Perfect sous vide duck breast seasoned with fragrant five-spice with ginger and garlic, then served with a luscious and tangy cherry sauce.

In the poultry category, when it comes to cooking duck, I can’t help but treat it a bit differently. It’s like filet mignon in steak—it’s hard not to go gourmet with it. Don’t be intimidated, though. This flavorful duck dish is a relaxed version that you can make in your kitchen anytime. It’s also fancy enough for a gathering. With the help of sous vide, the duck is cooked to a beautiful rosy medium-rare with no effort required. 

As for the flavor, the duck is seasoned with fragrant Chinese five-spice powder—a heady mix of Sichuan pepper, fennel, clove, star anise, and cinnamon. Ground ginger and garlic powder add more dimension and spark. For the fruity sauce, I used cherry (you can use blueberry, blackberry, or blood orange), apple cider vinegar, and coconut aminos for a sweet-sour aspect with no added sugar.

The result is simply a restaurant-worthy dinner at home on any weekend. Intrigued? Let’s dive in. 

Perfect sous vide duck breast seasoned with fragrant five-spice with ginger and garlic, then served with a luscious and tangy cherry sauce.

Why Sous Vide Duck Breast?

Despite the fatty skin, duck breast meat is quite lean. So it’s best to cook it to rosy medium rare.  Sous vide cooking is the most reliable way to achieve that perfect result without the risk of overcooking

By immersing the vacuum-sealed duck in a water bath set at a precise temperature, no moisture is lost during the cooking process, resulting in tender, delicious duck meat.

Sous Vide Duck Breast Temperature and Time

For the ideal sous vide duck breast, the recommended temperature is 135°F (57°C) for medium-rare, and 140°F (60°C) for medium. Cooking time will vary depending on the thickness of the duck breast but typically ranges from 1 to 2 hours. 

Remember, the longer you cook the duck breast, the more tender it will become. 

What You’ll Need

Essential Ingredients

When it comes to creating a delectable five-spice sous vide duck breast with cherry sauce, the right ingredients play a crucial role in achieving the perfect balance of flavors. 

  • Good-quality boneless duck breasts: Depending on what’s available to you in your area, you can use either two large Muscovy duck breasts (they are usually one pound each) or four smaller Chinese ones like I used in this recipe.
  • Salt: the most basic and essential first layer of seasoning.   
  • The second layer mixes Chinese five-spice powder, ground ginger, and garlic powder, creating a pungent spice rub. 
  • For the cherry sauce, start with shallot or yellow onion, as they are best for sauces, and fresh cherries. This fruity sauce can also be made with blueberries, blackberries, or blood oranges. 
  • Shaoxing rice wine adds a flavor boost to the sauce. Red wine or sherry will work too. For the base of the sauce, I use either chicken bone broth or chicken broth. 
  • For a hint of sweetness, I like using coconut aminos instead of sugar. It’s naturally sweet and much healthier. Red wine vinegar will be ideal for the sourness in the sauce, but apple cider vinegar does the job just fine. Make sure to add the vinegar last when cooking the sauce so the flavor doesn’t get cooked off. 
Five-Spice Sous Vide Duck Breast with Cherry Sauce Ingredient List

Essential Equipment

To create the perfect five-spice sous vide duck breast with cherry sauce, you’ll need a few essential tools in your kitchen arsenal. 

  • A sous vide machine: I used Anova Culinary Sous Vide Precision Cooker 2.0 to sous vide the duck breast. 
  • A sous vide container or a large pot: My go-to cooking vessel is this 16L sous vide container sold in a set with the Anova precision cooker. For smaller cuts like duck breast, a decent-size soup pot is sufficient. 
  • Vacuum-sealer bags: I precut two sous vide bags out of these vacuum sealer rolls and put two duck breasts in each. It’s most helpful if you want to serve the duck later, as vacuum-sealing keeps it fresh much longer. Wondering what type of bags you should use for sous vide? Read my in-depth Sous Vide Bags 101 here.
  • A vacuum sealer: To use vacuum-sealer rolls, you’ll need a vacuum sealer
  • A cast iron skillet or a heavy-duty pan: I used this nonstick frying pan to pre-sear my duck breast to render fat, make the cherry sauce, and then sear the duck again in the same pan after sous vide cooking.  
  • A good knife: I use Global 7″ Hollow Ground Santoku Knife for almost everything. It’s by far my favorite knife. 

