How to Make Potted Duck (Rillettes de Canard)

Rillettes de Canard, is like pâté. Duck legs are slow cooked, then the meat is chopped or shredded, seasoned heavily, and potted up into little containers. Perfect as a starter during any festive season.

Estimated reading time: 9 minutes

Potted Duck (Rilettes de Canard)
Potted Duck or Rillettes de Canard

What is Potted Duck?

It’s one of those recipes that I look forward to making every year, when the temperatures start to drop. It’s funny really, because it’s a dish for any season, as far as I’m concerned. And duck is something we can get all year round too.

But, some recipes just taste so much better when you cook them seasonally! And game season generally starts in September here in the UK. Just one of the many reasons I love autumn!

Having grown up in Singapore, the whole seasonal cooking thing still gets me very excited! Even after more than a quarter of a century in the UK!

Following close on the heel of summer time and autumnal fruit and vegetable preserving, is potting, a totally different type of preserving, and in this instance, meat.

Or potted meat, for that matter. Because you could preserve anything this way, chicken, pork, even fish.

Rillettes de Canard spread on toast on a black tray
Toast is always good

Before the advent of refrigeration, food was preserved in so many different ways. It was:

  • pickled
  • sweetened
  • salted and spiced
  • buried underground

And sometime in the 16th century, people discovered that meat could be made to last longer if it was “potted up” and covered with a layer of clarified butter.

Potting up meat for the purpose of preserving it, is an old custom in many cultures. See my article on:

Khlea, the Moroccan Preserved Meat

Khlea, Moroccan preserved meat

Here, in the UK, and indeed elsewhere in Europe, we’ve been doing it for many centuries. Cooking meat, then potting it up before covering it with a layer of fat became all the rage in the 17th and 18th centuries, and not only did it make the meat and even fish, go further, but it also became a new way of serving up food.

Cooks potted up all sorts of meat: beef, venison, poultry, seafood and parts of the animal like tongue, which was extremely popular with many.

Potted meat is a fantastic starter for anytime of the year, but there is just something so classy about serving these little pots of meat up during the festive season. And the best thing is, despite the fact that they look very impressive, potted meats are very, very simple to make.

Eliza Acton, in her Book of Modern Cookery, published in 1845, says:

Any tender, and well-roasted meat, taken free of fat, skin and gristle, as well as from the dry outsides, will answer for potting admirably, …

In fact, there is no reason why, you can’t make potted meat with any leftover roast. Although here, you would probably have to pulse the meat in a chopper to break it down to a soft, pâté stage. More of this later.

Potted Duck in a glass jar with toast
Some stewed apples or chutney is always good with it

Potted Duck Recipe

All you need is some slow cooked, and well cooked, duck legs, where the meat is meltingly tender. This is how we make potted duck:

  1. Marinate and salt the duck overnight
  2. Brown some duck legs in a little duck fat (or oil)
  3. Cover with white wine (optional) and water and cook for 3-4 hours on the stove (or in the oven)
  4. Shred the meat and season (you could even do this in a chopper if you’re feeling lazy)
  5. Place in small ramekins or jar, cover with the cooking fat from earlier
  6. Place in the fridge overnight and it’s ready to be eaten

Sounds easy, doesn’t it?

Is Potted Duck (Duck Rillettes) the same as Rillettes de Canard?

Yes. I find the main difference is the method in which the duck is cooked.

  • The French like to simmer their duck meat on the stove. And in a whole lot of duck fat and some liquid.
  • The Brits like to roast their meat in said duck fat and liquid.

I feel that simmering the meat gives you meat that is just that little bit tender and flavoursome. And that’s the method I use.

Also, I’m only using a fraction of the duck fat generally used when making duck rillettes. Because it doesn’t need it, as far as I’m concerned.

Here is an interesting and enjoyable article on Rillettes de Canard and memories of Canada, from Monika and Petar of TravelWorldOnline.

Quick Potted Duck Recipe

If you are making potted duck with duck meat roasted in the oven, the initial method is similar to making Confit de Canard. So you could, if you really, really must, start with shop bought Duck Confit. I’m sure most supermarkets and many delis will sell them these days.

Then just shred and pot up.

Duck Confit
Duck Confit

The Ingredients

To make potted duck, you only need a few key players: duck legs, a little duck fat, white wine and Calvados (or any brandy). Everything else falls under seasoning, like salt, pepper and herbs. Let’s take a look at the main ingredients mentioned above.

