Cornish Hens with Stuffing

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Roasted Cornish Hens with Stuffing make Thanksgivings extra special. An easy apple mustard glaze takes the place of gravy, and a classic bread stuffing soaks up all the flavors.

A whole Cornish hen on a gray plate with stuffing.

Whether you’re feeding two or twenty, Cornish game hens are an exciting entrée for anyone at the table. Depending on your circle, it could be someone’s first Cornish game hen ever! It’s definitely a chance to show off your culinary prowess.

This recipe was designed for two and features a pair of Cornish hens, a generous amount of stuffing, and a delicious savory apple glaze. And even though the hens and stuffing have different cooking times, I did all the work to ensure they cook at the same temperature and finish at the same time.

If you’re totally committed to the full spread, too, I’ve pulled together some of my most popular Thanksgiving recipes and paired them down to feed two. You can find the full menu on Thanksgiving for Two.

Recipe ingredients

Labeled ingredients for Cornish hens with stuffing.

At a Glance: Here is a quick snapshot of what ingredients are in this recipe.
Please see the recipe card below for specific quantities.

Ingredient notes

  • Cornish hens: A type of small chicken that is usually 2 pounds or less. For even cooking, buy hens that are similar in size and weight, about 1-¼ to 1-½ pounds (20 to 24 ounces) each. Thaw frozen hens in a bowl of cold water for 1-2 hours (change the water every 30 minutes) or in the refrigerator for 1-2 days. Place them on a tray to catch any juices that leak from the packaging. Never leave frozen poultry out at room temperature or use warm water to thaw. 
  • Chicken broth: I keep jars of homemade chicken broth in the freezer (it’s a delicious by-product of poaching a chicken), but store-bought is also good. Or use turkey broth if you have that.
  • Herbs: Fresh herbs taste the best in this stuffing, but dried work too. I rarely find fresh marjoram and almost always substitute dried.
  • French bread: You can also use brioche, challah, or Italian bread. Dry the bread up to 3 days in advance (keep it covered with a dry kitchen towel on counter, or slice and dry in a 225-degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes).

Step-by-step instructions

The stuffing and the Cornish Hens both cook at the same temperature, but the stuffing cooks faster. So, to make sure everything crosses the finish line together, pop the hens in the oven first, then the stuffing about 45 minutes later.

  1. Adjust oven racks to accommodate both baking dishes at the same time (one for the hens, one for the stuffing). Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Truss the hens by tucking the wings against the hens, running a piece of cooking twine from the neck of the bird around the breasts, and tie the drumsticks together.
A Cornish hen being trussed.
  1. Place the hens breast side up in a shallow baking dish. Rub each hen with butter, and sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Bake uncovered for one hour.
Two unbaked Cornish hens in a baking dish.
  1. While the hens are baking, prepare the stuffing. Coat a 9-inch by 9-inch baking dish with butter. In large skillet over medium-high heat, melt butter until foaming. Add onion and celery and sauté until translucent, about 7 to 8 minutes.
Vegetables cooking in a pan for stuffing.
  1. Meanwhile, in a large bowl whisk the egg. Stir in broth, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper.
Butter, broth, and spices to make bread stuffing.
  1. To the skillet, add parsley, sage, thyme, and marjoram until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Vegetables cooking in a pan for stuffing.
  1. Transfer to the bowl with the eggs and mix well. Add bread cubes and toss to combine. Transfer to prepared baking dish.
A pan of bread stuffing.
  1. Cover tightly with foil and bake until mostly heated through, about 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake until crispy edges form, about 15 to 20 minutes longer. 
A pan of bread stuffing.
  1. While the hens and stuffing bake, prepare the apple glaze in a small saucepan. Bring the apple juice to boil and cook until reduced by half (1 cup). Remove the saucepan from heat and stir in honey and Dijon mustard. Set aside ½ cup for serving.
Cornish hen glaze in a silver saucepan.
  1. Brush hens with apple glaze and bake until a thermometer reads 170 degrees, about 25 to 35 minutes longer, basting with pan juices occasionally (if hens brown too quickly, cover the pan loosely with foil). 
A Cornish hen in the oven being brushed with glaze.
  1. Remove hens from oven, tent with foil, and let stand 10 minutes.
Two cooked Cornish hens in a baking dish.
  1. Serve the hens with stuffing, passing the reserved apple glaze separately.
Two whole Cornish hens on a gray plate with stuffing.

Recipe tips and variations

  • Yield: This recipe makes 2 Cornish hens with 4 cups of stuffing (2 very generous servings).
  • Storage: Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  • Make ahead: Assemble the stuffing, cover it with foil, and refrigerate it up to 1 day in advance. When the cornish hens go in the oven, pull it out of the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for 1 hour. Keep stuffing tightly covered with foil and bake until mostly heated through, about 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake until crispy edges form, about 10 to 20 minutes longer.
  • Cooking times vary: It’s difficult to gauge the exact cooking time since every hen is different. Use an internal thermometer, and stick it deep into the thickest part of the thigh. Once poultry hits 165 degrees, it’s safe to eat, but a little longer in the oven makes the skin crisp up without drying out the meat.
  • Chicken: This recipe works on chickens too (baking times may vary depending on the size of your bird).
  • Stuffing cornish hens: For food safety reasons, and because this recipe wasn’t designed for it, we don’t recommend stuffing your hens.
A carved Cornish hen on a gray plate with mashed potatoes, stuffing, and cranberry sauce.
Thanksgiving for Two: Cornish Hens with Stuffing, Mashed Potatoes for Two, Green Bean Casserole for Two, and Cranberry Sauce for Two.

