Duck Nutrition Facts

Calories, Carbs and Health Benefits of Duck

In This Article

Duck, while often associated with a high fat content, is more nutrient-dense than most may think. As a member of the game and poultry family, it contains a high percentage of healthy unsaturated fat yet still has a rich meaty flavor and can be used in many culinary applications. Most cooking methods involve preparing the duck in such a way that the majority of the fat is rendered off, leaving crispy skin and lean meat. Furthermore, rendered duck fat can be used as a healthier alternative to butter or other animal fats used in cooking such as beef fat or pork fat.

All parts of the duck can be consumed including the eggs. Note that some parts are healthier than others depending on the preparation; for example, duck liver from a fattened duck commonly known as "foie gras", is much less healthy than the duck meat from the breast or leg. The information in this article pertains to the meat from domesticated duck of the Pekin breed which is the most commonly consumed type of duck in the US. 

Duck meat is extremely flavorful and nutrient-dense. It is an excellent source of protein and healthy fat as well as micronutrients including selenium, iron, and niacin. Duck eggs are also nutrient-dense in with a similar nutrient profile to eggs however with higher amounts per egg primarily due to its larger size. 

Duck Nutrition Facts

This nutrition information, for one 3-ounce roasted skinless Pekin duck breast, is provided by the USDA.

  • Calories: 120
  • Fat: 2g
  • Sodium: 90mg
  • Carbohydrates: 0g
  • Fiber: 0g
  • Sugars: 0g
  • Protein: 23g

Carbs in Duck 

Duck does not contain any carbohydrates. 

Fats in Duck

Duck contains a lot of fat between the skin and meat but not marbled fat throughout its meat like beef. 

The reason duck has a reputation for being high in fat is because it has so much visible fat between the skin and meat. However, the amount of overall fat content will vary significantly based on whether or not duck is consumed with or without the skin.

 In fact, without skin and visible fat, duck meat has less fat than roasted skinless chicken. For example, skinless duck breast provides only 2g total fat and 0.5g saturated fat per 3 oz portion whereas the same portion of roasted skinless chicken breast provides 3g total fat and 1g saturated fat.  And similar to chicken, the legs/thighs will have slightly more total fat (a 3 oz portion of duck legs provides 5g total fat and 1g saturated fat) but duck legs still contain less fat than skinless chicken thighs.

Even if consumed with skin, the fat content will vary proportionally to how much fat was rendered off during the cooking process. Moreover, the majority of the fat that it does contain is healthy unsaturated fat, including a high amount of monounsaturated fat and a combination of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

Based on USDA data, a 3 oz portion of roasted duck breast with skin provides 9g total fat and 2.5g saturated fat; this is based on the following cooking preparation: pan-seared skin side down for 13 minutes and then roasted at 350 degrees F for 17 minutes to reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. If this same piece of duck meat were pan-seared for a shorter amount of time, it would have a higher fat content because less fat would have been rendered off in the pan but would still contain primarily healthy unsaturated fat. 

Protein in Duck

3 oz duck meat contains an average of 23g protein for the breast and leg roasted without skin. This is a high-quality protein with a variety of non-essential and essential amino acids. 

Micronutrients in Duck

Duck contains a variety of micronutrients including iron, selenium and B-vitamins as well as a small amount of Vitamin C. It contains a variety of B-vitamins but is particularly high in niacin and B-12.  Like other B-vitamins, niacin plays an important role in converting carbohydrates into glucose and metabolizing fats and proteins. B12 is essential for nerve function, red blood cell formation, and DNA synthesis.  Selenium is an important antioxidant that can help prevent cell damage and is also important for thyroid health. A 3oz portion of Pekin duck meat provides over 50% of the DV for selenium.

Health Benefits

Duck is not necessarily known for alternative health benefits however some holistic websites associate duck fat with improving a variety of systems including kidney function, bone health, cardiovascular health, and improved immunity.  

Some of these claims, such as improved immunity, are related to its high selenium content which acts as an antioxidant. However, duck is not a unique food source of selenium (brazil nuts, fish and other meat and poultry are also good sources).

Generally, there is not much evidence to back these claims up as being uniquely associated with duck with the exception of its health benefits related to its fatty acid profile which may be surprising to some people.  

As with many other foods, the health benefits of duck and duck fat will be related to what you are replacing by eating this particular food. For example, eating duck (and other forms of poultry) in place of steak and other meats high in saturated fat has the potential for some positive health outcomes related to reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease. However, eating duck in addition to an otherwise healthy intake of lean meat or foods rich in unsaturated fats may not have as much of an impact but will offer other benefits associated with diversifying one's diet.

Common Questions

What does duck taste like?

As a gamey meat, duck has a unique rich and strong flavor that is a combination of savory and sweet.  It has some backbone of flavor similar to dark meat chicken or turkey but is actually closer in flavor to red meat and has a texture and appearance more similar to steak. 

Is duck fat healthier than olive oil? 

No, duck fat is not necessarily healthier than olive oil or other fats that are liquid at room temperature. While duck fat contains a high percentage of unsaturated fats, it still contains more saturated fat than olive oil and does not contain all of the beneficial polyphenols in extra virgin olive oil.

Is duck fat healthier than butter or other animal fats?

In terms of saturated fat content, yes, duck fat is healthier than butter, pork fat (lard) or beef fat (tallow) and can be used in many similar applications.  Keep in mind that unlike butter, it does have a pronounced flavor that tastes more like animal fat. Some may also argue that butter contains the compound butyric acid which can have health benefits acting as a prebiotic so it may have a leg up on duck fat from that perspective. 

What do I do with the rendered fat?

Once you render duck fat, strain it through a cheesecloth to filter out any particles that may have come off of the meat, let it cool and then store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 6 months or in the freezer for up to a year.

What varieties of duck are raised for consumption?

There are two main breeds raised for consumption: Pekin and Muscovy. About 90% of duck meat produced in the US is Pekin. (Nutrition information for this article is for the Pekin duck).

Can antibiotics and hormones be used in raising ducks?

According to the USDA, "No hormones are allowed in U.S. duck or goose production [and] very few drugs have been approved for ducks...antibiotics are not routinely given and are not useful for feed efficiency. If a drug is given — usually, through the feed — to cure illness, for example, a "withdrawal" period of days is required from the time it is administered until it is legal to slaughter the bird. This is so residues can exit the bird's system."

Recipes and Preparation Tips

There are myriad ways to prepare duck including roasted whole duck, pan-seared and roasted duck breast, classic duck leg confit (where duck legs are cooked low and slow in duck fat), and is used in charcuterie to make duck sausage and even duck "bacon". Rendered duck fat can be used to replace butter in many cooking preparations, but is commonly paired with potatoes to make duck fat fries or duck fat roasted potatoes.

Duck meat pairs particularly well with fruits and vegetables that have natural sweetness such as cherries, pomegranate, and apricots as well as winter squash and sweet potato (however its flavor is versatile and also goes perfectly well with many other savory kinds of produce). 

The simplest way to prepare duck breasts is first, to render the fat and crisp up the skin by scoring the skin through the fat, then cooking skin side down in a pan slowly to render the fat (could take 10 minutes or more), pour the rendered fat into a glass jar to either reserve for another use or discard, and then transfer the duck breasts to a preheated oven to finish cooking to your desired temperature. In terms of internal temperature recommendations, the USDA recommends cooking duck to a temperature of 165F for food safety, as it is classified as poultry, but it should be noted that most chefs recommend duck be prepared to medium-rare which is a temperature of 135F. 

Allergies and Interactions

There are no allergies or intolerances associated specifically with duck however those with other meat allergies may also react to duck. 

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