The Duck

I’m using duck legs, as I get a lot of meat off each leg, and also because I’m a fan. The darker meat gives the best flavour. You could opt for breast meat if you like, it will still be delicious.

Duck Fat

This should be easily found in supermarkets and helps to enhance the flavour of our potted duck. Should you not be able to find it, used unsalted butter. As we’re only using 2 tablespoons, it doesn’t really matter, and butter is always yummy!

White Wine

White wine adds another flavour to our potted meat. Use a dry white wine, something fruity. Don’t do alcohol? Skip it and just use chicken stock.


Calvados is a brandy made in Normandy, France, from apples or pears, or both. I am happy to use Calvados or our local Somerset Cider Brandy, made with apples.

Apples and pears are perfect accompaniments to duck meat, so brandy made with either or both is the obvious choice here.

Don’t do alcohol? Omit the brandy and use 2 Tbsp apple juice plus 1/2 teaspoon clear vinegar. But your alcohol free potted duck will need to be refrigerated and consumed within 2 days.

Potted Duck Texture

Speaking of shredding the meat, many people like their rillettes or potted meat to be as smooth as pâté. To that end, they often place it in a food chopper.

The danger here is over processing it and getting a rubbery mix. If you do want to use a chopper for shredding your cooked duck, be sure to use the pulse action.

I much prefer my duck rillettes to have texture, and so I use 2 forks to shred the meat up, and also to “beat in” the seasoning.

Potted Duck close up, on a fork (Rilettes de Canard)
How I like it – almost emulsified, but with texture

Season, Season, Season your Potted Meat

This is perhaps the most crucial part of potting up your meat; the seasoning. You want to be heavy handed with your salt and pepper, as well as the cooking liquid and fat.

You will see from the potted duck recipe here, that I’ve gone for minimal flavours, letting the duck speak (quack?) for itself.

I’ve refrained from the popular French quatre épices (4 spices – which is just pepper, nutmeg, cloves and ginger), juniper berries, mace, mixed spice, etc. These are spices that you often see being used when making potted meat.

But go ahead and add a pinch here, a pinch there, when you are shredding the duck meat. Just remember to taste as you go along.

The cooking liquid and fat (that the duck legs were cooked in) is where all the flavour is, and is also what is going to keep your meat moist. So be liberal with it.

  • Once you’ve taken your duck out of the liquid, you can skim off as much of the fat as possible and set aside in a bowl.
  • Then drain the remaining liquid, and throw away all the solids.
  • Then add the liquid and fat to the meat as you are shredding and mixing. But be sure to keep enough of the fat to cover your potted up meat.
  • If you run out of fat, just top your rillettes de canard with some melted butter. You want fat that will harden in the fridge to create a solid barrier between the meat and air.
this has been shredded in a chopper

What to do with the Leftover Potted Duck Fat and Liquid?

Skim off as much of the fat and jelly as possible and store them separately in clean containers, in the fridge. The fat, I would store for up to 1 week, the jelly, no more than 2 days. You could, of course, also freeze both.

Use the duck fat from your rillettes de canard for roasting potatoes or for frying up anything!

The liquid, which will thicken to a jelly like consistency, can be used to flavour soups, sauces and even curries. In fact, if you are making any flavoured rice, couscous or similar starches, add some of the jelly, like you would stock. It’s delicious!

Phew, I think we’ve covered it. Let’s get our aprons on.

More Duck Recipes on LinsFood

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Easy recipe for Chinese style braised duck legs, cooked in a richly flavoured stock with the simplest of ingredients. Tastes better the next day!
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Three Bird Roast Recipe (aka Royal Roast, Turducken)
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And if you make the recipe, share it on any platform and tag me @azlinbloor, and hashtag it #linsfood

Lin xx

Rillettes de canard on toast

Potted Duck Recipe | Rillettes de Canard

Potted Duck recipe. Or Rillettes de Canard as the French call it. A classy little starter that can be made days ahead.
5 from 15 votes
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Course: Starter
Cuisine: British and French
Keyword: christmas, duck recipes, festive
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 3 hours 5 minutes
Servings: 4
Calories: 277kcal
Author: Azlin Bloor


  • 2 duck legs
  • 2 heaped Tbsp duck fat
  • 250 ml white wine omit if you don't do alcohol, use chicken stock and water
  • water as needed
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 3 sprigs of thyme
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 1 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp salt

For Marinating

  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 1 heaped Tbsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp Calvados

For shredding/potting

  • 2 Tbsp Calvados or any brandy optional
  • 1 tsp salt
  • freshly ground black pepper


Start with marinating the Duck Legs Overnight

  • Pound the garlic, thyme, rosemary and salt to get a rough paste. Stir in the Calvados.
  • Rub this all over the duck legs, getting under folds and skin as necessary.
  • Cover with clingfilm and place in the fridge overnight.

