Rich, extravagant, and succulent. A duck breast with perfectly crisp skin and beautifully rendered fat brings a tear to the eye and hope to the heart.
The uninitiated might think of it as more like its bland cousin, chicken, but duck is actually a poultry that rivals beef for its meaty savoriness and deep red interior.
Savory as the sun is hot. Unctuous as the day is long. And comforting as a downy pillow.
Whether you roast a whole duck or sear your duck breast on the stovetop, this protein is versatile, and plays well with many different regional flavors – from Asia to Tuscany.
There is a whole world of options for choosing just the right accompaniment to your duck.
Traditionally this slightly gamey poultry is associated with autumn flavors, and this can be a great place to start when looking for what to serve with duck.
Think apples, chestnuts, turnips, or mushrooms. All can be great flavors and textures with duck, either in a side dish or in the main preparation itself.
Also don’t be afraid of warming spices like cardamom, star anise, cinnamon, or cloves, especially with the deep flavors of roast duck.
Sweetness and fruits can also be helpful in lightening the meal up.
Cherries, apricots, and apples are all classic and scrumptious combinations that bring the perfect sweet notes to the party.
Also, don’t forget citrus like lemon or orange to bring the brightness of fruity acidity.
Orange, in particular, has a nice balance of sweetness, acidity, and juiciness that makes the perfect foil for duck’s richness.
Try it in the main dish, such as in duck a l’orange, or try it in a side dish, such as an orange and fennel salad – with a touch of star anise in a citrus vinaigrette.
Also consider the idea of using the rendered fat – there can be quite a bit of it – to cook your side dish. Use it to fry up some potatoes, greens, or other vegetables.
Side Dishes for Duck: A List to Get You Cooking
So, score that skin well, pull out that skillet, and let’s explore some ideas for the perfect duck side dishes.
1. Roasted Chestnuts with Butter and Rosemary
Roasted chestnuts don’t like to just be tied to one holiday. Heck, they think they create their own holiday.
“We bring the sparkly lights and gift-wrapped presents to the table!” ~ Roasted Chestnuts
And we agree with them.
Once they’re roasted in butter and rosemary it feels like a day off with holiday pay. It feels like friends and family should be knocking on the door wassailing with smiles on their faces.
And, of course, that means these little nuggets – which taste vaguely like sweet potato – would be perfect alongside a roasted duck.
We found a recipe from Eva that we think will make the duck completely happy. Check it out at Adventures in Cooking.
2. Arugula Salad with Lemon Walnut Vinaigrette
We love a good duck breast with fig sauce. A sweet and tangy sauce on top of a perfectly seared duck is where it’s at.
So, our minds stray to what would lightly play with those rich and decadent flavors.
That’s when we land on a good light salad that has a hint of richness itself, from toasted nuts.
The salad should also have a kiss of acidity from lemon juice that brings our fingers to our mouth in the universal “voila!” hand gesture.
We found Karen’s recipe over at Healthy Gluten-Free Family and it totally fits the bill.
3. Pear Walnut & Blue Cheese Salad
What would be more jaw-droppingly delicious with roasted duck than a good salad that’s loaded with textures and flavors?
It would be even better if it had a kiss of bitterness to offset the richness of that perfectly browned duck.
It might even be cool to have a little salty blue cheese on that salad next to some fennel and quince.
Well, look at what we found!
4. Creamy Garlic Farro with Spinach
Farro is one of those grains that’s finally starting to get the love it deserves. It’s nutty and hearty, and it makes the perfect canvas for any flavor you want to throw at it.
Think of it as barley’s hipper and sharper dressed cousin. Farro hangs out on the street leaning against a building, snapping its fingers. It beats up bullies. It wears sunglasses at night.
And it’s the perfect pairing for a spice-rubbed duck breast.
Some spinach, some garlic, some sharp asiago, all come together to make this farro dish a boldly flavored side dish, for a boldly flavored duck.
You can find Carrie’s recipe over at Carrie’s Experimental Kitchen.
5. Burrata Blood Orange and Fennel Salad
We love a good smoked duck. Who doesn’t? That dark flavor really transports us to our happy place. But we also love to have a little sumpin’ sumpin’ that challenges the duck.
That makes the duck stand up and take notice.
That makes the duck say, “Hey, oh! What is up?”
That’s why we love bright citrus and creamy cheese in a salad on the plate too. Now, this is what goes with duck.
Check out Vy’s blood orange salad over at Beyond Sweet and Savory.
6. Stir Fried Watercress
Peking Duck is a treat. That’s probably why it was served to the Emperor of China.
Because, you know, it’s pretty tasty.
The crispy skin. The perfectly roasted meat.
And we thought some excellently sautéed greens would be amazing next to this luxurious duck.
So, let’s grab some really bright and bold greens.
Some really peppery greens.
Some perfectly seasoned greens with ginger, sesame, and garlic.
Watercress is just what we’re craving.
Check out Bill’s recipe at The Woks of Life.
7. Curried Vegetable Basmati Rice
Duck a l’orange is an indulgent and extravagant meal. It’s sweet and savory, and it loves contrasting flavors.
Which makes us think about what pairs perfectly with oranges.
Curry is the answer.
Curry’s earthy, warm, and lightly spiced flavors pair perfectly with the aromatic duck.
So, grab that jar of rice and let’s get those flavors combined.
