If you haven't tried a cornish game hen, this easy Air Fryer Cornish Game Hens recipe is just what you need to cook these hens like a pro. These hens cook to perfection with crispy skin and juicy, tender meat. This recipe cooks two-game hens in just 30 minutes in your air fryer.
I am still using my air fryer. I love how quickly it cooks meat without drying them out. I decided to try my favorite cooking herbs in this new game hen recipe to see how much flavor can infuse into the meat using an air fryer.
Stuffed with orange, garlic, and fresh herbs. This recipe for roasted Cornish game hens recipe will quickly become a family favorite. If you love game hens, you will also want to try this oven-roasted Bacon-Wrapped Cornish Game Hens recipe.
I am happy to report that the air fryer did a great job cooking the whole hens. Fitting two whole hens in the air fryer was very easy! If you love cornish hens, give these Slow Cooker Cornish Hens or Roasted Cornish Hens recipes a try, too!
If you are trying to decide on what air fryer to get, I have a great list of the best air fryers for gluten free. I include a great pros and cons list for each model.
Why This Recipe is Great:
- There are so many things to love about this easy air fryer cornish hen recipe, but one of my favorites is how quickly you can cook a whole game hen! The air fryer can cook a small thawed (not frozen) then in about 20 minutes!
- Game hens are low-cost and make a great budget meal.
- They have the same delicious roasted flavor as a roasted chicken.
If you love using fresh herbs in cooking as much as I do, you will love these recipes that use fresh herbs. Any of these fresh herbs will taste fantastic in this air-fried cornish hen recipe.
This recipe is gluten-free, soy-free, nut-free, egg-free, and I include a dairy-free option.
- Cornish Game Hens - Usually, these can be found in the frozen meats section at your grocery store, often in a twin pack. Place in the refrigerator for a couple of days before cooking to thaw.
- Butter - Use salted butter. Use plant-based butter for a dairy-free option.
- Oranges - You can use regular oranges or mandarin oranges, as I did.
- Garlic - You can use fresh or minced jarred garlic.
- Herbs - I like to use dried parsley and thyme.
Tips For Sucess:
- Insert a knife under the skin and peel it up gently. Rub the butter herb mixture under the skin. It allows the flavor to cook into the meat.
- Clean the cooked meat off the bones. I use the bones to make bone broth.
I had a smaller 3.4-quart Corsori Air Fryer, but they no longer make the one I own. I am recommending the larger version of the air fryer I have. It frequently goes on sale so keep an eye out for sales!
- 1. The size is great for a family of 4.
- 2. Clean-up is really easy.
- 3. It cooks food really well.
- 1. The baskets are dishwasher safe, but tough to fit in our specific dishwasher model.
How To Cook Cornish Game Hens In The Air Fryer:
Step 1: Add your melted butter, garlic, and seasonings in a bowl and mix it well.
Step 2: Insert half of a mandarin orange into the cavity of each hen and then rub the butter herb mixture both under the skin of the breast area and on top of the skin.
Step 3: Spray oil on the rack of the air fryer. Add both Cornish game hens into the air fryer basket and put it into your air fryer. It is okay if the hens are touching...air fryers are not huge, so don't worry if they slightly touch each other.
Step 4: Set your air fryer to the recommended poultry setting. I cooked my hens for 20 minutes at 375º F for my air fryer.
It is important to check the temperature internally with a meat thermometer. You want them to have an internal temperature of 165º F. If your hens are not done, cook for an additional 10 minutes.
If you love using your air fryer, did you know you can also roast a turkey breast in the air fryer? It is so good!
Oven Baking Directions:
You can easily bake Cornish game hen in the oven.
- Stuff the herbs under the skin as you would if you were cooking them in the air fryer, but place them in a baking dish with the breast up.
- Cover with foil for the first 30 minutes of baking, then remove the foil so the skin can get crispy!
- Bake at 350º F for 45-60 minutes, then use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature.
- You want them to be at 165º F before eating, so you will need to bake them longer if they are not at that temperature.
If you want more, here are my best gluten free air fryer recipes!
Expert Tips and Recipe FAQ:
These game hens taste a lot like chicken because they are so similar. You will find Cornish hens to have less fat and more white meat due to their small size.
This probably depends on how hungry you are. One hen can feed two people who are not very hungry or one starving teenage boy :-).
For this air fryer recipe, I cooked the game hen breast so that the seasonings I put under the skin can marinate the meat as it cooks, adding a ton of flavor!
Yes, you can cook frozen game hens in the air fryer. You will need to extend the cooking time by 20-30 minutes. Note in cooking frozen hens in the air fryer, you won't be able to get the seasoning under the skin. If you want the flavor to really cook into the game hens, you must thaw them.
If you decide to cook them before thawing, you must increase the cooking time significantly and check the internal temperature.
For this recipe, I used fresh thyme and flat-leaf parsley. You can also use fresh basil, tarragon (though not with the basil), rosemary, or any others you like with citrus. I like to grow fresh herbs in my kitchen window and use them as needed for recipes.
Store leftover Cornish hens in an airtight container in the refrigerator. They will keep fresh for up to 3 days. You can also freeze the leftovers in a freezer-safe zipper bag.
Serve With These Sides:
Air Fryer Cornish Game Hens
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- 2 Cornish game hens
- 4 tablespoons butter
- 1 orange
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- 1 teaspoon flat leaf parsley
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Add the melted butter and seasonings to a bowl and mix well.
- Cut a small orange or mandarin orange in half and put it into the cavity of each Cornish game hen.
- Gently pull up the skin on the breast of each hen.
- Spread the butter herb mixture under the skin, then rub the remaining butter all over the outside of each hen.
- Oil the bottom of the basket of your air fryer. See note.
- Add the two hens.
- Cook at 375º F for 20 minutes.
- Open the air fryer and use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature.
- If the temperature is 165º F, your hens are done. If they are not hot enough internally, cook for an additional 10 minutes and recheck the temperature.
- When the hens are finished, remove from the air fryer
- I used a spray coconut oil for the basket of my air fryer and you can a different oil, but make sure it is made for high heat.
- You can use regular oranges or mandarin oranges as I did.
- Use vegan butter if you would like this recipe to be dairy-free.
- The roasted game hens will keep up to 4 days in an air-tight container, or up to 4 months in the freezer.
If you do decide to cook them before thawing, you will need to increase the cooking time significantly and check the internal temperature.
Please know that every gluten free flour blend has a different starch to grain ratio. If you use a blend I didn't test, you may need to adjust your moisture levels in your baked goods.
Nutritional information is an estimate provided to you as a courtesy. You should calculate the actual nutritional information with the products and brands you are using with your preferred nutritional calculator.
This post was updated from an older January 2021 post with more recipe details.
Simplifying the art of baking and cooking gluten-free recipes.