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Succulent Air Fryer Cornish Hen, Date Night Delicious

Mouthwatering crispy skin and tender, juicy chicken make this scrumptiously simple air fryer Cornish Hen Recipe perfect for Valentines Day or any date night dinner.

Air Fryer Cornish Hen on a white platter garnished with parsley and grape tomatoes
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If you need a special occasion meal that is sure to impress, air fryer Cornish hen is your delectable solution.

Cornish hens in the air fryer are easy to prepare and even easier to expand into a full, delicious meal.

I’ll show you how to put an entire date night dinner together in just minutes, in the air fryer (or in your home oven). Then just let the appliance do the cooking while you get ready for a fun evening with someone special.

Air Fryer Cornish Hen served on a white plate with roasted vegetables

This simple recipe for Cornish hen requires only 5 pantry ingredients, plus salt and pepper. But, just because it’s easy doesn’t mean it’s lacking flavor.

Air fryer Cornish hens are tender, juicy and herbaceous with subtle back notes of lemon and roasted onion. Your mind will be blown to be able to make a restaurant quality meal at home for a fraction of going out!

It’s an affordable way to create a savory, succulent meal for two that is sure to impress for any occasion!

The Ingredients

Ingredients to Make Air Fryer Cornish Hen: cornish hens, avocado oil, red onion, fresh lemon, fresh thyme, slat and pepper
  • Cornish Hens
  • Red Onion
  • Fresh Lemon
  • Fresh Thyme (or fresh herbs of choice)
  • Avocado Oil (or olive oil)
  • salt & pepper, to taste

What Is a Cornish Hen?

2 raw cornish hens, patted dry and sitting on a white cutting board with red edging

Cornish Hens (Cornish Game Hens, Cornish Hen) are simply a variety of broiler hen. Yes, they are chickens.

The breed originated in England and was sometimes called an Indian game hen. These Cornish hens are not the ones we pick up at our local supermarkets, though.

The breed we are most familiar with in the United States is actually the Cornish Cross, produced by cross-breeding Cornish hens and Plymouth Whites. They have larger breasts than standard Cornish Hens. The Cornish Cross is still referred to as Cornish hens here in the U.S., though.

Cornish Hens are the same size as other chickens if allowed to grow to maturity. However, they are normally harvested at a younger age, resulting in the small size we are familiar with (1 to 1.25 pounds each). Butchering the hens at an earlier stage, produces exceptionally tender meat.

One Cornish hen per person is typically considered the correct serving size. Though, for the two of us, we do tend to have leftovers when I make two hens.

2 Air Fryer Cornish Hen on a white platter garnished with parsley and grape tomatoes

Air Fryer or Oven?


My personal preference is to cook Cornish hens in the air fryer. It preheats more quickly, cooks the food more quickly and doesn’t heat up my kitchen. It’s not great for just Cornish Hens, though. Air Fryer Chicken Cordon Bleu or Air Fryer New York Strip would also be great date night options to make in an air fryer.

That being said, it is definitely possible to make these delicious Cornish Hens in your conventional oven. If you have a convection setting on your oven, I recommend using it. Otherwise, just do standard roasting. I’ll detail the oven option in the NOTES section of the recipe card.

For more air fried chicken recipes try: my Air Fryer Chicken Cutlets, my Air Fryer Chicken Cordon Bleu or these Air Fryer Boneless Wings from Couple in the Kitchen.

Air Fryers

By now, you all recognize my Breville Joule® Oven Air Fryer Pro [affiliate link]. It was a gift in 2022 and quickly became my favorite appliance.

This air fryer has a large enough capacity to make an entire family meal at one time. It bakes, proofs bread and air fries to perfection with little to no oil. My air fryer oven also roasts, broils, toasts, dehydrates, bakes cookies, slow cooks, keeps food warm for serving and works as a pizza oven. I use it nearly every day.

Two air fried Cornish Hens inside an air fryer oven with a pan of roasting vegetables underneath

This picture is a great example of why I prefer the oven-style air fryers. Two Cornish hens (with room for 4) and a tray of roasting vegetables cooking at the same time underneath them. All those wonderfully seasoned chicken drippings bathe the vegetables as they roast and caramelize. Heaven!

My Breville Joule can be controlled manually or by an app on my phone. And the app alerts me when it’s preheated, when food needs to be turned or flipped and when the food is done.

But, there are lots of highly rated oven-style air fryers [affiliate link]. They are my preference for everything from making whole meals to warming & crisping up fast food fries to baking bread. They’re versatile and have enough space to accommodate the needs of a busy family.

And, I’m seeing more and more highly rated, larger capacity portable air fryers [affiliate link], too. Many of them can easily accommodate 2 Cornish hens and can make family-size recipes, now.

Choose an air fryer that fits the needed size for your kitchen and fits your budget. They open up a whole new world of cooking and frying without all the frying mess.


