Buttered Lemon Garlic Rosemary Cornish Hens

Cornish game hens baked or smoked with fresh garlic and rosemary and lemon for a deliciously juicy and flavorful meal.

This recipe for buttered lemon garlic rosemary Cornish hens is a flavorful and aromatic dish that is sure to impress. The hens are seasoned with a blend of paprika and Italian seasoning, and stuffed with lemon, garlic, and rosemary for a burst of fresh flavor. The hens are basted with melted butter throughout the cooking process, ensuring they stay moist and tender. The end result is a deliciously juicy and flavorful dish that is perfect for any special occasion or family dinner.



Prep Time

30 minutes

Cook Time

90 minutes

Total Time

120 minutes


  • 2 Cornish hens
  • 1 lemon, quartered
  • 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 4 cloves of garlic, halved
  • Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
  • 4 tablespoons melted butter



  • Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C).
  • Prepare the lemons, garlic, and rosemary as indicated.

Prepare the Hens:

  • Rinse the Cornish hens and pat them dry using paper towels.
  • For each hen: Stuff the cavity with a quarter of a lemon, 4 garlic halves, and a sprig of rosemary.
  • Squeeze the juice from the remaining lemon quarters evenly over the hens.

Season the Hens:

  • Season each hen liberally with kosher salt and black pepper. Sprinkle the paprika and Italian seasoning blend evenly over the hens.

Butter Basting:

  • Drizzle or brush half of the melted butter over the hens, reserving the remaining half for later basting.


  • Place the hens in a roasting pan. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes.
  • After this time, baste the hens with more of the melted butter.

Continue Baking:

  • Bake the hens for up to an additional hour, or until the internal temperature of the thickest part reaches 180°F (82°C) and the juices run clear.
  • In the last 15 minutes of baking, baste the hens with the remaining melted butter.

Rest and Serve:

  • Once done, remove the hens from the oven and allow them to rest for 10 minutes before serving.
  • This ensures the juices redistribute throughout the meat, keeping it moist.

Serving Suggestion:

  • Serve the Cornish hens with roasted vegetables or a light salad for a complete meal.

Prepare lemon wedges, garlic cloves, and rosemary sprigs.

Place hens in roasting pan, ready to stuff.

Stuff the cavities and squeeze lemon juice over the hens.

Season hens with kosher salt, pepper, paprika, and Italian seasoning.

Baste with melted butter and cook until internal temp reaches 180 degrees, about 75 minutes total or until juices run clear.