Don’t want to roast a whole turkey for Thanksgiving? Keep your dinner small by roasting this Stuffed Cornish Hen recipe with homemade stuffing plus other recipes for hosting Thanksgiving For Two.

Roasted Cornish hen in pan with stuffing

How many people are you serving for Thanksgiving?

One feedback I hear often is how you appreciate my small batch recipes since you often only need 2-4 servings.

That got me thinking about Thanksgiving. Do you host a giant Thanksgiving? Or are you like me where you still only need 2-4 servings?

One year Food Network hosted their Thanksgiving Live.

As it was playing in the background, I heard one couple ask how they could make a Thanksgiving dinner for two.

Even though it’s common to host large families, sometimes you simply don’t have a large family.

Or everyone’s schedules make it difficult to get together on one day.

Or it’s not even November yet you’re craving Thanksgiving in June.

With my family, there’s only four of us. My apartment isn’t large enough, so I do most of the cooking at my parent’s house.

We never do a whole roasted turkey as we’d have leftover for literally months; not only is it too much food for 4 people, my mom and brother don’t eat a lot of turkey to begin with.

Sometimes we may make stuffed turkey breast, turkey tenderloin, or turkey legs, but 90 percent of the time, we make Stuffed Cornish Hen with homemade stuffing.

We make two game hens to serve four people then use any leftovers for chicken salad.

Today I’m sharing my traditional stuffed Cornish hen recipe because I know I’m not the only one who doesn’t need to cook a 20 pound turkey for the biggest food holiday of the year.

Close up of Cornish hen in pan with stuffing

What is the difference between a chicken and a Cornish hen?

A Cornish game hen is a type of chicken breed and may be referred to as a broiler chicken. It’s smaller than a regular chicken and ideal for small family meals.

Cornish game hens can be purchased all year round, usually in the frozen chicken section. That means you can still enjoy a small Thanksgiving dinner for two any day you want, not just in November.

Ingredients For Stuffed Cornish Hen

To make your Cornish hen with stuffing, you’ll need the following ingredients:

  • Cornish hen: Often found in the frozen chicken section, so make sure you give it enough time to thaw.
  • Thyme: Can also substitute rosemary
  • Salt and pepper: A very simple seasoning for the skin
  • Olive oil: Helps crisp up the skin while roasting
  • Butter: Helps bind and flavor your stuffing
  • Onion, celery, and garlic: Aromatics to make your stuffing delicious
  • Bread: Can use white or whole wheat

How To Bake Cornish Hens

To make stuffed Cornish hen, first make the homemade stuffing. Melt the butter in a skillet then cook your onion, celery, and garlic.

Once that’s done, mix together your bread, butter, and salt. Stir until everything is moistened.

This classic stuffing recipe is actually my mom’s recipe, including the celery. I’m not a fan of celery, but this is the one time I make an exception.

Now it’s time to stuff your Cornish hen! I love going simple when cooking my stuffed Cornish hen recipe because it really is delicious with the proper amount of seasoning, but you can also make my cranberry stuffing.

Stuff your game hen then add any extra stuffing to the bottom of an 8×8 pan. It’ll soak up the juices from the meat plus get crispy on the edges from the oven. Personally I love the crispy edges better than what’s inside the bird.

At this point if you have oven-safe twine, you can tie the hen’s legs together to keep them in place. Certainly not necessary but makes for a nicer presentation.

Brush the outside with olive oil then rub it with salt, black pepper, and thyme. You can use your favorite herb on hand or substitute your favorite seasonings, such as garlic powder or rosemary.

Bake at 400F for 50-60 minutes or until the juices run clear and the internal temperature in the thickest part is 165F.

Should Cornish hens be cooked covered or uncovered?

This is a question I get every year from my parents when they help me with dinner.

Whatever you do, don’t cover your Cornish hen with foil or you’ll lose the crispiness of the skin. The foil traps in the heat, steaming the skin.

Cornish hen in roasting pan with stuffing

How many people does one Cornish hen serve?

It depends on what you’re serving with your Cornish hen with stuffing.

If you’re serving it with a small side dish such as sweet potato casserole, then it’s best to make one game hen per person.

However, with a large feast like Thanksgiving where you’ll be serving a lot of food, one bird will easily feed two people. Maybe even three people if you’re feeding someone with a small appetite such as a child.

My recipe only makes one stuffed Cornish hen for a true Thanksgiving For Two recipe. However when I cook for my family, I make two hens because there are four of us.

If you’re like me who makes two game hens, simply double the recipe and use a 13×9 pan to bake both hens at once.

More Thanksgiving For Two Recipes

Since the likelihood of you reading this while planning your Thanksgiving menu is very high, here are links to my favorite accompanying dishes.

For a full list, check out my Thanksgiving Dinner For Two and Christmas Dinner For Two menus.


Stuffed Cornish Hen

Stuffed Cornish Hen

Yield: 2-4 servings
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Don’t want to roast a whole turkey this year for Thanksgiving? Keep it small by roasting this Stuffed Cornish Hen recipe with Homemade Classic Stuffing.


  • 1 Cornish game hen, thawed and giblets removed
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (or herb of choice)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • Olive oil, for brushing

Homemade Classic Stuffing

  • 1/2 cup (4 ounces or 8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 4 slices white bread, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt


For the stuffing:

  1. In a large skillet, melt the butter. Once hot, add the onion, celery, and a big pinch of salt. Cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 minute.
  2. In a large bowl, add the bread, onion mixture, and salt. Mix together until the bread is moistened.

For the hen:

  1. Preheat oven to 400F. Have a small roasting pan or 8x8 pan ready.
  2. In a small bowl, mix together thyme, salt, and pepper.
  3. Fill the hen with stuffing. If there is stuffing leftover, add it to the bottom of the pan. If there is no stuffing leftover, add a roasting rack to the pan.
  4. Tie the hen's legs together with oven-safe twine (optional but keeps the legs in place) then place on top of the stuffing or roasting rack.
  5. Brush the hen with olive oil then rub the thyme mixture all over, getting underneath the wings, legs, and skin whenever possible.
  6. Bake for 50-60 minutes or until juices run clear when thickest part of chicken is pierced and internal temperature reaches 165°F.


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First published on November 3, 2016