Pomegranate-Orange Glazed Za’atar Roasted Duck

Persian flavors sing in this tangy sweet-tart savory Pomegranate-Orange Glazed Za’atar Roasted Duck. Duck is first simmered, then rubbed with za’atar spice paste, and roasted in a hot oven, while being glazed with a pomegranate orange honey sauce. It’s a show-stopper on your holiday table!

Pomegranate-Orange Glazed Za'atar Roasted Duck garnished with orange slices, pomegranate arils on a white ceramic plate with carving knife.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.

~~ Romans 15:13

👩🏻‍🍳 Tamara Talks – Recipe Inspiration

‘Tis the season… May it be a peace-filled and joyful one spent with those you hold most dear. My husband and I will be on our way to Charlotte, North Carolina Saturday for an intimate gathering with our son Nils, daughter-in-love Jamie, and grandson Cade. Pomegranate-Orange Glazed Za’atar Roasted Duck will be the centerpiece of our Christmas table.

In years past, we’ve been blessed to have most, if not all, of our 4 sons (and their significant others) around the Christmas table. Roasting duck can present logistical issues for home cooks, as 1 duck really only serves 2 people.

Cooking for 8 to 12 people (a typical Christmas dinner) equals 4 to 6 ducks! My 30″ range could not accommodate that number… hence I never have cooked duck for Christmas dinner.

Our smaller gathering this year provided the perfect opportunity to feature duck.  πŸ™‚ I am prepared with a Persian-style menu, and can’t wait to get started! Keep an eye out for 2 more side dishes to you between now and then, beginning with this roasted duck, and followed by a Zereshk (Barberry) and Pistachio Pilaf, and a Spinach and Persimmon Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette.

🍛 What Constitutes “Persian Food?”

This Persian-style roasted duck recipe – and the recipes that follow – are based on the Persian flavor profile: Saffron, cinnamon, turmeric, mint, thyme, oregano, pistachios, pomegranates, citrus, zereshk (barberries), etc. 

My inspiration for Pomegranate-Orange Glazed Za’atar Roasted Duck came to me in the international foods aisle at HEB in McAllen. I was looking for pomegranate molasses for a salad dressing recipe planned for Thanksgiving.

I have always had to “make” my own by simmering down a bottle of juice. Imagine my delight when I spotted it on the bottom shelf in the Persian section! I perused the rest of that section, and spotted a container of za’atar spice mix. I subsequently ended up playing around with wet and dry rubs, and then glazing during cooking to find the best combination.

I have been a fan of Food Network’s Ina Garten for many years. Her basic cooking techniques are so solid. I knew I wanted to incorporate Persian flavors, but I had no experience roasting a duck.

I looked to Ina Garten for her basic roasted duck recipe. Her Roast Duck recipe prep method yielded a golden, crispy skin, and moist and flavorful duck.

I have used this combination on a small chicken cooked on the grill, cornish game hens roasted in my convection oven, and most recently, on the duck roasted in my oven which you see in the photo above.

📋 Ingredients Notes

Here is a quick look at the ingredients in the recipe – it’s handy to use at the grocery store or as a summary of what you need. Skip to the recipe for quantities.

Here is a quick look at the ingredients in the recipe – it’s handy to use at the grocery store or as a summary of what you need. Skip to the recipe for quantities.

What is Za’atar?

I’d venture to guess you may not be familiar with za’atar? Za’atar is a family of herbs, as well as a generic name for a spice mixture used throughout the Middle East. Though recipes will vary by region, it typically includes sesame seeds, thyme, oregano, sumac, and salt.

Check out this recipe for homemade za’atar. A commercially prepared za’atar (if you are fortunate enough to have a market with a variety of international foods) is a fine substitute for homemade.

