Sous Vide Duck Breasts

Tender, succulent Sous Vide Duck Breasts get a quick sear after their hot bath, and slathered with a savory quick orange chocolate sauce. At less than 30 minutes active time, it’s an elegant main dish that is sure to impress, and perfect for the holidays or a special date night! Serve with a roasted garlic and cauliflower mash or cilantro rice, and “wow” even the most discerning palate! A special meal for two that is easily scaled up for more!

Sous Vide Duck Breasts with Quick Orange Chocolate Sauce  on an oval cast iron server with half of a blood orange and cilantro garnish.

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

~~ M.F.K. Fisher

👩🏻‍🍳 Tamara Talks – Recipe Inspiration

I have cooked duck – a few times. You may remember my Za’atar and Pomegranate Molasses Roasted Duck recipe I posted for Christmas 2015? Well, maybe that’s stretching the limit of the average blog reader’s memory? The succulent flavor had me wanting to do duck again, but I really wanted to do breasts only.

I finally got my hands on duck breasts at our local Latino market (Ruben’s). Never one to post a recipe until it’s perfected, I played with the sauce first on less expensive but definitely not cheap quail medallions. The sauce is Mexican-ish (is that a word?), with its citrus, chocolate, cumin flavors. No roux or thickening agent required.  😀 Try this delicious Quick Orange Chocolate Sauce on any poultry or even pork!

🦆 About Duck Breasts

Duck breasts come in many sizes, and may be domestic and commercially produced, or they may be wild and taken in a hunt. My very first experience with duck was with wild duck that a friend “donated” to me because she knew I would know what to do with it.

The ducks were quite small, and had been plucked and cleaned. They were bony and difficult to prepare and eat due to their small size. The commercial ducks I find are MUCH easier to work with, and breasts are a breeze!

When I ordered my duck breasts, I had a choice of small, medium, and large. The small – at 6 to 8 ounces each – are a perfect size. You lose a little to fat, but not much. I aim for 4-6 ounces of protein, so they worked out well.

❓ FAQ

Is Duck Breast “Healthy?”

While duck breast is not as lean as chicken breast, it can certainly be a healthy addition to your diet. It is high in protein, and key vitamins (B-5 and B-12) and minerals (selenium and zinc). Choice of cooking method and healthy sides make it an excellent option for a special occasion romantic meal with your loved one or scale it up for an elegant holiday dinner!

Why sous vide the duck?

I chose to sous vide (sounds fancy and intimidating, but it’s really simple). AND. FOOL PROOF. Sous vide is the perfect method for duck. If you’re looking for a specific temperature (in this case 130° for medium-rare), you have the ability to hold it at that temperature until you’re ready to sear it, and make the pan sauce! While the duck breasts hang out in their hot bath, you can make your sides…

💭 Tips

I wanted medium-rare, and set the temperature for 130°. I cooked it for about an hour and 45 minutes. While the duck hangs out in its hot tub, I prep the ingredients for the sauce (mis en place), and make the sides… I have included a simple Roasted Cauliflower and Garlic Mash at the bottom of the post.

Note: We prefer duck medium rare. The beauty of sous vide cooking is the duck will not get over cooked. Once it hits the desired temperature, it quits cooking.

If you prefer it more cooked, adjust the temperature accordingly – 140° for medium, and 150° for well. Keep in mind, you will raise the internal temperature when you sear the duck breast on the stove!

Sous Vide Duck Breasts with Blood Orange Chocolate Sauce Close Up

I have to put in another plug for “staying in” for Valentine’s Day… Sous Vide Duck Breasts with Quick Orange Chocolate Sauce , Roasted Cauliflower and Garlic Mash, fresh escarole with a citrus vinaigrette, and a bottle of Lawrence Dunham Vineyards 2012 Petite Sirah beats a crowded, noisy, expensive restaurant hands down and any day of the week. We’ve enjoyed a quiet meal at home Valentine’s Day for years (after our 4 sons left the nest!).

📋 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.

