What to Serve with Cornish Hens: Sides You’ll Love
Let’s face it, you’re preparing a main dish that is eyepopping-ly gorgeous. So, when you’re looking for what to serve with Cornish game hens you need dishes that are a little refined.
One of the many charms of the Cornish hen is they are small enough that each diner can be served a single bird, making the tender, savory meat appealing not only to the palate but also to the eye.
And the mini birds – actually a smaller variety of chicken from Cornwall, England that is harvested at a younger age – are stunning in every preparation.
Whether they’re grilled, roasted, stuffed, cooked under a brick, herb crusted, champagne poached, or glazed in citrus – you can’t take your eyes off them.
So, what are we going to pair with these birds basking in the glow of adoration?
Colorful side dishes, for starters. They love, love, love, subdued colors, garish colors, and earthen tones. Hello, mosaic on the plate!
Cornish hens also love contrasting flavors.
Cooling salads topped with a bit of creamy cheese and nuts. Or crunchy and lightly caramelized root vegetables. How about an airy popover or a buttery batch of dinner rolls?
We’ve got those covered.
Because the birds themselves are so tender and flavorful, they also love bright, bold and citrusy flavors. They can also hold their own against tang and a kiss of tartness.
Cornish game hens are the perfect date night meal because of their inherent elegance and stunning presentation.
So, break out your nicest wine glasses, because nothing demands a bottle of good bubbly champagne, or a dry prosecco like these festive game hens.
They also love a tart and crisp white wine, or a richly full-bodied red wine. You could say that game hens are the perfect sommelier hosts on the table!
Side Dishes for Cornish Hens -- Our Complementary List
Roasted root vegetables or fresh steamed carrots and broccoli go well with Cornish hens. You’ll find tasty companions when you serve your hens with brown rice, pilaf, or quinoa. Pull-apart, buttery dinner rolls also always pair nicely with Cornish hens.
Aside from color and flavor, Cornish hens also love the ease and simplicity that can come together with a quick salad, or a heartier and slightly more intensive labor of love like a custard.
No matter which of the following Cornish hen sides you choose, there’s one question you won’t be asking ever again. And that is, “What goes with Cornish hens?”
1. ROASTED ROOT VEGETABLES
Who doesn’t love naturally sweet and caramelized roasted veggies?
And now that purple and yellow carrots are becoming as ubiquitous in produce aisles and farmers markets as their orange brethren, why not let the multi-hued beauties take the lead on the platter?
This dish is even more fun and flavorful than other roasted veggie dishes, because the fat comes from coconut oil.
Hello, marvelously sweet and savory complexity!
Brittany over at Eating Bird Food has a fantastically simple recipe for these gorgeous veggies. Check out the recipe here: eatingbirdfood.com
2. BROWN RICE STUFFING WITH CRANBERRIES LEEKS AND THYME
Itty, bitty, tasty, little Cornish hens want – nay, they demand – a stunning and earthy stuffing that’s loaded with flavors and textures.
Marisa at Uproot Kitchen has an eye-catching and mouth-watering brown rice stuffing that’s filled with sweet leeks and carrots, along with tart cranberries. Just for fun, there are some vegan sausages thrown into the mix too.
What handsomely trussed bird wouldn’t want to lounge around with that combination of flavors?
Follow the link here for all the info: uprootkitchen.com
3. EASY MEDITERRANEAN ORANGE AND POMEGRANATE SALAD
Oh, wow, oh wow, oh wow! Look at this salad!
Whole sliced navel oranges combined with fresh mint and effortlessly beautiful and elegant pomegranate seeds are a combination that every game hen will proudly compete against on your plates.
(Don’t worry though, the game hen will always win, no matter how stiff the competition is.)
Suzy over at The Mediterranean Dish explains the steps for the salad along with the ridiculously amazing dressing that the fruit and veggies get tossed with.
Hint: It involves orange blossom water! Just heavenly.