Pomegranates and Pomegranate Molasses

Pomegranates seem to be synonymous with Persian cooking… at least in the mind of this American cook. The brilliantly red fruit make an appearance in so many Persian dishes – including the popular and widely known fesenjan – but they are also an important cultural symbol. See Why Iranian Lifestyle can’t be Without Pomegranate for more info…

The health benefits of pomegranates include (but are not limited to) an impressive amount of vitamins and minerals, low in calories, rich in fiber, and potent antioxidants. For more information see 12 Health Benefits of Pomegranates.

Pomegranate molasses is more widely available now than it was just a few years ago. If you can’t find it in your supermarket, you can order pomegranate molasses or make your own.

About the Duck

One Duck does not go a long way! Most “experts” agree that one 5-5 1/2 pound duck serves 2-3 people… even with robust sides. So if you’re feeding 4, you really need two ducks.

The cavity of the duck is quite large, and the bird is bony. You don’t want to be short on roasted duck on Christmas Day!

Recommended internal temperatures can range from 145° to 180°.  πŸ˜₯ Duck is pretty forgiving, not drying out like chicken and turkey. We thought 160° made for a spectacular bird!

Is Duck Healthy?

While duck is considered “fatty,” it is considered a healthy food. Most of the fat is healthy fat (similar to olive oil), but about 1/3 of it is saturated. The meat itself is not high in fat.

Duck is high in protein, B12, omega fatty acids, and more. As a special occasion food, I would not hesitate to include it in a healthy diet…

🔪 Instructions

The duck goes into a hot oven, and is basted with a tangy, orange molasses pomegranate glaze. In 30 to 40 minutes, the duck should be golden, crispy, and cooked to an interior temperature of 160°.

Cooking Steps

  1. Simmer the duck(s) in broth, pat dry, air dry.
  2. Make the rub then rub it into the skin.
  3. Place the duck in preheated (hot) oven.
  4. Make the pomegranate glaze, then begin basting periodically.
  5. Roast until desired temperature is reached.
  6. Garnish with pomegranate arils, orange slices, and fresh herbs as desired.

💭 Tips

I’m serving 4. How many ducks should I prepare? Given that a 5 pound duck feeds 2-3, you will need 2 ducks.

How much time should I allow start to finish? About 2 1/2 before carving and serving.

As mentioned above, the internal temperature recommendation for duck is 145° to 180°. Duck is fairly forgiving; I cook until an internal temperature of 160°.

For help with carving those beautiful birds: How to Carve a Whole Duck.

What can I do with leftovers? I don’t think I’ve ever had any substantial leftovers, but I don’t like to waste even the carcass. I have put the duck carcass(es) in a pot covered with water, and added bay, rosemary, onion, carrots, celery to make a good stock. I pick off any meat, strain the stock, and add wild rice, mushrooms, carrots, etc. It’s delicious!

🧂 Useful Stuff

Note: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases at no additional cost to you. This helps to offset the costs of maintaining my blog and creating awesome content! 😊

Pomegranate Molasses
Carving Set
Za'atar
Za'atar and Pomegranate Molasses Roasted Duck  sliced on a plate with pistachio rice and a persimmon and strawberry salad on a white plate.

In planning my Christmas menu, and putting these recipes and posts together, keep in mind that I am not attempting to recreate an authentic Persian dish. Rather, I am using Persian flavors to bring you a new “twist” on a traditional holiday favorite.

I hope that you will consider this Persian-style roasted duck recipe for your own holiday menu this year… and as you plan take time to enjoy the beauty of the season. Merry Christmas!

Tamara's signature

📖 Recipe

Yield: 4 servings

Za'atar and Pomegranate Molasses Roasted Duck

A white platter with Persian-style roasted duck, fresh thyme sprig, pomegranate arils, and orange slices.

Persian flavors sing in this tangy sweet-tart savory glazed duck. The duck is simmered, rubbed with za'atar spice paste, roasted in a hot oven, and glazed with a pomegranate, orange, honey sauce. Delicious!

Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Resting Time 20 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 35 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 - 5 to 5 1/2 pound ducks
  • 6 cups chicken broth/stock
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt

The Spice Paste

  • 1/4 cup za'atar 
  • 2 teaspoons garlic, minced
  • zest of 1 large orange, or 2 small clementines or mandarins
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • several grinds pepper

The Glaze

Instructions

Simmer the Duck (from Ina Garten's Roasted Duck)

  1. Unwrap the ducks and allow them to sit at room temperature for 20 minutes. With a fork, prick the skin without piercing the meat. This will allow the fat to drain off while the ducks cook.
  2. Meanwhile, in a very large stock pot which can hold the 2 ducks, heat the chicken broth with 1 tablespoon of kosher salt until it boils. Add the ducks very carefully and bring the stock back to a boil. If there isn't enough stock to cover the ducks, add the hottest tap water to cover. If the ducks float to the top, place a plate on top to keep them immersed. When the stock comes back to a boil, lower the heat and simmer the ducks in the stock for 45 minutes.
  3. When the ducks are finished simmering, skim off enough duck fat from the top of the stock to pour a film on the bottom of a 14 by 18 by 3-inch roasting pan. This will keep the ducks from sticking when they roast. Carefully take the ducks out of the stock, holding them over the pot to drain.
  4. Place them in the roasting pan, pat the skin dry with paper towels, and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of salt and the pepper. If you have time, allow the ducks to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes to allow the skin to dry.
  5. Read more at: Roast Duck
  1. Preheat oven to 475 degrees (450 convection). Combine ingredients for the spice paste in one prep bowl, and the ingredients for the glaze in another bowl.
  2. When ducks are simmered and thoroughly dried, rub them all over with the spice paste. Place them in the roasting pan(s), and into the hot oven.
  3. After about 10 minutes, brush the ducks all over with the glaze. Be generous. Repeat every 8 to 10 minutes until your desired internal temperature is reached.
  4. Remove from the oven. Brush on any remaining glaze. Cover with foil for about 15-20 minutes before serving to allow the ducks to absorb all the juices.
  5. Carve* and enjoy!

Notes

Za'atar spice mix is commercially available. You can also make your own with this recipe: Homemade Za'atar.

I love to roast using the convection setting on my oven. I drop the temperature 25 degrees, and roast for approximately 20% less time. You will want to use a thermometer to check for doneness as the cooking time varies with the oven and size of your ducks.

For help with carving those beautiful birds: How to Carve a Whole Duck.

Macronutrients are an approximation only from MyFitnessPal.com and a very rough estimate based on a 4 ounce boned serving. Don't worry about the holiday calories!

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

4

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 564Total Fat: 33gCarbohydrates: 39gProtein: 28g

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36 Comments

  1. Hello fellow McAllenite! I’m also in McAllen. Tamara, I made your recipe for Christmas Eve and it was awesome! My husband is Persian so I included Albalou Pollo which is rice with sour cherries.
    I am always shopping at HEB on Trenton, so maybe I will see you there!

    1. How exciting! I have had one or two comments from people in south Texas, but never McAllen! I’m so glad you like the recipe, and wouldn’t it be awesome to meet up. πŸ™‚

      1. Great! I am always looking for new friends who enjoy cooking and eating! I would like to incorporate more fusion styled recipes. Are you familiar with the Persian recipe ” Fessenjan”? It is a sauce made with ground walnuts, pomegranate molasses, and chicken (or duck!). I think it would be interesting to make Mexican Mole with pomegranate molasses. My email is dalleef@gmail.com.

        1. Yes, we love fesenjan, and I’ve made it at home. I cook with pomegranate molasses regularly, and I think it would work really well in mole. I’ll put that on my “list” of ideas to explore!

  2. Could I come over for a Meal Tamara? Seriously? I cannot stop drooling looking at how BEAUTIFUL that roasted duck looks and EVERYTHING on that plate too!
    I am going to have a hard time being happy until I get to eat that (Or at least something similar…) very soon!

    1. I’d love to fix it for you Dini! Thanks so much for the compliment… I’ve admired you and your blog for so long, it means a lot to me πŸ™‚ Merry Christmas!

