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)
137 Calories
8g Fat
5g Carbs
11g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 3 to 6
Amount per serving
Calories 137
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 8g 11%
Saturated Fat 2g 11%
Cholesterol 56mg 19%
Sodium 385mg 17%
Total Carbohydrate 5g 2%
Dietary Fiber 1g 5%
Total Sugars 2g
Protein 11g
Vitamin C 3mg 15%
Calcium 31mg 2%
Iron 1mg 6%
Potassium 221mg 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, rinsed

  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled

  • 2 shallots, peeled and quartered

  • 3 large sprigs fresh rosemary

  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons coarse-grain mustard

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

  • 2 teaspoons fines herbes

  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika

  • 1 teaspoon fennel seed, crushed

  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

  2. Preheat oven to 350 F. Place 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.

  3. Rub 1/2 teaspoon salt into the cavity of each hen.

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

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

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.