Adjust the Recipe for Hen Size and Your Appliance

Because air fryers vary in size and power, you will need to rely on your manufacturer’s instructions to adjust timing for most air fryer recipes.

Two Cornish Hens stuffed with red onions, lemon, and fresh thyme arranged on the air fryer rack breast side down

Two Cornish Hens in an oven-style air fryer were roasted to perfection in 35 to 40 minutes, along with a tray of potatoes, carrots and onions.

In a portable air fryer large enough to hold two Cornish hens, that cook time might be less because of the smaller space being heated. Or it may be more because the appliance you use has less power.

And you may only be able to air fry one Cornish hen at a time, if your air fryer model is smaller.

You may also need to adjust temperatures by 10 to 25 degrees. In smaller appliances, you may need to use a little bit lower temperature to prevent the outside of your food from cooking too quickly while waiting for the inside to be done.

These are all adjustments you can only learn by practicing with your own specific model. It’s important to practice with and get to know your own appliance, so you achieve the best results for a recipe.

Air Fryer Cornish hen on a wooden cutting board with roasted potatoes, carrots and onions

What to Serve with Air Fryer Cornish Hen

Air Fry a Complete Flavor-Packed Meal

2 Air Fryer Cornish Hen on a white platter garnished with parsley and grape tomatoes.  The platter is in front of a white oval-shaped bowl with roasted potatoes, carrots and onions

As I mentioned above, in the same time I was able to air fry the Cornish Hen, I also air fry roasted potatoes, carrots and onions for a complete, flavor-packed and easy meal.

While the meat and vegetables cooked I quickly tossed together a House Salad. You can’t beat it for a special meal that is easy to prep, absolutely scrumptious and so affordable compared to eating out.

It cost under $20.00 ($17.60, to be exact) to make this scrumptious date night dinner for two. That’s two stuffed Cornish Hens, Roasted Potatoes, Carrots and Onions, PLUS a fresh green salad. We loved it! And I think you will, too!

Prep Tips for a Full Meal

  • Cut your vegetables to a size that allows them to cook in the same time-frame as the recipe for Cornish Hens. I usually quarter the baby potatoes, and leave the baby carrots whole. The onion is cut into large dices.
  • Prep a salad or some type of green while the chicken and vegetables are in the air fryer. Then your whole meal will be done at once.
Raw baby potatoes, baby carrots and onion chunks in a black roasting pan.
  • If you don’t like, or don’t have fresh thyme, you can choose rosemary, sage, marjoram, parsley or any combination of them. It’s just important to use fresh herbs, since dried will just become more dry during air frying and not release much flavor.
  • Be sure to generously salt the inside cavity of the Cornish Hen before stuffing with the lemon, onion and herbs.
  • Whether roasting in your air fryer or in your oven, place the Cornish Hen on a rack above the roasting pan of vegetables. You want all those deliciously seasoned chicken drippings basting the vegetables as they roast and caramelize.

How to Make Air Fryer Cornish Hen

Prepping

  1. Preheat the air fryer to 375°F.
  2. Pat Cornish Hen dry with paper towel. They have very thin skin and patting it dry before oiling, will help it get nice and crispy.
  3. Salt inside the cavity of each Cornish hen.
  4. Oil the skin of each bird. Be sure to get top and bottom of wings and legs. cover the entire surface of the Cornish hens with oil.
  5. Salt and pepper the chicken, all the way around, both top and bottom.
  6. Stuff one quarter of a red onion in the cavity and push it up to the neck area.
  7. Stuff two lemon quarters into the cavity after the onion.
  8. Add the fresh thyme on top of the lemons. The Cornish hen will be stuffed tight, but that’s good for maximum heat exposure and even cooking.

Air Frying

  1. Place prepped Cornish Hens on the air fryer rack, BREAST SIDE DOWN.
  2. On the rack below the hens, slide in the roasting pan of vegetables. Be sure it is centered under the Cornish hens so it catches all the drippings.
  3. Air Fry the chicken at 375°F for 20 minutes. Use tongs or a sharp meat fork to turn each Cornish hen, so that it is breast side up, now.
  4. Continue air frying for 15 to 20 minutes, until the internal temperature of the birds is 160°F, the skin is golden brown and your vegetables are fork tender. (If the meat is done and you want the chicken a little more brown, 1 or 2 minutes under the broiler should do it. Watch closely. It will go quick.)
  5. Remove the Cornish hens from the air fryer and allow to rest on a platter or cooling board for at least five to 10 minutes, before serving. Don’t skip this step. It will allow the bird to come up to the safe serving temperature of 165°F and redistribute the juices so you have moist and tender chicken.
Air Fryer Cornish hen on a wooden cutting board with roasted potatoes, carrots and onions

The Recipe

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2 Air Fryer Cornish Hen on a white platter garnished with parsley and grape tomatoes

Air Fryer Cornish Hen


  • Author: Glenda Embree
  • Total Time: 55 minutes
  • Yield: 2 servings 1x
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Description

Air Fryer Cornish Hen is a date night dinner dream!  Delicious, easy to prepare and inexpensive.  It’s a simple and special meal, made in the air fryer, that you’ll make over and over, again.  (See NOTES for conventional oven instructions.)


