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Dove and Pigeon Recipes

Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Photo by Holly A. Heyser

I know that for most, a page of dove recipes seems odd: Most people just pop the breasts off, wrap them in bacon with a jalapeno and grill. The venerable popper, as this recipe is called, is fine food — but it isn’t the only thing you can do with a dove.

Doves and pigeons (squab when you buy them in a store) deserve their own category because they are dark meat birds with very little fat on them. You can use small ducks such as bufflehead or teal with these recipes, but they will often have a layer of fat that a pigeon or dove will not. A sharp-tailed grouse is an excellent alternative, though.

If you catch your own doves and pigeons, please – please – pluck them and keep them whole. They are the easiest birds to pluck, taking only seconds, once you get the hang of it. You get in return for your efforts a beautiful presentation and those little legs, which are so very tasty! Remove the wings from a dove (you can throw them into the stockpot, however) and all but the first wing joint on a pigeon (this is the “drumette” piece).

Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Plucking Doves and Pigeons

Here are step-by-step instructions on plucking game birds, including doves and pigeons. When you are done plucking and gutting, save the livers for a ravioli recipe.

Here’s a video on how to pluck a dove, done by my girlfriend (and photographer) Holly Heyser.

One dove is a good portion for an appetizer, three to four for a main course. Pigeons are larger, so one pigeon makes a light dinner main course — two is a bit much because the meat is so dense. Squabs are the same as pigeons: One to two per person.


Grilling is by far the best way to cook doves. It’s the only way to get the skin crispy without overcooking the breast meat, which should be eaten medium, i.e., still pink. Same goes for young pigeons. Older pigeons are better braised.

Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Grilled Doves a la Mancha

By far my favorite recipe for grilled doves. Stuffed with fresh herbs, painted with bacon fat and dusted with smoked paprika.
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Huckleberry Grilled Doves

Doves basted with a huckleberry (or blueberry) BBQ sauce, then grilled until they are medium-rare. Serve it with grilled potatoes and a salad.
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Grilled Pigeons Egyptian Style

The Egyptians love their pigeons, and this is a riff off a classic way they eat them, which is stuffed with a hearty green wheat stuffing. Do this with squab, doves or actual pigeons if you can find them.
Photo by Hank Shaw

Grilled Doves Desert Style

Doves grilled with a BBQ sauce made from wild prickly pears, tequila, agave nectar and chiles. 
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Cajun Grilled Doves

Doves rubbed with Cajun seasonings and grilled hot and fast. 
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Grilled Doves Teriyaki

Who doesn’t love teriyaki? In my version you make your own teriyaki sauce, which is a little less sweet and gloppy than the store-bought versions.

Here is another grilled dove recipe I wrote for my friend David Leite on his website: Grilled Doves, Portuguese Style.


When the weather cools, roasting is your next best bet for doves and pigeons. Get your oven hot for this one...

Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Roast Pigeon

The English eat a lot of pigeons, and this is a British-style recipe for roasted pigeon. Simple. Traditional. Lovely.
Turkish Roast Pigeon with Bulgur

Turkish Roast Pigeon with Bulgur

Pigeons are also eaten a lot in the Middle East, so here is a Turkish roast pigeon, stuffed with bulgur wheat.


Here are some other ways to cook doves and pigeons.

Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Dove Chiles Rellenos

A classic Mexican picadillo, in this case spiced, ground dove or pigeon meat, served in a roasted pepper with a simple tomato sauce.
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Dove Jagerschnitzel

Dove breasts pounded thin, dusted in flour and served with a mushroom gravy. A riff of the German classic jägerschnitzel.
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Poached Dove with Roasted Peppers

Gently poached skinless dove breasts, tossed into a Spanish-inspired main course salad with roasted red peppers, preserved garlic and pine nuts.
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Pigeon or Dove Tortellini

Braised pigeon, squab or dove, ground into a rich ravioli filling and made into tortellini.
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Deep Fried Doves

Doves, dusted with spices, and deep fried. Oh yeah, it’s awesome.
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Fried Doves with a Sunflower Crust

Doves eat sunflowers, right? So a sunflower seed crust is the perfect coating for fried doves.

More Wild Game Recipes

29 responses to “Dove and Pigeon Recipes”

  1. Donny B.

    Dad always cooked the doves.
    He never taught me how.
    Now I don’t care … this looks GREAT!

