Roasted buttermilk brined cornish hens in yellow roasting pan with red potatoes.

Buttermilk Brined Cornish Hens

Cornish hens are so dainty, they immediately feel like a fancy way to serve roast chicken for company. But these Buttermilk Brined Cornish Hens are just as lovely for a weeknight meal. The buttermilk brine infuses flavor and moisture to the hens.

Roasted buttermilk brined cornish hens in yellow roasting pan with red potatoes.
Buttermilk Brined Cornish Hens

Cornish hens are so dainty, they immediately feel like a fancy way to serve roast chicken for company. But these Buttermilk Brined Cornish Hens are just as lovely for a weeknight meal. The buttermilk brine infuses flavor and moisture to the hens, and can be done the night before.

Overhead shot of roasted buttermilk brined Cornish hens on a bed of red potatoes and thyme.

Note: This post first appeared March 10, 2013 and has been updated with improved kitchen notes, recipe annotation, photography and video. I hope you enjoy this favorite from my kitchen!

We were at my aunt’s house last night, seated in a corner of the crowded room, the old photo album in my lap. Yellowed self stick pages held precious black and white photographs, vestiges of our family history, in some cases with dates or ages written in tiny blue ink on the edges. My great grandmother, in traditional Maria Clara, looked severely at us from behind the plastic page. It was 1911, her expression severe, but she looked young and vulnerable, standing while holding her baby propped on a bench.

Buttermilk brine and spices in bowl for buttermilk brined cornish hens recipe

The photo below showed her as a mature woman, seated, still in traditional dress, surrounded by her sons and daughters, all in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. Look, there is my grandmother, I pointed out to my husband. The writing on the photograph indicated that she was 40. And there is Lola Pacita, I smiled. She was 36. My grandmother’s younger sister, whom she lovingly called nene – little girl –, was the reason why we were there. She turned 90 years old this week, and our family had gathered from all over the bay to celebrate.

Cornish hens in buttermilk brine in cream colored bowl.

Prepped Buttermilk Brined Cornish Hens with potatoes ready for oven.

As we turned page after page, we were transported through the years, relatives slowly aging with each flip of the page. Uncles robust and young, in full military dress, confusing me because they looked so similar to cousins my own age. The family in the pictures grew in number, as my great grandmother’s children married and formed families of their own. Cousins, second cousins, little ones. All related.

And then we turned the last page. The last photo made me gasp. It was a snapshot at my parent’s wedding, my mother and father holding hands and making their way through the tables, greeting their guests. My mother’s eyes were in mid blink, a big smile on her face, and it was like looking at a mirror and seeing my sister at the same time. But what made me catch my breath was my dad. His expression. It was in a side smirk that was eerily familiar. My little boy’s smirk. I never realized it before, but the adorable idiosyncrasy my husband and I love about our son was actually a legacy from my father.

Our family history continues.

Roasted Buttermilk Brined Cornish Hens and red potatoes in a yellow handled pan.

Cornish hens are more than just mini me’s of everyday chickens, I do believe that they have a special flavor all their own. And when prepared in a buttermilk brine, they are a wonderful change of pace from the standard roast chicken. I hope you enjoy these Buttermilk Brined Cornish Hens. They’re incredibly simple, moist and full of flavor.

Roasted Buttermilk Brined Cornish Hens with sprigs of thyme on a bed of red potatoes.

If you enjoyed these Buttermilk Brined Cornish Hens, fire up the oven for these roasted chicken recipes:

Thai-spiced Mandarin Orange Roasted Chicken Thighs
Harissa-style Roast Chicken with Butternut Squash and Potatoes
Olive Brined Chicken Sandwich with Olive Tapenade
Filipino Chicken Adobo
Roast Chicken with Fig Chutney Sauce

Buttermilk Brined Cornish Hens

Cornish hens are so dainty, they immediately feel like a fancy way to serve roast chicken for company. But these hens are just as lovely for a weeknight meal. The buttermilk brine infuses flavor and moisture to the hens, and can be done the night before.
Roasted buttermilk brined cornish hens in yellow roasting pan with red potatoes.
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5 from 3 votes
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 50 minutes
Brining Time 3 hours
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 4 people
Calories 625kcal

Ingredients

  • 2 Cornish hens 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 pounds each
  • 3 cups buttermilk
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1 lemon halved
  • 2 tablespoons butter melted
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • fresh thyme

Instructions

  • Rinse the Cornish hens under cool water, including the cavity. Pat dry with paper towels, set aside.
  • In a large bowl, whisk together the buttermilk, salt, cayenne pepper, garlic powder, cumin and lime juice. Place the hens breast side down and cover with plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator. Let the hens brine for at least 3 hours, or overnight.
  • Preheat the oven to 425°F. Take the hens out of the brine and lightly pat dry with paper towels. Season the cavities with a little salt and pepper, and insert half a lemon and a sprig of thyme. Tie the legs together with kitchen twine. Brush the hens with melted butter, and season generously with salt and pepper. Place in a roasting pan. If you wish, you can surround the hens with red potatoes, brushed with butter and seasoned with salt and pepper.
  • Place in the middle rack of the oven. Roast the hens for 50 minutes to 1 hour; until the skin is bronzed and the internal temperature in thickest part of the thigh is about 180°F.

Notes

The nutritional information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

Nutrition

Calories: 625kcal | Carbohydrates: 12g | Protein: 44g | Fat: 43g | Saturated Fat: 15g | Cholesterol: 262mg | Sodium: 1540mg | Potassium: 839mg | Sugar: 9g | Vitamin A: 925IU | Vitamin C: 15.8mg | Calcium: 243mg | Iron: 2.3mg
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Comments

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  1. Ann Baker

    5 stars
    Made this last night and oh my goodness: AMAZING! I love Cornish Hens even more than conventional chicken and this recipe reminded me I should cook them more often.

    Reply
    • Liren Baker

      I’m so glad you loved it, Ann! I love how Cornish hens can be perfect for dinner on a weekday yet fancy enough for guests!!

      Reply
  2. Amine

    5 stars
    I made this tonight
    First time EVER to make a Cornish Hen and it was amazing
    Great Recipe!

    Reply
  3. Samantha Paul

    Hey Liren….! I am also chef and really these Cornish hes are soooo beautiful and more delicious, I can’t wait making this. Thanks for sharing a beautiful story with amazing recipe…keep shared your new ideas with delicious recipes….!

    Reply
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