duck, Entree, fruit, Recipes

Pan Seared Duck Breast with Cherry Sauce

Pan seared duck is one of the most elegant choices for dinner, yet, at the same time, it’s one of the quickest and easiest to make, especially when paired with a quick yet flavorful sauce, that is prepared in the pan, while the duck is resting.

Duck breast meat is a special delicacy: unlike most poultry, it is at its best when cooked to medium-rare degree, very much like a good steak. The meat is highly flavorful, while the layer of fat adds more flavor, and a slight smokiness, when it is rendered in the pan.

While I often pair duck with citrus fruits, (click HERE for a recipe with kumquat marmalade, or HERE for duck legs roasted with orange and quince) – this time I’ve decided to go with tart cherries, another fruit that pairs wonderfully with duck.

The cherry flavor in the sauce was enhanced by a bit of cherry flavored beer, fresh thyme, and blueberries honey. This tasty and aromatic sauce paired beautifully with the succulent duck.

A small portion of this dish can be served as a first course, while a larger portion can be served as main course. Try it and enjoy.




* Unlike in many recipes, I start cooking the duck in a cold pan. This method allows the fat to render more slowly and lets the meat cook more evenly.

* Don’t discard the rendered fat – it is great for frying potatoes or eggs.



Makes: 2-4

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: about 20 minutes



For the duck:

1 half duck breast (0.8 lbs/360 grams), at room temperature

½ Tbs coarse salt

¼ tsp four peppers mix

For the sauce:

½ cup roughly chopped tart cherries (I used frozen/thawed, with the juices)

¼ cup cherry flavored beer (add ¼ cup more if using fresh cherries)

1 tsp honey

2 tsp butter, soft, divided

1 tsp rendered duck fat (from above)

1 medium shallot, small chopped

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp freshly ground four peppers mix

Leaves from 2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme

1 tsp corn starch mixed with 1 Tbs water


  1. Pat-dry the duck breast with paper towels. With a small sharp knife, score the fat side, in a crisscross pattern, making sure not to cut all the way through to the meat. Season with salt and pepper on both sides, and let sit at room temperature for 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, chop the shallot and set aside. Mix the cherries with the beer and honey in a bowl and set aside.
  3. Using a paper towel, remove extra salt from the duck, and place it, fat side down, in a medium heavy bottom cold frying pan. Place the pan over medium heat, and fry until the fat starts to render. Holding the pan with the duck, pour the fat into a small bowl (keep for later use. See notes). Keep frying, and removing the fat that accumulates in the pan, for about 10 minutes, until the skin side is nicely browned.
  4. Turn the duck over, and cook for about 5 minutes. Using kitchen tongs, hold the breast on the side, and fry for about a minute on each side. Do not overcook, you want the meat at medium-rare, or medium at the most. Transfer to a warm plate and keep in a warm place for 5-7 minutes.
  5. Add 1 tsp butter and 1 tsp duck fat to the pan. Add the shallot, salt and pepper, and sauté over medium-high heat, until the shallot softens. Add the cherry mix and thyme, and mix. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and cook for 5 minutes. Add the cornstarch slurry, mix and cook for a minute, until the sauce thickens. Add the remaining 1 tsp butter and mix well. Taste and adjust seasoning. Keep in a warm place while cutting the duck.
  6. Place the breast on a cutting board. With a large sharp knife, slice it into thick slices, and place on a serving plate. Add the sauce on the side, sprinkle a bit more thyme on top and serve.

43 thoughts on “Pan Seared Duck Breast with Cherry Sauce”

  1. I absolutely love duck! About 30 years ago, before cable TV food channels, I used to watch the cooking shows on PBS with a notepad in hand. It may have been The Frugal Gourmet, but someone showed you how to make duck confit. It involved a whole, cut up duck in a crock layered with garlic and ginger, in the fridge with a weight on top being pressed for days, then cooked gently in it’s rendered fat. That was one of the best dishes I ever made.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. So delicious! Love that you used the cherries and cherry beer. When I venture into the world of meat, it’s always a local duck, and cherries are my favorite accompaniment/sauce, so this recipe is made for me!
    I agree wholeheartedly in starting the duck in a cold pan, I use my trusty cast-iron frying pan. Makes such a difference.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Dorothy, I’m glad you liked the recipe. Duck and cherries are indeed such a tasty combination. I’m sure it will taste even better with fresh local duck, and fresh cherries in season.
      The cold pan method works so much better. I’m glad you’re also a fan! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re right Judi, duck is indeed more of “dark meat” – which I happen to like, but I know lots of people who don’t.
      This way of preparation can be easily adapted to chicken breast, which I’ve used today, with the leftover sauce. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I am a huge fan of duck… and beside this recipes I see some things I have been doing wrong…THANKs!!! I love cherries so this is going to be my next duck breast meal (hard to find here where I live). So excited to try!… I am also comforted to know I am not the only that keeps the fat….love potatoes and mushrooms fried in it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, I’m glad you liked the recipe and found it helpful. Duck meat is indeed so tasty, and works so well with slightly acidic fruits.
      Potatoes in duck fat are simply the best, let alone when mushrooms are added. I also love eggs fried in it. So good! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I love duck breasts, Ronit – I think I will pick some up this weekend at the farmers market. I’d love to try your recipe, but I’m not sure I can find cherry beer. If I can’t find it, I’ll be back here to ask you for recommendations for substitutions.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you David, I’m glad you liked the recipe. Duck breast is a favorite of mine as well, and I try to pair it with a different sauce each time I cook it.
      If you can’t find cherry beer, you can use any other dark beer instead. Another option is red wine. You’ll loose the slight bitterness of the beer, but it can still work well. 🙂


  5. Thank you for such a great recipe—at Christmas, New Year’s, Thanksgiving, etc., when it’s only my husband and myself, I usually opt for duck breasts, so am always on the lookout for a good recipe! Thanks to Bernadette, I am also following your food blog too! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for visiting and commenting. I’m glad you liked the recipe.
      I’m also always looking for new ways to prepare duck, and enjoy experimenting with it.
      Thanks for the follow. I’ll be visiting your blog soon as well. 🙂


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