Easy Air Fryer Cornish Hens: Irresistibly Juicy!

If you love a whole roasted chicken, but don’t like turning on the oven to make one, then you’ll love making one in your air fryer! But, if you’re like me, your air fryer basket is just too small for a large bird. That’s where these amazing air fryer Cornish hens are the perfect choice!

air fryer cornish hens recipe dinners done quick

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

Cornish hens are basically very small chickens, with each bird averaging about 1 – 1 ½ pounds. It’s like a single-serving version of a whole roaster chicken!

You otherwise treat them just like you would a roasted chicken, by lathering it up with some delicious seasonings and cooking it to perfection.

This time, though, we’re cooking them up in the air fryer! Why? Well, you get the crispy skin you love from the oven, with even juicier meat, and did I mention it takes less time and doesn’t heat up the whole house? Yeah, that’s a win.

juicy piece of air fryer cornish hen on a fork

You can make this recipe in nearly any air fryer, and you don’t need an air fryer with rotisserie attachment to do so. Of course, if you do have one, feel free to use it, but otherwise your normal basket is perfectly sufficient!

What You’ll Need: Ingredients

ingredients to make cornish hens in the air fryer
  • 1 Cornish game hen (thawed and drained)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • ½ tsp poultry seasoning

Ingredient Tips and Substitutions

  • You can use a frozen Cornish hen if needed, but it will add 10-15 minutes to cooking time, and won’t give you crispy skin due to the extra moisture. I highly recommend defrosting if possible
  • The olive oil can be swapped for other high smoke point oils, such as avocado or grapeseed if preferred
  • If you don’t want to make your own spice blend, you can use about 1 ½ – 2 Tbsp of any of your favorite premade chicken seasoning blends. I like herb and garlic and barbecue myself, but honestly feel free to use your favorites! 
  • This recipe easily doubles if you want to cook two hens at once (since they’re typically sold in a pack of 2)

How to Cook Cornish Hens in the Air Fryer

  1. Preheat your air fryer to 375°F (or 380°F, depending on available settings)
  2. Pat your Cornish hen dry with a paper towel
pat cornish hen dry with a paper towel
  1. Rub the oil all over the hen, making sure it’s well coated
rub olive oil all over hen
  1. Add the seasonings in a small bowl and mix to combine
add seasonings to a small bowl and mix
  1. Apply the seasoning all over the oiled bird (including under the skin and inside the cavity)
season cornish hen thoroughly
  1. Place the seasoned Cornish hen in the air fryer, breast side down
place cornish hen in air fryer basket
  1. Cook on the air fry setting for 20 minutes at 375°F
  2. Flip the hen over, then cook for an additional 15 minutes, or until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the bird reaches 165°F
  3. Rest for 10 minutes before serving
overhead view of air fryer cornish hen on a plate with green beans and couscous

What to Serve With Cornish Hens

  • Rice pilaf
  • Butternut squash
  • Roasted potatoes
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Scalloped potatoes
  • Hasselback potatoes
  • Green beans
  • Glazed carrots
  • Couscous
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Creamed spinach
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Ratatouille
  • Mac and cheese
  • Corn pudding
  • Dinner rolls
  • Caesar salad

There are lots of great dishes to serve with Cornish hens for your meal!

Try these air fryer Cornish hens with my Air Fryer Roasted Butternut Squash Slices, hearty Air Fryer Hasselback Potatoes With Cheese, creamy Air Fryer Corn Casserole, easy Air Fryer Ratatouille, sweet Air Fryer Brown Sugar Glazed Carrots, or some crispy Air Fryer Brussels Sprouts With Bacon.

Recipe FAQs

Is a Cornish Hen a Single Serving?

Yes, a Cornish hen is typically considered a single serving. The small bird averages between 1-2 pounds total weight, which includes the bones as well. Thus, once the meat is removed, it is ideal for one person.

