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Air Fryer Cornish Hens with Crispy Skin

Make Cornish hens in the air fryer with this easy recipe! Less than 5 minutes of prep time, and your juicy, crispy, flavorful Cornish hen is ready in about 40 minutes. 

Cooked Cornish hen on an air fryer tray
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Pieces of carved air fried Cornish hen on a plate

Why cook Cornish hens in the air fryer

You might be thinking, "I can only cook 1-2 Cornish hens in the air fryer, why would I bother air frying them when I can put them in the oven and roast 4 of them at a time?" Well, let me tell you why:

  • It's about 20-30 minutes faster than cooking them in the oven.
  • They come out SO juicy inside and crispy on the outside because they cook fast, sealing the juices in.
  • It's an EASY recipe with about 5 minutes of prep time.
  • Cooking your hens in the air fryer frees up oven space so you can roast a ton of veggies for dinner. Incidentally, most roasted vegetable recipes take about 20-30 minutes in the oven, so you can time everything to be ready at the same time for a perfect dinner.
  • If you can fit 2 Cornish hens into your air fryer at once, that is actually enough meat for dinner for a small family! (Keep reading below about how many Cornish hens to cook per person.)
Air fried Cornish hen on a plate with veggies

We love Cornish hens because they are always so juicy and tender, 100% fool-proof because they don't dry out easily. My son gets a kick out of the "tiny chicken." I love how easy they are to cook, how they pair with pretty much ANY side dish, and how budget-friendly they are. I can typically find Cornish hens for about $3.50 each, which is comparable to chicken.

Look how juicy and tender they are inside!

Fork holding piece of Cornish hen breast with crispy skin to show texture

More air fryer poultry recipes: Air Fryer Chicken Leg Quarters

Ingredients

  • 2 Cornish hens, thawed if frozen* (mine were 18 ounces each - make sure you can fit 2 Cornish hens into your air fryer basket or tray, otherwise you might want to cut the recipe in half or cook the hens one after the other)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (or use melted butter)
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste**
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika (this stuff is the BEST! I love the smoky flavor!)
  • ½ teaspoon dried basil (or you can use 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning instead of basil and parsley)
  • ½ teaspoon dried parsley
  • ½ teaspoon cracked black pepper

*My frozen Cornish hens took just over 2 days (48 hours) to fully thaw in the fridge. Many blogs say to "thaw overnight in the fridge" but that is definitely not enough time!

**Or use 5 teaspoons of your favorite chicken seasoning instead of the seasonings listed above. If your seasoning doesn't have salt, use 4 teaspoons of seasoning + 1 teaspoon salt.

Ingredients to make air fryer Cornish hen

More easy air fryer dinners: Air Fryer Salmon and Asparagus

Other seasoning ideas for Cornish hens

Instead of the seasoning mix above, try using:

  • Za'atar
  • Salt, pepper, garlic powder, and herbs de Provence
  • Salt, pepper, and finely minced garlic (2 cloves)
  • Dried sage and thyme in place of parsley and basil for a more Fall vibe

Equipment

Instructions

Preheat the air fryer to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Brush or spray your basket or tray with olive oil.

Make sure your Cornish hens are fully thawed. Use a paper towel to pat them dry all over. This will give you crispier skin.

In a small bowl, mix together the olive oil and all the seasonings. Brush the seasonings all over the Cornish hens, making sure to get under the wings, thighs, and both the back and the breast sides.

Basting Cornish hens with seasonings in oil

Place the Cornish hens breast side down in the air basket or tray. Air fry at 375F for 25 minutes. Use tongs to carefully flip each hen so the breast side is up and cook for another 10 minutes, or until the thickest part of the thigh and the breast is 165F.

2 seasoned Cornish hens on an air fryer tray

Let the Cornish hens rest for 5 minutes at room temperature before cutting into it and serving.

2 air fried Cornish hens on an air fryer tray

How to serve Cornish hen / how many Cornish hens to cook

If you're planning on a nice dinner party or for Thanksgiving dinner, I recommend cooking 1 hen per person. This way you can place a whole Cornish hen on a plate and it looks fancy. Place the air fried Cornish hen on a plate full of salad greens or garnish with a few pieces of parsley. Add a lemon wedge to squeeze over the hen (if you've never squeezed lemon on roasted chicken, you've GOT to try it!!).

