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Published November 17, 2023. This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.
This Cornish Hen Recipe is coated in a garlic and herb rub and roasted until golden brown for the perfect main entrée for any occasion. I love the simplicity of preparing these and their beautiful flavors.
Cornish hens, also known as Cornish game hens, cross between a Cornish and white rock chicken. They are younger chickens, usually 4 to 6 weeks old, and weigh around 1 to 2 ½ pounds. They are small enough to feed 1 person after all the meat is carved from the bones.
These Cornish hens are best roasted at high temperatures in the oven for flavor and ease. There are many ways to enhance the flavor of these by stuffing them or coating them in a dry rub seasoning. I like to serve these for small-gathering holidays or special events when I don’t want to cook a whole turkey.
Ingredients and Substitutions
- Cornish Hens – You will need two frozen-thawed or fresh Cornish game hens. Each one roughly weighs 1.25 to 1.5 pounds. You will not use the giblets in this recipe if they happen to come with them.
- Oil – Olive or avocado oil works best for this.
- Herbs – I use a combination of fresh rosemary and thyme. You can substitute with dry rosemary and thyme 1 for 1. Feel free to use all thyme or all rosemary.
- Seasonings – Coarse salt, fresh cracked pepper, and paprika were used to help flavor the hens. You can use regular, sweet, or smoked paprika.
- Garlic – A few finely minced cloves are used in the rub to help enhance the flavor of the hens.
- Lemon – I used some lemon zest in the seasoning and herb rub.
How to Make a Cornish Hen
Pat the hens dry inside the cavity and on the outside with paper towels. Set them aside.
Mix the garlic, lemon zest, rosemary, thyme, paprika, salt, pepper, and oil in a medium-sized bowl until combined.
Evenly divide the garlic and herb rub between the hens and coat them on all sides and in the cavity.
Tuck the wings behind the hen and tie the drums together using butcher’s twine.
Transfer them to a roasting pan on a rack, and using a spatula, scrape all the remaining herb and garlic oil rub onto the top of the hens.
Bake in the oven on a lower rack at 425° for 50-60 minutes or until the thickest part of the breast reads 163° to 165°.
Remove the game hens and rest for 2 to 3 minutes.
Make-Ahead and Storage
Make-Ahead: This recipe is best when eaten as soon as it’s done cooking. However, keep this warm in a pan covered in the oven at low temperatures (<200°) for up to 30 minutes before serving.
How to Store: Cover the Cornish hens in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. This will freeze well-covered for up to 3 months. Thaw for 1 day in the refrigerator or until thawed before using.
How to Reheat: Place the Cornish game hens in a pan with ½ cup of water. Cover with foil and bake in the oven at 350° for 15-20 minutes or until hot.
Chef Notes + Tips
- To boost the flavor, use the brine in my best-fried chicken recipe.
- You can customize these Cornish hens by adding a zesty rub like in my BBQ Rub, Southwest Rub, or Cajun Rub.
- Remember to remove the butcher’s twine from the game hens before serving.
- Add one roughly chopped yellow onion, 2 roughly chopped carrots, and 2 roughly chopped celery ribs to the roasting pot with the hens to make it more aromatic.
More Chicken Recipes
Cornish Hen Recipe
- 2 thawed Cornish Hens
- 1 finely grated garlic clove
- zest of 1 lemon
- 2 teaspoons finely minced fresh rosemary
- 2 teaspoons finely minced fresh thyme
- 1 teaspoon regular paprika
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons coarse salt
- ½ teaspoon ground pepper
- Preheat the oven to 425°.
- Pat the hens dry inside the cavity and on the outside with paper towels. Set them aside.
- In a medium-sized bowl, mix together the garlic, lemon zest, rosemary, thyme, paprika, salt, pepper, and oil until combined.
- Evenly divide the garlic and herb rub between the hens and coat them on all sides and in the cavity.
- Tuck the wings behind the hen and tie the drums together using butcher’s twine.
- Transfer them to a roasting pan on a rack, and using a spatula scrape all the remaining herb and garlic oil rub onto the top of the hens.
- Bake in the oven on a lower rack at 425° for 50-60 minutes or until the thickest part of the breast reads 163° to 165°.
- Remove the game hens and rest for 2 to 3 minutes.
- Cut the hens in half along with the spice, or serve them whole with optional garnishes of lemons, fresh rosemary, and thyme.