Go Back
+ servings
Two spiced cornish hens on a white platter with mashed potatoes and carrots

Cider Herb Spiced Cornish Hens

These Cider & Herb Spiced Cornish Hens are marinated in a mixture of apple cider, fresh herbs, dark brown sugar, maple syrup and spice, then coated in a homemade spice rub and pressure cooked until tender. Using the Instant Pot Duo Crisp + Air Fryer, we make an already delicious recipe even better by air-frying the hens for the ultimate crispy skin!
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Keyword air fryer, chicken, cornish hen, instant pot
Prep Time 5 hours
Cook Time 35 minutes
Resting Time 10 minutes
Total Time 5 hours 45 minutes
Servings 2 cornish hens
Calories 1233kcal


  • 2 cornish hens 2 lbs each
  • 2 thyme sprigs

For the Marinade

  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • 4 tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 4 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 10 garlic cloves
  • 1 tsp thyme leaves
  • 1 tsp chopped rosemary
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper

For the Cornish Hens

  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp paprika up to 1 tsp
  • 1/2 tsp chopped rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp chopped thyme leaves
  • Olive oil for drizzling


  • Prep both cornish hens by removing the giblets and rinsing with cold water then pat dry. Also remove any excess skin and fat.
  • Add a thyme sprig to the cavity of each hen then tie ends of the legs together with twine. Lift wing tips up and over the back then tuck them under.
  • Add both cornish hens along with all marinade ingredients to one large plastic ziplock bag. Mix ingredients well and refrigerate for at least 5 hours.
  • When ready to cook, remove hens from marinade, pat completely dry and season with salt, paprika, rosemary, and thyme.
  • Add cornish hens to Instant Pot then pour the remaining marinade in the inner pot. Lock with the pressure cooker lid and cook for 25 minutes at high pressure.
  • When the cook time ends, quick release the pressure.
  • Remove the pressure cooker lid and using tongs, take the hens out of the inner pot and completely drain the liquid (you can save this to make a quick gravy).
  • Making sure that your inner pot is completely dry, place the air fryer basket into the pot.
  • Drizzle the hens with olive oil to help brown and place in the basket. Top with the air fryer lid.
  • Turn the Instant Pot to air fry for 5-7 minutes. Once complete, let hens rest for 10 minutes.
  • Remove twine and sprigs of thyme from inside hens, then serve with remaining drippings or cook down to make a gravy and serve.


How to Roast Cornish Hens in the Oven: You can bake at 400 for 55-70 minutes or just until hens reach 165°F with a thermometer. 


Calories: 1233kcal | Carbohydrates: 78g | Protein: 86g | Fat: 64g | Saturated Fat: 18g | Cholesterol: 455mg | Sodium: 2633mg | Potassium: 2116mg | Fiber: 12g | Sugar: 37g | Vitamin A: 864IU | Vitamin C: 60mg | Calcium: 242mg | Iron: 6mg