The Best, Easy Roasted Cornish Hens
Slow roasted juicy cornish hens pair perfectly with carrots, fingerling potatoes and onions all in a delicious chicken broth coated with butter and lots of great spices. These adorable little cornish hens add the perfect touch of elegance to your next dinner and are so deceptively easy to make. They are easy to prepare and go so well with vegetables for a hearty but healthy and gourmet dinner.
Inspiration and thoughts
This recipe is again, of course, inspired by mom! My mom makes the best cornish hens, and she taught me the best way to cook them. She often prepares them in the morning to take to work or to have ready for dinner after. Every time I make these I call her up before I start and make sure I have my recipe and cook time down. She gives me tips and makes sure it is Mom-approved, and I usually video call her too so she can see how it’s going! She always helps me with this recipe and I don’t know what I’d do without her (thanks mom!).
I have made these cornish hens so many times and every time I serve them my guests or family loves them (and most people wont admit it, but they can eat the whole hen!). I usually serve these for my boyfriend, Eli, for date nights (see the adorable photo of him below I took when I made these for him recently!), or for friends at dinner parties. This year, with Thanksgivings for many probably becoming downsized, these cornish hens are a great alternative to a turkey and taste just as delicious! Much easier to prepare and less time to cook too.
Cornish hens, or cornish game hens, are a type of chicken, and actually look like little chickens. I always serve them stuffed and portion for one per person. It’s a large meal, but very delicious and filling! I did stuff them in the pictures you see here, but my recipe doesn’t add the stuffing. There are so many types of stuffing and I like to switch them up, so this recipe is just for how to cook the hens and prepare the vegetables with it. You also don’t have to stuff them – they are perfectly delicious if you stuff them with lemon slices, garlic, and herbs instead of a traditional stuffing. The stuffing pictured is actually a sourdough stuffing with garlic, onions, mushrooms, celery and lots of herbs, but I don’t usually use this one. My favorite stuffing, and a traditional one in my family, is a rice and vermicelli stuffing with beef and allspice. It is so good.
For this recipe, all you have to do is prep the hens, add the veggies and broth, butter and spice everything up, and roast! The perfect dinner for a special day or holiday, or just for any fabulous night in my book!
How it’s made
This recipe might look daunting, but I promise it isn’t! I like to buy cornish hens frozen and thaw then in the fridge a few days before I cook them. You can definitely use fresh, or if you buy them frozen the day you want to make them just try to thaw them in cold water in the morning and make sure they are fully thawed by dinner time.
My first step is to clean out the hens and make sure the gizzards are removed. I also like to snip the tips of the wings, cut the tail, and remove excess fat near the opening of the cavity. Then dry the hens to make sure there isn’t any excess moisture. Next is the butter. Cut the butter into thin slivers. With clean hands, slide the butter under the skin of the hens all around. This will make the meat nice and juicy and add extra flavor. I like to move up the skin with my fingers first to open it up a bit before I go in with the butter.
Add lemon slices and garlic to the cavity and place the hens in a deep baking dish, about 9×13 inches is great. Then add the veggies all around the hens and add the chicken broth. Melt the last of the butter and pour it over the top of the hens. Lastly, generously sprinkle the tops of the hens with all of the delicious spices: garlic powder, salt, pepper, paprika, thyme, and allspice. See the photo below for how it looks right before the oven:
Cover with foil and pop that into the oven at 375 F for 1 hour to slow roast them. After 1 hour, turn up the oven temperature to 400 F, remove the foil, and cook the hens uncovered for another 30 minutes. This will brown the cornish hens and allow for a cripsy skin and deliciously golden brown color over the juicy meat inside.
When they’re done, serve one cornish hen per person on large plates. Generously add veggies to the plate and pour the chicken broth over everything. Serve and enjoy!
The Best, Easy Roasted Cornish Hens
- 2 cornish hens if frozen, thawed completely (also see notes!)
- 3 cups chicken broth
- 3 tablespoons butter cut into thin slices
- 3 large carrots washed and chopped into bite sized pieces
- 1/2 lb petite fingerling potatoes cut into bit sized pieces
- 1 small brown onion chopped
- 1 lemon cut into slices
- 6 garlic cloves chopped roughly
Spices to sprinkle over the top of the hens and on the veggies
- salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika, allspice, thyme
- Preheat the oven to 375F and prepare a deep oven pan, about 9x13 inches.
- To prepare the cornish hens, dry them with a paper towel first. Using your fingers, add 2 1/2 tablespoons of the butter slices under the skin over the breast and leg meat. Place each cornish hen into the pan, one after the other. To the inside cavity of each hen add the lemon slices and one clove of garlic to each one.
- After you've chopped the onion, peeled the carrots, and washed the potatoes, add these and the other garlic cloves to the pan all around the hens. Pour the chicken broth over the hens and onto the vegetables and all around the pan. Melt the last bit of butter and pour it over top of the hens and add all of the spices generously to the top skin of each hen all over, and to the vegetables.
- Cover the hens with foil and bake for 1 hour at 375 F. Move up the oven temperature to 400F and remove the foil and continue to bake uncovered for 30 minutes to get that perfect golden brown color. Serve and enjoy!