Cornish Game Hen Recipe

Don’t like turkey? Flying solo November 24th? On a gluten free diet? Have no fear, today we’re discussing alternative thanksgiving ideas, starting with my Cornish Game Hen Recipe.

Roasted Game Hens

Preparing a lavish Thanksgiving dinner is complicated, but there are certain things that can make it even harder to handle. I’ve received questions lately about what to do on Thanksgiving if:

You don’t like turkey.

Well, HAM is my gut reaction. Pork, pork and more pork will solve nearly any dilemma as far as I’m concerned. But there are those out their that prefer not to eat pork. My second choose would most definitely be Cornish Game Hens. Game Hens are individually portioned, cook fast, and are ultra moist and tender. They do not dry out easily like turkey, yet leave you with the satisfaction on having a luxurious bird for your Thanksgiving dinner.

Small Thanksgiving Dinner

Your family is not coming in town.

So you won’t have a massive herd huddling around your Thanksgiving table this year? That’s ok. Instead of feeling deflated and lonely on Thanksgiving day, try to think of this as a blessing in disguise. TRY. You won’t have the hours of cooking and cleaning that you usually do. You can FaceTime your loved ones, then share a small quaint Thanksgiving dinner with a friend or your immediate family, incorporating all the flavors you love on a much smaller scale.

  • Again, consider our Cornish Game Hen Recipe. They take up much less oven space and cook in a fraction of the time. You can serve each person their own tiny bird or have the butcher half them for you (as I did) so each person gets a breast, drumstick, thigh and wing.
  • Use muffin tins. In one 12-cup muffin tin, you can place 4 stuffing portions, 4 rolls, and 4 mini apple pies, as long as the temperature and bake time is approximately the same. Saves oven space and clean up.
  • Half (or quarter) your recipes. Instead of searching around for smaller recipes, use your good ol’ calculator and make your holiday favorites in much smaller portions.
  • Make use of high quality store-bought items. As long as you’re considering this year a little break from the masses. There’s no harm in buying bread/rolls, beverages and desserts pre-made. Just make sure you get “the good stuff” so you still feel like your eating something special.

How to Cook Games Hens

You will be feeding gluten free guests.

If you’ve been around for a while, you know I am not a gluten free cook. I love cookies, cakes and bread with a passion. However, over time I’ve discovered I have a very mild aversion to wheat. Although I adore the smell and flavor wheat offers, (and will probably keep eating it in small portions) I feel fatigued and get headaches after meals that rely heavily on gluten.

So as often as possible we prepare our meals without gluten.

Alternative Thanksgiving Ideas

This gluten free dish could be the base of your Thanksgiving dinner. It serves 2-4 people with a side of buttery herbed veggies in the bottom of the pan.  Add a small portion of cranberry relish, 1 or 2 extra sides, and a dessert and Thanksgiving dinner is served!

Gluten Free Thanksgiving

Cornish Game Hen Recipe

Yield: 4 servings

Prep Time:15 minutes

Cook Time:45 minutes

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  • 1 ½ lbs. baby potatoes, halved if larger than 2 inches long
  • 1 lb. carrots, cut into 1 inch chunks
  • 1 large onion, cut into 8 wedges
  • 1 Tb. oil
  • 2 Cornish Game Hens, halved by your butcher
  • 1 stick (1/2 cup) softened butter
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 6 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed
  • 2 sprigs rosemary, leaves removed
  • 1 Tb. chopped parsley
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • Salt and Pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. and place a rack in the upper middle position.
  2. In a 9 X 13 baking dish, place the potatoes, carrots and onion. Toss with 1 tablespoon of oil and salt and pepper to taste.
  3. In a small bowl, mix the butter, lemon zest, fresh herbs and garlic together with a fork. Set aside.
  4. Pat the game hens dry with a paper towel, then rub the herb butter over the game hens coating on all sides. Salt and pepper liberally and lay all four pieces on top of the veggies.
  5. Roast for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and baste. Then continue to roast for another 20 minutes, until the juices run clear when pricked with a fork. Allow the hens to rest for at least 5 minutes before serving.
All images and text ©

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49 comments on “Cornish Game Hen Recipe

  1. Pingback: 🍗 Thanksgiving Meatloaf {With Cranberry Balsamic Glaze}

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  3. Jenposted November 23, 2014 at 8:49 am Reply

    You have what looks like stuffing muffins with the Cornish hens….do you have recipe for those? Couldn’t find on your site! Thx u!