  3. This is a gorgeous duck! I haven’t cooked duck in such a long time and after reading this recipe I feel like I need some now! This will be sneaking it’s way onto my menu some time between Christmas and New Years!

  4. It’s just me and my husband for Christmas this year and I think this would be a perfect dinner for two. It is so elegant, great for a holiday meal. Thanks for sharing!

  5. This looks amazing. I lived in the Middle East for a year, and was always intrigued by the pomegranate molasses, but never knew what to do with it. This glaze and the spice mix are wonderful. I will try these with chicken, as I’ve got some on hand. Beautiful recipes and pictures.

    1. Thanks Mary! I used the pomegranate molasses in a salad dressing for Thanksgiving, and it was perfect! It’s a great ingredient, and one I hope to incorporate more into my cooking. I did the same ingredients and method on a chicken the first time, and it was delicious! I do hope you give it a try…

  6. Oh my word, that sounds delicious. I’m always at a loss with what to do with duck, so very rarely cook it. This sounds delicious and would also be another use for the zaatar that I’ve not used much either.

    1. Za’atar is such a great spice mix for all kinds of preparations! I bet you’d like this dish, and it comes together pretty quickly! Thanks for stopping by!

  7. My father used to eat za’atar all the time. He’d sprinkle it over olive oil and dip some of my grandmother’s bread in it. Good memories. I buy za’atar every time I see it because it reminds me of him, yet I never use it. I mean never. So this is the perfect chance! Great recipe.

    1. Za’atar is such a versatile combination of spices! It’s so simple to rub a chicken down with it and grill it or roast it. The Pomegranate molasses and orange glaze is just “icing on the cake.” I hope this does prompt you to use that soon!

  8. Oh how happy I am to find you and your blog! How wonderful it is to see other food lovers loving Persian flavors and honestly, reading your post, I totally felt I knew you because you have talked about all my favorite things! Oh I love this post and your Persian Menu! Wish I could be at your Christmas table! <3

    1. Hi Shadi! I dated an Iranian student when I was in college years ago, and he introduced me to Persian food πŸ™‚ I’ve loved it ever since! When we lived in New Mexico (22 years) I didn’t have the availability of ingredients that I do here in McAllen, Texas. When I saw the pomegranate molasses I was so excited. I bought za’atar, sumac, saffron, and rose water. I already had the zereshk. I made fesenjan a few years ago, and I’m looking forward to doing that again soon too! My “thing” is healthy food with a global flare. I’m so happy to meet you through my blog! Thanks for writing!

  9. I LOVE duck! It’s by far my favorite protein. I bet the pomegranate molasses is absolutely delicious on it! Can’t wait to try it, I’ll probably do just a breast instead of the whole duck since they’re so hard to find where I’m from. Thanks for the gorgeous recipe!

    1. You’re so welcome Lauren! Pomegranate molasses has become a favorite pantry item. I hope you give it a try, and thanks for stopping by… πŸ™‚

  10. Now that is one gorgeous duck!!!! It’s just dripping with deliciousness. We already have Christmas planned, but this sounds like a great idea for the week after when it’s just the two of us. I know what you mean about a duck only really serving 2 people. I always want to cook duck for guests, but the oven just isn’t big enough. Hope you and your family have an absolutely wonderful holiday!!!! Wish I could send you some of our cold weather, πŸ™‚

    1. Hi MJ! I have mixed emotions about this weather in south Texas:-) Last night, my son (in Las Cruces) and I were texting… my husband and I were sitting on the patio with palm trees swaying in the breeze in short sleeves and he in shorts. My son was in his long johns with a hoodie! Haha! I will be looking forward to cooking this again on Christmas day though I will miss my usual larger crowd. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you and yours!

      1. Yep, it’s been colder here than last year. Wish I were still in shorts. πŸ™‚ If it weren’t for the HOT summers, I could probably handle south Texas. Have a wonderful Christmas. Your meal looks awesome!