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Deep-Fried Doves Middle Eastern Style

deep fried dove

Photo by Holly A. Heyser

I initially came up with the idea for this dish after reading a 1940s recipe for deep-fried doves in Roy Wall’s Fish and Game Cookery. His recipe is old school, with the doves fried in shortening and served with a red-eye gravy. Good, but not my style.

I decided to make this dish Middle Eastern, Turkish, really. I like frying things in chickpea flour, which is available in good supermarkets, Italian and Indian stores. You could substitute in some other earthy-tasting flour: The easiest alternative would be whole wheat. I laced the flour with a typical mixture of Middle Eastern spices: garlic, chile, cumin, sumac and fenugreek.

Can you use domestic squab in this recipe? I never have, but I bet it would work. Squab are a lot larger than doves, however, so you’ll need only 1 per person maximum. Quail might be a better choice, as they are smaller.

Keys to this recipe are letting the doves rest with the salt on them — it’s like a quick salt-cure; patting them dry afterwards, and keeping the oil hot. This means you’ll need to fry the doves a few at a time. Keep them warm in the oven while you do the rest.

Serves 4-6

  • 8 to 12 doves, plucked and gutted
  • Salt
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat or chickpea flour
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon sumac (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 2 tablespoons cayenne (or to your taste)
  • 1 teaspoon fenugreek (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • Oil for frying


  1. Wash the doves, then salt them well and set aside at room temperature for 30 to 45 minutes.
  2. Pour the oil — I use canola or peanut or cheap olive oil — into a deep-fryer or heavy, high-sided pot like a Dutch oven. A fryer will have a fill line. Pour no more than 2/3 of the pot’s depth, and half is better. Don’t worry, you can reuse the oil.
  3. Heat the oil slowly, over medium heat, to 350°F. If you are using olive oil, keep it at 340°F.
  4. Meanwhile, mix the flour and all the spices together in a bowl and coat the doves.
  5. When the oil is hot, drop in a couple doves at a time and let them fry for 5-7 minutes, turning them to be sure they are golden brown all over.
  6. Let drain on a rack in an oven set to ‘warm.’
  7. Serve with hummus and flatbread with a bunch of random herbs to eat with it — cilantro, mint, basil, green onions, etc. Be sure to put out a bowl for the bones and give your guests plenty of napkins.

More Dove and Pigeon Recipes

2 responses to “Deep-Fried Doves Middle Eastern Style”

  1. Joe Keough

    I can’t wait to try this! I’ll have to wait until September 1st (opening day).

  2. Aaron

    Joe Keough, Well…. did you try it? How was opening day? Sept 1st was opening day here in TN and I came home with 10 doves. I breasted them, put them in a brine solution and have them in the freezer. Now that I know about this recipe and others for keeping the bird whole I think I may stop breasting them if I know I will eat them that or the next day.

    Thanks for the recipes Hank!

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