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  6. Agnesposted April 6, 2013 at 10:11 pm Reply

    Made this tonight and it was yummy! Thank you for the recipe

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  8. [email protected]posted November 23, 2011 at 2:34 pm Reply

    Lovely! We have a smaller gathering for Thanksgiving this year, and I have inherited a home with a much smaller oven since we were moved. A turkey is unfathomable but these hens…..they will be perfect. Thanks for posting. Happy Thanksgiving.

  9. Kiran @ KiranTarun.composted November 21, 2011 at 12:14 pm Reply

    Mmmm…That looks delish!!! I made the same recipe, but with Indian spices! Would be posting soon :)

  10. Monetposted November 20, 2011 at 9:29 pm Reply

    This is what my mom is making this Thanksgiving :-) Such a good idea. Thank you for sharing your sweet ideas and words my friend. No better way to end my weekend. I hope you have a week full of family and feasting. Blessings from Austin!

  11. pattyposted November 20, 2011 at 10:29 am Reply

    Looks like the perfect fall/ Thanksgiving inspired dinner for a couple or small family to me;-)

  12. RisaGposted November 19, 2011 at 2:46 pm Reply

    Those hens are just beautiful. I adore turkey so I would serve turkey but I do know some people who don’t. A great solution to that problem.

  13. [email protected] Todayposted November 19, 2011 at 9:57 am Reply

    We love Cornish hens, so easy to make. For a friend of ours whose son is allergic to turkey, it is a wonderful alternative.

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  15. kitaposted November 18, 2011 at 6:12 pm Reply

    I agree! Pork does solve all problems! ;D even those that aren’t food related. Give em bacon – it fixes all.

  16. JulieDposted November 18, 2011 at 3:50 pm Reply

    Seriously, I’m loving your photography, Sommer! This recipe looks delicious!

  17. Asmitaposted November 18, 2011 at 1:19 pm Reply

    Looks fantastic!

  18. Tricia @ Saving room for dessertposted November 18, 2011 at 10:23 am Reply

    Hey Sommer – this looks fantastic! Great plan but wouldn’t you know – I have a hoard of heavy eaters to cook for this year and none of them cook! That’s ok – you know I love it. One question – have you ever tried using this butter / herb rub on a turkey? I was thinking about it :) Another great recipe -and great ideas. Thanks! Have a blessed Thanksgiving.

    • Sommerposted November 18, 2011 at 10:56 am Reply

      I’ve used THIS herb butter mix on a turkey and it was fabulous. Make a double batch and work some of it underneath the skin!

  19. Grubarazzi (@Grubarazzi)posted November 18, 2011 at 9:34 am Reply

    So this is what little game hens are supposed to look like. LOL. I recently had a fight with them in my kitchen. Definitely taking a few pointers from you for the next bout.

  20. Angie's Recipesposted November 18, 2011 at 9:11 am Reply

    Yes, smaller birds would be a more practical alternatives for me. Muffins look great too.

  21. Amyposted November 18, 2011 at 7:23 am Reply

    Great idea for smaller celebrations! I will totally try this after the holidays with our family of 4.

  22. Carolynposted November 18, 2011 at 6:16 am Reply

    Those game hens look delicious, Sommer. We are doing the full turkey thing, but I’d give those a shot at another time of year!

  23. Laurenposted November 17, 2011 at 10:30 pm Reply


  24. vianneyposted November 17, 2011 at 9:10 pm Reply

    great altenative and thanks for sharing the gluten free site!! yummy pics!!

  25. Courtney @Bake.Eat.Repeat.posted November 17, 2011 at 7:28 pm Reply

    Thanks for including some ideas for a gluten free Thanksgiving! I’m not gluten free, but this will be our first holiday season since my mom had to switch to a gluten free diet. I’m actually kind of excited to take on the challenge of developing an entirely gluten free menu! Trying cornbread stuffing for the first time…wish me luck! :)

    • Sommerposted November 17, 2011 at 7:50 pm Reply

      Yes, Good Luck! I’ve heard GF cornbread can be moist and very bread-like. :) Let me know how it goes!