Ingredients for the quick orange chocolate sauce - Dark chocolate, cumin, orange juice and zest, garlic, dry sherry, mole bitters.
  • duck breast(s) – Duck breasts are a holiday treat at Andersen casa, and I can’t always get them. I have used the quick orange chocolate sauce on both quail medallions and pork tenderloin with great success.
  • shallot – You can substitute red or sweet onion.
  • garlic
  • ground cumin
  • dry sherry – If you prefer to not cook with alcohol, substitute chicken broth. If you don’t have (or don’t want to buy) dry sherry, you can use a dry white or red wine.
  • orange – As shown in the photos, I use blood oranges when I can get them (most of the year). Their brilliant hue enhances the sauce. Cara cara oranges come into season sooner than blood oranges and are a great alternative. Use the best quality oranges you can find.
  • chocolate – I typically use an 86% dark chocolate. If you use a chocolate that is less than 86% dark, you may want to taste the sauce before adding the agave nectar. 86% has no sweet taste (to my palate), so I feel the hint of sweetness is necessary. I also made the sauce with a 64% chocolate, and omitted the agave nectar entirely.
  • sweetener – I usually use agave nectar, but honey is a good alternative. Remember to taste and adjust!
  • bitters – I use several shakes of mole or chocolate bitters, but it’s totally optional. Orange bitters are another good option.
  • cilantro 

🔪 Instructions

Start to finish, you need a little over 2 hours to complete the sous vide duck breasts and the accompanying orange-chocolate sauce. If you’re interested in the roasted garlic and cauliflower mash, I am working on the recipe, but the post is not live. Google doesn’t want to see 2 recipe cards in one post. UGH.

If you do not have a way to sous vide the duck, all is not lost! I like Gordon Ramsay’s method: How to Cook Perfect Duck Breast. Pick up the instructions after the seared duck is resting with a foil cover.

Sous Vide Duck Breasts

  • Sous vide the duck breasts – Pat the duck breasts dry, and season generously with salt and pepper. Place in air and water tight bags (vacuum or zip bags). Make sure all the air is removed. Place in water bath at desired internal finished temperature for about 1 ½ to 2 1/2 hours until the desired temperature is reached. You can hold at this temperature while you work on the rest of the meal. Note: Medium-rare is 130°
  • Prep any sides and the ingredients for the quick orange chocolate sauce. Take your time on the sides as the duck can hang out in its hot bath while you get the rest of the menu ready to serve!

Making the Quick Orange Chocolate Sauce

  • Sear the duck – You need the duck fat for the pan sauce. Remove duck from the bags. Pat dry thoroughly. Place breasts skin side-down in heavy-bottomed 12-inch non-stick or cast iron skillet and set over high heat until sizzling, about 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and cook, moving and pressing breasts to ensure good contact between skin and pan until golden brown and crisp, about 5 minutes. Flip and cook second side until barely colored, about 30 seconds. Transfer to paper towel-lined plate, cover with foil, and allow to rest while making the sauce.
  • To Serve – Slice duck into ½” thick slices. Top with the blood orange chocolate sauce, and garnish with cilantro.
Step 1 for the quick orange chocolate sauce - Sauté shallots, garlic, and ground cumin in a little of the duck fat.
  • Remove all but about a tablespoon of duck fat from the pan. Add the minced shallot and garlic, and sauté about a minute over medium high heat (avoid burning!). Add cumin, and sauté another minute or so. 
Step 2 - De-glaze the pan with dry sherry, scraping any browned bits from the pan.
  • De-glaze – Deglaze the pan with sherry, scraping any browned duck bits.
Step 3 - Add the chocolate, juice and zest, sweetener, and optional bitters.
  • Reduce heat on the pan. Stir in the juice and zest, chocolate, agave nectar (if using), and bitters (if using).
Step 4 - Stir the sauce over low heat until the chocolate is fully incorporated.
  • Finish the sauce – Stir the sauce (over low heat) until the chocolate is completely melted and incorporated. DO NOT BOIL. Taste and adjust seasoning. Add additional sweetener to taste. Keep warm until ready to serve.

❓ FAQ

What is the best internal temperature for duck breast?

