Cornish Game Hen in pan with lemon wedge

Dinner / Seasonal - Fall

Oven Roasted Cornish Game Hens with Pumpkin Seed Pesto

4 Servings

Prep time: 10 minutes | Cook time: 1 hour and 15 minutes | Inactive time: 2–24 hours

Diet Style


Tools You'll Need

  • Measuring Cups
  • Measuring Spoons
  • Chef’s Knife
  • Cutting Board
  • Small Skillet
  • Food processor or blender
  • Roasting Pan


  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup shelled pumpkin seeds, unsalted
  • 2 teaspoons smoked paprika
  • ½ cup water
  • 1 cup fresh Italian parsley, roughly chopped
  • 2 green onions, roughly chopped
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • Kosher salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 Cornish game hens, gizzards discarded


  1. Heat pumpkin seeds

    In a large skillet over medium heat, add 3 tablespoons olive oil, the pumpkin seeds, ½ teaspoon salt (no salt needed if you are using pre-salted seeds), and 1 teaspoon paprika.

  2. Cook seeds

    Cook seeds for about about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally until the seeds begin to lightly brown and become aromatic. Be careful not to burn them.

  3. Cool seeds

    Remove from the heat and let cool completely.

  4. Pureé

    Transfer the seeds and oil to a food processor or blender, add ½ cup water, the parsley, green onion, lemon juice, and pulse until pureéd.

  5. Set pesto side

    Remove about 3 tablespoons of the pesto for the hens and set aside the rest for serving.

  6. Loosen hen breast

    Slide your fingers under the breast skin of each hen to loosen.

  7. Add pesto

    Slide 2 heaping teaspoons of the pesto under the skin of each hen and rub the pesto all over.

  8. Mix additional seasonings

    In a separate bowl, mix the garlic, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 teaspoon paprika, and lemon zest, then rub all over the outside of the hens.

  9. Refrigerate

    Refrigerate, uncovered, at least 2 hours or overnight.

  10. Preheat oven

    Preheat oven to 400º.

  11. Place hens in oven

    Put the hens on a rack in the lower half of the oven in a shallow roasting pan or rimmed baking sheet breast side up.

  12. Roast

    Roast, rotating the pan halfway through until the skin is golden brown, and a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the thigh register degrees 164º, and the juices run clear—about 1 hour. Let rest 15 minutes.

  13. Serve

    Serve with the reserved pesto on the side.