Grab the link here: themediterraneandish.com
4. LENTIL AND BARLEY SALAD WITH POMEGRANATE AND FETA
Lentils aren’t just inexpensive, earthy, and flavorful – they’re also a legume that loves whatever bright flavors that you toss at them.
They share that in common with their hearty salad mate, toothsome barley.
Bring on the crisp apples and salty feta, please! They pair perfectly.
Game hens will love sharing the plate with this combination of colors and textures.
Not just content with apples in the salad, Tiffany over at Parsnips and Pastries also makes apple cider vinegar the star of this vinaigrette. Find the recipe here: parsnipsandpastries.com
5. BEST EVER CRANBERRY SAUCE
Little Cornish game hens know a good thing when they see it. And, wow, they love to share a plate with this tart and sweet cranberry sauce.
Not only is this sauce complexly flavored with cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg, it also comes together in a snap for when it’s date night and you just want to have everything on the table lickety-splitly.
Check out the video from TheWolfePit for all the cranberry fun.
6. STEAMED VEGETABLES WITH GARLIC BUTTER
As far as Cornish hen sides go, what would be more lovely than crisp tender veggies kissed with garlic?
Have snap peas, carrots, and broccoli ever tasted so delectable? We doubt it.
Oh, my. You want this on your table.
Marion over at Life Tastes Good put together the flavorful combination of vegetables that are then drizzled with freshly made garlic butter. Head on over here for the directions: ourlifetastesgood.com
7. TOSSED SALAD WITH APPLE BUTTER VINAIGRETTE
We have a seven-word question for the game hen sitting handsomely on the plate: What do you think of apple butter?
If the answer is what we think it is – “I love apple butter!” – then this salad is the yin to the yang of the roasted bird. It’s creamy, it’s tart, it’s salty and sublime, and the dressing is something that is literally worth writing your family about.
That’s what happened to Blair over at The Seasoned Mom when her mother shot her a phone pic of a decadent restaurant salad.
It sounded so delicious that Blair couldn’t resist recreating it for her.
We totally understand why.
Check out the awesome recipe here: theseasonedmom.com
8. THE BIGGEST, FATTEST, FLUFFIEST POPOVERS
While you may want to open the oven door to baste your Cornish game hen occasionally, these popovers require that you take a little leap of faith and keep the door closed.
Why? Well, they need that puff of steam to make them stand up proudly in the popover pan.
Don’t worry though, this is a foolproof recipe for decadent popovers that yearn to melt butter while they’re still hot out of the oven.
Melty butter on hot popovers. Oh, yeah.
Heather over at Sugar Dish Me has the recipe for your popover dreams right here: sugardishme.com
9. 30-MINUTE DINNER ROLLS
Your Cornish game hens are on the grill, and you realize that you need some bread product to soak up their amazing juices.
What’s a cook to do?
First, exhale. Second, click on the link below from Roxana over at A TrEATs Affair for amazing, 30-minute from-scratch dinner rolls!
They’re insanely buttery and savory, and are a little bit of a dream come true in a napkin-lined basket on the table.
Why, yes, thank you. We would love another!
Follow this link to see more: atreatsaffair.com
10. ROASTED PARMESAN HERB SWEET POTATOES
Salty sweet potatoes sit proudly next to stuffed Cornish game hens on a platter that’s loaded with color and textures.
Why let white potatoes have all the fun? Let the orange guys in the game!
They’re crunchy on the outside and pillowy soft on the inside.
The inherent sweetness of the potatoes is offset in this recipe by Italian seasonings and parmesan, for a side dish that’s amazingly simple and mouthwatering.
Gayle at Pumpkin n’ Spice lays out the instructions here: pumpkinnspice.com
11. POTATO ZUCCHINI TART
Do you know who plays well together? Potatoes, zucchini, onions, and tomatoes.
They love to be nestled together in a colorful vegan tart that startles the eyes and amazes the senses.
Aimee over at The Veg Life puts together a tart that’s both elegant and prepared an ease and simplicity, making it the perfect rustic side dish for a roasted game hen.
