Air Fryer Cornish Hens are the perfect way to cook Cornish Game Hens. These little chickens are super easy to cook and they come out tender and juicy with a beautiful crispy skin.
What is a Cornish hen?
Cornish game hens, (sometimes call Rock Cornish game hens), are simply very small chickens. The little birds are raised on farms and in spite of the name, are not a game bird, so they don't have a gamey taste. They taste the same as regular chicken.
Why Air Fry Cornish Hens?
- Easy: This Cornish game hen recipe is a great option when you're craving roast chicken but don't have time.
- Perfect size: You can air fry a whole chicken. However, these miniature chickens are a perfect size for serving just one or two people.
- Fast: Because of their small size, cooking a game hen is much faster than cooking a whole chicken. The high heat of the air fryer means the hens cook quickly, so you get perfect crispy skin and tender and juicy meat inside.
- Versatile: This easy air fryer recipe is so simple and easy. It's a perfect dinner for a
- a special occasion, a holiday dinner or a weeknight dinner. Or you can use this easy recipe as mini rotisserie chickens for making other delicious meals, like my chicken minestrone soup, chicken enchiladas or white chicken chili.
Ingredients You'll Need
- Cornish Game Hen A two pound hen will serve two people, or one person with leftovers. You will usually find them in the freezer section of your grocery store.
- Oil Avocado oil is my favorite for air frying. It has a neutral flavor and a high smoke point. You can also use olive oil.
- Seasonings This recipe uses rosemary, thyme and sage, along with salt and pepper. You can also use a poultry seasoning blend, a chicken spice blend, Italian seasoning, lemon pepper, garlic powder, or just your favorite seasonings.
Full instructions are in the recipe card below.
- In a small bowl, combine oil and seasonings
- Pat the Cornish hen dry with paper towels before rubbing the seasoning mixture over the entire hen.
- Place the bird, breast side down, in the preheated air fryer basket.
- Flip breast side up after 25 minutes. Continue to cook a further 15 minutes to achieve super crispy skin.
How to Thaw Cornish Hens
Most of the time Cornish hens are sold frozen so you'll need to plan ahead for defrosting time. They should be completely thawed before cooking.
Never thaw poultry at room temperature, which can allow dangerous bacteria to grow. Don't thaw the hen in the microwave. The bird won't thaw evenly and could start to cook before completely thawing.
Thaw in Fridge
The fridge is the best way, and the safest way to thaw a frozen hen. Thaw them in their packaging, in the fridge for 1-2 days, depending on the size of the birds.
Thaw in Water Bath
You can also thaw the bird in water. Submerge the frozen hen, still in its packaging, in a large bowl or sink filled with cold water. Change the water every half hour until completely thawed.
- Breast side down: Start off cooking the hen breast side down. This ensures that the white meat doesn't dry out, resulting in a juicy air fryer Cornish hen.
- Rest: Allow the cooked hen to rest for 10 minutes before slicing or splitting. The resting period is important so that the juices are redistributed throughout the meat.
- Thermometer: Poultry should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165°. Use a meat thermometer to check.
- Cook time: The cooking time for this air fryer Cornish hen recipe is for an approximately 2 pound hen. If you have a larger or smaller bird, the time will need to be adjusted. Use an instant read thermometer to be sure.
- Air fryer size: If you have a larger air fryer, or smaller birds, you can cook two hens at once. My air fryer is 6 quarts and has room for one 2 pound bird or 2 smaller ones.
- Fresh herbs: If you prefer to use fresh herbs for this air fryer Cornish hen recipe, put them in a blender, or mash them with a mortar and pestle before combining them with oil. This keeps the herbs on the food rather than blowing around in the air fryer.
- Leftovers: Store leftover Cornish hens in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
- Freezing: To freeze, remove the meat from the bones and store it in an airtight container or freezer bag for up to three months. For safe freezing guidelines, see Can You Refreeze Chicken?
- Reheat: The best way to reheat the roasted cornish hen is to use the air fryer. This will ensure you'll still have crispy Cornish hens. Heat at 400° for 4-5 minutes for a hen that's still on the bone.
How to Serve Cornish Hens
If you have a 2 pound hen, you can split it with a sharp knife (after resting) for two servings. Smaller birds can be served as a whole Cornish hen.
What to Serve With Cornish Hens
Any of your favorite side dishes that you would serve with regular chicken will work equally well with Cornish hens. Try a salad, like my Classic Potato Salad, or Mediterranean Buckwheat Salad.
