These Roasted Cornish Hens will be your new favorite recipe for romantic date nights or to impress dinner party guests. They’re simple, elegant, and turn out perfectly every time with my easy step-by-step instructions.

two roasted cornish hens in a roasting pan garnished with rosemary and lemons

Whenever I come across beautiful Cornish hens like these, I just can’t help myself but buy a few. They’re just as easy to roast as a chicken, but the serving is even easier. All you have to do is slice them hen in half, and voila! you have 2 servings ready to go without any messy carving.

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These hens are very easy to customize and switch up the seasoning, as well. I think after all these years of roasting chickens and Cornish hens I’ve perfected this as my absolute favorite seasoning. It’s fresh, herby, citrusy, laid over aromatics, and a touch smoky.

What are Cornish Hens?

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Cornish hens are simply a particular breed of chicken. Sometimes referred to as Cornish game hens as well, this variety of chicken is much smaller than the standard chickens we usually see sold in grocery stores. They are typically 1 – 2 lbs each. The flavor isn’t much different than a regular chicken, either. They are an easy-to-serve variety of whole chicken that will allow each diner to have a full breast and leg with that delicious skin intact.

overhead shots of ingredients needed to make cornish hens

Ingredients

Get ready for the most flavorful Cornish hens you’ve ever tried. Keep scrolling for the full recipe ingredient amounts.

  • Cornish hens – Mine were about 1.5 pounds each.
  • Fresh herbs – I used rosemary and thyme.
  • Onion & garlic – This is what we will use as a bed for our hens in the roasting pan like an au naturale roasting rack. Add more or less as you prefer!
  • Lemon – I prefer to lay my lemon slices in the pan rather than on top of the chicken to keep the skin crispy.
  • Olive oil – Other oils that would work are avocado, safflower, sunflower, or vegetable.
  • Salt & pepper – Use as much or as little as you prefer.
  • Italian seasoning – Make sure to find a no salt added mix. Otherwise, add less salt to the dry rub.
  • Smoked paprika – This is my secret weapon in the kitchen! It packs so much more amazing flavor versus regular paprika.
  • Red pepper flakes – You can use more, less, or none depending on your preference.
process shots showing how to cook cornish hens

How to Roast Cornish Hens

  1. Prep the hens: Combine all the dry rub ingredients in a small bowl. Dry the hens with paper towel, and season generously with the dry rub both inside and out.
  2. Prep the roasting pan: Preheat the oven to 425F. Add the fresh herbs, garlic, onion, and half the lemon slices to the roasting pan. Place the hens in the roasting pan over the bed of ingredients and drizzle olive oil all over the hens.
  3. Roast the hens: Roast, uncovered, for 50 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer registers 165F in the thickest part of the breast. Let the hens rest for 20 minutes and serve with remaining lemon slices. Garnish with fresh herbs if you have any leftover.

How to serve

While you can serve these whole, as in, each person gets their own roasted Cornish hen, it is quite a lot of meat for a single serving, especially if your hens are closer to the 2 pound mark. I like to cut them in half after they’ve rested and serve each person half a hen.

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To cut them in half, get yourself a nice and sharp long knife. A cleaver will work as well or my favorite a good pair of kitchen shears. Start slicing between the breasts and with steady and intentional force, use slicing motions until you’ve cut all the way through. That’s it! now you are ready to serve. Save those delicious pan drippings and drizzle over the meat.

overhead shot of roasted cornish hens in a roasting pan garnished with rosemary or lemon slices

What to Serve With Roasted Cornish Hens

As with chicken, Roasted Cornish hens will go with just about any sides you’re craving. I served mine with some creamy mashed potatoes, but give these ideas a try!

Veggies

  • Garlic Herb Roasted Carrots
  • Roasted Green Beans
  • Skillet Green Beans
  • Parmesan Roasted Broccoli
  • Garlic Parmesan Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Potatoes

  • Thyme Skillet Potatoes
  • Rosemary Smashed Potatoes
  • Potatoes au Gratin
  • Cheesy Mashed Potatoes with Bacon and Chives
  • Garlic Herb Red Potato Salad

Homemade Bread

  • No Knead Bread
  • Butter Biscuits
  • Best Ever Dinner Crescents
  • Honey Rolls
  • Hawaiian Sweet Rolls

Salads

  • Kale and Quinoa Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette
  • Avocado Cucumber Salad
  • Creamy Cucumber Salad
  • Mexican Street Corn Salad
  • Mediterranean Coucous Salad
half a cornish hen with mashed potatoes, pan juice and garnished with rosemary and lemon slices

Some tips

  1. Use your hands to make sure the dry rub is coating every inch of your hens.
  2. Get yourself a digital instant-read thermometer to check the doneness of your hens. This will avoid the guesswork, over/under cooking, or slicing into the hens to check and losing all those juices.
  3. Want extra crispy skin? Sprinkle some salt over your hens 12-24 hours before you need to roast them. Pat the excess moisture and salt off before adding the dry rub.
  4. Feel free to play with the amounts called for in the dry rub to make it your own.
  5. Stuff the hens with some onion, herbs, and/or lemon wedges if you have extra that needs to be used up.
  6. Save those pan drippings of your roasted Cornish hens and drizzle over the meat when serving. It’s so good!

Leftovers

Your leftover roasted Cornish hens will last 3-4 days in the fridge or 1-3 months in the freezer. It reheats very well in the microwave. You can also keep some of the pan drippings and reheat the chicken in a skillet with the drippings to prevent it from drying out.

You can also use your leftover chicken to make some fantastic salads like these:

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  • Asian Chopped Chicken Salad
  • The Best Chicken Salad
  • Mexican Chicken and Rice Salad
  • Waldorf Salad
roasted cornish hen 1 2 5

Did You Love This Recipe? Try These:

  • Roast Chicken
  • Moroccan Style Roast Chicken and Potatoes
  • Lemon Roast Garlic Chicken Legs
  • Garlic and Paprika Chicken
  • Baked Chicken Breast
  • Spatchcock Chicken
  • Pressure Cooker Whole Chicken

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