You could also substitute summer squash for zucchini if that’s what you have on hand. Because, much like the game hen and tart – it’s important to love the one you’re with.
Take a look at the full recipe here: theveglife.com
12. CRUSTLESS ASPARAGUS QUICHE
Bright asparagus spears enveloped in triple cheese custard with savory spinach and earthy mushrooms is a side dish begging to be served with stuffed Cornish game hens.
Leigha at The Yooper Girl walks her readers through this simple – “Look ma, no crust!” – quiche that you’ll want to serve over and over again.
Oh, and if you have leftovers, be sure and reheat your quiche back up in the best way!
Find her delectable recipe here: theyoopergirl.com
13. LOADED SKILLET TOASTED GREEN BEANS
Not that we’d ever describe fresh green beans as boring – because they’re one of nature’s perfect vegetables – but Jessica over at How Sweet Eats aptly describes these as “the most unboring” green beans.
And how right she is.
They’re loaded with salty and savory feta, shallots, bacon – yes, bacon! – and toasted almonds.
They will also dress up an already gussied-up platter of grilled Cornish game hens like it’s nobody’s business.
Check out the decidedly not-boring recipe here: howsweeteats.com
What to Serve with Cornish Hens: Extra Credit
So we’ve covered what companions to invite to this kind of protein dish. But what about the main dish preparations? Are you doing it right, or looking for other ways to cook these babies up?
GET YOUR GRILLIN’ ON!
We’ve touched on some different ways to cook Cornish game hens, but one of the most popular in the summer is throwing them on a wood fire or electric grill.
And sure, you can leave them whole – but spatchcocking the birds first produces an evenly crispy skin with moist and tender meat -- think tuna steaks if you’ve ever cooked those (except you’ll cook this meat all the way through!).
Spatchcocking is a silly-sounding little phrase, but it’s just another term for butterflying a bird to remove the backbone which will allow it to spread out, lying flat on the grill.
According to Food Republic, this fun little verb seems to have its origins in 18th century Irish slang, as in, “dispatch the cock,” which meant “get dinner on the table quickly.”
Which just makes sense, because spatchcocking decreases the cooking time of poultry tremendously.
According to Google Trends, what really blew the term up was a Mark Bittman video for his New York Times column “The Minimalist” in 2008 (and again in 2012).
In the video, he wore a huge clock around his neck while he showed the ease – and massively decreased cooking time – of spatchcocking a full Thanksgiving turkey.
The total cooking time? A whopping 45 minutes.
So, when it comes to applying the same efficient technique to a Cornish game hen, the grilling process comes down to about 20-25 minutes.
And don’t forget an aluminum foil-wrapped brick or cast-iron skillet!
You want to constantly apply pressure to keep the meat completely pressed against the grill.
Smoked cornish hens is also becoming a popular roasting method for these birds. Of course, this is a slow-cook approach, which is true when smoking any meats.
TO STUFF OR NOT TO STUFF: THAT IS THE QUESTION
The answer? Why not?
Little Cornish hens are delightful when stuffed with bread, fruit, rice, mushrooms, sausage, or cornbread.
Mmmm. Stuffed Cornish game hens.
Just treat them the way you would any other piece of poultry, and loosely pack the stuffing into the cavity.
Overstuffing isn’t the way to make stuffing delicious – it just means it takes longer to cook. And who wants an overcooked bird?
YES, WE LOVE CORNISH GAME HENS
When reaching for a simple and elegant meal, this should be a go-to.
Whether it’s for a “Friendsgiving” where the host would like to serve something a little offbeat, or an impromptu date night where the cook would like it to appear that they pulled out all the stops, but with (actual) minimal effort.
Now, with all these ideas for what to serve with Cornish game hens, this meal should be a staple in your fridge for the perfect weeknight meal!
Related Meals, More Great Sides
Check out these pairings for your other favorite chicken dishes.
- Jerk Chicken sides: It’s still chicken but wow, what a change-up in flavor and sides for when you’re in the mood.
- Duck sides: You might also be a duck person, so enjoying roasted duck is a great choice.