesterol: 227mgSodium: 914mgPotassium: 596mgFiber: 1gSugar: 1gVitamin A: 255IUVitamin C: 12mgCalcium: 42mgIron: 2mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Additional Info

Course: Dinner
Cuisine: American
Tried this recipe?Mention @alyssa_therecipecritic or tag #therecipecritic!

About Alyssa Rivers

Alyssa Rivers is the author of 'The Tried and True Cookbook', a professional food photographer and experienced recipe-developer. Having a passion for cooking, her tried and true recipes have been featured on Good Morning America, Today Food, Buzzfeed and more.

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4 Comments

  1. Cornish game hens are not a small breed of chicken, they are a large meat breed of chicken, that has been butchered at a much younger age. Cornish cross chickens mature at 6-8 weeks… to prepare Cornish game hens, you butcher the same chickens at approximately 4 weeks. Just FYI, we once thought they were a special breed, but learned otherwise. We have raised our own meat chickens for years, and this year are doing several early, to raise our own game ‘hens”

  2. This looks so good and I plan to try for Christmas! When you mention “dried herbs” as part of the mixture; what does it consist of? Thank you.