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"automatic" fried cornish hen recipe

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Deep fried Cornish hen recipe featuring a whole Cornish hen marinated, well seasoned and deep fried to a fine crispiness and great flavor.

The brine and the homemade chicken rub give this fried hen an abundance of flavor. It's got a sweet heat from the combination of chili powder and cinnamon.

whole deep fried cornish hen on a plate with watermelon

I was looking for whole chicken for single, individual serving size. It’s always a pain to fry an entire chicken and not be able to eat the whole bird. A deep fried Cornish hen sounds sophisticated and complicated, but in reality, it is A-U-T-Omatic!

Frying a whole bird is fun in and of itself, but the spice mix adds another element of fun. Cinnamon and Chile powder are the base of the rub, but it’s the cinnamon that provides the whoa! factor.

I know you’re probably thinking, wtf, cinnamon chicken? Back in the day, I used to watch a lot of Bobby Flay and he used a lot of spice blends pairing cinnamon and chilis which gave me the idea to create the rub in this fried Cornish hen recipe. The cinnamon adds flavor, color, and a great aroma.

Cornish hen vs chicken

Cornish hen is chicken so it taste like chicken and shares most of the same qualities as chicken. It is, however, younger and much smaller than your typical fryer. Youth equals tender, but milder in flavor. To boost the flavor you need a good marinade or seasoning mix.

I used a spiced buttermilk marinade plus finished the hen off with a cinnamon and chili powder based spice mix. Youth also means lean, lower fat and fewer calories. And at such a smaller size, you can treat a whole hen as a single serve. Hence, I fried it whole and ate it all by my self!


Ingredients Needed For Deep Fried Cornish Hen

For the Buttermilk Brine

  • Buttermilk
  • Fresh Cilantro
  • Fresh Parsley
  • Kosher Salt
  • Vodka

For the Dredge

  • All-Purpose Flour
  • Corn Starch
  • Ground Cinnamon
  • Chili Powder
  • Brown Sugar
  • Allspice
  • Black Pepper
  • Garlic Powder
  • Kosher Salt
  • Paprika

For the Frying

  • Cornish Hen
  • Vegetable Oil

How to cook Cornish hen

My mom is a big fan of Cornish hens and frequently roasts or bakes them, not unlike most Cornish hen recipes. I decided to break from tradition and fry mine. Deep-frying cooks the hen faster creating a moist flesh with a super crispy crust.

I followed the same approach as my fried jerk chicken recipe, but just changed up the flavors. I used an herb and buttermilk marinade, then seasoned the flour with a southwestern based rub which contained cinnamon, chili powders, and garlic. Rather than cutting the hen into pieces, I fried it whole. Just remember, if you’ve deep fried a turkey before, this fried Cornish hen recipe is the same.

Step 1: Brine overnight in buttermilk

Step 2: Dredge in flour + corn starch + chicken rub

Step 3: Fry in Vegetable Oil

Step 4: Remove from oil and let rest.

Step 5: Add used hot oil from the fryer to the chicken and season with spice rub.

whole fried cornish hen on a rack

Fried Hen Cooking Tips

  • Cut the skin open where the breast meets the thigh. This will reduce the possibility of a sudden release of moisture, which can be dangerous while the chicken is submerged in the hot oil
  • Slowly lower the basket into the oil.  Work gently and slowly to avoid oil splatters.
  • Use a meat thermometer to check for doneness. The thigh should register 165 degrees


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Making This Fried Cornish Hen Recipe

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whole deep fried cornish hen on a plate with watermelon

deep fried whole cornish hen on a plate

Fried Cornish Hen

Fried Cornish hen recipe featuring a whole Cornish hen marinated, well seasoned and deep fried to a fine crispiness and great flavor.
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: southern
Servings: 2 people
Calories: 929kcal
Author: Marwin Brown


  • fryer


For Marinade

  • 1 pint Buttermilk
  • 1 bunch Fresh cilantro roughly chopped
  • 1 bunch Fresh parsley roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon vodka

For Dredge

  • ½ cup all purpose flour
  • ½ cup corn starch
  • 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 tablespoon Chile powder
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • ½ tablespoon allspice
  • ½ tablespoon black pepper
  • ½ tablespoon garlic powder
  • ½ tablespoon kosher salt
  • ½ tablespoon smoked paprika

For Frying

  • 1 lb cornish hen
  • Vegetable oil


Marinade Instructions

  • Blend buttermilk and herbs in a blended.
  • Place cornish hen in an extra large ziplock bag and add marinade. Let marinate in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours, preferably overnight

Spice Rub Instructions

  • Mix all ingredients in a mixing bowl and reserve.

Frying Instructions

  • Remove hen from refrigerator and let reach room temperature
  • Add oil to the fryer. Be sure not to fill it too high as the hen will take up much space so you’ll need to leave room to prevent overflow. Bring fryer to 350 degrees
  • Mix in about a ⅓ of the spice rub with the flour and corn starch.
  • Dredge the hen in the flour mixture and then using long tongs slowly add the chicken to the hot oil. If it looks like you’re at risk of overflow, stop at this point, remove the chicken, let the oil cool and remove oil as needed.
  • Fry the hen for 20-25 minutes. Check for doneness using a meat thermometer. Place the thermometer into the thigh to check for doneness. You’re good to go at 165 degrees.
  • Remove the hen and place on a cooling rack and let rest 5-10 minutes.
  • Cut into quarters and serve.



For cleaner taste with that golden color use peanut oil instead of vegetable. It’s more expensive, but you can use it to fry multiple times before changing the oil.
The spice rub cause for Chile powder. If you have access to a specific Chile like ancho use it instead of the blends.
When dredging the hen, make sure you get into all the nooks and crannies so the bird is well covered
Adding vodka to the marinade helps for evaporation during frying which adds to the crisp.
Be generous with the salt in the marinade to help flavor the inside of the chicken.
If your fryer is not big enough to submerge the entire hen at once then either cut the hen in half and fry or cook one side at a time using tongues to flip the bird.
For gluten-free version swap the all-purpose flour with brown rice flour. The absence of gluten actually adds more crunch to this recipe so it's an added bonus.


Calories: 929kcal | Carbohydrates: 82g | Protein: 52g | Fat: 41g | Saturated Fat: 14g | Cholesterol: 255mg | Sodium: 5712mg | Potassium: 1234mg | Fiber: 7g | Sugar: 18g | Vitamin A: 5355IU | Vitamin C: 40.7mg | Calcium: 405mg | Iron: 6.9mg
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