Is there a rule that says piccata has to be veal or chicken scaloppini? If there is, I’m breaking it here. Lemon, capers and chicken is a great flavour combination. You can make it even better, though. Imagine adding the goodness of a roasted poultry fond to it. Cornish hen with lemon and caper sauce. That’s a whole different level of yum.

I have a thing for cornish hens. They’re a bit more intensely flavoured than chicken. They’re small so I can have dark and white meat in a single serving. They just work. This recipe works just as well with roast chicken. Works with chicken parts as well. Roast some chicken. Skim off the clear fat. Deglaze with lemon and chicken stock. Toss in some capers. If you can roast a chicken, you can make this. Simple.

Lemon, capers and cornish hen come together in a great twist on traditional piccata.

I’ve shown it here served with roasted potatoes. It works just as well with pureed cauliflower or polenta or smashed new potatoes or… Mix it up!


Lemon, capers and cornish hen come together in a great twist on traditional piccata.

Lemon, capers and cornish hen come together in a great twist on traditional piccata.
cornish hen with lemon and caper sauce
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
40 mins
Total Time
50 mins
Cornish hen with lemon and caper sauce is a variation on chicken piccata. Substitute roasted cornish hen or chicken for chicken scaloppini and you have familiar flavours in a whole different dish.
Course: Main
Cuisine: Italian
Servings: 2
  • 1 cornish hen about 2 lbs
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 cup low sodium chicken stock
  • concentrated chicken stock - if you have it. Recipe link below.
  • 2 tsp capers
  • salt
  • pepper
  • olive oil to rub the cornish hen
  1. Pre-heat your oven to 400F. Pre-heat an oven proof skillet or small roasting pan.
  2. Rub the cornish hen or chicken with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Roast, basting once or twice with accumulated fat, until the cornish hen reaches an internal temperature of 165F.
  4. Remove the cornish hen from the roasting pan and set aside.
  5. Spoon off clear fat. Place the skillet over medium heat.
  6. Add the lemon juice and stir to dissolve any browned bits in the pan. Reduce slightly.
  7. Stir in the chicken stock and simmer briskly until reduced by half.
  8. Add the capers.
  9. Serve 1/2 cornish hen (or 1/4 chicken) per person, spooning the sauce around it.
Recipe Notes

This works equally well with a whole chicken. If roasting a chicken increase use 3/4 of a lemon juiced, 1 1/2 cups chicken stock and 1 Tbsp capers.

9 thoughts on “cornish hen with lemon and caper sauce

  1. I have a thing for cornish hens too! haha They may look cute, but they pack a ton of flavor, especially with the right sauce (and you definitely chose the right sauce!). I love the combination of lemon and capers– such bright, acidic flavors. This sauce looks perfectly balanced and absolutely delicious. Can’t wait to try this!

    • We need to spread the word on cornish hens! They give a little extra something to any roast chicken recipe for sure.

  2. The simplicity of this dish has me hooked. Recipes with few but flavorful ingredients are a real life-saver for the busy mom. Thank you for a gorgeous cornish hen recipe that I can handle on busy nights while still impressing the pants off the family!

    • You are very welcome. This is, I think, the basis of good everyday home cooking. Just what is needed to make it good. Nothing more. But that little extra bit of effort makes it special. Hope you like it.

  3. I’m just picturing a roasted Cornish hen with all that briny-lemony goodness and it’s making me so hungry! Do you think this recipe would double, triple, or quadruple well? My three boys will eat a Cornish hen each to themselves.

    • It should scale up to as many cornish hens you can fit in a pan I bet. The only tricky part will be finding a stovetop friendly monster roasting pan so you can feed them all at once:-)

  4. My mom got me hooked on lemon and capers – perfect amounts of bright and briney! And I share your affinity for cornish hens. I think I’m just anti-food-sharing and prefer to have my own mini-chicken. Haha, so this is perfect for me!

  5. This looks absolutely delicious.
    Terry can roast a chicken – I think…
    I need dinner made for me haha I think I might pass him this recipe to make for me this weekend. huhuhu! 🙂 Fancied up version of the usual chicken is always a bonus for me. 🙂

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