We have some duck to make happy.
You can find Janette’s recipe over at Culinary Ginger.
8. Cranberry Quince Sauce
Spice-rubbed duck breast with its perfectly crisped skin loves a little sweet treat on the plate.
Especially if the sweet treat contains some citrus from oranges.
And when quince is added to a jelly, it tastes a bit like an apple and pear are dancing together on the tongue.
Get ready to dip your duck into this delightfully bright sauce and feel your taste buds rejoice.
9. Roasted Beet Salad
Duck confit is rich and fatty. Heck, It’s pretty much the definition of “rich and fatty.”
So, it really, really wants something to cut through that fat – and earthy roasted beets are just the thing that the duck wants.
Especially when the beets are tossed with pears, light and airy quinoa, and kissed with microgreens.
Why, hello! Aren’t you attractive with flavor bursting off the plate!
Jeanine and Jack over at Love and Lemons have the recipe that duck confit dreams of.
10. Miso Mashed Pumpkin and Potatoes
Roasted duck with hoisin sauce is a bundle of rich Asian flavors, so why would you want the flavor profile to end there?
That’s when the secret ingredient to this pumpkin potato mash steps assertively on the scene.
Yes, miso is in the house! *raises the roof*
Miso brings the savory to this sweet and earthy mash and then the three of them walk confidently to the dance floor and swirl and raise their hands in syncopation.
Jaden from Steamy Kitchen gives the lay of the land in this video.
11. Herb Roasted Potatoes and Carrots
Roasted duck is elegant in its simplicity. We mean, just look at it.
It wants to be on a silver platter on a crisp white tablecloth.
Or on a reclaimed hickory wood farmhouse table with the bounty of the season in pewter bowls surrounding it.
So, when we’re looking for a side – we like to go all classic in our pairing.
How about herby root veggies?
They’re bright and cheerful and add a little je n’ais se quoi to the plate.
Nikki has the recipe over at Tasty Thin.
12. Mediterranean Brussels Sprouts Salad
A perfectly seared duck breast always loves the perfectly roasted vegetable. The flavors are beyond simpatico.
And duck really loves an excellently roasted salad with bright lemon dressing, peppery arugula, tangy dried cranberries, salty feta, and nuts.
So, luckily for our duck we found a salad that it will love to nestle up with on the plate.
Come here, Boo.
Let’s get our bright salad on.
Suzy has the recipe over at The Mediterranean Dish.
13. Duck Fat Roasted Root Vegetables
Every kind of duck loves a little double down of flavor.
And let’s face it – you knew we were going to go here.
Roasted veggies tossed in extravagant duck fat.
Delicata squash, yams, parsnips, and fingerling potatoes slow roasted in garlicy and sumptuous rendered duck fat is the stuff of culinary dreams.
You know you want this.
Your duck wants this.
Grab that chef’s knife and walk, (don’t run), to the cutting board and start prepping these veggies.
Find the recipe over at the Jessica Burns website.
What to Serve with Duck: Winning the Wining and the Dining
We’ve talked about some great ideas for side dishes to serve with your duck, but it’s also worth exploring wine pairings that will bring this special meal to a whole new level.
As with most wine and food pairings there isn’t necessarily one perfect answer to the question of what wine goes with duck.
You’ve probably heard the rule that when serving poultry, you should lean toward white wines.
But as we mentioned earlier, duck is not your average poultry, sharing some important characteristics with red meat.
In fact, some culin-nerds, (nerdy culinarians, that is), even classify it as a red meat.
So, yes, white wines can work with some duck preparations and flavor profiles, but you might be surprised to learn the go-to consensus for many is that red wine, in particular pinot noir, is a pretty pitch perfect pairing for duck.
(True culin-nerds are also fond of alliteration.)
With its lighter body and acidity, pinot noir cuts through the duck’s fattiness, while its fruity and earthy notes play nicely with duck’s rich gamey-ness. So, don’t fear the pinot noir.
But, duck works well with a number of different cuisines and flavors, which means if you’re feeling adventurous there’s no reason not to step out and try some other combinations to match your duck preparation.
Slightly heavier wines, such as a sangiovese, grenache, or tempranillo can be nice combinations. A spicy shiraz can be beautiful with the richness of confit duck.
For white wines, consider a pinot gris or the oak notes of a chardonnay if you’re serving duck a l’orange.
As with all wine pairings, it’s good to start with wines that you enjoy and look for good contrasting and complementary characteristics in both the duck and the wine.
Use these ideas as guides and have fun finding your own pairings (and be assured that your open bottle from yesterday will go nicely with your leftover duck recipes as well!
Or, as we said, grab a bottle of pinot noir. It’s going to be delicious. Promise.
Either way, from side dishes to wines, there’s no reason to be at a loss for what to serve with duck anymore. So, get out there and get cooking.
What to Serve with Duck
- Roasted Chestnuts
- Arugula Salad
- Bitter Greens
- Garlic Farro
- Orange & Fennel Salad
- Stir Fried Watercress
- Basmati Rice
- Quince Sauce
- Beet Salad
- Mashed Pumpkin and Potatoes
- Potatoes & Carrots
- Sprouts Salad
- Root Vegetables
- Choose your desired Duck side dish recipe.
- Gather and organize needed ingredients.
- Create a tasty Duck side to complete your meal!