Roast Chicken (or Game Hens) with Cumin, Paprika & Allspice



By Cat, April 2015 (Photo, right, from Wikimedia Commons)

Daniel Neman makes a good point in his article, “Allspice: All purpose, not all spices” (1). So many people think, incorrectly, that allspice is a spice blend, containing cinnamon, nutmeg, clove with optional juniper, ginger and black pepper.

But allspice is a single spice from “a dried berry from a broadleaf evergreen tree.” My Mom used it in a Danish cured meat called rullepølse, and also in her Danish meatballs (similar to Swedish meatballs). I became acquainted with its use in Mediterranean/Middle-Eastern cuisines when I lived in Portland Oregon. For a long time I couldn’t use it because of a food sensitivity, but that has been cleared and now I can enjoy this wonderful sweet-and-savory spice.

Roast Chicken (or Game Hens) with Cumin, Paprika & Allspice

This recipe is adapted from an article on Allspice by Daniel Neman of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (1,2), and serves 4 – 6.

If you don’t want to use allspice, try cinnamon, nutmeg and/or cloves. Coriander and/or cardamom could also be used. I’m not fond of cumin, so I go light on that, as noted in the recipe. The original recipe uses 1 tsp each garlic powder and onion powder, but I prefer to use fresh garlic and onion and have updated the recipe accordingly.

This recipe would be a great way to use preserved lemon! but fresh lemon is good, too.

I’ve now tested both chicken and game hen and much prefer the hen. See Testing, below.

Ingredients & Equipment

  • 1 whole roasting chicken ( 4 – 6.5 lbs) or 2 – 3 game hens (22 oz each)
  • ¼ tsp unrefined sea salt (in addition to that use for pressing the garlic)
  • 1 large lemon (or preserved lemon)
  • Spice rub
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 ½ tsp ground cumin (I use only ½ tsp)
  • 1 tsp ground allspice (or mix of other spices; see above for suggestions)
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
  • 1 – 2 cloves garlic, minced and pressed with ¼ tsp unrefined sea salt  to a paste (or 1 tsp garlic powder)
  • 1 Tbsp minced onion, or more, to taste (or 1 tsp onion powder)
  • Equipment:
  • Roasting pan, with rack
  • small bowl


  1. Prep: Preheat oven to 375°F.
  2. Remove neck & giblets from chicken/hen cavity and reserve for another use. If using game hen, butterfly and then brine it. You can also butterfly and brine the chicken but it will need a bigger roasting pan and a very large bowl for the brine. Rinse bird inside and out, then pat dry. If you don’t brine the bird, sprinkle with ¼ tsp salt.
  3. Place on rack (optional) in roasting pan. (I prefer to skip the rack, as I don’t mind that the bird cooks in its own drippings.
  4. Cut lemon in halves (or 2 – 3 sections, one for each game hen); if using preserved lemon, they will already be in halves. Set aside.
  5. Combine oil, spices, onion and garlic in small bowl, and stir to mix. Then rub all over chicken/hens.
  6. Roast bird 1 hour. Squeeze juice from lemon halves over chicken, about 1 Tbsp (or if using preserved lemon, use what juice you can from the pieces, and add more freshly squeezed lemon juice). Then place spent lemon halves/preserved lemon inside cavity of the bird(s), or under butterflied hen.
  7. Continue to roast until cooked through (thickest part of thigh registers 180°F), 30 – 60 minutes.
  8. Transfer to platter and let stand 15 minutes before serving.


4/19/15: Used 3.7 lb Hutterite roasting chicken, prepared as written (with 1/2 tsp cumin) except I didn’t have any onion so used a bit more garlic, and uses Hungarian paprika rather than regular. Roasted first hour at 425 because I think my oven no longer heats to set temp. Then reduced to 375, added lemon juice and spent lemons, and roasted another 45 minutes. Total time: 1 hr, 45 min. Result: It was falling off the bone and delicious, but could have used a bit more salt. Also probably could have reduce oven temp to 400 for first hour. I’m glad I reduced the amount of cumin, as it blended well with the other spices and didn’t overwhelm with its own flavor. The liquids in the pan were quite lemony, not so good for making a sauce, but I saved it for reheating the leftovers.

5/8/15: Used 1 game hen, butterflied and brined, then rinsed, dried and seasoned with pepper and allowed to rest in fridge overnight to dry out the skin. Rubbed with half-recipe of the rub (1 Tbsp olive oil, ¼ tsp cumin, 1½tsp each allspice and Hungarian paprika, ¼ tsp black pepper, no salt because it was brined; 1 clove garlic, no onion). Placed rubbed, butterflied hen, skin-up, in 9″ square pyrex baking pan with the skin-on backbone, and roasted in preheated 375°F oven for 60 min. Squeezed juice of half fresh lemon over hen, then cut spent half-lemon in half and placed each piece under the hen, and continued to roast another 30 minutes. Result: It was perfectly done, nicely browned, and the drippings were to-die-for. Served with braised broccolini and asparagus, baked yam, and roasted beet. Wonderful meal. I definitely prefer this made with the hen, as the flavors penetrate the meat better.


  1. Allspice: All purpose not all spices by Daniel Neman of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (
  2. Chicken with Cumin, Paprika & Allspice recipe by Daniel Neman of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (

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