Unlike chicken, duck breast has a texture and color more like red meat, and is safe to consum medium-rare (130° F). If you prefer medium shoot for 140°, or well-done at 150° (just don’t tell me!). See For Perfect Duck Breast for more information.

Isn’t “sous vide” an advanced cooking method?

I don’t consider it to be difficult at all! In fact, the hot bath allows the home cook to get to an exact temperature making it basically fool proof. It does require a specific appliance however.

Can I make the recipe if I don’t sous vide the duck breast?

YES! As I mention above, you can cook the duck breasts entirely on the stove top. See How to Cook Perfect Duck Breast .

Duck breasts tend to be pretty expensive. What other options will go well with the Quick Orange Chocolate Sauce?

A pork tenderloin is a much less expensive option, and can be treated the same way. 145° is the new recommended internal temperature for pork.

How do I make the roasted garlic and cauliflower mash?

It’s easy! See this Instant Pot cauliflower mash. If you don’t have an Instant Pot, or don’t want to use it if you do, it’s easy to adapt the recipe to stove top. Simply cook the cauliflower, roasted garlic, and broth on the stove until very tender. Proceed according to recipe!

💭 Tips

This sous vide duck recipe requires about 2 hours start to finish, but most of it is INACTIVE TIME. You have plenty of time to prep any sides while the duck is in its hot bath! This makes it a perfect method for elegant holiday/special occasion meals.

Starting with a cold pan allows more fat to render off and a crispier skin.

From Serious Eats – “Score the fat to help it render more efficiently. Ducks are busy commuter birds who need lots of fat to fuel them through long flights. This thick fat, when rendered down to a slender and succulent layer beneath crisp skin, is a culinary marvel, but you can easily end up with too much of a good thing. Scoring gives the fat more exposure to heat by increasing the surface area and allowing it to render faster.”

A white square plate with the quick orange chocolate sauce over quail medallions, roasted cauliflower and garlic mash, and roasted delicata squash.
Serving suggestion: Quail medallions with quick orange chocolate sauce, roasted cauliflower and garlic mash, and roasted delicata squash. I substituted pan seared quail medallions for the sous vide duck breasts, and it was amazing!

We loved this easy Quick Orange Chocolate Sauce on quail medallions and pork tenderloin too! Try it on your favorite meat or poultry. Keep in mind the duck fat adds flavor… Since it’s a “pan” sauce, you will want to add a bit of flavorful fat to the pan by searing your meat or poultry first. You can also try using a bit of butter to sauté the shallot and garlic.

Have you had duck and loved it? Are you tempted to give cooking duck a try? I hope so…  🙂

Valentine's Day Signature

Sous Vide Duck Breasts with Blood Orange Chocolate Sauce Feature Image

Sous Vide Duck Breasts

Tender, succulent duck breasts get a quick sear after their hot bath, and slathered in a gorgeous sauce. Sous Vide Duck Breasts with blood orange chocolate sauce, served with a Roasted Cauliflower and Garlic Mash is sure to "wow" even the most discerning palate!
4.75 from 8 votes

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Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 45 minutes
Total Time 2 hours 15 minutes
Course Main Dishes
Cuisine Eclectic, Mexican/Latin
Servings 2 servings
Calories 389 kcal

Equipment

  • Sous Vide Cooker Immersion Circulator – Sous Vide Starter Kit
  • EVERIE Sous Vide Bundle Kit with Sous Vide Container 12 Quart
  • Dash Chef Series Stainless Steel Sous Vide

Ingredients
  

  • 2 small duck breasts - about 6 ounces each
  • sea salt and pepper - (see notes)
  • 1 shallot - minced
  • 1 teaspoon garlic - minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ cup dry sherry - white wine or broth
  • 1 juicy orange - zest and juice (see notes)
  • 1 ounce extra dark chocolate - (I use 86% dark)
  • 1 teaspoon agave nectar - (see notes)
  • several shakes of mole or chocolate bitters - optional
  • sea salt and fresh ground pepper
  • cilantro - for garnish

