Cornish Game Hen Recipe with Apricot Glaze

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!

What to Serve with Cornish Game Hens:

Wine Pairings for Cornish Game 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.)

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Cornish Game Hen Recipe

Cornish Game Hens with Apricot Glaze arranged on a platter.

Cornish Game Hen Recipe with Apricot Glaze

This is the best Cornish Game Hen recipe. Apricot glazed cornish hens are the perfect main dish for your holiday dinner table.
3.56 from 56 votes
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Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 25 minutes
Servings: 4 people


  • 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)


  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • 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.
  • Season the game hens liberally with salt and pepper. Using a basting brush, paint each bird entirely with the glaze.
  • 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.
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Serving: 1cornish game hen | Calories: 949kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Protein: 79g | Fat: 66g | Saturated Fat: 19g | Cholesterol: 462mg | Sodium: 1286mg | Potassium: 1135mg | Vitamin A: 575IU | Vitamin C: 3mg | Calcium: 61mg | Iron: 4.2mg

22 thoughts on “Cornish Game Hen Recipe with Apricot Glaze”

  1. 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! 🙂

  2. 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.

    • 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!

      • 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!

  3. Should I brine these little beauties? I think last year I brined my turkey in a salt bath with orange juice, champagne, and some spices added.


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