Cooking the Duck Legs

  • Rinse the duck legs well and pat dry.
  • Heat the duck fat in a shallow pan on medium-high heat.
  • Brown both sides of the duck, about 2 minutes each.
  • Standing slightly away from the pan, pour in the white wine fairly quickly. The duck fat will sizzle, but it shouldn’t really protest too much about the wine being added. Follow this up with enough water to completely submerge the duck legs. Make sure the skin side is facing up. This will help to keep the meat moist as the liquid reduces.
  • Add the garlic, thyme, rosemary, peppercorns and salt, and bring to a boil.
  • Then lower the heat right down, and simmer for 3 hours. Maybe even 4. You want the duck meat to be very, very soft at the end of that time.
  • When done, take it off the heat, and leave the duck to cool in the liquid. I leave it overnight, only because I usually get this done towards the end of the day. Leave it covered.

Shredding and Potting

  • When the duck legs are cool enough, take all the meat off the bones, lose the skin, and any ligaments and tendons.
  • Place the meat in a bowl and shred, shred, shred with 2 forks. Keep adding the liquid and the fat to moisten and flavour. And add the Calvados little by little too, if you are using it. You can also beat the meat with a wooden spoon, if you like, to make it softer and almost emulsified. Season with lots of pepper and enough salt. Keep tasting it.
  • When done, pot it up into little ramekins. Skim off the fat from your pan, and top the meat with it.
  • Cover with foil and keep in the fridge for at least 24 hours before serving, and up to a week.


Total time does not take into account the marinating, cooling and refrigerating.


Calories: 277kcal | Carbohydrates: 4g | Protein: 23g | Fat: 10g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 99mg | Sodium: 1262mg | Potassium: 74mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 6IU | Vitamin C: 2mg | Calcium: 27mg | Iron: 2mg
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22 thoughts on “How to Make Potted Duck (Rillettes de Canard)”

  1. 5 stars
    I just love the idea of making duck rillettes. Of course, I can buy them in the supermarket in France at this time of the year, but I bet the homemade ones taste much, much better! How long can the potted meat keep once it has been made? (It’s possible you wrote that somewhere in the description, but I missed it. 😀 )

  2. 5 stars
    It sounds so fancy, Lin, but really quite an easy process! I love the idea of spreading it over a crispy toasted bread slice.

  3. 5 stars
    New knowledge for me. I never know “potted up” is the way to preserve food. Gonna follow your recipe to make my own “potted up” dish.

  4. 5 stars
    To be honest I have never tasted potted duck before. So I can’t imagine how it taste like. But seems like I can get all the ingredients for this recipe so I can try to make it myself. Thanks for sharing.

  5. 5 stars
    I absolutely LOOOOVE rilletes!! I used to DEVOUR rilletes du jambon when I lived in France and I would literally scoop the fat off with hot baguettes! Lol. Clearly, things have changed now in terms of healthy nutrition and since moving to NYC, haven’t had rilletes here. Sigh.

  6. 5 stars
    I’ve never tried potted duck before, but your pics make it look so delicious. It’s something I intend to do before the end of the year. Thanks for the innovative way of making it.

  7. 5 stars
    I’ve never heard of potted duck before this post but I feel a compulsion to try this recipe – it looks so good!! And I totally agree that serving little pots of meat is so classy!

  8. 5 stars
    Oh my! This just reminds me of the duck breast meal that I had a couple of weeks ago. It was so yummy so for sure, I can imagine how delicious the potted duck actually is.

    1. Hi James, yes, I love apple brandy or apple cider brandy. It has just that little hint of fruity sweetness that I enjoy. Apples are in season along with duck in autumn, and as they pair so well with a lot of game, I’ve kept with the theme and gone for the apple brandy. But you can use any brandy and it will work just as well.

  9. 5 stars
    This looks really good, I have so many parties coming up in the next couple of months and looking for starter recipes. Pencilled this in, thank you.

  10. 5 stars
    This is just amazing, you make it sound so easy! I love potted duck and love to order it when eating out. Mmm, I am so tempted to try this, Azlin. It seems very doable.

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