Rosemary Duck with Apricots

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Duck breast seasoned with rosemary and served with a sweet sour apricot sauce.

Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

This recipe comes by way of my Tennessee friend Keith Gray, who when I asked him, “does this recipe work with ducks you shoot, or that you buy in a grocery store?,” replied with a puzzled look, “I’ve never bought duck in a store, but I guess it would work.” Thanks Keith for introducing our family to a delicious way to prepare duck!

Rosemary Duck with Apricots Recipe

  • Prep time: 2 hours
  • Cook time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4.

This recipe will work with either domestic or wild ducks.


  • 3 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 Tbsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 whole duck breasts, halved
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
  • 4 apricots, quartered


1 Combine the rosemary, brown sugar, black pepper, and salt. Rub the mixture over the duck breasts. Cover and chill 2 hours. Rinse duck with cold water, pat dry.

2 If the duck breasts are very fatty, score the skin side with a sharp knife. Be careful not to cut the meat. Lay the duck breast halves skin side down in a cold sauté pan and turn on the heat to medium-high. (Yes, start with a cold pan.) Once you hear the duck breasts sizzle, turn the heat down to medium and allow to cook undisturbed until the skin is brown and crispy, about 6-8 minutes.

3 Turn the duck breast over and cook another 2-3 minutes, depending on how well done you like your duck. Use the finger test to check for doneness. As a final step, tip the duck breasts on their sides — thick side down — and let them sizzle another minute or so. Remove to a cutting board to rest.

4 While the duck is cooking, combine the granulated sugar and vinegar in a small saucepan, and bring to a boil. Cook until thick and amber-colored (about 5 minutes). Add apricots; reduce heat, and cook for 1 minute or until the apricots begin to soften. To serve, cut duck diagonally across the grain into slices. Serve with carmelized apricots.


You can instead roast a whole duck. Here are the steps (also from Keith):

1 Rinse off the duck, outside and inside, pat dry. Remove any remaining feathers. Prick the skin all over with a sharp-tined fork, taking care not to prick the meat. Rub the duck all over with a little bit of olive oil. Rub the rosemary mixture all over the duck and some in the cavity. Tie the legs together loosely. Put in a plastic bag and chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours.

2 At least a half an hour before you plan to cook the duck, remove from the refrigerator so it can get to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the duck on a roasting rack in a roasting pan, breast side up. Pour a cup of water into the pan. Roast for 45 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and pour off the fat and water. Separate the fat to use for basting.

3 Turn the bird on the rack so now the breast is facing down. Baste the bird with the fat. Return the bird to the oven. Increase the temperature to 400°F. Estimate a total cooking time of 15 minutes per lb of bird. So if you have a 4 lb duck, cook it another 30 minutes. The bird is done when the juices run clear from a thigh pricked all the way down to the joint and when a meat thermometer inserted in the inner thigh below the leg joint reads 175 to 180 degrees. Be careful not to overcook the duck. When the bird is done, transfer it to a platter and let it rest for 15 minutes before carving.

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Duck with Apricot Sauce - from The Cottage Smallholder
Duck Breast on Apricot-Red Onion Tart - from Eggbeater
All Kinds of Duck Recipes - from Hunter Angler Gardener Cook

Showing 4 of 8 Comments

  • Bronia

    I used canned peaches. Simply delicious!

  • Helen

    I cooked this recipe last night for the annual duck dinner and everyone raved about it. Because I had never cooked wild duck before I cooked three different recipes and this was by far the best. Interestingly it was also the easiest. Try it… you’ll see.

  • John

    I first tried this recipe with plums b/c that was what was available. It worked fine. The only complaint I had was getting the chopped rosemary off the meat prior to cooking.

    The next time I used whole rosemary stems and just laid them on and under the meat. I also THEN brined (salt and brown sugar)the breast meat for several hours prior to cooking. The first time I used wild ducks and the second time I used domestic duck.

    The second time was more moist, probably due to the brining.

    Incidently I rendered the fat and cooked the leg meat confit and served the two together to good reviews.

  • kim

    do you think this would work with pheasant also?

  • Sue

    Haven’t tried the recipe yet, but from my experience, be very careful not to overcook wild duck. Remove it before you think it is done. The bird will finish cooking when you let it stand for 10 minutes. I had better luck this year hunting pheasant, so I will let you know how it works with pheasant as soon as I give it a try.

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Rosemary Duck with Apricots