Sliced Duck Breast With Cumberland Sauce

duck breast with Cumberland sauce

Sliced Duck Breast with Cumberland Sauce, a sweet and savory appetizer or light meal, is easy to put together and can be prepared a day in advance and assembled at the last minute. It’s special enough for date night, an anniversary or a romantic Valentine’s Day dinner.

Years ago, my husband and I had a favorite restaurant that we dined at on special occasions. They had an appetizer of cold smoked pheasant served with Cumberland Sauce that we remember to this day. What made the appetizer so memorable was the delicious sweet and savory sauce that was part of the dish, I could have eaten it by the spoonful. After searching for a cookbook with a Cumberland Sauce recipe, I came to find out that the sauce is a classic English recipe that is usually served alongside cold meats such as duck, goose, turkey, ham or lamb.

While smoked pheasant is not available in my area, boneless, skin on duck breast is carried in the frozen food section at our local market. While shopping one day, I thought about that appetizer and bought two of the frozen breasts and created this recipe for Sliced Duck Breast With Cumberland Sauce which I served on a bed of mixed field greens. This sophisticated sounding but ever so simple dish makes a delicious first course appetizer or a light entree. If you can’t find or don’t care for duck breast, think about using the flavorful Cumberland Sauce to top leftover cold sliced chicken, turkey or ham. It also makes a wonderful condiment to serve with a cold pâté or meat terrine.

Sliced Duck Breast Appetizer With Cumberland Sauce

Sliced Pan Seared Duck Breast

Serves two as a light entree or four as an appetizer, adjust the recipe accordingly.

  • 2 duck breast halves about 5 – 6 oz. each
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • field greens of your choice, I used baby arugula and baby spinach
  • Cumberland Sauce, see recipe below.

Remove the duck from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature, about 20 to 30 minutes. Use a sharp knife and score the skin in a diamond pattern being careful not to cut into the flesh itself. The scoring helps render the fat and keeps the skin crisp during cooking.

Pat the duck dry with paper towels and season well with salt and pepper. Place the breasts, skin side down, in a cold sauté pan and cook over medium heat until most of the fat has rendered and the skin is crispy and brown, about 10 to 12 minutes. Turn over and cook an additional 3 to 5 minutes until the internal temperature of the duck reaches 135 degrees for medium rare or cook to your liking. If you cook the duck breast to 155 degrees, it will be medium well and slightly pink. Let the duck rest about 10 minutes before carving. It can also be made the day ahead and refrigerated. Let come to room temperature and assemble just before serving. Toss mixed salad greens with a vinaigrette of olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Divide the greens among plates. Slice the duck thinly and fan a few slices out on top of the greens. Drizzle with some of the Cumberland Sauce and serve. Extra sauce can be served at the table.

Cumberland Sauce

Recipe makes about 1 cup

  • 1 orange, zested and juiced
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1/2 tsp. sugar
  • 5 Tbsp. lingonberry preserves, red currant jelly can be substituted
  • 5 Tbsp. Tawny or Ruby Port
  • 1 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1/4 tsp. mustard powder

Use a vegetable peeler or zester, remove the zest (peel) of the orange and lemon in wide strips 1 to 2 inches long, avoiding the white pith. Then slice the strips lengthwise into thin strips about 1/8  inch wide. Cut the orange and lemon in half, squeeze the juice out and reserve. Bring a small amount of water to a boil, add the sugar and the orange and lemon zest. Lower the heat and simmer the zest for about 3 minutes. Strain and reserve the zest.

Using the same pot, add the juice of the orange and lemon, the preserves, port, ginger and mustard and stir. Bring to a simmer and cook until syrupy and thickened, about 7 to 10 minutes, then add in the reserved zest. Cool to room temperature and serve or refrigerate and serve cold. The sauce can be stored in the refrigerator for a week.

sliced duck breast with Cumberland sauce
Sliced Duck Breast With Cumberland Sauce


Many of us used to make plans to go to our favorite romantic restaurant for Valentine’s Day and other special occasions. That has changed for most of us now and we are staying home. If you would like to serve something special for the romantic evening meal but still want something easy to do, think about the duck breast appetizer. Duck breast has a juicy richness similar to a steak but is lighter and not as fatty or rich. 

