Discover unique and mouthwatering dove recipes beyond the usual poppers. Dive into our top 5 picks for a flavorful fall season.
Dove hunting is a popular and fun way to celebrate the beginning of the hunting season. One of the earliest upland bird seasons to open across the United States each year, many hunters head for public lands to chase doves, break in their hunting gear, and practice their wingshooting skills. However, when it comes to enjoying fresh dove meat, most hunters wrap skinless dove breasts in bacon or stuff them into a jalapeño.
Honestly, bacon-wrapped wild game and dove poppers are overrated. Isn’t it high time we popularized tasteful ways of preparing dove?
Thanks to Jack Hennessy, a frequent Project Upland recipe contributor, I know more than a few delicious dove recipes that honor the bird and make the meat worth savoring. Here are a handful of my favorite dove recipes written by Jack. Instead of including bacon and cream cheese on their list of ingredients, you’ll find peanut sauce, sweet chiles, and more.
“Dove poppers are an obvious favorite, especially on opening day,” said Hennessy. “However, when I really want to savor my quarry, I make a simple roast.”
Whole-roasting wild birds is one of the best ways to enjoy their meats’ flavor profile and qualities. Dove meat is no exception. In this recipe, Hennessy details how to roast a skin-on dove perfectly. Crunchy, crispy skin and medium-rare meat set this dove recipe apart.
“Since dove is a red-meat migratory bird, it is best served medium-rare. A proper roast should crisp the skin, but never cook the meat inside past medium-rare,” he said.
Dove Skewers with Spicy Peanut Sauce
To impress your friends and family during the early dove season, leave your burger meat in the fridge and assemble some dove skewers the next time you fire up the grill. Bright summer flavors, including peppers, onions, and pineapple, stacked with fresh-never-frozen dove breasts drizzled with peanut sauce, make this recipe an instant hit.
“If you find yourself folding more doves than you expected and want to try something new, you can’t go wrong with this recipe here,” said Hennessy.
Dove Nuggets with Sweet Chili Sauce
Every dove hunter knows that jalapeño poppers are easy to assemble. “However, if you’re looking for something new that’s just as simple—and potentially easier to cook—this dove nugget recipe is for you and your crew of dove swatters,” said Hennessy.
His recipe for dove nuggets with sweet chili sauce is Asian-inspired and incredibly delicious. They’re incredible over a bed of jasmine rice, lo mein noodles, sauteed vegetables, and even on their own as an appetizer.
Roasted Dove with Butter Beans and Brandy-Vermouth Cream Sauce
If hot summer days inspire you to try southern recipes in the kitchen, give Jack Hennessy’s recipe for roasted dove with butter beans and brandy-vermouth cream sauce a try. It’s a simple, easy dish to pull together. Just keep in mind that if you’re planning on cooking more than six doves, double or triple the ingredients for the cream sauce, so there’s enough to go around.
The sauce is Hennessy’s favorite part of this entire recipe. “The real highlight here is the cream sauce, which is made from two different types of spirits,” he said. “This cream sauce can indeed be applied to any meat—bird, big game, fish, or even just vegetables. There’s no need to wait until you have doves in the freezer to give this recipe a try.”
Air Fryer Dove
Did you hop on the air fryer bandwagon this year? Us, too. And we have some good news for you: air fryer dove is incredible.
Air fryers allow whole, skin-on doves to be cooked to perfection. Extra-crispy skin and juicy, medium-rare meat are what happens when you stick your doves in your shiny new air fryer. Hennessy has some hot tips for air-frying doves, too.
“As mentioned in ‘How to Air-Fry A Pheasant,’ an air fryer does not actually fry food,” he said. “Well-circulated heat cooks food from all 360 degrees. Because far less oil is used, the end product is indeed healthier versus traditional frying methods.” There’s no need to fill a pot full of a few quarts of oil; just coat your doves in oil before sticking them in the compact convection oven.
Dove Meat Cooking Tips
Before you attempt these recipes at home, Jack Hennessy has some advice for anyone who regularly cooks wild bird meat. This includes tips on plucking, aging, and brining upland birds, including doves.
We’re strong advocates for plucking your upland birds. Plucking allows you to keep the skin on your birds, which helps seal in moisture and flavor. Additionally, it lets you cook whole-bird recipes, which are a great way to mix up your go-to dinner recipes and highlight the delicious bird species you love to chase in the field. However, plucking can be a little tricky at times. Thankfully, Hennessy is here to help with some upland bird plucking tips.
“Why pluck, exactly? Flavor resides in that skin. Aside from flavor, a plucked bird will retain more moisture and be far less likely to dry out compared to a skinned bird,” said Hennessy. “Once you get decent at plucking, each bird might take you 20 minutes at most. In my state of Kansas, our limit for pheasant is four cocks. That’s a maximum of 1 hour and 20 minutes of time required to get a fantastic finished product. Doves and quail take substantially less time, and that works well since their daily limits are higher.”
Learn how Jack plucks his upland birds in his article, “How to Pluck Game Birds, Technique, Time, and Merits.”
Aging Dove Meat
Hennessy said if you’ve never aged dove meat, consider giving it a shot, especially if you’ll roast them whole. Aging dove meat both tenderizes it and concentrates its flavor. The best part, according to Jack, is that it only requires a little fridge space and patience. “It works incredibly well for doves and makes them even more of a special treat,” he said.
When thinking about how long to age your dove meat, aim for their optimal time frame. According to Hennessy, five days is the sweet spot for dove. “When served medium-rare, the flavor is almost nutty, sweet, and deep, the taste that makes you close your eyes and focus solely on what is happening between your molars,” he said in his article “How and Why You Should Age Your Doves.”
Here are some of Hennessy’s tips for aging upland birds. More of them are in his article “How and Why You Should Age Your Upland Bird Meat.”
- Don’t bother aging shot-up birds. Skin and butcher your shot-up birds immediately to decrease the chance of bacteria growing on them.
- If the meat smells funny or has a greenish tint after aging, throw it out. Eating it is not worth the risk of getting food poisoning.
- Maintain 360 degrees of adequate airflow around your aging birds.
- Don’t age birds in temperatures above 55 degrees.
Brining Dove Meat
Brining upland birds is highly recommended, especially if you plan on roasting or grilling them. Brining helps keep game birds moist during the cooking process. It also helps salt penetrate through the entire bird as opposed to salting birds while they’re on the grill or in the oven. Since doves are so small, you only need to brine them for six to eight hours. This isn’t very long compared to larger birds, like turkeys or geese, that should be brined for 24 hours.
Just make sure that your bird is completely dry after you rinse the brine off of it. If you put a wet bird on the grill, you risk the skin getting mushy. “Before grilling, always make sure the bird’s skin is completely dry, as wet skin leads to potentially mushy exterior or, at very least, a less-than-perfect sear,” said Hennessy.
No matter how you plan on cooking up your doves this hunting season, treat those delicate morsels with the respect they deserve. Whether you’re planning on brining your breast meat before stuffing them into a pepper for the first time or shooting a limit to ensure everyone in your family gets a healthy serving of whole-roasted birds, your tastebuds will thank you for taking your dove meat the extra mile this fall.
Gabby Zaldumbide is Project Upland's Editor in Chief. After growing up in southern Wisconsin, she now lives in Gunnison, Colorado, with eight dogs, three horses, and a wobbly cat. She guides hunting and fishing trips with Uncharted Outdoorswomen and herds cows for a local rancher on the side.