Grilled Doves a la Mancha
August 31, 2014 | Updated August 14, 2022
As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
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
I have 25 dove recipes here on Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, ranging from bacon-wrapped doves to dove enchiladas. Some great Labor Day grilling or barbecue options include:
- 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.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
I think this may have been the greatest thing I’ve ever eaten in my life! I will never breast a dove ever
Do you have a preference on internal temperature. 130° was not enough and 165° seemed to be too much. Delicious still but might try 145° next time
Radfgord: I don’t take temperature on doves, but yes, you want the meat to be pink, so about 140F.
Incredible Hank!! Thank you!
Once I got the hang of plucking them the prep work went pretty quickly! I added a bit of thyme and some rosemary but I’m not sure you really need to add anything to this recipe. Delicious!
Great recipe for when I’m feeling fancy. Let’s the delicate flavor come through that so often gets overshadowed by your standard popper or other heavy handed flavors. Bird, herbs, fire.
Any suggestions how can I modify this recipe with just the doves breasted out?
I spent this year’s banded tail pigeon season sitting on several productive spots only to be outsmarted every morning. And then a Eurasian collared dove few in. First time plucking a bird and it turned out pretty easy. Then I found this amazing recipe. The directions are simple. And the eating of a whole small bird reminds me of picking a crab. The bacon fat kept the bird juicy and didn’t overpower the flavor. I now have a quail in the fridge that is getting made into the same thing!
would this recipe work on pigeons, obviously with longer cooking times? do doves and pigeons have a different flavour profile?
Mark: Yes, this would work with pigeons, but yes, with a little longer cooking time.
Best ever dove dish and so easy!
This simple dish is really my favorite way to cook doves. I’ve tried many recipes but I keep coming back to this one. Doves, some basic ingredients, a flavorful fat and fire. Beautiful in its simplicity and simply delicious.
Pluck those dove, save bacon fat, pick some sage, buy some smoked paprika. Dont over cookem. Great recipe.
I tried this recipe last September during the early dove season here in Arizona. Fantastic! And they present beautifully as well. My son, who was 5 at the time, has been retrieving for me and developing a real enjoyment for dove season; well he could not get enough of the dove cooked this way. He and I went out yesterday after work for our first dove hunt of the season and as we were bouncing down the dirt road he informed me that he already knew how we were going to cook our little birds: the same way as last year 🙂 That just means I’m going to need to get enough to also try the smoked dove recipe you just posted. Keep up the amazing work!
My wife and I really enjoy this recipe. However, I shoot mostly Eurasian doves and, since they are much larger than mournings or white wings, this timing doesn’t work. I would appreciate your timing recommendations for Eurasians.
Ed: They are only about 1 1/2 ounces heavier than regular doves, so you need only add a minute, maybe two.