This duck breast recipe is special but easy to prepare. The breasts, which can be prepared in under 30 minutes, can also be made the day before. The flavorful Cumberland Sauce can be made days in advance. It only takes minutes to assemble the finished dish so that leaves you plenty of time for making a decadent dessert and setting a beautiful table for your special meal.

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93 thoughts on “Sliced Duck Breast With Cumberland Sauce

    1. Hi Angie, I agree that It was all three. Crispy skin is so important, I believe and turned out perfect. Thank you for your lovely compliment.

  1. I haven’t made Cumberland sauce in a very long time. Definitely one of those things I would like to make again. I usually serve it with pork, but duck breast sounds delicious. And I LOVE duck breast! Don’t have any on hand at the moment — my freezer is too full of other stuff to think about adding any! But I should, and make this terrific sauce to serve over it. Nice post — thanks so much.

    1. John, you gave me a chuckle about your freeze being too full. It sounds like mine, it is full to the brim. Do make the sauce again, it really is a taste treat.

    1. Thank you for the compliment about the photos Jovina. I believe a lot of people haven’t cooked duck but it really is easy…I hope you give it a try.

    1. Hi Jeanie, This dish does make a nice presentation, that is what made me think it would be nice for Valentine’s Day or other special occasion.

  2. Sounds amazing! We have never heard of this sauce, and have yet attempted to make duck, but hopefully soon! Great recipe Karen! 🙂

    1. HI Anna and Liz, I do believe that these are two recipes that you would both enjoy. Delicious together or made separately. I hope you give then a try. Thank you for your lovely compliment.

  3. Isn’t is fun discovering new flavors? With as much as you travel I can’t begin to imagine all of the new things you’ve tasted. Love that you share with us. This cumberland sauce sounds like a delightful sauce. I’ve never heard of it. Love the ingredients! I can see how those flavors would complement a beautiful duck breast. The dish looks fantastic.

  4. I have a duck breast in the freezer so this is another of your recipes to try. Quite honestly, this will be my first attempt to cook duck myself as I usually leave that to a more accomplished chef!

    1. Thank you Linda, I do believe that you have probably tried more of my recipes than anyone. 😘 The duck is really easy to cook, I don’t think you need to be an accomplished chef to make this dish. Good luck!

  5. This looks like a meal that has a burst of flavours!!! Love the orange cumberland sauce! It’s a keeper Karen, I’m going to bookmark this and make it sometime. Perhaps over chicken or pork as the family is not very fond of duck meat!
    Thanks for a great share!

  6. I just made a duck breast from Thomas Keller’s book and your Cumberland sauce would be great with it. I remember Cumberland sauce from when I lived in Germany . It was often served at weddings and other celebrations.

  7. I was very interested in the recipe for Cumberland sauce, Karen. I would like to think up a variety of ways that might be a good accompaniment to other dishes, too. And thank you for reminding me how soon we will be arriving at Valentine’s Day. It didn’t even occur to me, and since we are having all of our groceries delivered, I need to begin thinking! Lovely dish you prepared!!

    1. Hi Debra, yes I am having groceries delivered as well. You really have to plan in advance and if your experiences are anything like mine, many times the markets are out of what you want. The Cumberland Sauce is delicious and would really be wonderful served with many dishes. I hope you enjoy it is you have a chance to try it. Thank you.

    1. Thank you for your compliment Pam. It is not surprising that you might not have heard of this sauce. While not as common in our country, it is a popular sauce in England and Germany to serve with dark meats such as duck and pork. While delicious served that way, I believer the sweet and savory citrus sauce goes well with many other meats.

    1. I hope you will enjoy this dish as much as we did Deb. Wishing you a lovely anniversary dinner, our anniversary is the week before yours.

  8. I’ve never had Cumberland Sauce and it sounds delicious. Last time I looked, Whole Foods had Lingonberry Preserves. I hope that’s still the case because I’d love to try this recipe. I made a Duck Breast for the Holidays, I’ve not done that for years, and had forgotten how good it its. Thanks for a new recipe idea.

    1. Thank you Lea Ann, I’m happy to have given you another recipe idea for duck breast. If Whole Foods no longer carries Lingonberry Preserves you can substitute red current jelly.

  9. You know, duck is not something that I’ve experimented with very much. Laura does love duck, though, so I know she would be quite pleased with this recipe. Talk about a fun (and different) Valentine’s Day meal – I like it!