Instructions

Sous Vide Duck Breast with Blood Orange Chocolate Sauce

  • Pat the duck breasts dry, and season generously with salt and pepper. Place in air and water tight bags (vacuum or zip bags). Make sure all the air is removed. Place in water bath at desire internal temperature. See notes below
  • Remove duck from the bags. Pat dry thoroughly.
  • Place breasts skin side-down in heavy-bottomed 12-inch non-stick or cast iron skillet and set over high heat until sizzling, about 2 minutes. Reduce heat to medium and cook, moving and pressing breasts to ensure good contact between skin and pan until golden brown and crisp, about 5 minutes. Flip and cook second side until barely colored, about 30 seconds. Transfer to paper towel-lined plate, cover with foil, and allow to rest while making the sauce.
  • Remove all but about a tablespoon of duck fat from the pan. Add the minced shallot and garlic, and saute about a minute over medium high heat. Add cumin, and saute another minute or so. 
  • Deglaze the pan with sherry, scraping any browned duck bits. Stir in the juice and zest, chocolate, agave nectar (if using), and bitters (if using). Season.
  • To Serve: Slice duck into 1/2″ thick slices. Top with the blood orange chocolate sauce, and garnish with cilantro.

Notes

I recently did a post on DIY Finishing Salts. The Citrus Sea Salt is perfect for seasoning the duck breast prior to cooking! Also, I finally found Aleppo pepper locally, and with it’s hint of heat and citrus notes, it’s perfect as well. Use a good quality sea salt and fresh ground pepper…
You want a generous 1/4 cup of orange juice. Blood oranges are not available year ’round, and not in every area when they’re in season. Substitute any good, fresh orange (medium-sized) with lots of juice. Keep in mind the color of the sauce will not have the red tint.
The bitters are optional. They add depth and complexity, but you will have an excellent sauce without them!
If you use a chocolate that is less than 86% dark, you may want to taste the sauce before adding the agave nectar. 86% has no sweet taste (to my palate), so I feel the hint of sweetness is necessary. I also made the sauce with a 64% chocolate, and omitted the agave nectar entirely.
Don’t forget to season the sauce!
Serious Eats is a “go to” resource for me. You can actually leave the duck in its bath for up to 4 hours. See Sous Vide 101: Duck Breast Recipe.
 

Nutrition

Serving: 6ounces | Calories: 389kcal | Carbohydrates: 24g | Protein: 36g | Fat: 14g

NOTE: Macronutrients are an approximation only using unbranded ingredients and MyFitnessPal.com. Please do your own research with the products you’re using if you have a serious health issue or are following a specific diet.

Did you make this recipe? Please leave a comment and/or star rating! Email us with any questions: tamara@beyondmeresustenance.com

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8 Comments

  1. Hi! This looks incredible!
    I am wanting to make this for four people… would that require a change to cooking time?

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Ash! No, it shouldn’t make a difference. You’ll still want to bring the duck breasts to temperature, and hold them until ready to sear. The sauce should be the same as well. Good luck!

  2. This looks and sounds AMAZING! I don’t do duck very often and I’m just starting to get into sous vide. Such a great reason to get the sous vide out and buy some duck! That sauce with duck has got to be perfection on a plate!

    1. It really is delicious Carol, and so quick and easy to eat! Sous vide has some great applications, and this is just one of many… Thanks for taking time to comment!

  3. I absolutely love citrus season and the pairing of the blood oranges with the duck is perfect. What a scrumptious dish! I grew up eating wild duck and I have to admit that I would much rather have domestic duck. Better texture and flavor IMO. Sounds like you order your duck Do your buy it online? Locally, it’s prohibitively expensive so I rarely make it. Would love to try this recipe.

    1. I’m with you MJ! Wild duck is good, but yes, the texture and flavor of domestic suits me better… I have a local Latino market that is owned and run by a chef. He will order anything for me, but he does stock a few duck breasts. I think the 2 for this recipe came to $28.00. It’s expensive, but I do splurge for special occasion dinners. It still beats restaurant prices, right?

  4. What an amazing meal this was! One of the best ever. Don’t overlook the possibility of using the sauce on a cheaper protein.