Grilled Doves with Blueberry BBQ Sauce

4.80 from 5 votes
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huckleberry BBQ doves recipe
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Here in Northern California, two things happen at once: Huckleberries and blueberries come ripe, and dove season opens. Combining the two, by making a blueberry barbecue sauce to go with grilled doves, is a perfect Labor Day match. Grilling doves is the best way to cook them, bar none. Small birds need high heat to cook properly: You need temperatures in excess of 500°F to crisp the skin and still keep the meat pink inside. And yes, doves should be served medium. Think of them like steak or duck, only with little or no fat and much, much smaller.

This recipe works best with plucked, whole doves. Many dove hunters don’t pluck their birds, and this is a shame. It takes just a couple minutes to pluck them: Doves and pigeons pluck easier than any other game bird; it’s their loose feathers that bother your dog so much — they all come off in the dog’s mouth. I urge you to give it a go. (In this post, I go into plucking game birds extensively, and we have a video about how to pluck doves.)

Can this recipe work with skinned dove breasts? I honestly don’t know. If you try it, I’d be grateful if you share your experience back in the comments section below.

grilled doves with blueberry BBQ sauce
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

As for this barbecue sauce, it’s made of awesome. And huckleberries. I used evergreen huckleberries, Vaccinium ovatum, which are like purplish-black blueberries. You can use any huckleberries you want, or, if you live in the East, use blueberries. Even store-bought blueberries will work fine. Good luck everyone this dove season! May you hunt safely, shoot straight and eat well.


I have 25 dove recipes here on Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, ranging from Moroccan-inspired bacon-wrapped doves to dove poppers. Some great Labor Day grilling or barbecue options include:

huckleberry BBQ doves recipe
4.80 from 5 votes

Blueberry Barbecue Sauce with Grilled Doves

This is essentially a blueberry barbecue sauce recipe, as it is so easy to grill your doves. You will want to make the sauce first, as the doves take very little time to cook. Don't have doves? No problem. Try this sauce on pork, duck, squab or even chicken thighs. I think it's too intense for chicken breasts, though. The recipe below makes a lot of sauce, but the grilled doves are meant for 4 people as a main course. You will actually have enough sauce to coat a flock of doves, however, so you could conceivably serve 12-20 with this much sauce.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Servings: 4 people
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes


  • 12 to 16 doves, or 2 pounds chicken thighs
  • Salt
  • Olive oil


  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 cups blueberries or huckleberries (fresh or frozen)
  • 1/2 cup tomato puree
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary


  • Take the doves out of the fridge, salt them well and let them rest at room temperature while you make the sauce.
  • To make the sauce, heat the butter in a pot over medium-high heat. Saute the onions for 2 minutes, then add the garlic and cook another minute. Mix in the remaining ingredients and simmer gently for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Turn off the heat and allow the sauce to cool a little. Pour it into a blender and puree. Be careful blending hot things, and keep your hand on the top of the blender; sometimes the steam can make it pop off. Wipe out the inside of the pot you cooked the sauce in and pour the pureed sauce back in. Keep warm over low heat.
  • Coat the doves in the oil and get your grill fiercely hot. Grill the doves breast side up, with the cover down, over medium-high to high heat for 2 minutes. Lift the cover and paint them with the BBQ sauce. Cover the grill again and grill for another 8 to 10 minutes, depending on how well-done you like your doves. Remove to a platter and paint with a little more sauce. Let them rest for 5 minutes before eating.


Stored in a glass jar in the fridge, this sauce will last a month or two. It is also acidic enough for you to can it in a boiling water bath. Seal it in pint jars and boil 15 minutes to seal.


Calories: 580kcal | Carbohydrates: 44g | Protein: 25g | Fat: 33g | Saturated Fat: 12g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 164mg | Sodium: 716mg | Potassium: 633mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 37g | Vitamin A: 792IU | Vitamin C: 13mg | Calcium: 63mg | Iron: 2mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe? Tag me today!Mention @huntgathercook or tag #hankshaw!

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About Hank Shaw

Hey there. Welcome to Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, the internet’s largest source of recipes and know-how for wild foods. I am a chef, author, and yes, hunter, angler, gardener, forager and cook. Follow me on Instagram and on Facebook.

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Recipe Rating


  1. I did try this on dove breast. It had already been butchered his way, so I went with it. It turned out good. I did add about 4or 5 tablespoons of white sugar to the sauce. It was overly hot before I did. Would definitely recommend. I can chose not to rate since I changed it up a bit.

  2. The sauce is awesome! & you’re right it’s great on pork too, (and I’m sure on anything else you’d normally put bbq sauce on).

  3. Hank –

    Made this recipe last night. Although (and don’t shoot me here) I did not make the sauce due to a lack of time so I used a locally made commercial barbecue sauce. Came out excellent!

    I promise next time to leave enough prep time to make the sauce.

  4. What Hank describes is not about “too much”. It’s about the “right amount”. An unknown qty of salt in salted butter plus what you need for every other ingredient is fluid. But unsalted butter allows for reproducibility. That is the hallmark of good cooking; reproducibility.

    Hank, I have been able to reproduce your recipes; times many! Thanks!

  5. Wronknee: One word: control. You cannot properly control the amount of salt in your cooking unless you add it all yourself. So you will never see salted butter in a (serious) restaurant kitchen, and I never use it for that reason, either.

  6. It makes me laugh everytime I see a recipe calling for ‘unsalted butter’ followed by X amount of salt. What am I missing?