Thanksgiving for Two

Cooking for just a couple this year? Skip the turkey and prepare a pair of Cornish hens with stuffing. I’ve also scaled down the most important side dishes, and you can complete your meal with…

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A whole Cornish hen on a gray plate with stuffing.

Cornish Hens with Stuffing

Roasted Cornish Hens with Stuffing make Thanksgivings extra special. An easy apple mustard glaze takes the place of gravy, and a classic bread stuffing soaks up all the flavors.
Author: Meggan Hill
5 from 23 votes
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 1 hr 15 mins
Total Time 1 hr 10 mins
Servings 2 servings (1 hen with stuffing each)
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Calories 814

Ingredients 

For the hens:

  • 2 (1 1/4- to 1 ½ pound) Cornish hens thawed (see note 1)
  • 2 tablespoons butter softened
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the stuffing:

  • 1/4 cup butter (½ stick) plus more for buttering dish
  • 1/2 large onion chopped
  • 2 celery ribs halved lengthwise and chopped
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup chicken broth (see note 2)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley minced (see note 3)
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh sage minced, or ¼ teaspoon dried
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme minced, or ¼ teaspoon dried
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh marjoram minced, or ¼ teaspoon dried
  • 1/2 large loaf French bread cut into 1/2-inch cubes and dried overnight on counter (see note 4)

For the apple glaze:

Instructions 

  • Adjust oven racks to accommodate both baking dishes at the same time (one for the hens, one for the stuffing). Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

For the hens:

  • Truss the hens by tucking the wings against the hens, running a piece of cooking twine from the neck of the bird around the breasts, and tie the drumsticks together.
  • Place the hens breast side up in a shallow baking dish. Rub each hen with butter, and sprinkle with salt and freshly ground pepper. Bake uncovered for one hour.

For the stuffing:

  • While the hens are baking, prepare the stuffing. Coat a 9-inch by 9-inch baking dish with butter.
  • In large skillet over medium-high heat, melt butter until foaming. Add onion and celery and sauté until translucent, about 7 to 8 minutes. Meanwhile, in a large bowl whisk the egg. Stir in broth, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper.
  • To the skillet, add parsley, sage, thyme, and marjoram until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Transfer to the bowl with the eggs and mix well. Add bread cubes and toss to combine. Transfer to prepared baking dish.
  • Cover tightly with foil and bake until mostly heated through, about 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake until crispy edges form, about 15 to 20 minutes longer. 

For the apple glaze:

  • While the hens and stuffing bake, prepare the apple glaze in a small saucepan. Bring the apple cider to boil and cook until reduced by half (1 cup). Remove the saucepan from heat and stir in honey and Dijon mustard. Set aside ½ cup for serving.
  • Brush hens with apple glaze and bake until a thermometer reads 170 degrees, about 25 to 35 minutes longer, basting with pan juices occasionally (if hens brown too quickly, cover the pan loosely with foil).
  • Remove hens from oven, tent with foil, and let stand 10 minutes. Serve the hens with stuffing, passing the reserved apple glaze separately.

Recipe Video

Notes

  1. Cornish hens: A type of small chicken that is usually 2 pounds or less. For even cooking, buy hens that are similar in size and weight, about 1-¼ to 1-½ pounds (20 to 24 ounces) each. Thaw frozen hens in a bowl of cold water for 1-2 hours (change the water every 30 minutes) or in the refrigerator for 1-2 days. Place them on a tray to catch any juices that leak from the packaging. Never leave frozen poultry out at room temperature or use warm water to thaw. 
  2. Chicken broth: I keep jars of homemade chicken broth in the freezer (it’s a delicious by-product of poaching a chicken), but store-bought is also good. Or use turkey broth if you have that.
  3. Herbs: Fresh herbs taste the best in this stuffing, but dried work too. I rarely find fresh marjoram and almost always substitute dried.
  4. French bread: You can also use brioche, challah, or Italian bread. Dry the bread up to 3 days in advance (keep it covered with a dry kitchen towel on counter, or slice and dry in a 225-degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes).
  5. Yield: This recipe makes 2 Cornish hens with 4 cups of stuffing (2 very generous servings).
  6. Storage: Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.
  7. Make ahead: Assemble the stuffing, cover it with foil, and refrigerate it up to 1 day in advance. When the cornish hens go in the oven, pull it out of the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for 1 hour. Keep stuffing tightly covered with foil and bake until mostly heated through, about 25 minutes. Remove foil and bake until crispy edges form, about 10 to 20 minutes longer.

Nutrition

Serving: 1hen with stuffingCalories: 814kcalCarbohydrates: 100gProtein: 18gFat: 40gSaturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 94mgSodium: 1512mgPotassium: 707mgFiber: 5gSugar: 38gVitamin A: 2462IUVitamin C: 25mgCalcium: 128mgIron: 5mg
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Executive Chef and CEO at | Website | + posts

Meggan Hill is the Executive Chef and CEO of Culinary Hill, a popular digital publication in the food space. She loves to combine her Midwestern food memories with her culinary school education to create her own delicious take on modern family fare. Millions of readers visit Culinary Hill each month for meticulously-tested recipes as well as skills and tricks for ingredient prep, cooking ahead, menu planning, and entertaining. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the iCUE Culinary Arts program at College of the Canyons.

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Comments

  1. We’re debating on hens or turkey, after reviewing your recipe We’re going Cornish.
    Am I able to make side dishes, (mash potatoes for 2, green bean casserole, stuffing) ahead of time and freeze it for like a week.
    I have pain, back seizes up, so I’d like to have it ready just in case can’t do it all same time.
    Thank you

  2. I made these for Thanksgiving for me and my wife since we couldn’t have the Grandkids and everyone over. They were super.5 stars