Cornish Game Hen Recipe with Apricot Glaze

Cornish Game Hens with Apricot Glaze arranged on a platter.

This is the best Cornish Game Hen recipe. Apricot glazed cornish hens are the perfect main dish for your holiday dinner table.

Now that it’s November – It’s time to start thinking about Thanksgiving! I already have visions of stuffing, pumpkin pie and brussels sprouts running through my head. The one thing that I’ve not yet decided on for this year’s feast is the main dish.

It may just be the two of us this year, spending a cozy weekend at our beach house. And, with just the two of us, I’m thinking there’s not really a need for a big Thanksgiving turkey. Sure, I’ve found good ways to use the leftovers – adding some to this Creamy Lemon Dill Soup, or in this Turkey Tetrazzini Casserole, and of course, using up those bones to make some Bone Broth in the slow cooker. But, I’m thinking of just going smaller scale this year.

Last year I made a small scale Thanksgiving dinner by using a turkey breast instead of the whole bird. So, this year I wanted to do something a little different.

That’s where these Apricot Glazed Cornish Game Hens came into the picture. I wanted to prepare a main dish that felt as festive as a full on turkey, but I didn’t want to be cooking all day, and using our one and only oven for the bird, when I also need it for all those amazing side dishes! These cornish game hens only take about an hour in the oven versus the three hours that a large turkey normally takes… And just look at how beautiful they are!

Close up of Apricot Glazed Cornish Game Hens

That beautiful glaze on these cornish game hens is not only photogenic, it’s also super yummy and so flavorful! I combined some butter-sauteed shallots with soy sauce, dijon mustard and apricot preserves. The soy sauce added that great color and gave it a nice umami, saltiness, but I really wanted the star of the glaze to be the apricot flavor. So, I used a full jar of apricot preserves!

I made sure to baste the birds every 15 minutes or so, to be sure that that glaze really cooked down and flavored the cornish game hens. Other than that, it’s simple. I didn’t truss the birds, but I did keep a close eye on them each time I basted to be sure that they weren’t turning too brown. If this starts happening, place a bit of tin foil over the birds to protect them.

You can either serve these apricot glazed cornish hens whole to your guests, or cut them in half lengthwise and serve them cut side down to your guests. I think that with Thanksgiving, there are so many other side dishes to fill up on that a half bird is just about right.

Have you ever forgone the traditional Thanksgiving day turkey for some other main dish? I’d love to hear in the comments below!

Cornish Game Hen Recipe

Cornish Game Hens with Apricot Glaze arranged on a platter.

Cornish Game Hen Recipe with Apricot Glaze

Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Keyword: apricot glazed cornish hens, cornish game hens
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 25 minutes
Servings: 4 people
Calories: 949 kcal
Author: Erin

This is the best Cornish Game Hen recipe. Apricot glazed cornish hens are the perfect main dish for your holiday dinner table.

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Ingredients

  • 1 shallot minced
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 jar Hero apricot fruit spreads preserves (12 ounces)
  • ¼ cup Dijon mustard
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 4 Cornish game hens rinsed and dried

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In a small saucepan, melt the butter and saute the shallots over medium heat until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the apricot preserves, Dijon mustard, and soy sauce and simmer until thick, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and set aside to cool.
  3. Season the game hens liberally with salt and pepper. Using a basting brush, paint each bird entirely with the glaze.
  4. Place the glazed birds in a roasting pan, breast side up. Roast for 20 minutes, uncovered, and then reglaze the birds. Repeat this process twice more, every 15 minutes, at 35 and 50 minutes. If the hens are turning too brown, lightly tent the roasting pan with foil to protect them. After 60 minutes, check with an instant-read thermometer; the thighs must register at 165 degrees F, the breasts at 170. Let rest for 10 minutes and serve.
Nutrition Facts
Cornish Game Hen Recipe with Apricot Glaze
Amount Per Serving (1 cornish game hen)
Calories 949 Calories from Fat 594
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 66g 102%
Saturated Fat 19g 95%
Cholesterol 462mg 154%
Sodium 1286mg 54%
Potassium 1135mg 32%
Total Carbohydrates 2g 1%
Protein 79g 158%
Vitamin A 11.5%
Vitamin C 3.6%
Calcium 6.1%
Iron 23.1%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

If you loved this Cornish Game Hen recipe I would appreciate it so much if you would give this recipe a star review! Also, be sure to snap a picture of your finished dish and share it with me on Instagram using the hashtag #platingsandpairings and tagging me @platingsandpairings.

Wine Pairings for Apricot Glazed Cornish Hens:

  • Pinot Noir is a red wine that’s light bodied enough to pair with these cornish game hens.
  • Riesling and Gewurztraminer are nice white options that compliment apricot glaze on the cornish game hens.
  • Sparkling Wine is a great option because it compliments both the game hens and side dishes you might choose to pair with them. Plus, it feels extra extravagant for a special occasion. (Here are some budget-friendly sparkling wines.)

Looking for some side dishes to serve alongside this cornish game hen recipe? Be sure to try these:

Prosciutto Wrapped Radicchio with Balsamic Fig Reduction 

Up close picture of radicchio with balsamic glaze wrapped in prosciutto.

EASY MASHED POTATOES WITH SOUR CREAM

These Easy Mashed Potatoes with Sour Cream are the most delicious mashed potatoes you will ever have. They're light, creamy, butter, tangy & easy to make with the help of your stand mixer - No hand mashing required! | platingsandpairings.com

GLAZED CARROTS

These are the BEST Glazed Carrots! Lightly sweetened, delicately seasoned & perfectly glazed. They make an amazing side dish that both kids & adults love. | platingsandpairings.com

14 comments

  1. Ben Myhre

    This looks great and I am imagining that the skin of these lil chickens taste WONDERFUL!

    Reply

    1. Erin

      Thanks Ben! Yes – The skin was SO flavorful. That glaze really coats nicely.

      Reply

  2. Melissa Chee

    This does look like an excellent dish for the holidays! Lovely as always

    Reply

  3. Eva

    Wow, that apricot glaze sounds amazing! I also love the idea of doing something a little different for a smaller scale Thanksgiving. There are more birds out there than just turkey! 🙂

    Reply

    1. Erin

      Thanks Eva – I hope you have a great Thanksgiving!

      Reply

  4. Marlynn | UrbanBlissLife

    These game hens look delicious! Love the apricot glaze. These would be so great to serve at a dinner party!

    Reply

  5. Stine Mari

    That apricot glaze – wow! I love chicken paired with orange, so I’m guessing this is equally delicious! I hope you’ll have a great Thanksgiving.

    Reply

  6. Ben Myhre

    oooh… I am doing a small Thanksgiving this year, maybe I will do some cornish hens!

    Reply

  7. Ashlee


    This year we had a small turkey breast and a beef pot roast. Next year we are having prime rib.

    Reply

  8. Ariel Naaman

    I am so excited to try this recipe for Passover this year! Because there will also be brisket (because tradition, I guess), I want to halve the hens. Thoughts on doing this prior to roasting or after? I think it would work either way, but leaning on halving prior to roasting in order to keep the glaze intact and ‘prettier’ for plating.

    Reply

    1. Erin

      I think you’re correct that they’ll look prettier if they are halved before cooking Ariel. I would keep an eye on them though as that may decrease the cooking time a little bit. Hope that helps!

      Reply

      1. Ariel Naaman

        That did the trick, Erin – thank you! This recipe was unbelievably delicious and made the seder last night one to remember. Thank you so much for the inspiration!

        Reply

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