Cornish Hens with Citrus Glaze (Easy + Impressive!)

This Cornish Hen Recipe is an easy yet impressive dinner of roasted Cornish hens in a sweet and tangy citrus glaze, bursting with flavors of fresh orange and lime. Serve each guest their own beautiful and delicious Cornish hen for a special occasion or holiday meal!

Cornish Hens with Citrus Glaze with text overlay.


 

'Tis the season for holiday menus! And whether you're already planning for Thanksgiving or thinking ahead to Christmas or New Year's, this simple yet delectable Cornish hen recipe would be a delightful addition to any special occasion menu.

There's something so special and fancy about Cornish hens, but the truth is, cooking a Cornish hen (or eight) couldn't be any easier. These Cornish Hens with Citrus Glaze are oven-roasted and then finished off with a sticky, savory-sweet, orange and lime juice-infused glaze. As a bonus, the final result is as beautiful as it is delicious!

Cornish hen with mashed potatoes and asparagus on plate.

Why Make Cornish Hens

Cornish hens are a perfect main course to make any dinner feel special. Whether you're hosting a dinner party or holiday meal or just putting together a special occasion dinner for your own family, the lovely presentation yet simple preparation of a Cornish hen recipe is hard to beat!

Since Cornish hens are younger than full-sized chickens, their meat is more tender and succulent. They are readily infused with flavor and take very little time to prep, and because of their small size, they also cook more quickly and yield perfectly crispy skin. What's not to love?

Ingredients

So what do you need to make this easy-yet-impressive Cornish hen recipe?

Labeled ingredients to make Cornish hen recipe with citrus glaze.
  • Cornish hens. Their packaging may also refer to them as Cornish game hens...same thing! You will typically find them in the freezer case near the turkeys. I prefer an ideal size of around 1 ¼ to 1 ½ pounds each. I like to serve each dinner guest his or her very own personal hen, and this size seems appropriate. That being said, you can certainly split a hen for two servings, particularly if your hens are on the larger end.
  • Extra-virgin olive oil. Brushing this all over the skin allows it to brown and crisp during roasting.
  • Salt + freshly ground black pepper. To generously season the birds.
  • Honey, soy sauce, orange juice, + lime juice. These ingredients combine to form the scrumptious citrus glaze. Fresh-squeezed orange juice and lime juice are highly recommended, but if you don't have fresh citrus on hand, try to find a pure bottled juice with no added ingredients.
  • Cornstarch + water. These combine to form a slurry which is used to thicken the glaze into glossy gorgeousness.
Cornish hen on plate with sides and additional Cornish hens on platter in background.

How to Cook Cornish Hens

(The below photos are intended to be helpful, but please refer to the recipe card at the bottom of this post for FULL DIRECTIONS.)

I realize that cooking a Cornish hen may seem intimidating, but I promise that it doesn't need to be!

  1. Preheat the oven and pat your Cornish hens dry with paper towels. Brush the skin of each hen with EVOO and generously sprinkle with salt and pepper, inside and out.
  2. Place the hens -- breast sides up -- on a rack in a large roasting pan. Tuck the wings under so that they don't burn and tie together (AKA, truss) the legs.
Cornish hens in baking pan.
  1. Roast for about an hour or until the hens register 165°F on an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat without touching the bone. Hens around 1 ¼ to 1 ½ pounds will probably take anywhere from 50 to 70 minutes to cook, so start checking before the 1 hour mark. On the other hand, if your Cornish hens are starting to get too brown before they are cooked through, you'll want to tent the roasting pan with foil.
Roasted Cornish hens in baking pan.
  1. Just before the Cornish hens are done, combine the honey, soy sauce, orange juice, and lime juice in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally.
Citrus glaze in pot.
  1. In a small bowl, stir the cornstarch and water with a fork until smooth. Whisk the sauce continuously while slowly pouring in the cornstarch slurry.
Adding cornstarch slurry to thicken glaze.
  1. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the glaze is thick and glossy. Remove from the heat and cover the saucepan to keep the glaze warm.
Citrus glaze for Cornish hen recipe.
  1. When the hens are cooked through, remove them from the oven, adjust the oven rack to a position 6 inches below the heating element, and preheat the broiler. Thickly coat each hen with citrus glaze and broil for a couple minutes, carefully watching the entire time, until the glaze is bubbly.
  2. Allow the hens to rest for 10 minutes and serve with the remaining glaze on the side.
Platter displaying Cornish hen recipe.

What to Serve with a Cornish Hen

The sweet and tangy citrus glaze on these Cornish hens complements a variety of simple sides. A few ideas:

Slicing into Cornish hen on plate.

