How to Spatchcock Cornish Hens - Tandoori Chicken

So, I'm Indian. 
And the top 2 questions that I get from my non-Indian friends are:
1. Where do you go to get the best Indian food?
Not far, my friends. Just a short walk to my kitchen.
2. And do you eat Tandoori chicken?
Oh, yes I do.  Though, it's not an every day affair. And it's not traditional fare from where I come from in India. I'm from the South and tandoori chicken is a specialty of the Northern frontier lands. 
But yes, it is very delicious and I can't fault anyone for thinking that Tandoori chicken is India's national dish since  every Indian restaurant features tandoori on their menu.
So, I've decided to give the people what they want.

Here's my very simple recipe for Tandoori chicken, using a whole spatchcocked/ butterflied style cornish hen.

 Spatchcock cornish hens, tandoori chicken without grill, tandoori butterflied cornish hen, butterflied cornish hen, butterfly tandoori, butterfly tandoori chicken, tandoori spatchcock


Cornish hens or poussins are just little chickens that are not fully grown. A great alternative to big bird chicken; when cut down the middle cornish hens are perfectly portioned to feed 2 adults.

Heck, maybe for my next Thanksgiving or Christmas celebration, I'll serve up a couple of spatchcocked cornish hens instead. After all variety is the spice of life. 


How to Butterfly or Spatchcock a Cornish Hen

Spatchcocking or butterflying a bird is a way of opening up the bird and making it lie flat when cooking. Below is how I spatchcock or butterfly my little cornish hens, but the method is the same if you want to spatchcock a whole chicken or turkey.


1. Lay the Cornish Hen Breast Down (Backbone Side Up)

Whole cornish hen on cutting board
Lay Cornish Hen backbone side up


2. Use kitchen scissors to cut on either side of backbone.

Cutting cornish hen with kitchen scissors
Cut on either side of backbone with a sharp scissors

3. Discard backbone and flip cornish hen over. Press it down flat with your hand.

Spatchcocking or butterflying cornish hen with kitchen scissors
Turn over and spread chicken out. Discard backbone or reserve for stock.

4. Rub with marinade of your choice. Marinade for 2- 24 hours.

Cornish hen rubbed with tandoori masala
Spatchcocked Cornish hen marinated with Indian tandoori masala and yoghurt.

 5. Roast or Grill Spatchcocked Cornish hen

Spatchcock cornish hens in blue baking dish surrounded by mint and sage leaves and mint sauce, tandoori chicken without grill, tandoori butterflied cornish hen, butterflied cornish hen, butterfly tandoori, butterfly tandoori chicken, tandoori spatchcock
Roasted Tandoori Spatchcock Chicken served with a Yoghurt Mint Raita and lime wedges

Indian Recipe for Tandoori Spatchcock Cornish Hen


Serves: 2


1 Cornish hen
2-3 tablespoons tandoori masala powder (National brand)
2-3 tablespoons yogurt
1 teaspoon ginger garlic paste
Juice of half a lime
Oil/ cooking spray
☐ Lemon wedges for serving


Step by Step Instructions:

Step 1: Spatchcock Cornish Hen

  • Lay whole cornish hen flat on a cutting board, breast side down, backbone side up.
  • Starting at the tail end of the bird, use a sharp kitchen scissors to cut on either side of the backbone.
  • Discard the backbone or reserve to make soup stock.
  • Flip Cornish hen over, breast side up.
  • Spread Cornish hen out and use the heel of your hand to gently flatten out bird. 

Step 2: Marinade Cornish Hen in Tandoori Masala

  • In a small bowl, mix together tandoori masala powder, ginger garlic paste, lime juice and yogurt. Taste test to see if extra salt is required. The paste should taste salty.
  • Rub it all over the Cornish hen including under the skin between the skin and meat. Discard extra masala paste.
  • Place Cornish hen in a dish, cover with cling foil and refrigerate for 2-24 hours.

Step 3: Roast Cornish Hen

  • Remove Cornish hen from fridge 45 minutes prior to roasting to bring bird to room temperature.
  • Discard and liquid that has been released from the hen.
  • Place cornish hen on a baking tray, breast side up. Spray with baking spray or brush with oil.
  • Place bird in the center of 375° F pre-heated oven and bake for 30 minutes or until thermometer inserted reads an internal temperature of 170°F.  (If grilling, grill 15 minutes on each side on a 350°F grill)
  • Remove from oven and let stand for 20 minutes before cutting.
  • Squeeze half a lime over the cornish hen and serve with a yoghurt mint raita and extra wedges of lime.

So, that's it folks. That's how to make a Tandoori Spatchcocked Cornish hen/ chicken. 

But, if you want to see how my family traditionally roasts our chicken for Christmas, check out my Anglo Indian Roast Chicken Recipe. 

Anglo Indian Roast Chicken and stuffing

For more Anglo Indian Recipes, check out My Cookbook Index.


Enjoyed your visit?

Contact Me


Email *

Message *