How to Sous Vide Duck Breast Step by Step

Five-Spice Sous Vide Duck Breast

Now that we’ve got all we need, let’s get cooking!

  1. Set up sous vide: Preheat the water to 135°F (57°C). 
  2. Prepare five-spice seasoning mixture: In a small bowl, combine the ingredients for the distinctive seasoning rub. Mix well and set aside.
  3. Prepare duck breasts: Trim any excess fat and score the skin side of the duck breasts; season them with salt and the spice mixture. 
  4. Pre-sear the duck: This step is mostly for rendering the fat and locking in the spice flavor at the same time. A quick sear on both sides will do the trick, and be sure to save the rendered duck fat for future recipes!
  5. Sous vide the duck breasts: One or two hours (depending upon the size of the duck breasts) in the sous vide bath.
  6. Sear the duck breasts for the second time: Searing the duck breasts when they come out of the sous vide ensures the irresistible brown, crispy skin that everyone craves. Another minute or two in the skillet before serving is all it takes.  

Making the Cherry Sauce

Start the cherry sauce about ten minutes before the sous vide timer is set to go off. Using the same skillet, cook the onions until soft, then add Shaoxing wine, coconut aminos, cherries, and broth. When the sauce is reduced and thickened, add a splash of apple cider vinegar to balance out the sweetness. 

Start the sauce about ten minutes before the sous vide timer is set to go off. Using the same skillet, cook the onions until soft, then add Shaoxing wine, coconut aminos, cherries, and broth. When the sauce is reduced and thickened, add a splash of apple cider vinegar to balance out the sweetness. 

Plating and Serving Ideas 

To plate and serve your five-spice sous vide duck breast with cherry sauce, start by slicing the duck breast against the grain into elegant slices, showcasing the perfectly cooked interior. 

For a complete dining experience, consider pairing the dish with a side of green vegetables like spinach, kale, or watercress and mashed sweet potatoes or jasmine rice. 

Arrange the duck slices on a bed of mashed sweet potatoes and boiled watercress on the side, drizzling the rich and flavorful cherry sauce over the top. Garnish with whole fresh cherries. 

Five-Spice Sous Vide Duck Breast with Cherry Sauce served with mashed sweet potatoes and watercress

StreetSmart Sous Vide Tips

  • Fruit substitutes: The cherry sauce can be made with fresh blackberries, blueberries, or blood oranges, and frozen fruits absolutely work in this case. 
  • Make-ahead magic: The duck breasts can be made a few days ahead of time for meal prep or gathering purposes. After sous vide cooking, rapidly chill the duck in an ice-water bath before refrigerating. If vacuum-sealed, it can last in the fridge for up to seven days.
  • Reheating: You can reheat the duck in a 131°F (55°C) water bath for 30 minutes, then finish it in a hot skillet to crisp up the skin. A quicker method is to drop the vacuum-sealed bags that contain the duck in boiling water for five minutes, and then sear it. 
  • Don’t throw out the duck fat. Save that rendered fat and use it as a cooking oil

Here you have it. Whether it’s a date night in or a dinner party, this recipe is guaranteed to impress your guests. Only we know how simple it is to prepare it. Make it and leave a comment below to let me know how you enjoyed it. Happy sous viding!

Perfect sous vide duck breast seasoned with fragrant five-spice with ginger and garlic, then served with a luscious and tangy cherry sauce.
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Perfect sous vide duck breast seasoned with fragrant five-spice with ginger and garlic, then served with a luscious and tangy cherry sauce.