Tips, Tricks, & Special Equipment

  • Since Cornish hens are typically sold frozen, make sure you allow enough time for them to fully thaw before roasting. I transfer them from the freezer to the fridge a full 24 hours before I want to cook them. Once your hens are thawed, you need to cook them within two days.
  • To quickly thaw a Cornish hen, leave it sealed/wrapped and put it in a bowl of cool water for about 1 ½ hours, changing the water every 30 minutes.
  • If your Cornish hens come with bags of giblets in their cavities, be sure to remove before preparing the hens.
  • Make sure your roasting pan is large enough to allow space between the hens for air circulation. This will result in crispier skin.
  • If desired, you can cut a lime and a mandarin orange into quarters and stuff the cavity of each hen with a slice of lime and a slice of orange before roasting.
  • If your Cornish hens are smaller than 1 ¼ lb. each, check for doneness sooner. On the other hand, very large hens may take longer to cook.
Cornish hen recipe showing close-up of glaze.

So have I convinced you to give this Cornish hen recipe a try? It's easy to make, impressive to serve, and the tangy citrus glaze is finger-lickin' good.

Dazzle guests, make a holiday meal memorable, or pamper your family...everyone will love Cornish Hens with Citrus Glaze!

More Holiday-Worthy Main Courses

Cornish hen recipe with citrus glaze on platter.

Cornish Hens with Citrus Glaze (Easy + Impressive!)

This Cornish Hen Recipe is an easy yet impressive dinner of roasted Cornish hens in a sweet and tangy citrus glaze bursting with flavors of fresh orange and lime. Serve each guest their own beautiful and delicious Cornish hen for a special holiday meal!
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Resting Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 862kcal
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Ingredients

  • 4 Cornish game hens, 1 ¼ to 1 ½ lbs. each, completely thawed
  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Salt + freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • ¾ cup honey
  • cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • cup orange juice, freshly squeezed recommended
  • ¼ cup lime juice, freshly squeezed recommended
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch + 3 tablespoons water

Instructions

  • Adjust a rack to the center position of the oven and preheat the oven to 425°F.
  • Pat the Cornish hens dry with paper towels and brush the skin of each hen with extra-virgin olive oil (1 T. per hen). Generously sprinkle the Cornish hens with salt and pepper, inside and out. Place the hens (breast sides up) on a rack in a large roasting pan, ensuring that there is space between the hens for air circulation. Tuck the wings under and truss (tie together) the legs.
  • Roast for 50 to 70 minutes until the juices run clear and the hens register 165°F on an instant-read thermometer (inserted into the thickest part of the meat without touching the bone). Keep an eye on the hens towards the end of the cooking time, and if they are getting too brown before they reach temperature, you may tent the roasting pan with foil.
  • Just before the hens are done, combine the honey, soy sauce, orange juice, and lime juice in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally. In a small bowl, mix the cornstarch and water with a fork until smooth. Whisk the sauce continuously while slowly pouring in the cornstarch slurry. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the glaze is thick and glossy. Remove from the heat and cover the saucepan to keep the glaze warm.
  • When the hens are cooked through, remove them from the oven, adjust the oven rack to a position 6 inches below the heating element, and preheat the broiler. Thickly coat each hen with citrus glaze and broil for a couple minutes, carefully watching the entire time, until the glaze is bubbly. Allow the hens to rest for 10 minutes and serve with the remaining glaze on the side.

Notes

  • Make sure Cornish hens are fully thawed before roasting by transferring them from the freezer to the fridge a full 24 hours before cooking. Once hens are thawed, cook them within two days.
  • To quickly thaw a Cornish hen, leave it sealed/wrapped and put it in a bowl of cool water for about 1 ½ hours, changing the water every 30 minutes.
  • If your Cornish hens contain giblets, be sure to remove them before preparing the hens.
  • Make sure your roasting pan is large enough to allow space between the hens for air circulation. This will result in crispier skin.
  • If desired, you can cut a lime and a mandarin orange into quarters and stuff the cavity of each hen with a slice of lime and a slice of orange before roasting.
  • If your Cornish hens are smaller than 1 ¼ lb. each, check for doneness sooner. On the other hand, very large hens may take longer to cook.

Nutrition

Calories: 862kcal | Carbohydrates: 62g | Protein: 45g | Fat: 49g | Saturated Fat: 12g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 9g | Monounsaturated Fat: 25g | Trans Fat: 0.2g | Cholesterol: 174mg | Sodium: 931mg | Potassium: 604mg | Fiber: 0.4g | Sugar: 54g | Vitamin A: 373IU | Vitamin C: 19mg | Calcium: 40mg | Iron: 3mg
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3 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    We only had a few people for Thanksgiving so I didn't want to make a whole turkey. Wow, these turned out perfect! This was my first time making Cornish hens and it was much easier than I thought. We all thought the glaze put this recipe over the top!

  2. 5 stars
    These were easy and impressive! We loved the sweet and tangy citrus glaze. Can't wait to make it again over the holidays.

  3. 5 stars
    Wow, this was much easier to make than I thought it would be! The cornish hens turned out perfectly for me and the glaze was SO delicious!! Thank you for sharing this recipe!