Pichón Relleno


This is a stuffed pigeon recipe from Castilla y León in Spain. Pigeon, like rabbit is a common farmed animal in Europe – it’s not unusual to see them kept for meat in dovecotes (palomares) en el campo (rural areas), similar to people keeping a few chicken for eggs. In the book Don Quixote, Cervantes opens with a description of his subject including his impoverished weekly diet, with a pigeon on Sundays, which would have been a treat – An olla of rather more beef than mutton, a salad on most nights, scraps on Saturdays, lentils on Fridays, and a pigeon or so extra on Sundays, made away with three-quarters of his income.

For those who don’t fancy pigeon, this recipe is ideal for partridge, quail or poussin – perhaps even a medium chicken with a scaled up farce. Pichón means young domestic pigeon or squab (fully grown, but has not left the nest and milk fed – adult pigeons produce a type of milk for their young), while Paloma is more commonly used to mean a fully grown wild pigeon or dove. I used a wood pigeon (as above) and not one of it’s common feral relatives from Trafalgar Square!


Pichón Relleno (1 pigeon per person):

1 pigeon
2 slices smoked streaky bacon
1/2 glass dry white wine (ideally Spanish)
sea salt and cracked black pepper
extra virgin olive oil


1 slice jamón serrano (chopped)
3 cloves garlic (peeled)
1/2 hard boiled egg (chopped)
1/2 teaspoon capers
1 small slice of stale brown sourdough bread (soaked in milk)
2 sprigs thyme
a pinch pimentón de la Vera dulce
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
sea salt and cracked black pepper

pan y leche

In Spain the most common bread is una barra de pan (AKA una barra de medio) – a baguette. In the heat and humidity, bread bought in the morning is stale by the evening, so like the Italians, the Spanish have lots of delicious ways to use up stale bread. Stuffing game birds is just one of them. I normally buy a large brown sourdough loaf on a weekly basis in the UK and it’s full of flavour, so I’m inclined to use the ends for breadcrumbs, croutons, etc. So soak whatever stale bread you have to hand in a little milk, for 30 minutes before making the stuffing.


Chop the egg and put all the solid ingredients into a bowl.

el relleno

Break up the soaked bread and mix everything together.


Fill the pigeon with the stuffing.


Rub the bird with a little extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with sea salt and cracked black pepper, then wrap the pigeon with bacon – I’d normally use streaky, but I came across some good smoked back this week, so used that instead.

Heat the oven to 180ºC, pour on half a glass of dry white wine and cook for 45 minutes.

patatas con pimentón

As the oven is on, you might as well cook some roast potatoes at the same time, and give them a sprinkle of pimentón de la Vera picante (hot) – they will thank you for it!

pichón relleno

When the pigeon is done, let it rest in loose in foil for 15 minutes.


Deglaze the oven dish, make a roux and stir in the juices plus a little chicken stock to make a gravy.

Serve with the roast potatoes and seasonal vegetables. I recommend drinking a glass or two of Paloma de Plata Selección Barrica Alicante with your pigeon.

Other Pigeon posts

About Mad Dog

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14 Responses to Pichón Relleno

  1. Eha says:

    Yes, well. . . as far as ingredients are concerned we Down Under can only wishfully read 🙂 ! A chicken however small can be but a poor substitution !! It is as it is . . . That said do honestly like your stuffing a double amount of which could well grace my next chicken or, I daresay form a very tasty part of a filled chicken breast . . . I must say at the moment a trip back to England would be attractive even just for all the food items we cannot get here . . . best . . . look after yourself . . .

  2. Fantástica receta, como siempre MD! Me alegro que no te hayas ido a Trafalgar Square a por tu paloma!! 😅😅😅 Nunca he comido paloma la verdad, tendré que darle una oportunidad… saludos!

    • Mad Dog says:

      Gracias Giovanna, ¡tienen un sabor delicioso, un poco como el faisán!
      Tengo una fotografía mío dando de comer a las palomas en Trafalgar Square, cuando tenía 7 años.

  3. Sounds delicious, Mad Dog. I’m always up for roast fowl, and the stuffing sounds very appealing. Alas, pigeon is basically impossible to find in these parts so a small chicken, quail or perhaps a Cornish hen will need to do.

    • Mad Dog says:

      Thanks Frank – quail is very popular in Spain and chicken would be very good! It is amazing how pigeon has disappeared from the dining table, though the same goes for rabbit.

      • It is a shame how the range of fowl (in this country at least) keeps shrinking. But rabbit I can actually buy at a local market, albeit at exorbitant prices!

        • Mad Dog says:

          I think it’s astonishing – we kept pigeons and rabbits for thousands of years, as a regular source of protein. These animals are regularly culled on farms (out of necessity) and people turn their noses up at them, in preference for factory farmed chicken! If I had the land, I’d definitely keep pigeons and rabbits, along with a pig and chicken.

  4. Karen says:

    I see pigeon on the menu a lot on our travels in Europe but the closest I can get to pigeon at my markets would be a Cornish hen. The stuffing and sauce will just add to the deliciousness.

  5. Ron says:

    A very interesting and tasty dish I’m sure of. I really like the ingredient for the stuffing, especially the egg. The potatoes sound like the perfect match as well.
    As for pigeons, we have plenty of them flying about, but I fear they would also taste a bit like your Trafalgar Square variety. But fortunately, we do have a very good supply of squab available in a nearby village. Pigeon keeping was brought back to Sweden by the Balkin immigrant who settled here in recent years. Humm, we also have a carrier pigeon club just down the road, but I suspect they would frown upon any random harvesting. Now, if we could just find rabbits regularly in our markets.

    • Mad Dog says:

      Thanks Ron! Chopped egg is a very popular filler ingredient in Spain, alongside stale bread. I’ve got no problem eating wood pigeon (as per the top photo) – they are very picky about what they eat and I’m sure they tease their feral cousins unmercifully.

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