You can find some side dish inspiration if you want to air fry your vegetables, too. Check out 21 Air Fryer Vegetable Recipes. If this easy dinner will be a holiday meal, don't forget the cranberry sauce.
Classic pairings are vegetables like Brown Sugar Roasted Carrots, Honey Roasted Carrots and Parsnips or Sautéed Green Beans. Browse all of my Side Dishes, for lots more ideas.
For best results, the cornish chicken should be completely thawed before cooking. This enables even cooking, which retains the great flavor and crispy skin.
Cornish hens should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165° when a digital meat thermometer is inserted in the thickest part of the bird. (Not touching bone).
You can roast these small chickens in the oven instead. Roast for 45-60 minutes at 400°, or until the internal temperature is 165°
Did you make this recipe? Please leave a rating in the comments below and let us know how it turned out. Did you make any changes? We would love for you to share and your feedback is important! Thank you for visiting The Food Blog!
Air Fryer Cornish Hen
- 1 Cornish Hen 2 pounds
- 1 tablespoon avocado oil or olive oil
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried sage
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- Combine oil, rosemary, thyme, sage, salt and pepper in a small bowl.
- Rub the seasoning mixture over the entire Cornish hen.
- Spray the air fryer basket with cooking spray and preheat to 400°
- Place the bird breast side down and cook for 25 minutes
- Flip the bird over and cook for 15 minutes more, or until a meat thermometer inserted internal temperature inserted into the inner thigh reads 165°
- Remove from the air fryer and allow to rest 10 minutes before splitting or slicing.
- Your Cornish hen should be completely thawed before cooking. Thaw in the refrigerator for 1-2 days, depending on the size of the bird and the temperature of your fridge. You can also thaw the bird in water. Submerge the frozen hen, still in its the packaging, in a bowl or sink filled with cold water. Change the water every half hour until completely thawed.
- Never thaw poultry at room temperature, which can allow dangerous bacteria to grow.
- Don't thaw the hen in the microwave. The bird won't thaw evenly and cook start cooking before completely thawing.
- Start off cooking the hen breast side down to ensure that the breast meat doesn't dry out.
- Allow the cooked hen to rest for 10 minutes before slicing or splitting. The resting period is important so that the juices are redistributed throughout the meat.
- Poultry should be cooked to an internal temperature of 165°. Use a meat thermometer to check.
- The cooking time for this air fryer Cornish hen recipe is for an approximately 2 pound hen. If you have a larger or smaller bird, the cook time will need to be adjusted.
- If you have a larger air fryer, or smaller birds, you can cook two hens at once. My air fryer is 6 quarts and has room for one 2 pound bird or 2 smaller ones.
- If you prefer to use fresh herbs for this air fryer Cornish hen recipe, put them in a blender, or mash them with a mortar and pestle before combining them with oil. This keeps the herbs on the food rather than blowing around in the air fryer.
- Store leftover Cornish hens in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
- To freeze, remove the meat from the bones and store it in an airtight container or freezer bag for up to three months. For safe freezing guidelines, see Can You Refreeze Chicken?
I love these little guys and hadn't even thought about doing them in the air fryer - great idea! I cannot wait to try!
Hi Terri, you'll love how easy it is to roast Cornish hens in the air fryer!
Lauren Michael Harris
Oh I have no had cornish game hens in forever! This recipe looks incredible - I definitely need to pick some up now and add this to next weeks menu!
Hi Lauren, you'll be glad you did! Enjoy!
I found a twin pack of cornish hens at our local grocery store and they were on such a good special, I bought them with no idea what to do with them.
This recipe was perfect, as it cooked so quickly and I didn't have to switch the oven on.
We just had them with bread and slaw. Such an easy meal! YUM!!!
Hi Claire. I'm so happy the Cornish Hens worked out perfectly for you in the air fryer. Thank you for commenting!
I would never have thought about cooking these in the air fryer but such a fabulous idea! It came out so crispy and beautiful...definitely need to try this!
I would love to hear how it turns out for you, Tammy!
Delicious recipe for tender chicken. And I love how it makes the perfect amount for two people! I don't have kids, so a whole regular chicken can make way too much for me.
Hi Asha, Cornish hens are the perfect size for two people. I'm so glad it turned out delicious for you!
Perfect description, truly the hens came out succulently juicy and with crisp skin with winning flavors.
Hi Mikayla, I'm so happy to hear that your Cornish hens came out great. Thanks for your feedback!
These cornish hens make the BEST dinners! They are so easy and simple to make with the perfect amount of seasoning. My new dinner go-to!
I'm so glad to hear this, Kathryn! Your comment is appreciated. 😊