Making Cornish Game Hens is super simple with this sheet pan method. Rhubarb, blood oranges, fennel and potatoes are roasted with the Cornish Hens all on one pan for an easy spring dinner versatile enough for a weeknight or a holiday!
I remember the first time my mom made Cornish game hens for dinner when I was a kid.
She took them out of the oven, placed them on the table and I said “those are the tiniest chickens I’ve ever seen!”
I wasn’t totally wrong, Cornish game hens are in fact a specific breed of chicken but that was the first time I learned of these tasty little birds.
I think Cornish game hens are highly underrated for some reason and I don’t quite understand why.
Everyone seems to love a good roasted chicken, it’s the perfect Sunday dinner, it can be dressed up for a special occasion or down for normal meal (like in this easy sheet pan piri piri chicken) and there’s really nothing much to it.
Some oil/butter, a liberal seasoning of salt and pepper and you’re good to go.
Cornish game hens are essentially the same as that classic roasted chicken just in a smaller (cuter?) package.
In fact, that’s part of the reason I love Cornish hens so much.
Each hen is about 1 serving so everyone gets their own and there’s no fighting over dark vs. white meat.
They also cook much faster so dinner can be ready in about 45 minutes compared to 2 hours for a larger chicken. even fast actually if you make Cornish hens in the air fryer.
Amen to that when you’re hungry, right?
I’ve made stuffed Cornish hens before (with cranberries and apples it makes a great Christmastime meal) but this time around I decided to go an even easier route and make the entire meal on a sheet pan.
Everyone loves a good sheet pan meal like sheet pan Mediterranean lamb, sheet pan chicken and sweet potatoes, sheet pan turmeric salmon & sheet pan meal prep tofu because it makes dinner clean up an absolute cinch.
And while I usually think of sheet pan meals for easy weeknight dinners, this sheet pan Cornish game hen recipe proves they can go the fancier route too.
With blood oranges, fennel, rhubarb and potatoes perfectly roasted alongside the crispy skinned game hens, this spring dinner is packed with flavor.
You know how the vegetables surrounding a roasted chicken soak up all the juices from the chicken as it cooks and become super tender before caramelizing to a sweet bite towards the end?
The same thing happens in this recipe with the potatoes, fennel and rhubarb but with a lovely citrus undertone from the blood oranges releasing their juices on the pan as well.
It’s savory spring dinner perfection.
If you’re looking for a winter twist on a sheet pan meal that does this too, try these sheet pan pork chops with cabbage, apples, potatoes and onions!
How to make sheet pan Cornish game hens
Like any sheet pan meal, everything gets loaded onto a large baking sheet (make sure to use a heavy duty large one – I love my USA half sheet pan for meals like this because it doesn’t warp like many others in the heat) and roasted at the same time.
We’re using a pretty high heat of 450°F but that helps get the skin of the Cornish hens nice and crispy and a nice caramelization on the potatoes, fruits and vegetables on the pan as well.
Make sure to liberally season the Cornish game hens before roasting.
Since the only ingredients are olive oil, salt and pepper on the game hens themselves, a proper seasoning (make sure to get inside the cavity too!) makes a big difference.
It’s also important to toss the ingredients around the hens a couple times while roasting to make sure they cook evenly and the oil and juices get dispersed throughout.
What size should the Cornish hens be?
Typically the Cornish hens you find in the store are about 1.5-2.5 (max) pounds each and come 2 in a package.
Cooking time may vary if your hens are a little smaller or larger so adjust accordingly.
What substitutions can I make?
If you hate rhubarb (I know some people do), leave it out and use more fennel.
Use any potatoes you like, just make sure they’re cut into a similar size.
If blood oranges are out of season, use a regular orange or even grapefruit segments.
Hate fennel (another divisive vegetable)? Leave it out and use more onions and rhubarb.
It’s an easy Cornish game hen recipe and adaptable for pretty much any assortment of ingredients. I just love the spring vibe this combination has for this time of year.
Only have chicken on hand?
Try this maple mustard chicken recipe instead. It’s another sheet pan meal with fall vegetables and a deliciously addictive sauce!
I know many do ham on Easter (don’t miss 3 ways to use leftover ham if that’s you!) and while I don’t mind ham, it’s never usually something I crave or would pick if given the choice.
This easy sheet pan roasted Cornish game hen recipe would make a lovely Easter dinner option.
With Easter being almost a month into spring this year, it’s packed with bright flavors and ingredients to celebrate the season while being incredibly easy to prepare and cook.
Looking for more meals like this game hen recipe?
Sheet Pan Cornish Game Hens
- 4 Cornish Game Hens
- extra virgin olive oil
- salt & pepper
- 1 small yellow onion, sliced
- 8 ounces chopped rhubarb, frozen or fresh
- 10 ounces small potatoes, white or multi-colored, halved
- 1 blood orange, segmented
- 1/2 large fennel bulb, sliced
- 2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh rosemary
- Preheat oven to 450°F.
- Pat Cornish Game Hens dry with a paper towel, drizzle with olive oil and season liberally with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place on a large, heavy duty baking sheet.
- Arrange the onion, rhubarb, potatoes, blood orange and fennel around the Cornish hens on the baking sheet in an even layer.
- Drizzle with more olive oil, season with salt and pepper and sprinkle the rosemary all over the ingredients.
- Place in the oven for 40-45 minutes, tossing vegetables 1 or 2 times during cooking.
- Broil for last 2-3 minutes for a nice golden brown on the skin of the Cornish Hens.
- Remove from oven, cover and let sit for 5-10 minutes before serving.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
Gina Matsoukas is an AP syndicated writer. She is the founder, photographer and recipe developer of Running to the Kitchen — a food website focused on providing healthy, wholesome recipes using fresh and seasonal ingredients. Her work has been featured in numerous media outlets both digital and print, including MSN, Huffington post, Buzzfeed, Women’s Health and Food Network.