For several years now (this post was originally posted in 2015!), this recipe for Dutch Oven Cornish Hens and Sweet Potatoes has remained in my top ten and often, my number one recipe spot. I’m republishing it with new photos because not only is it both easy and delicious with minimal clean up, but because it’s a great way to scale down a holiday meal when it’s just the two of you.
The very least I could do was update the photos for the recipe that has served me so well for the past 5 years.
And while Cornish Hens don’t sound all that fabulous, I think we can agree that a one pot recipe that has the ease of a casserole but the appearance of something a bit more special is a nice deviation from the norm.
Planning a date night anytime soon? These little hens will make it look like you slaved ALL day long when in reality, you just need a good hour or so. When I told my husband I was thinking about cornish hens, here’s how our text message conversation went:
Me: I think I’m going to make cornish hens this week.
Him: Yes! I love those things!!!
Me: 3 exclamation marks? You’re that excited about cornish hens?
Him: We haven’t had them in forever. Make them. Do it. I love them!
So, friends, as any good wife in need of a poultry dish would do, I made him his cornish hens.
- 2 Cornish hens, small enough to fit into your desired Dutch Oven (mine were 40 ounces- 2.5 lbs combined)
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon coriander
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- pinch of salt
- 1 lemon, sliced
- 4 sprigs, fresh rosemary
- 2 tablespoons butter, melted
- 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed or sliced into wedges
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
- Remove the hens from the packaging and lightly pat to dry with paper towels.
- In a small bowl, combine the spices (cumin, coriander, paprika, thyme, pepper and salt). Season the cavities with half of the spice mixture and insert half of a lemon and 1 sprig of the rosemary. Tie the back legs together with twine to keep everything secure.
- Brush the hens with melted butter and season generously with the remaining spice mixture.
- Place in a Dutch oven (or cast iron skillet, roasting pan).
- Toss the sweet potatoes with the remaining butter and season with salt; surround the hens with the sweet potatoes. Add the remaining sprigs of rosemary and two slices of lemons on top of the potatoes.
- Place the hens in the middle rack of the oven and roast, uncovered for 50 minutes- 1 hour, until the skin is bronzed and the temperature reaches 180 degrees on a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh.bu
For a healthier option, olive oil can be used in place of butter.
These roasted hens are spicy but not too spicy, roasted and golden to perfection, making them happy little hens. They really give the appearance of you going out of your way preparing a nice meal. I roasted mine directly in my 7-quart Le Creuset Dutch Oven but you can use a roasting pan if you don’t have one.
The juices from the hens combine with the butter and spices to gently caramelize the sweet potatoes. They are so good!
TIP: Be sure to cut your sweet potatoes large enough where they hold their shape when being cooked but not so large that they don’t tenderize. About an inch or so will work.
Serve the hens alongside the sweet potatoes with a bit of chopped rosemary with a sprig for garnish and you’re all set to impress. And you only have 1 pot to clean! They make a great romantic meal at home, but they would also work if you were having over the in-laws and wanting to show off your roasting skills, especially if the dutch oven was a wedding gift!
Just increase your Dutch oven size to accommodate additional hens and sweet potatoes.
Any leftovers you have can be tossed in these recipes, also made in a Dutch Oven: Chicken and Sausage Gumbo Casserole, or this Game Day Gumbo. I like that the Dutch Oven is perfect for large meals on the stovetop but also oven friendly as well.
Originally published July, 2015. Updated photos: September, 2021.