Slow Cooker Cornish Hens And Orzo Recipe

We can all appreciate a good slow cooker recipe, especially as autumn approaches and time is even more precious than usual. With the sun setting faster, the need for a meal that does the work for you grows too; especially cozy, tender dishes like this one. This dish is faster than the usual slow cooker recipe because Cornish hens cook fairly quickly thanks to their small size and tender meat.

A Cornish hen is a type of chicken that tastes about the same as your typical chicken breast. The difference lies in the size; Cornish hens are much smaller, weighing only about 2 pounds. They're a little cheaper than a whole chicken would be, but you still get all the good stuff: Legs, thighs, breasts, and wings. And when you put them in the slow cooker? It all gets super tender.

The joy of this recipe written with developer Michelle McGlinn is that it all comes together in one pot, orzo and all. This makes it ideal for nights when you'd rather not have many dishes to clean — and if that's every night, we have plenty more slow cooker recipes, too.

The ingredients needed for slow cooker Cornish hens and orzo

While this recipe would certainly work with standard chicken thighs, breasts, or legs, it's worth seeking out Cornish hens to use instead. These will often be in the poultry section, but if you're having trouble finding them, try looking through the frozen meats. Grocery stores will often freeze niche items like Cornish hens so they last longer on the shelves. If frozen, plan to thaw the hens before using.

You'll also need salt, pepper, shallot, garlic, water, white wine, lemon juice, thyme, rosemary, and butter. We recommend using fresh herbs for a more herbal infusion of flavor, but you can also swap for dried herbs to more directly season the hens. The last thing you'll need is orzo, which can be found in the pasta aisle.

Season and stuff the hens

If your hens came with giblets, remove the little package before you begin. Reserve these for other recipes or discard. Season the hens generously on all sides with salt and pepper first, then divide the shallots and garlic between hens, stuffing them into the cavity. Push the aromatics far into the hens to ensure they stay inside the hen and properly flavor the meat.

Assemble the ingredients in the slow cooker

Just like most slow cooker meals, the next step is as easy as dumping the ingredients into the pot and pressing "start." Add the water, white wine, lemon juice, thyme, and rosemary to the pot and add the seasoned hens to the liquid. Add a pat of butter to each hen, then close the lid tightly and select the cook time. For best results, cook the hens on low for four hours. If you're short on time, cook on high for two.

Stirring in the orzo

When done, the meat should be very tender and pull away fairly easily with a fork. The hens should be golden brown, but not dark or crispy. Remove the hens from the slow cooker and set aside while stirring in the orzo. Or, to crisp the skins, place them under a hot broiler while you add the orzo. Stir the orzo into the liquid in the pot, incorporating the pasta, then return the hens to the basin and tightly seal the lid. Cook on high for about 30 minutes, or until the orzo is tender and the liquid is mostly absorbed.

Serving Cornish hens

It's pretty typical to serve Cornish hens whole so that you can pull the tender meat off the bones and enjoy each piece of the chicken. Truthfully, if you split the hen into wings, legs, and thighs, the pieces would be too small and delicate to eat with your hands, anyways — not to mention, not a very pretty presentation. Plan to serve the hens whole, or for kids, cut the bird into pieces and remove the bones. For smaller appetites, use a sharp knife to split the hen directly in half. These Cornish hens are also just as good the next day and can be stored in airtight containers in the refrigerator. Reheat in the microwave and use within a week.

Slow Cooker Cornish Hens And Orzo Recipe
5 from 34 ratings
The joy of this slow cooker Cornish hens recipe is that it all comes together in one pot, orzo and all, making it ideal for busy weeknights.
Prep Time
Cook Time
cornish hen and orzo in slow cooker
Total time: 4 hours, 35 minutes
  • 3 Cornish hens
  • 1 shallot, quartered
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
  • 1 tablespoon salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon pepper, plus more to taste
  • 1 cup water
  • ¾ cup dry white wine
  • Juice from ½ lemon
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 ½ cups orzo
  1. Stuff the Cornish hens with shallot and garlic, evenly dividing the aromatics between each hen. Season each hen with salt and pepper.
  2. Add the water, wine, lemon juice, thyme, and rosemary to a slow cooker. Add the Cornish hens, then add a tablespoon of butter on top of each hen.
  3. Cover and cook on low for 4 hours or high for 2 hours.
  4. When hens are tender and have reached an internal temperature of 160 F, remove them from the slow cooker.
  5. Stir in the orzo.
  6. Return the hens to the slow cooker and cover. Cook on high for 30 minutes, or until orzo is al dente.
  7. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove the thyme and rosemary to serve.
Calories per Serving 1,060
Total Fat 59.8 g
Saturated Fat 20.6 g
Trans Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 369.9 mg
Total Carbohydrates 51.0 g
Dietary Fiber 4.7 g
Total Sugars 4.0 g
Sodium 1,376.0 mg
Protein 66.5 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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