Dove recipes are a specialized thing: You can’t buy doves in a store. You must hunt them. But you can buy squab in stores, and wood pigeon in many European markets. And yes, you can eat the common pigeons you see everywhere — only I’d avoid those city birds…
For those of you who hunt doves, I get it: Most people just pop the breasts off, wrap them in bacon with a jalapeno and grill. The venerable dove popper, as this recipe is called, is fine food — but it isn’t the only thing you can do with a dove. This recipe page will help you with more ideas on how to cook dove.
Doves and pigeons are dark meat birds with very little fat on them. You can use small ducks such as teal with these recipes, but they will often have a layer of fat that a pigeon or dove will not. Ptarmigans, snipe and rails are excellent alternatives, though.
If you hunt your own doves and pigeons, I urge you to consider plucking them. They are the easiest birds to pluck, taking only seconds, once you get the hang of it.
In return for your efforts, you get a pretty little bird on the plate, the breast meat won’t overcook as easily, and you get those little legs, which are so very tasty! I tend to keep the first wing digit, the drumette, on the carcass because it helps protect the breast meat.
Plucking Doves and Pigeons
Here are step-by-step instructions on plucking game birds, including doves and pigeons.
Here’s a video on how to pluck a dove, done by my partner Holly Heyser.
One dove is a good portion for an appetizer, three to four for a main course. Pigeons are larger, so one pigeon makes a light dinner main course — two is a bit much because the meat is so dense. Squabs are the same as pigeons: One to two per person.
GRILLED or BARBECUED
Grilling is by far the best way to cook doves. It’s the only way to get the skin crispy without overcooking the breast meat, which should be eaten medium, i.e., still pink. Same goes for young pigeons. Older pigeons are better braised.
Grilled Doves a la Mancha
By far my favorite recipe for grilled doves. Stuffed with fresh herbs, painted with bacon fat and dusted with smoked paprika.
Hank’s Dove Poppers
I can’t really call myself a dove cook without a popper recipe, right? Here’s my take on the classic.
Dateland Dove Poppers
Here’s another take on a popper I came up with after hunting in Yuma, Arizona. Doves, a Middle Eastern marinade and a date, wrapped in bacon and grilled.
Slow and low barbecued doves. Sticky, smoky, spicy, sweet. What’s not to love?
Huckleberry Grilled Doves
Doves basted with a huckleberry (or blueberry) BBQ sauce, then grilled until they are medium-rare. Serve it with grilled potatoes and a salad.
Grilled Pigeons Egyptian Style
The Egyptians love their pigeons, and this is a riff off a classic way they eat them, which is stuffed with a hearty green wheat stuffing. Do this with squab, doves or actual pigeons if you can find them.
Grilled Doves Desert Style
Doves grilled with a BBQ sauce made from prickly pears, tequila, agave nectar and chiles.
Cajun Grilled Doves
Doves rubbed with Cajun seasonings and grilled hot and fast.
Grilled Teriyaki Doves
Who doesn’t love teriyaki? In my version you make your own teriyaki sauce, which is a little less sweet and gloppy than the store-bought versions.
Here is another grilled dove recipe I wrote for my friend David Leite on his website: Grilled Doves, Portuguese Style.
When the weather cools, roasting is your next best bet for doves and pigeons. Get your oven hot for this one...
The English eat a lot of pigeons, and this is a British-style recipe for roasted pigeon. Simple. Traditional. Lovely.
Turkish Roast Pigeon with Bulgur
Pigeons are also eaten a lot in the Middle East, so here is a Turkish roast pigeon, stuffed with bulgur wheat.
OTHER PIGEON and DOVE RECIPES
Here are some other ways to cook doves and pigeons.
Fried Doves and What They Eat
Dove breasts, fried and served with a pilaf of grains and seeds doves are known to eat. Easy and delicious!
Southern Tomato Gravy
Dove breasts, fried and served with an old school Appalachian tomato gravy. One of the best recipes on this website!
Pigeon, Dove or Duck Ragu
An intensely flavored pasta sauce made with ground doves or pigeons.
Oh yeah, baby. Got lots of dove breasts? Go all New Mexico on ’em with these enchiladas.
Meat-Filled Chiles Rellenos
A classic Mexican picadillo, in this case spiced, ground dove or pigeon meat, served in a roasted pepper with a simple tomato sauce.
A very special dish created for wild band-tailed pigeons of the American West. Every bird is a trophy at the table!
Deep Fried Doves
Doves, dusted with spices, and deep fried. Oh yeah, it’s awesome.
Jesse's Fried Doves
Another take on fried little birds, doused with a mix of hot sauce, butter and honey. Damn good.
Pigeon or Dove Tortellini
Braised pigeon, squab or dove, ground into a rich ravioli filling and made into tortellini.
Dove breasts pounded thin, dusted in flour and served with a mushroom gravy. A riff of the German classic jägerschnitzel.
Poached Dove Salad with Roasted Peppers
Gently poached skinless dove breasts, tossed into a Spanish-inspired main course salad with roasted red peppers, preserved garlic and pine nuts.