“When I serve fried guinea hen, I call it simply ‘fried bird’ because it truly is the best fried bird,” says J.J. Johnson, chef at Henry, New York City, and author of Between Harlem and Heaven.  “I also really like the history of this recipe and the connections that it makes. You’ve got this African bird, so loved by the French that some people call it the French bird, and I’m putting chiles, cinnamon, and peanut butter on it and frying it in a Southern tradition. It just makes so much sense to me.” Grains of paradise, also known as melegueta or Guinea pepper, is a West African spice with a slightly citrusy, floral burn that gives this peanut-butter-and-lime-based marinade a lingering heat. The heavy use of spice in the marinade (plus an extra dose in the rice flour coating) turns the coating extra dark when frying. Like all good fried poultry, this is delicious hot and crisp from the fryer, and leftovers are also super-tasty enjoyed cold.

December 2018


Credit: Christopher Testani

Recipe Summary

4 hrs 40 mins
40 mins
2 to 4


Ingredient Checklist


Instructions Checklist
  • To cut guinea hen into 8 pieces, first remove the leg quarters: Tug one leg away from body, and insert a knife tip into joint that connects thigh to backbone. Separate leg quarter from backbone, and repeat on opposite side. Turn each quarter skin side down, and locate the white membrane line that runs between the leg and thigh. Use line as a guide to cut through the joint separating leg and thigh. Next, using sharp scissors or poultry shears, cut through rib bones along both sides of backbone, and remove backbone. (Save backbone to make stock, or fry along with rest of hen for a cook’s treat.) Turn breast portion bone side up, and use tip of knife to uncover and remove the thin, rigid breastbone. Cut down middle (where breast bone was) to create 2 breast halves. Cut each breast half crosswise on an angle, resulting in one piece with wing attached and one without.

  • Whisk together oil, peanut butter, and lime juice in a medium bowl until smooth. Stir in garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, chiles, 1 tablespoon salt, 2 teaspoons cinnamon, 1 teaspoon grains of paradise, and lime zest. Transfer to a large ziplock plastic bag; add guinea hen pieces. Seal bag, pressing out air, and turn until hen pieces are well coated. Chill 4 to 8 hours.

  • Pour oil to a depth of 1 inch into a deep, heavy skillet, and heat over medium to 350°F. Set a wire rack inside a rimmed baking sheet. Whisk together rice flour, 1 tablespoon salt, remaining 2 teaspoons grains of paradise, and remaining 1 teaspoon cinnamon in a pie plate or 8-inch square baking dish. Remove guinea hen pieces from marinade (do not scrape off excess), and add to seasoned flour; discard marinade. Turn to evenly coat guinea hen pieces; shake off excess seasoned flour.

  • Using tongs, carefully lower 4 coated guinea hen pieces into hot oil. Fry, turning every 3 minutes, until pieces are very dark and crisp and a thermometer inserted in thickest portion registers 165°F, 8 to 12 minutes. Transfer to prepared rack to drain, and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Repeat with remaining 4 guinea hen pieces and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Serve hot.

Suggested Pairing

Earthy, robust Monastrell