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 Cornish Hens (1.25 to 1.5 lbs. each)
  • 1 large red onion, quartered
  • 1 large lemon, quartered with rind still on
  • 5 or 6 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 23 Tablespoons avocado oil
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat air fryer oven to 375°F.
  2. Use paper towels to thoroughly pat dry each Cornish hen.
  3. Generously sprinkle salt inside the cavity of each Cornish hen.
  4. Place 1 quarter of the red onion and 2 quarters of the lemon into the cavity of each hen.  (Dice the last half of the onion to add to the potatoes and carrots.)
  5. Also add 2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme inside each cavity.
  6. Massage avocado oil into the skin of each Cornish hen.  Be sure to cover the entire surface area of each bird.  Coat the back, breast, legs and wings over and under.
  7. Once the Cornish hens are covered in oil, turn them breast side up and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  8. Turn the hens over and sprinkle the backs with salt and pepper.
  9. Place both hens on the preheated air fryer rack in your air fryer oven, breast side down.
  10. If not air frying vegetables under the hens, add a thin drip tray to catch the Cornish Hen drippings.  To cook vegetables WITH the hens, follow the instructions in the NOTES section.
  11. Air fry for 20 minutes breast side down.  Then using tongs, flip each Cornish hen so it is breast side up and air fry an additional 15 to 20 minutes until the skin is golden brown and crispy and the internal temperature is 160°F.
  12. Remove the Cornish hens from the air fryer and allow to rest on a platter or cooling board for at least five to 10 minutes, before serving.  Don’t skip this step.  It will allow the bird to come up to the safe serving temperature of 165°F and redistribute the juices so you have moist and tender chicken.
  13. Serve.

Notes

To Make the Roasted Vegetable Side Dish at the Same Time as Cornish Hens:

  • 3/4 lb. baby yellow potatoes, quartered
  • 1/2 lb. baby carrots
  • 1-inch slice red onion, quartered and separated
  • 2 Tablespoons avocado oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Place Cornish Hens on the air fryer rack with a second rack directly underneath.  Slide the tray of vegetables onto the second rack and center it directly underneath the chickens.

Air fry according to recipe instructions, cooking the vegetables at the same time as the hens.

To Roast in a Conventional Oven instead of an Air Fryer

Follow the recipe instructions, as written, except preheat your conventional oven to 375°.  (Use the convection setting if your oven has it.)

Place one rack in the center of your oven and rest the prepared Cornish Hens directly on the rack.

Place a second rack directly underneath and slide the tray of vegetables underneath the hens.

Roast according to the recipe instructions, keeping in mind that heating the larger space of your oven may require 5 to 15 minutes extra cooking time.  Use a meat thermometer to check where you are when you flip the Cornish hen.  And then begin checking the temp again fifteen minutes after that.  And again, every 5 minutes until you reach the correct temperature.

  • Prep Time: 15 min
  • Cook Time: 40 min
  • Category: Meat, Chicken, Main Dish
  • Method: Air Fry
  • Cuisine: American
glenda embree

About Glenda

I believe cooking from scratch doesn’t have to be complicated and that YOU can do it. My simple recipes, tutorials, and cooking tips will help you get weeknight dinners on the table with less stress. Forget takeout or the drive-thru. Let me show you how to make homemade easy. Read more...

18 thoughts on “Succulent Air Fryer Cornish Hen, Date Night Delicious”

  1. Just tried this one in the Air Fryer and didn’t know if it would be good or not. But it turned out great and my daughter just keep saying, “this is yummy.” Thanks!

    Reply
  2. I gave this recipe a try and we loved it so much. The veggies were the perfect side to complete the meal. I’ll make this again!

    Reply
  3. I was nervous about how this was going to turn out, but it came out great! Still tender, very flavorful. Will make again!

    Reply
  4. Oh I love this! We grew up eating cornish hens for holidays like Easter or sometimes Christmas and they were always a fun treat. They were even better in the air fryer!

    Reply
  5. This recipe is a must! My kids and husband love this! It looked so beautiful and tasted incredibly delicious and satisfying. I will surely have this again for our Valentine’s Day dinner. So impressive!

    Reply
  6. I have an oven model air fryer and these are the perfect way to enjoy the taste of a roast chicken dinner without dealing with fitting a big bird in there! Love how quickly they cook up and how they’re perfect for a fancier meal without any added effort.

    Reply
  7. What a delicious Valentine’s Day recipe! I made this for an early Valentine’s Day date night and it turned out wonderful! The resting of the hen is essential! The juices in the hen made the hen taste amazing!

    Reply

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