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Dove recipes are a specialized thing: You can’t buy doves in a store. You must hunt them. Pigeons are a little different. 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 doves.
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.
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.
I did a podcast episode all about doves and dove hunting, if you’re interested in listening to it.
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Plucking vs. Breasting
If you hunt your own doves and pigeons, I urge you to consider plucking them. They are the easiest birds to pluck, taking less than 2 minutes, 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.
Here’s a video on how to pluck a dove, done by Holly. You’ll see plenty of dove recipes for the whole bird below.
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Grilled or Barbecued Dove Recipes
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.
Bacon Wrapped Dove
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?
Grilled Doves Desert Style
Doves grilled with a BBQ sauce made from prickly pears, tequila, agave nectar and chiles.
This is a true smoked dove recipe, where you salt cure the doves before smoking them slow and low. Serve with a guajillo sauce.
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.
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.
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.
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More Dove Recipes
Here are some other dove recipes that aren’t barbecue, grilling or roasting.
Peppered Dove Breasts
This French classic is simple, fast, and tasty.
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.
Chile Poblano 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 Breast Jagerschnitzel
Dove breasts pounded thin, dusted in flour and served with a mushroom gravy. A riff of the German classic jägerschnitzel.
Dove Lettuce Cups
Diced dove meat in Chinese lettuce cups. Great for hot weather!
Read More about Chinese Lettuce Cups with Minced Meat Stir Fry
Duane P. says
My wife just shared a link to your website with me, as I’ve hunted dove for the better part of 40 years here in eastern NC, and I just harvested my daily limit the other day. I’ve always done the same thing… breasted them, melted butter in a skillet, and fried them a minute or two on each side, salting them as they come out hot. I’ve always loved them (perhaps because I’m a salt-a-holic), but this page has really opened my eyes to some different ideas. I’m also a longtime deer hunter and avid turkey hunter, the latter being my true love. I’ll be sure to look through your other wild game recipes, as I love the ‘purity’ of eating meat right out of the woods the way my Cherokee Native American ancestors did it many years ago. Thank you for helping those of us who lack in culinary imagination, sir.
Be well, and God bless.
Jo Bigman says
Our favorite dove recipe is one my hunting mom made after a family day of dove hunting near Sam’s Valley, Oregon.
Pick and clean doves. put 4 or 5 TBLSP flour in paper bag. Salt and pepper on the doves or in the bag. Shake doves in the flour. Save bag of flour for the gravy.
Med hot vegetable oil in deep fry pan. Fry doves, turning to all sides as each side browns. Also tip up on front breast to brown that too. Set doves aside, keep warm. Heat pan with oil and brown doves bits that they were fried in. Sprinkle flour in. Stirring, let bubble and cook a bit till flour is lightly browned. Add about 2 or 3 cups milk and stir constantly as it thickens. Add more milk if it starts to get too thick too quick. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve gravy over bisquits.
Gene McDonald says
Those hearts and gizzards make lovely kabobs. Marinade in your favorite 30 minute marinade, string on skewers and grill until hot. Tasty.
Philo Philpot Phipps says
A lot of doves around here. Gonna get a shotgun. Already got the grill.
Hank – last year I tried plucking my doves for the first time. I rinsed the little guys in fresh water and roasted them in the oven to a golden brown. The most beautiful things I’d ever seen! But they tasted horrible – a very strong “liver” taste and a considerable amount of blood came out from deep within when cut. We were so disappointed. Were the birds perhaps spoiled, under-cooked, or not purged enough of their blood? Perhaps just a bad-tasting lot of birds? These all came from a cattle feed lot, and the birds were eating off of a huge grain pile used for the cattle.
Normally I brine my breasts and then marinate them before cooking. If I were to pluck them again, I think I’d let them brine for a few hours to draw any blood out. I could also marinate the birds whole, for that matter. I’ll give it a try again and see if my results are any better.
Hank Shaw says
Dennis: The liver taste actually comes from overcooked doves, normally. Lots blood? Maybe they were shot-up and that was hematoma (blood clots)? That really does taste nasty. I’d say if there was any shot in the bird, brine or marinate it. That will help a lot.
I would definitely marinate before cooking. Am a huge fan of bacon and drippings . A quick marinade is Italian dressing, make sure to pierce meat and add some drippings. Then do as you like no harm in trying.
I think the Deep Fried Dove Link is broken. Look forward to trying that recipe. whenever you click on the picture or recipe it just goes to the picture. Lots of dove flying where I live
Richard S says
Hank – I see you talk about keeping the liver for doves, anything you do with the gizzards??
Hank Shaw says
Richard S: Nope, they are so small it’s hard to clean them.
Brian Hayes says
I don’t know why more people don’t eat pigeon. It’s delicious! Most farmers have barns full of them, and would love a hunter to come thin the ranks a bit.