  26. Georgia Pellegriniposted November 17, 2011 at 5:43 pm Reply

    I LOVE game hens! Go you!

  27. Jen at The Three Little Pigletsposted November 17, 2011 at 4:44 pm Reply

    I’m not sure anyone in my family would forgive me for not putting a turkey on the table on Thanksgiving, but Christmas is a whole other story! Just gorgeous!

  28. Wendy @ Suburban Misfitposted November 17, 2011 at 3:52 pm Reply

    These are all great ideas, and I agree with Claire…your photos are awesome. Thanks for sharing!

  29. Delishhhposted November 17, 2011 at 3:35 pm Reply

    I make turkey but not a huge fan of it instead i also make BBQ ribs that i roast in the over for 8 hours too. The ribs always go first :) Awesome pictures.

  30. claire @ the realistic nutritionistposted November 17, 2011 at 3:05 pm Reply

    Your photos are FREAKING GORGEOUS. These look amazing, I have GOT to make these!!!

  31. Kateposted November 17, 2011 at 2:51 pm Reply

    We get little chickens, poussins, – similar to the Cornish hens…. Those are gorgeous! I love all the herbs,

  32. naomiposted November 17, 2011 at 2:15 pm Reply

    Love this for a smalller Thanksgiving feeding!!

  33. Nutmeg Nannyposted November 17, 2011 at 12:55 pm Reply

    These look amazing! I would honestly rather eat these over turkey any day (including Thanksgiving!)

  34. Jeanetteposted November 17, 2011 at 12:04 pm Reply

    I just made Cornish Hens and Stuffing Muffins the other day for dinner – love how pretty everything looks!

  35. MIss @ Miss in the Kitchenposted November 17, 2011 at 11:32 am Reply

    That looks so delicious Sommer! My biggest cooking failure was with Cornish game hens and sadly I’ve never attempted them again!

  36. Diane {Created by Diane}posted November 17, 2011 at 11:09 am Reply

    wonderful meal, I’ll be right over!!!

  37. jaclynposted November 17, 2011 at 10:31 am Reply

    i love how beautiful and rustic this thanksgiving meal looks. i’m a huge fan of cornish game hens, and these look so delicious!

  38. jennifurlaposted November 17, 2011 at 10:27 am Reply

    I just love your photos, I also can’t wait to try this for the holidays. So easy and not pricey.

  39. Lana @ Never Enough Thymeposted November 17, 2011 at 10:08 am Reply

    Really great alternate Thanksgiving ideas!

  40. Alaiyo Kiasiposted November 17, 2011 at 9:38 am Reply

    I love the idea of cooking three small portions of food–the stuffing, the mini pies–in the oven together. That is genius! Having less cleanup will get me thrilled every time.

    Wonderful (and thorough) post!



  41. Krista {Budget Gourmet Mom}posted November 17, 2011 at 8:44 am Reply

    Those hens are simply gorgeous! Great idea for feeding a smaller gathering plus, they are so yummy!

  42. Alison @ Ingredients, Inc.posted November 17, 2011 at 8:41 am Reply

    great idea for a change of pace on Thanksgiving

  43. The Mom Chef ~ Taking on Magazines One Recipe at a Timeposted November 17, 2011 at 8:35 am Reply

    Wow, a gorgeous one-dish Thanksgiving meal without the huge turkey. I love this idea. The whole dinner looks amazing. I think you’re going to need more Cornish hens. I don’t even have to buy a plane ticket, you know.

  44. Lydia (The Perfect Pantry)posted November 17, 2011 at 8:33 am Reply

    Great ideas, especially for smaller get-togethers. I love stuffing muffins!

  45. Bev Weidnerposted November 17, 2011 at 8:04 am Reply

    Just purchased my plane ticket. Hope you’re…uh…cool with that. ;)

  46. Rachel @ Not Rachael Rayposted November 17, 2011 at 7:51 am Reply

    I’m coming over to your house! This all looks awesome!

  47. Kiri W.posted November 17, 2011 at 8:35 am Reply

    Wow! This looks amazingly tasty! You don’t happen to have free spots at Thanksgiving? ;)