Grouse Northwoods

4.86 from 7 votes
Jump to Recipe

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

This is a grouse breast recipe that has come a long way, but it remains my favorite grouse recipe because it celebrates the Northwoods of Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan, where ruffed grouse are king. 

Grouse breast with mushrooms and cranberries on a plate.
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Its origins lie in a tough time for me back in 2011. I had been on tour promoting my first book, Hunt, Gather, Cook: Finding the Forgotten Feast, for more than eight weeks non-stop, and I was exhausted. Tired on a cellular level.

One day I found myself in Minnesota, at the home of my friend Chris, the man who got me into hunting in the first place. Holly had flown in just for the occasion — a grouse hunt in the Minnesota Northwoods. It was the first time I’d seen her in two months.

Under normal circumstances, such an adventure would be invigorating. Walking in the woods is restorative, especially the grouse woods. I hold ruffed grouse as high as any other game animal when it comes to the table. But it was not to be. Too many troubles, too much left unknown at that stage in the tour. So I let Chris and Holly hunt, and just sat on a pine stump and let the woods wash over me.

It was enough to give me the inspiration for this recipe. I made it first in Chris’ house with some of the staples he had around him, and which we found in the woods on our hunt: Grouse breast, wild rice, wild mushrooms, highbush cranberries.

This is that dish, revised, simplified and, in my opinion, improved.

Eating it evokes the forest. Deep “brown” flavors from the mushrooms and wild rice, punctuated by the bracing tartness of the cranberries and vinegar-fruit syrup. And the grouse! Those of you who have eaten ruffed grouse know.

There is no flavor like it in the world. Grouse breast looks like chicken, but smells and tastes beguilingly funky — gamy in the best possible way. Grouse is not for weak eaters, but nor is it challenging in the way that, say, stinky French cheeses are.

Even the texture hints at a walk in the woods. Mostly you get the soft “give” of treading on wet leaves, but then there are popping cranberries, chewy wild rice and the surprising crunch of the ground wild rice coating on the grouse; it’s just enough crunch to be interesting without being off-putting.

I urge you to make this recipe with grouse breast if you have them. And if not, use another bird and dream of that someday when you’ll get the real thing.

Use real wild rice, which is not cultivated, if you can get it, but any wild rice will work. Mushrooms and fruit syrup are your choice. As for the fruit syrup, I prefer something that lives in the Northwoods, like gooseberry or highbush cranberry or blueberry. I also use homemade gooseberry vinegar here, but cider vinegar is perfectly fine.

Looking for other grouse recipes? I have a simple roast grouse recipe for starters, as well as shredded grouse salad with barley, and a Nordic grouse soup

Grouse breast with mushrooms and cranberries on a plate.
4.86 from 7 votes

Grouse Northwoods

The is a simple grouse recipe that has a fantastic mixture of wild rice, cranberries and mushrooms to go with it -- all three are signature flavors of the Northwoods where grouse live. If you can't get your hands on grouse, any white meat bird will do.
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: American
Servings: 4 people
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 55 minutes


  • 1 1/2 cups wild rice, divided
  • 3 cups grouse or chicken stock
  • Breasts from 4 grouse, skinned with tenders removed
  • Salt
  • 1/4 cup butter, divided
  • 1/2 cup rye, barley or whole wheat flour
  • 1 to 2 pounds fresh mushrooms, any kind
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 cup cranberries
  • 1/4 cup fruit syrup (see above)
  • 1/3 cup cider vinegar


  • Salt the grouse breasts well and set aside at room temperature.
  • Simmer 1 cup wild rice in the grouse or chicken broth until tender, anywhere from 20 minutes to 50 minutes depending on whether you have real, parched wild rice or the cultivated variety. When the rice is done, drain and set aside in a covered bowl.
  • Grind the remaining wild rice in a spice grinder into a powder; there will still be some larger bits, and this is OK. It adds some texture. Mix this with the rye flour and dredge the grouse breasts in it.
  • Heat 3 tablespoons of butter in a large saute pan and saute the grouse breasts until they are just barely done, about 4 to 5 minutes per side. Set them aside.
  • Put the remaining butter in the pan and turn the heat to high. Add all the mushrooms. Shake the pan as you do this so they don't all stick to the bottom. If some do, that's OK. Keep searing and shaking the pan until the mushrooms give up their water. Sprinkle them with salt and add the garlic and thyme. Let the mushrooms sear without moving the pan for 1-2 minutes: You want them to get some browning. Stir the mushrooms and repeat until you get them as browned as you want -- I like them to be about halfway browned, which takes about 8 minutes.
  • Add cranberries and toss to combine. Cook until they just start popping, then add the wild rice, vinegar and fruit syrup. Toss to combine and serve with the grouse.


Serve this with a light red wine or a zippy white like a Viognier or Albarino. Beer is also a good choice. A simple green salad rounds it all out.


Calories: 408kcal | Carbohydrates: 61g | Protein: 14g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 8g | Cholesterol: 31mg | Sodium: 161mg | Potassium: 508mg | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 370IU | Vitamin C: 4mg | Calcium: 34mg | 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!

You May Also Like

French Garlic Chicken

Classic French 40 clove garlic chicken, made with pheasant. This recipe features thighs, and works with chicken, pheasant, rabbit or partridge.

Wild Rice Salad

A fresh and bright wild rice salad recipe that mimics Crisp and Green’s “wild child” salad. I use grouse, wild rice and dried wild berries.

Spanish Quail with Paprika and Onions

A Spanish recipe for quail stewed with paprika and onions. You then strain off the liquid and serve that with pasta. it’s a great date night dish.

Green Chile Chicken Soup

A recipe for Southwestern style green chile chicken soup, with roasted green Hatch chiles, white beans, greens and a rich broth.

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.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating


  1. My husband brought 2 grouse back to SC from a Wisconsin hunt. We decided to try this recipe as I had some elderberry juice from our time in PA and it was fall so cranberries were available in the supermarket. We made it as per your recipe and suggestions. I had never used ground wild rice before as coating, but you never disappoint with your ideas. Thank you for helping out us established hunters and fishermen find great news ways to eat healthy and so delicious.

  2. Another one knocked out of the park Hank! I used North Dakota chokecherry syrup, since that is where the grouse was from. The wild rice and mushrooms also went very well with a chunk of ND venison blackstrap.. We love your cookbooks!

  3. Question: Would brining the grouse beforehand be a good idea or bad idea for this dish? I have one that has some freezer burn and I want to salvage it, hopefully with this dish.

  4. I really enjoyed this recipe! With a fresh sooty grouse and some failed salmon berry jam as the syrup, I’ll definately come back to this recipe time and again.

  5. Made a version of this (had to do a couple of substitutions) with WT deer and wild foraged cranberries, it was good, but very sour. Are wild cranberries typically that much soured?

  6. Made this with pheasant, and it turned out great, a reminder of the kind of fall I grew up with but don’t get anymore out here on the west coast.

    A note on the syrup: I used less than called for (about half) because the blackberry syrup (recipe on this very site), like I imagine any sweet syrup would be, was pretty strong, flavor-wise, for this dish.

  7. This is my kind of dish. I’m Armenian. We eat rice with every meal and most of the time, there’s a saucy stew with a bit of meat over the rice.
    Those cranberries pop and I love the taste of the forest in your recipe.
    I’ll try this with wild turkey as I think I can readily get it here.