It is still recommended to pair your hen with sides for a complete meal, especially when served for dinner.

Is One Cornish Hen Enough For Two People?

No, a Cornish hen is not usually enough for two people. That said, if you add a large number of side dishes to make up the difference, it may be sufficient.

Most grocers sell Cornish hens in packages of two, though, which is enough for each person to have their own hen.

Should Cornish Hens Be Rinsed Before Cooking?

There is no need to rinse your Cornish hen before cooking, unless there is refuse on it you are specifically trying to remove.

Otherwise, a simple pat dry is sufficient to begin cooking.

How Long Should I Cook Two Cornish Hens in an Air Fryer?

You should cook two Cornish hens in an air fryer for 30-35 minutes total. Cook for 20 minutes breast side down, then an additional 10-15 minutes up. The time will vary based on the size of your specific birds and your air fryer’s power level.

You may cook as many hens at a time in your air fryer as you like without affecting cooking time, so long as you have room for them in a single layer with slight air space around each bird.

What is the Best Temperature to Cook a Cornish Hen in the Air Fryer?

Typically, a Cornish hen is cooked at a temperature of 350°F – 375°F in the air fryer. At 350°F, it will take 35-40 minutes to cook, but give you a lighter brown bird. Cooking at 375°F reduces the cooking time to 30-35 minutes on average, with a darker brown bird.

Both methods will still produce crispy skin and juicy meat, so it’s largely a preference based on time and browning level.

Should Cornish Hens Be Cooked Breast Up or Breast Down?

In an air fryer, Cornish hens should be cooked breast down for 20 minutes. Then, the breast should be flipped up while the bird finishes cooking, usually another 15 minutes or so.

This ensures that the hen gets evenly heated, cooks through, and the skin is evenly browned and crispy.

Is Cornish Hen More Tender Than Chicken?

Yes, a Cornish hen is more tender than chicken. It is more juvenile, thus giving it a more tender texture.

While not a baby chicken per se, it’s still not a fully grown and developed adult.

Recipe Pro Tips

  • You can tie the end of the legs together using cooking twine if you’d like a more elegant presentation or if you’re having trouble moving the bird around otherwise (the legs can sometimes fall off during transfer once they’re tender)
  • For a dinner that’s ready when you get home, you can alternatively place the seasoned birds in a crock pot with ½ cup chicken stock in the base. Cook on high for 3 hours or low for 5 hours. I like to finish in the air fryer for 5 minutes at 400°F to crisp up the skin before serving
  • To flip the Cornish hens over I recommend using a pair of kitchen tongs to grab them by the cavity in the rear and use that to flip them 
  • If you have an air fryer oven with a rotisserie attachment, season the bird as normal, then attach it to the rotisserie. Cook for 45-60 minutes at 375°F until internal temp is 165°F
closeup of an air fried cornish hen on a plate with couscous and green beans

Storage and Reheating

  • Refrigerate any leftover Cornish hen in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Since it is a single serving, though, you may not have leftovers. If the bird wasn’t previously frozen, you can always freeze it for a few months. I recommend shredding the cooked meat off the bone for faster defrosting later
  • Reheat already cooked Cornish hen in the air fryer at 400°F for 3-5 minutes, or until the temperature reaches 165°F again. The time will vary based on the size of the portion you’re reheating

More Tasty Air Fryer Chicken Recipes to Try

Final Thoughts

These easy air fryer Cornish hens are perfect for when you want a whole chicken, but want it in a single serving. They cook up with crispy skin, juicy meat, and you don’t even need to fire up the oven to do so!

Season these hens up with your favorites, whether it be making your own blend or starting with a chicken rub you already like.