    1. David, duck breast is so easy to prepare…you must give it a try. I’m glad you like the idea of preparing this meal on Valentine’s Day, thank you.

  10. We had ducks breast the other day, I sear the skin than put it in the oven for a few mins, I hate that it spits fat all over my cooker ! We have it very rare as well and it was ‘melt in the mouth’ I just served it with quince jelly but I like the sound of your Cumberland sauce.

    Take care and stay safe, Diane

    1. Hi Diane, I do believe you would enjoy the sweet and savory Cumberland Sauce the next time you prepare duck. Thank you for your nice compliment.

  11. Well I do love duck, but based on your description, I may just make this sauce and serve it up with a smoked turkey breast we got in a Christmas food basket. BTW, we really enjoyed your deviled crab and I should be posting my results this week!

    1. Hi Inger, I believe the Cumberland Sauce would be delicious with your smoked turkey breast. Thank you so very much for letting me know that you enjoyed the deviled crab recipe. I’m always thrilled when someone takes the time to let me know that they tried and enjoyed one of my recipes.

  12. The best recipes come from memorable dishes at our favorite restaurants. I love that you’ve re-created your favorite Cumberland sauce which sounds very tasty. I would love to try the sauce, probably start with chicken just because it’s easier to find than duck.

    1. Thank you so much Sandra for letting me know you like the idea of this duck dish for Valentine’s Day. I hope you will enjoy it as much as my husband and I did.

  13. i adore duck and this sounds full of flavour. hubby won’t eat duck so i don’t make it for myself. i only eat it at restaurants:( Maybe one day i should make some for myself…

    1. Hi Sherry, perhaps you could prepare one duck breast for yourself and a chicken breast for your husband and then serve them both with the Cumberland Sauce.

  14. I’ve never had cumberland sauce before. It sounds like it would be wonderful on your perfectly cooked duck.

  15. I would always choose Duck Breast over pheasant, specially when its cooked properly like your ones, personally I find it much better. Never came across that Cumberland sauce, looks like it would work in any types of meat.

    1. Hi Raymund, I’m glad you like duck breast, do try it some time with the Cumberland Sauce. I believe you will enjoy the flavor combination.

  16. I’ve only cooked duck a few times when working my way through Dorie Greenspan’s cookbook. Bill goes crazy for it and would be thrilling to come home to your version with the yummy pairing of Cumberland sauce.

    1. Hi Liz, I truly believe that Bill would enjoy this dish if he loves duck. The Cumberland Sauce is a great match to the delicious meat. Thank you for your nice compliment.

    1. Thank you Susan, I’m happy that I could share a meal that I think would be special enough for Valentine’s Day. The Cumberland Sauce is a delicious accompaniment to serve with the duck and other meats. Enjoy!

    1. You are right about the Cumberland Sauce Jeff, the sweet and citrusy flavors will go well with lots of other meats besides duck. Thank you for your compliment.

  17. Karen,
    Your duck looks so perfectly seared and is cooked to perfection. This Sauce is something that I would love and loved the idea of assembling on field greens. Best of both!

  18. The dish sounds absolutely beautiful, the duck would definitely make it feel special but that sauce takes it over-the-top! Valentine’s day, ugh! Another celebration that makes the idiots in Toronto ignore the rules and get together, spiking our numbers within a couple of weeks. At least we’ll be in dreamy land with this special dish.

    1. I appreciate your lovely compliment Eva, I’m glad you like the recipe. You are right about the Cumberland Sauce, it truly is delicious.

  19. Beautiful! Duck breast is one of my favorite dishes to make. It looks delish, and I love the sauce recipe. I’ll have to try it 😉

  20. Bravo on a perfectly cooked duck — just ever so pink in the center. I know chefs are loathe to overcook duck, but I sometimes find they serve it too underdone. Just sayin’. 😉

    1. Thank you so much Carolyn, for your lovely compliment. I know what you mean about having duck that is perfectly cooked. We like just slightly pink…that way it stays moist and tender.

  21. This definitely looks date night worthy. The Cumberland Sauce sounds wonderful! I have never heard of it before.

  22. What a great way to make Valentine’s Day special! I had no idea duck could be made ahead of time or in 30 mins either – so cool. Hope you’ve had the best day, CoCo

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