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  5. Scott

    After plucking your doves how do you prep the meat? Hopefully I will be cooking mine in a day or so. Do you soak them in salt? Or just wash and refrigerate? Your advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks

  6. Orange Rosemary Grilled Doves - in sock monkey slippers

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  7. Joe

    I have just recently started eating pigeons. They are everywhere at work and I’ve been shooting them with a slingshot. I live in southeast Texas and surprisingly a lot of people think the idea of eating pigeons is gross. Every way I have cooked them so far they tasted great. I ran across this page while googling for recipes. I am looking forward to trying some of them out on my next days off.

  8. Rick

    Thanks for the recipe idea. I’m going to use it for my woodcock. Can’t see why it wouldn’t be delicious on that dark breasted bird.

  9. nick vlasek

    We have bacon wrapped squab twice a week and pigeon soup alot also.

  10. Alan

    Roasted pigeons! I seriously need to try this one day…

  11. Mirrim Blackfox

    You forgot about Pigeon Pie, one of the worlds great pigeon dishes! It’s a bit like chicken pot pie, only much richer.

    Smiles, I really enjoy your recipes, though anything sweet I have to add half again as much (honey, sugar, what have you) because you really under sweeten your recipes, but that is just a personal preference thing. I only bring it up because lots of people seem to be afraid to alter recipes, and I want people to know that, unless it is something like charcuterie (where you don’t want to mess up the preservatives for fear of food poisining. That there is nothing wrong with altering recipes, like you know, extending the cooking time so you don’t have to eat half raw dove *grins*.

  12. Dishing Up Obscure 2014 Food Trends - Food Blogger Connect

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  13. Vince

    What are your thoughts on on substituting pigeon for beef? For example, in something like Steak and Guinness.

  14. Jimbo

    Great site. Sorry, I’m incredibly naive, but can I safely cook and eat the flying rats populating urban areas?

  15. Bob

    I have eaten pigeons for more than 50 years. In my youth in (Queens NY), I harvested them with a slingshot near railroad yards and ate them. They must be OK because I am 77 and still eating them as well as mournings, whitewings and collards, oh yea sometimes band tails in San Diego CA.

    A favorite of mine is a Lasagna with dove instead of beef

  16. Shannon Graham

    I’ve got a freezer full of whitewing and rock doves. I’ll start on these recipes muy pronto. Thanks.

  17. Chris

    I shot 16 doves yesterday with my pre-charged air rifle – I am fortunate to live near to some grain silos and I am able to harvest doves frequently. I was browsing the Internet looking for recipes to try and came across your web site. Congratulations on having put up a great selection of recipes and enticing photographs. I have pan fried dove breasts many times, but I am definitely going to try plucking the doves and roasting or grilling them whole when I start cooking some of the current batch.

  18. Tyler

    How do you clear a dove or pigeon’s crop? All the birds I’ve shot were overstuffed with grain and berries. It seems almost impossible to get the paper thin crop out without it breaking.

  19. guy

    another one to try is pigeon or dove, marinated in olive oil and lemon juice, a bit of rosemary, sea salt and fresh cracked black. marinate in the fridge for a few hours or over night. place them breast down on a medium hot wood or charcoal fire. turn every few minutes til the skin is crisp all the way around…serve with a salad and a glass of wine or beer! good eats

  20. Tim Savatt

    These recipes are awesome! One question, what happened to the doves on toast recipe? That one was our favorite!!

  21. M.H.

    I’ve been eating pigeon for a while now (and city pigeons aren’t that bad. I haven’t found cigarette butts in any of the crops that I’ve squeezed). The only problem is finding recipes I can actually use. I live in an apartment so grilling isn’t a real option for me. I also don’t like wasting an entire bird just to eat the breasts.

    I want a simple recipe for roast pigeon with date stuffing. I’ve been trolling the Internet exhaustively for days now and the closest I get is a chicken recipe with prunes, apricots, couscous, dates and almonds. Oy.

    Could anybody help me out here? Thank you so much.

  22. John Logan

    I’m trying to find your recipe for Doves on Toast and it will not come up on your web site. I have purchased tow of your cookbooks and it isn’t there either. can you send me that recipe?

  23. Dennis

    My dove season highlight growing up was my mother’s dove tagliarini (flat pasta a bit thinner than tagliatelli). She would saute’ the dove in a large skillet till lightly browned, then finish them (fricassee style) in the skillet in her marinara sauce and serve them on a bed of tagliarini. Fantastic; I never knew times or seasonings, but it made me a more motivated hunter.

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