They look elegant enough to impress company or make a small scale holiday meal special. Pair Cornish hens with your favorite sides to round things out for an amazing dinner!

air fryer cornish hens recipe dinners done quick featured image

Easy Air Fryer Cornish Hens Recipe

This easy air fryer Cornish hens recipe delivers crispy skin, juicy meat, and a tasty dinner! No need to fire up the big oven to roast a tasty bird that’s simple enough for weeknights and elegant enough for company.
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 35 minutes
Resting Time 10 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Course Dinner, Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 1
Calories 831 kcal

Equipment

Ingredients
  

  • 1 Cornish game hen (thawed and drained)
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tsp salt
  • ½ Tsp black pepper
  • 1 Tsp paprika
  • 1 Tsp onion powder
  • 1 Tsp garlic powder
  • 1 Tsp oregano
  • ½ Tsp poultry seasoning

Instructions
 

  • Preheat your air fryer to 375°F (or 380°F, depending on available settings)
  • Pat your Cornish hen dry with a paper towel
    1 Cornish game hen
  • Rub the oil all over the hen, making sure it’s well coated
    1 Tbsp olive oil
  • Add the seasonings in a small bowl and mix to combine
    1 Tsp salt, ½ Tsp black pepper, 1 Tsp paprika, 1 Tsp onion powder, 1 Tsp garlic powder, 1 Tsp oregano, ½ Tsp poultry seasoning
  • Apply the seasoning all over the oiled bird (including under the skin and inside the cavity)
  • Place the seasoned Cornish hen in the air fryer, breast side down
  • Cook on the air fry setting for 20 minutes at 375°F
  • Flip the hen over, then cook for an additional 15 minutes, or until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the bird reaches 165°F
  • Rest for 10 minutes before serving

Notes

  • You can use a frozen Cornish hen if needed, but it will add 10-15 minutes to cooking time, and won’t give you crispy skin due to the extra moisture. I highly recommend defrosting if possible
  • The olive oil can be swapped for other high smoke point oils, such as avocado or grapeseed if preferred
  • If you don’t want to make your own spice blend, you can use about 1 ½ – 2 Tbsp of any of your favorite premade chicken seasoning blends. I like herb and garlic and barbecue myself, but honestly feel free to use your favorites!
  • This recipe easily doubles if you want to cook two hens at once (since they’re typically sold in a pack of 2)
  • You can tie the end of the legs together using cooking twine if you’d like a more elegant presentation or if you’re having trouble moving the bird around otherwise
  • For a dinner that’s ready when you get home, you can alternatively place the seasoned birds in a crock pot with ½ cup chicken stock in the base. Cook on high for 3 hours or low for 5 hours. I like to finish in the air fryer for 5 minutes at 400°F to crisp up the skin before serving
  • To flip the Cornish hens over I recommend using a pair of kitchen tongs to grab them by the cavity in the rear and use that to flip them
  • If you have an air fryer oven with a rotisserie attachment, season the bird as normal, then attach it to the rotisserie. Cook for 45-60 minutes at 375°F until internal temp is 165°F
  • Refrigerate any leftover Cornish hen in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Since it is a single serving, though, you may not have leftovers. If the bird wasn’t previously frozen, you can always freeze it for a few months. I recommend shredding the cooked meat off the bone for faster defrosting later
  • Reheat already cooked Cornish hen in the air fryer at 400°F for 3-5 minutes, or until the temperature reaches 165°F again. The time will vary based on the size of the portion you’re reheating
  • Exact nutritional values will vary based on brand and flavor of ingredients, any sides added, and actual quantity consumed, so please consider this a guideline only

Nutrition

Serving: 368gCalories: 831kcalCarbohydrates: 7.9gProtein: 59gFat: 62gSaturated Fat: 15gCholesterol: 339mgSodium: 2537mgPotassium: 950mgFiber: 2.6gSugar: 0.6gVitamin A: 556IUVitamin C: 2.4mgCalcium: 97mgIron: 4.5mg
Keyword air fried cornish hen, air fryer cornish game hens, air fryer cornish hens, air fryer cornish hens recipe, cornish hen air fryer, cornish hens
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Katie Vine

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