Herby Roasted Cornish Hens

Roasted Cornish game hen with root vegetables
Richard Jung / Getty Images
Prep: 10 mins
Cook: 75 mins
Total: 85 mins
Servings: 3 to 6 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
195 Calories
5g Fat
10g Carbs
28g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 3 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 195
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 5g 6%
Saturated Fat 1g 6%
Cholesterol 117mg 39%
Sodium 550mg 24%
Total Carbohydrate 10g 3%
Dietary Fiber 2g 6%
Protein 28g
Calcium 71mg 5%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

Cornish hens are a British chicken breed that's smaller in size than a regular chicken, usually under two pounds; these birds are sought after by chefs and experienced cooks because of their delicious flavor and texture, but also because of how elegant they look on a plate as their smaller size makes each bird a great one-person serving.

This simple recipe comes courtesy of Chef John Ash from Fetzer Vineyards. Herbs, spices, garlic, shallots, and mustard make these rock Cornish game hens very special and festive.

Independent of the bird size, the safe temperature for the consumption of its cooked meat is still 165 F at the thickest part of the animal, away from fat or bone, so keep in mind that even though the size might call for a shorter cooking time, the inside temperature has to be the same as in a bigger bird.


  • 3 Cornish game hens (livers and gizzards removed and rinsed)
  • 3 whole cloves garlic (peeled)
  • 2 large shallots (peeled and quartered)
  • 3 large sprigs rosemary (fresh)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons mustard (coarse-grained)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons fines herbes
  • 1 teaspoon paprika (sweet)
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seed (crushed)
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper (freshly ground)
  • 3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Preheat the oven to 350 F.

  3. Place the Cornish hens in a large ovenproof baking dish. Place 1 clove garlic, several pieces of shallots, and 1 rosemary sprig into the cavity of each game hen.

  4. Rub 1/2 teaspoon salt into the cavity of the hens.

  5. In a small bowl, combine mustards, fines herbes, paprika, fennel seed, pepper, red pepper flakes, and the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and whisk thoroughly. Coat game hens thoroughly with the mixture.

  6. Place the hens in the preheated oven and roast for 75 minutes. Check the temperature at the thickest part of the thigh, away from the bone, and make sure it's at least 165 F. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes.

  7. Enjoy!

Tips on Cooking Cornish Hens

  • Although Cornish hens are very forgiving and cooking them is very easy, most people prefer butterflying the hens to maximize the crispiness of the skin, and also to reduce the cooking time.
  • By butterflying the hens, you can easily grill them after marinating the birds in any oil-herb mixture.
  • Stuffed Cornish hens make a festive dish. To stuff these little birds, use a traditional Thanksgiving mixture or make your own with rice and mushrooms, wild rice and onions, or bread cubes with seasonings and broth.
  • Because the birds are very lean and small you might want to put tin foil around the legs to prevent them from burning. And if you see the skin browning too fast but the meat not cooking fast enough, cover the birds with tin foil for 20 minutes and check the meat temperature again.