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Dove and Pigeon Recipes

Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Photo by Holly A. Heyser

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 Florentine

In Italy, steak is grilled over a hardwood fire and dressed only with salt, a little black pepper and a squeeze of lemon. Doves are just as good cooked this simply.
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.
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Doves on the Feed

Grilled doves or squab with barley or farro risotto and porcini mushrooms.

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 with Green Sauce

The English eat a lot of pigeons, and this is a British style recipe for roasted pigeon with a pretty green parsley sauce.
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

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 Middle Eastern Style

Doves, dusted with Middle Eastern 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.
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Dove Roulade with Saffron-Corn Sauce

A fancy recipe for doves. This is a date-night dish.
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Doves on Toast

Serving small game birds on toast is an old tradition; the toast sops up the gravy. In this version, the doves are served with quail eggs, maple-brandy gravy and mint gremolata.

More Wild Game Recipes

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