Five-Spice Sous Vide Duck Breast with Cherry Sauce

5 Stars 4 Stars 3 Stars 2 Stars 1 Star 5 from 6 reviews
  • Author: Sharon Chen
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 1 hour
  • Total Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x
  • Category: Main Dish
  • Method: Sous Vide
  • Cuisine: Asian
  • Diet: Gluten Free
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Description

Perfect sous vide duck breast seasoned with fragrant five-spice with ginger and garlic, then served with a luscious and tangy cherry sauce.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 2 teaspoons Chinese five-spice powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 pounds duck breasts, 4 small ones or 2 large Muscovy duck breasts
  • Kosher salt

For the cherry sauce:

  • 1/3 cup yellow onion or 1 shallot
  • 6 ounces cherries
  • 1 tablespoon Shaoxing wine
  • 2 tablespoons coconut aminos
  • 1/2 cup chicken bone broth or chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

Instructions

  1. Set up sous vide: Preheat water to 135°F (57°C) or your preferred temperature.
  2. Combine the dry seasonings: In a small bowl, combine five-spice powder, ground ginger, and garlic powder. Mix well and set aside.
  3. Prepare duck breasts: Score the skin side of the breast diagonally with a sharp knife. Season both sides with salt, then sprinkle both sides evenly with the five-spice seasoning mixture. 
  4. Pre-sear the duck: Heat a heavy-duty skillet over medium-high heat. When the skillet is hot, place the duck breasts in it, skin side down, and let them sear for 1-2 minutes, allowing the fat to render. Flip and sear the other side for 30 seconds. Remove the duck breasts from the skillet and let them cool down for a bit. Pour the duck fat into a small bowl, leaving enough fat to coat the skillet. 
  5. Sous vide the duck breasts: Place the duck breasts in one or two vacuum sealer bags and vacuum seal. Lower the bag(s) in the preheated water bath and make sure the duck is completely submerged. Set the timer for 1-2 hours. (1 hour for smaller breasts and 2 hours for larger ones.) 
  6. Prepare ingredients for the cherry sauce: Finely dice onion or shallot; remove cherry stems, halve, and remove the pits (reserve a few whole cherries for garnishing); set out the rest of the sauce ingredients. 
  7. Make the cherry sauce: Ten minutes before the timer goes off, over medium heat in the same skillet, cook onions until softened, about 2-3 minutes. Add Shaoxing wine, coconut aminos, and cherries. Stir a few times and use a potato masher to smash the cherries in the skillet, allowing them to soften and release their juices. Add chicken bone broth, raise the heat, and simmer rapidly until the liquid is reduced by half and a bit syrupy. As the cherries break down and the sauce thickens slightly, add a splash of apple cider vinegar for a hint of acidity to balance out the sweetness. Strain the contents of the skillet into a small bowl. (If you make the sauce early, strain it into a small saucepan to keep warm.) Wipe the skillet with paper towels. 
  8. Sear the duck breasts: Once the timer goes off, remove the duck from the sous vide and cut the bag(s) open. Transfer the duck breasts onto a plate and pat them dry with paper towels. Over medium heat in the same skillet, sear the duck again, skin side down, until the skin is crispy and dark brown, about 1-2 minutes. Flip to sear the other side for 30 seconds. Remove from the heat.
  9. Serve: Slice the duck breast along the scoring marks. Drizzle with the cherry sauce and serve with a side of green vegetables and mashed sweet potatoes. Garnish with fresh cherries. Enjoy!

Notes

Blackberries, blueberries, or blood oranges can be substituted for cherries.


Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 serving
  • Calories: 335
  • Sugar: 6.2g
  • Sodium: 731.2mg
  • Fat: 9.9g
  • Saturated Fat: 3g
  • Trans Fat: 0g
  • Carbohydrates: 12.6g
  • Fiber: 1.4g
  • Protein: 46.3g
  • Cholesterol: 175.8mg

About the Author

Sharon Chen is an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach and author of the Complete Sous Vide Cookbook. She believes food not only brings healing but also connection. As the creator of StreetSmart Kitchen, she aims to make meal prep easier than ever and help you find balance, ease, joy, and simplicity in the kitchen as you improve your well-being.