Often imitated, this is the ultimate dove recipe: doves la Mancha, Spanish style grilled doves with herbs and smoked paprika. It has become one of my signature dishes. Easy to make, fast and lip-smacking good!
This has been called the ultimate dove recipe by several outdoor magazines over the years, and it very well might be — although dove poppers could give it a run.
I’ve been making doves la Mancha for nearly 20 years, and it’s still my favorite dove recipe. Super simple, this lets you get all primal with your Labor Day bag of fat, juicy doves. Why? Because you pluck ’em, gut ’em and then grill and eat the birds whole.
Pluck a dove? Seriously. Doves are the easiest bird to pluck, and I can do one in about 90 seconds once I get my groove on. The feathers practically fall off, which is why your dog hates retrieving them. (Here’s a video we did on how to pluck a dove.)
Not only does plucking make the bird look nicer — like a little baby chicken — but you also get to eat the legs, which are fantastic, if a bit small. I normally leave one digit on the wings because it keeps the breast meat moister, but you don’t have to.
How to Make Doves la Mancha
Doves la Mancha is crazy easy. Once you have your plucked doves, you smear melted butter or olive oil all over the birds, then salt them, inside and out.
Stuff the little cavities with fresh herbs: I use rosemary, thyme, sage — often the native sages that live where I hunt — and sometimes fresh or dried bay leaves. Side note: Don’t use sagebrush for this dove recipe because it’s too bitter, and it’s not actually sage. You can burn some sagebrush while you are grilling, and that lovely aroma will bathe your birds.
You’ll grill your doves over a very hot fire, ideally charcoal or wood. Gas is OK, if a bit boring. The general idea is to grill them breast side up for most of the time, with the grill cover down. This smoke roasts your birds.
As they grill — and remember this will only be for a few minutes because you want to serve dove meat medium, not well done — you paint the doves with olive oil or bacon fat, and sprinkle with smoky Spanish paprika; regular paprika is OK, too.
Give this dove recipe a go this dove season. But fair warning: If you do, you might never go back to breasting out your doves again…
Other Great Dove Recipes
- Grilled doves Cajun style. Super easy with a Louisiana flair.
- Smoked doves bathed in a Mexican guajillo sauce. Rich and only moderately spicy.
- Grilled doves with an Arizona desert inspired barbecue sauce.
- Slow and low barbecued doves.
No doves? This dove recipe works with pigeons or squab, teal, woodcock, rails, quail, or yes, even Cornish game hens.
If you liked this recipe, please leave a ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ rating and a comment below; I’d love to hear how everything went. If you’re on Instagram, share a picture and tag me at huntgathercook.
Grilled Doves a la Mancha
- 12 doves, or 4 to 8 squab or teal
- Kosher salt
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 12 bay leaves
- 12 to 24 sage leaves
- 2 sprigs rosemary, cut into short lengths
- About 1/4 cup melted bacon fat, butter or duck fat
- Spanish smoked paprika
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Coat the doves with olive oil and salt them well. Stuff each cavity with sage, rosemary and a bay leaf.
- Get your grill hot and clean the grates. Set the doves breast side up and cook them over medium-high heat, with the grill cover closed, for 6 minutes. Open the grill cover and turn the doves over so the top of the breast is wedged between grill grates. Paint the birds with some bacon fat. Let them cook this way for a minute or two, just to get a little color. Turn the doves on their sides and grill for another minute or two — for each side. Paint with more bacon fat.
- Dust with the smoked paprika and the black pepper and move the birds to a platter. Let them rest for 5 minutes. Eat with your fingers and serve with a bowl to put the bones in. A simple tomato salad is a good accompaniment, as is a loaf of crusty bread.