Dutch Oven Cornish Hens

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.

Dutch Oven Cornish Hens & Sweet Potatoes

Dutch Oven Cornish Hens & Sweet Potatoes

Dutch Oven Cornish Hens and Potatoes

Yield: 2 hens
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes

Fancy enough for date night, but easy enough for a Tuesday these Dutch Oven Cornish Hens & Sweet Potatoes are an easy one pot meal.


  • 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


    1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
    2. Remove the hens from the packaging and lightly pat to dry with paper towels.
    3. 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.
    4. Brush the hens with melted butter and season generously with the remaining spice mixture.
    5. Place in a Dutch oven (or cast iron skillet, roasting pan).
    6. 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.
    7. 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. 

Dutch Oven Cornish Hens & Sweet Potatoes

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. 



  1. And here I am with two cornish hens! Can’t wait to try this tomorrow, might have to tone down the spices…sadly I’m with a man who is not big on heat, sigh. What the heck, it won’t kill him, quality of life my friend!

    1. I love your philosophy!!! In my house, it’s actually the opposite. My husband loves the heat and I try to keep it moderate. Hope your hens were a success. 🙂

  2. I’ve been trying to introduce Cornish Hens to our dinners for a while and now I’ve found the perfect way to do it! The combination of the spices and sweet potatoes is totally up our alley and I cannot wait to cook this up. Two Cornish Hens await your recipe!

  3. I really enjoyed this recipe. I covered it and baked but I didn’t see where you say to bake covered or uncovered.

      1. Thanks! Cornish hens and sweet potatoes are two of my favorite things in this world and I am really looking forward to trying this recipe!

  4. I can’t wait tobtrybthis recipe. My husband loves cornish hens. Wish I could figure out how to do it in my Instant Precision Dutch Oven so I don’t heat up my house. Oh well, fans are on & it’ll be delicious I’m sure.

  5. Outstanding. I threw a handful of fresh asparagus in for the last ten minutes. This is a great “simple” recipe. I’m going to have to try it with a turkey breast. The Chicken Taquitos are next. Thank you,

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