More small Thanksgiving dinner ideas: Dry Brine White Wine Roasted Turkey Breast

If you're cooking up Cornish hen for a "regular" or "every-day" family dinner, I recommend carving it before serving like you would carve a turkey or chicken, so that everyone can just reach for their favorite parts. When serving it this way, I usually cook 2 Cornish hens for 3-4 people. It obviously depends on your appetite, but keep in mind that a serving of chicken is 3-4 ounces.... so 2 Cornish hens is technically enough servings of protein for a family of 4 or even 5 people.

Just make sure to add plenty of hearty, healthy, delicious side dishes!

Air fried Cornish hen on a plate with veggies

What to serve with Cornish hen

The great part about Cornish hens is they go with pretty much ANY side dish! Some great side dishes for Cornish hens are:

If you enjoyed this recipe, let me know with a comment and a star rating below. And don't forget to share it on Facebook and save it on Pinterest for later!

2 air fried Cornish hens on an air fryer tray
Print Recipe
5 from 5 votes

Air Fryer Cornish Hens

Cooking Cornish hens in the air fryer gives you the tastiest, juiciest meat with delicious crispy skin. Plus it's so easy and hands off—less than 5 minutes of prep time!
Prep Time5 minutes
35 minutes
Total Time45 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Diet: Gluten Free
Servings: 2 cornish hens
Author: Kate

Ingredients

  • 2 Cornish hens - fully thawed, if frozen (mine were 18 ounces each, took 2 days in the fridge to thaw)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil - (or use melted butter)
  • 1 teaspoon salt - (or to taste. You can also use 5 teaspoons of your favorite seasoning mix instead of all the seasonings below)
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • ½ teaspoon dried basil
  • ½ teaspoon dried parsley
  • ½ teaspoon cracked black pepper

Special equipment

Instructions

  • Preheat the air fryer to 375F. Brush or spray your basket or tray with olive oil.
  • Make sure your Cornish hens are fully thawed. Use a paper towel to pat them dry all over.
  • In a small bowl, mix together the olive oil and all the seasonings. Brush the seasonings all over the Cornish hens, making sure to get under the wings, thighs, and both the back and the breast sides.
    Basting Cornish hens with seasonings in oil
  • Place the Cornish hens breast side down in the air basket or tray. Air fry at 375F for 25 minutes. Use tongs to carefully flip each hen so the breast side is up and cook for another 10 minutes, or until the thickest part of the thigh and the breast is 165F.
    2 seasoned Cornish hens on an air fryer tray
  • Let the Cornish hens rest for 5 minutes at room temperature before cutting into it and serving.

Notes

For "everyday" dinners, I cook 2 Cornish hens for 2-3 people and carve them before serving so everyone can grab their favorite pieces. For a fancy dinner party or a holiday dinner, cook 1 hen per person and place 1 whole hen on a plate for a beautiful presentation.
My frozen Cornish hens took just over 2 days (48 hours) to fully thaw in the fridge. Many blogs say to "thaw overnight in the fridge" but that is definitely not enough time!
Nutrition facts are estimated per 1 Cornish hen. You can reduce the calories and fat by eating only 4 oz of meat instead of a full Cornish hen and not eating all the skin.

Nutrition

Calories: 1001kcal (50%) | Carbohydrates: 2g (1%) | Protein: 78g (156%) | Fat: 74g (114%) | Saturated Fat: 19g (95%) | Polyunsaturated Fat: 14g | Monounsaturated Fat: 35g | Cholesterol: 455mg (152%) | Sodium: 1149mg (48%) | Potassium: 1104mg (32%) | Fiber: 0.5g (2%) | Sugar: 0.1g | Vitamin A: 741IU (15%) | Vitamin C: 2mg (2%) | Calcium: 64mg (6%) | Iron: 4mg (22%)

The nutritional information displayed is an estimate and not to be used as dietary or nutritional advice. Consult a nutritionist or dietician for nutritional info based on the exact ingredients you use.

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