These Mojo Marinated Cornish Hens are a super fun way to change-up your dinner routine. Instead of roasting a whole chicken, try these little hens instead. The mojo marinade infuses great flavor and the presentation is just adorable. We serve the Cornish hens with yellow rice and black beans to keep the rest of dinner prep really simple, yet delicious! Enjoy.
4 Cornish Hens (about 16 to 20 oz. each)
1 Head of Garlic, peeled and smashed
1 ½ cups Sour Orange Juice (or oranges and limes)
2 tbsp. Olive Oil
1 tsp. Oregano, dried
¼ tsp. Cumin
1 Bay Leaf
2½ – 3 tsp. Kosher Salt, divided
Cook’s notes: This meal takes a little planning ahead because it’s best if the Cornish hens marinate in the mojo overnight. Also, Cornish hens usually come frozen, defrost them in the refrigerator completely before marinating (about 24 hours).
Make the mojo marinade
If you’re making the sour orange juice: combine 1 cup of orange juice (preferably fresh squeezed) and ½ cup lime juice. Stir or shake the juice to combine well. Set aside the sour orange juice aside until ready to use.
Peel the garlic. Smash the garlic cloves; place them on a cutting board and give them a good whack with the side of a large knife. Add the garlic and about ½ tsp. kosher salt to a mortar and pestle. Work the garlic until you break it down into small flat pieces. Add the smashed garlic, sour orange juice, olive oil, oregano, cumin, 1 tsp. salt, and the bay leaf to a medium bowl or jar. Stir or shake to combine well. Let the marinade sit in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, a couple of hours is better. Shake or stir well before using.
Marinate the Cornish hens
Using 2 large plastic zip-top bags, place 2 Cornish Hens in each bag. Divide the marinade evenly between each bag. Close the bags tightly and place them on a baking sheet or pan, just in case the bag leaks. Refrigerate and marinate the hens overnight. Turn the bag a few times.
Roast the mojo marinated Cornish hens
Preheat the oven to 350°F
Remove the hens from the zip top bags and arrange them, breast side up on a baking sheet lined with a rack / cooling rack. I like to remove any stray pieces of garlic from the hens, as the garlic will burn with the long cooking time and will become bitter. Discard the leftover marinade. Add a pinch of salt to the inside of each Cornish hen, and a pinch on the outside. Truss the legs with cooking twine and tuck the wings under the hens.
Roast the mojo marinated Cornish hens for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the juices run clear when pierced with a fork or knife. Ensure the internal temperature reaches at least 170°F-180°F on an instant read thermometer. The cooking time will depend on the size of the hens. Smaller hens will cook faster than larger one. Make sure to use an instant read thermometer to be sure about the internal temperature.
We serve the Mojo marinated Cornish Hens with yellow rice and black beans. Enjoy!
A note about sour oranges:
Sour oranges are used in chicken and pork marinades, and in many mojo recipes. During the latter part of the year, near the Christmas season, many Latin markets will stock sour oranges. If you can find sour oranges, slice in half and juice. If you can’t get sour oranges, because they’re not available in your area, or it’s not season, try combining orange juice (fresh squeezed is preferable) and lime juice at about a 2:1 ratio. Two parts orange juice to one part lime juice, shake or stir to combine well. The last alternative is bottled sour orange juice, which is not really made with sour oranges (more like grapefruit juice and other citrus); however, it will still get that sour and sweet taste we’re looking for. Sour orange juice can be found in the international section of most large grocery stores, or find it online (although at a premium).