Rosemary Duck with Apricots

This recipe will work with either domestic or wild ducks.

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


  • 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 Marinate the duck breasts: 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.

Rosemary-Duck-with-Apricots-1 Rosemary-Duck-with-Apricots-2

2 Score the fatty skin with a sharp knife: If the duck breasts are very fatty, score the skin side with a sharp knife. Be careful not to cut the meat.

Rosemary-Duck-with-Apricots-3 Rosemary-Duck-with-Apricots-4

3 Cook fat side down, starting with a cold pan: 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.


4 Turn breasts over to finish cooking: 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.


5 Caramelize the apricots: 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.


6 Serve: To serve, cut duck diagonally across the grain into slices. Serve with caramelized apricots.

Variation with whole duck instead of breasts:

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

1 Marinate the duck: 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 Roast the duck breast side up: 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 Finish roasting the duck breast side down: 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.

Click on the comments you'd like to print with your recipe. Grayed out comments will not print.


  • 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.


  • mari

    is it possible to use dried apricots? we dont have fresh ones here.

    Good question. It might work if you soaked the apricots in hot water for an hour or two before doing the recipe. If you try it, please let us know how it turns out for you. ~Elise

  • Shain

    Just cooked this dish tonight, and I have to say that it was absolutely delicious. I had to substitute in Cilantro for the Rosemary, but the effect of the softened Apricots was still perfect.

  • Ashley

    I always thought duck had to cook for hours but this recipe has opened my eyes. The flavor is complex and yet light on the palate.

    I used a traditional method for brown sugar – I used two tablespoons of white sugar and a tablespoon of molasses and found that the flavor was enhanced.

    I am going to pass this one on :)

  • 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.

  • kim

    do you think this would work with pheasant also?

  • 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.