Skip to content

Roasted Orange-Tarragon Cornish Hens

Roasted Orange-Tarragon Cornish Hens

Have you ever wanted to impress your dinner guests with a dish that looks and tastes amazing? Look no further than roasted Orange-Tarragon Cornish Hens! These little birds are not only visually stunning but also packed with flavor. With a combination of citrusy oranges and aromatic tarragon, this dish is sure to leave everyone at the table asking for seconds.

Preparing the Cornish Hens

Before we dive into the details of this delicious recipe, let’s talk about Cornish hens. These petite chickens are perfect for individual servings and make any meal feel special. The first step is to clean and pat dry the hens, ensuring that they are free from any excess moisture. This will help achieve a crispy skin when roasted.

Next, it’s time to season the hens. Rubbing them with a mixture of olive oil, salt, and pepper will ensure that every bite is seasoned to perfection. Don’t forget to season the cavity as well, as it will infuse the meat with even more flavor.

The Magic of Orange and Tarragon

Now, let’s talk about the real stars of this dish – oranges and tarragon. The combination of their flavors is simply magical. Oranges bring a burst of citrusy sweetness, while tarragon adds a touch of earthiness and complexity.

Squeeze fresh orange juice over the hens before roasting to infuse them with that irresistible citrus flavor. You can also place orange slices on top of the hens while they cook to enhance the presentation. Sprinkle fresh tarragon leaves over the birds to add a delightful aromatic element.

Roasting to Perfection

Preheat your oven to the ideal temperature for roasting – usually around 400°F (200°C). Place the seasoned hens on a baking sheet or in a roasting pan, making sure they are not overcrowded. Crowding the hens can prevent them from cooking evenly and achieving that desired crispy skin.

Roast the hens for about 45-60 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F (74°C). Baste the hens with their own juices halfway through to keep them moist and flavorful.

Don’t Forget the Sides!

No meal is complete without delicious sides to accompany the main dish. Consider serving your Orange-Tarragon Cornish Hens with roasted potatoes and a fresh green salad. The crispy potatoes will complement the juicy hens perfectly, while the salad will add a refreshing element to the meal.

Once the hens are cooked to perfection, let them rest for a few minutes before serving. This allows the juices to redistribute throughout the meat, resulting in a more flavorful and tender bird.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can I substitute the tarragon with another herb?

While tarragon adds a unique flavor to this dish, you can certainly experiment with other herbs. Rosemary or thyme would be excellent alternatives that pair well with the citrusy orange.

2. Can I use other types of poultry instead of Cornish hens?

Absolutely! This recipe can work well with other small poultry, such as game hens or even quail. Just make sure to adjust the cooking time accordingly, as smaller birds may cook faster.

3. Can I use dried tarragon instead of fresh?

While fresh tarragon provides the best flavor, you can use dried tarragon if you don’t have access to fresh herbs. Just remember to use a smaller amount, as dried herbs are more concentrated in flavor.

4. How do I know when the hens are done?

The best way to determine if the hens are cooked to perfection is by using a meat thermometer. Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the bird, avoiding contact with the bone. Once the temperature reaches 165°F (74°C), your hens are ready to be enjoyed.

5. Can I make this dish ahead of time?

While it’s best to serve the hens fresh out of the oven, you can prepare them a few hours in advance. After roasting, let them cool to room temperature, then refrigerate. When you’re ready to serve, simply reheat them in a preheated oven for about 10-15 minutes.

6. What can I do with the leftover hens?

If you have any leftovers, don’t let them go to waste! Shred the meat and use it in sandwiches or salads for a delicious and convenient meal. The flavorful meat will add a delightful twist to your favorite recipes.

7. Can I use other citrus fruits instead of oranges?

Absolutely! Feel free to experiment with different citrus fruits, such as lemons or grapefruits. Each fruit will bring its own unique flavor profile to the dish, allowing you to customize it to your taste.

8. Can I use this recipe for a larger chicken?

While this recipe is specifically designed for Cornish hens, you can certainly adapt it for a larger chicken. Just keep in mind that the cooking time will vary, so make sure to adjust accordingly and use a meat thermometer to ensure the chicken is fully cooked.

In conclusion, roasted Orange-Tarragon Cornish Hens are a show-stopping dish that is both visually appealing and incredibly delicious. With the combination of citrusy oranges and aromatic tarragon, these hens are bursting with flavor. Whether you’re hosting a dinner party or simply want to elevate your weeknight meal, this recipe is sure to impress. So go ahead and give it a try – your taste buds will thank you!

Roasted Orange Tarragon Cornish Hens compressed image1

Roasted Orange-Tarragon Cornish Hens

No ratings yet
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Total Time 2 hours 20 minutes
Course Fruit Salads
Cuisine American
Servings 2


  • 2 Cornish hens , thawed
  • 1 orange , grated and squeezed
  • 1 teaspoon dried tarragon
  • 1 clove garlic , finely chopped
  • ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kitchen twine (amount not specified)


  • Remove and discard any giblets from the hens.
  • Rinse the hens inside and out, then pat them dry.
  • Gently loosen the skin from the breasts of the hens.
  • Place the hens in a large resealable plastic bag.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the orange juice, orange zest, tarragon, garlic, mustard, salt, and pepper.
  • While whisking continuously, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until the marinade is well combined.
  • Pour the marinade over the hens in the bag, making sure to get some of it under the skin.
  • Seal the bag and refrigerate the hens for at least 1 hour.
  • Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F (230 degrees C).
  • Remove the hens from the bag, allowing any excess marinade to drip off.
  • Pour the remaining marinade into a small saucepan and set it aside.
  • Place the hens in a small roasting pan and season them with salt and pepper.
  • Tie the legs together with kitchen twine and tuck the wing tips underneath.
  • Roast the hens in the preheated oven for 20 minutes.
  • Reduce the oven heat to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  • Continue cooking the hens, basting them with the pan juices every 10 to 15 minutes
Keyword and, Baked, Collections, Cooking, Dishes, for, Fruits, Herb, Ideas, Main, Meal, More, Recipes, Roasted, Special, Tarragon, Thanksgiving, Two
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

Hi, I am April & Welcome to my food blog!

Thank you for visiting my blog. We share delicious recipes to make your meals nourishing and fun. Experimenting in the kitchen and cooking is my joy!


Recent Recipes

Never Miss A Recipe!

Join thousands of subscribers and get our best recipes delivered each week!

Table of Contents