Instant Pot: Garlic Lemon Cornish Hen

A good roast chicken dinner is a classic meal enjoyed by many. We love our share of chicken at our house but I wanted to try something a bit different, yet familiar with a typical chicken dinner. Instead of chicken, I served up these Garlic Lemon Cornish Hens. These miniature chickens were stuffed with lemon, rubbed with garlic, browned and pressure cooked until golden before serving alongside some roasted Parmesan and bacon smashed potatoes. Comfort food, kicked up a notch with the help of my Instant Pot...

Patrick has grown his culinary palate quite a bit the past couple of years and this meal was another one to add to the book. Prior to this, he never had Cornish Hen. Afterward, he became a fan and it was a great way to enjoy poultry with a twist. We had this on a typical weeknight but this is a dish that's perfect for guests. It's not everyday folks actually eat Cornish hen, so serving it is already a treat. 

The preparation of this easy - garlic, salt, pepper and a lemon. But it doesn't stop there! You can prepare cornish hen just as you would marinate or impart flavor to a whole chicken. The fun part is that the hens are a miniature version of a whole chicken. Use your favorite homemade marinade or grab a store bought marinade if its easier. .This garlic and lemon version makes for a good base to start with. As for presentation, I like splitting the hens in half, making it easier to plate up or portion out. 

Garlic Lemon Cornish Hen
recipe adapted from Cooking Light


1 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1/8 teaspoon black pepper, divided
Cornish hens 
lemon half
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup water

In your Instant Pot:

Plug in the IP with insert set in place.

Prep the hen by removing the giblets from hens and rinsing with cold water; pat dry. Giblets can be discarded or saved later for a giblet gravy. Remove any excess skin and fat. 

Place lemon in the cavity of hens and tie ends of legs together with twine. Lift wing tips up and over back; tuck under hen. 

In a bowl, combine minced garlic, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper; Rub hens with garlic mixture.

Press SAUTE on the IP and add the olive oil. When shimmering, add the Cornish hens and brown on all sides. (You may have to brown one at a time depending on size)

When hens have browned, add 1 cup of water.

Secure the lid of the IP and ensure the valve is set to SEALING.

Press MANUAL and adjust the time to 20 minutes on HIGH pressure.

The display will reflect ON while the IP comes to pressure. Allow a few minutes for your IP to come to pressure.

Once at pressure, the display will reflect 20 (the number of minutes you initially set) and will begin to countdown to 0 minutes.

When the IP beeps after pressure cooking for 20 minutes, allow your IP to naturally release pressure completely (allow several minutes for this to complete). While naturally releasing pressure (also known as NPR or NR), the display will reflect numbers counting up from 1. The numbers indicate how many minutes the IP has stopped cooking since it beeped (or how many minutes it has been naturally releasing pressure).  No need to touch your IP while it naturally releases pressure. The pin at the top of your IP will drop when all pressure has been released and it's safe to open.

Open up your IP when the pin has dropped (allow a few minutes for this to happen).

Remove twine from hens and split in half to serve. Discard lemon before serving. Optional - transfer split hen to a baking sheet and crisp under broiler if desired.


  1. I love your site. Have been searching for a Cornish Game hen recipe for a bit. This one I am serving tonight. Will let you know how it came out.

  2. Love this video and am using your recipe tomorrow. Did you have to put the chickens on a trivet?
    Thanks - Sandy

    1. Ideally you should use a trivet (which comes with the IP) but you can also do without.... just reduce the timing to avoid burning or overcooking since it will be in direct contact with the bottom of the pot.

  3. I made this for our Easter dinner as I haven't been to a grocery store for several weeks due to Covid-19 isolation. Went with a seasoning I had on hand and added garlic powder as I didn't have fresh. No lemon either, but used 1 Cup chicken broth hoping to add some flavor without it. And I split the hens before putting them in the IP. Turned out great! This will probably be my new go-to recipe instead of baking from now on. Whole time in IP was approximately 50 minutes. Thanks for posting this recipe!

  4. 20 minutes was too long. Even with 3 hens, as we did tonight. The inside temp was almost 180F and the meat was a little "too" done. Next time, I'll try 15 minutes instead. Other recipes call for only 12 minutes.