Buttermilk Fried Quail

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fried quail recipe
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

If you don’t love a good piece of fried chicken you are not a real American. And if there is anything more fun to eat than fried chicken, it’s fried quail.

They taste more or less like chicken (especially when fried), and because they are smaller, it’s basically a party when a big bowl of them comes out to the table.

Why? Because there is no way to eat fried quail without just diving in. No forks, knives or other utensils needed. Your fingers are your only tools. Sweet, juicy meat. Salty, spicy, crispy batter. Oh man, you will find yourself scraping the batter off the ribs with your teeth you’ll want it so much.

There are a few ways to go about perfecting your fried quail. First should be to minimize bones. To do this, I will either cut the quail in half or spatchcock them, which is to say cut out the backbones to flatten the birds. Either way, I will pull out the ribs and snip the saber bone — which looks like its name — to make the quail easier to eat.

Another trick will be to let your battered quail rest in the fridge for a while, up to a few hours, even. This helps the batter stick to the quail, so it won’t all come off with your first bite.

You probable don’t want to serve fried quail at a fancy dinner party, unless you want to break the fussiness of the evening and force your friends to get their hands dirty — something I actually wholeheartedly recommend. Just have some extra napkins nearby.

Beware: Holly and I once ate 10 of these little birds by ourselves. So make more than you think you need. A lot more, especially because they are almost as good served the next day as a cold lunch as they are piping hot.

Looking for more game to fry? I have similar recipes for buttermilk fried rabbitfried pheasant, and fried walleye.)

A bowl of buttermilk fried quail
5 from 18 votes

Buttermilk Fried Quail

If you are working with real wild quail, I highly recommend you brine them before frying. A simple brine of 1/4 cup kosher salt to 4 cups water will do — the birds are going to get plenty of seasoning later. Submerge your quail in this brine for 4 to 8 hours. Store-bought quail don't need to be brined. As a general rule, 1 quail is an appetizer, 2 a lunch, 4 a good portion for a hearty eater. You can also do this recipe with chukars and Hungarian partridges. Serve with mashed potatoes, cole slaw, cornbread and collard greens.
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: American
Servings: 4 people
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 2 hours
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 30 minutes

Ingredients 

  • 8 to 16 quail, cut in half
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons Italian seasoning, or 1/3 cup of mixed chopped fresh herbs like oregano, thyme and parsley
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 3 cups vegetable oil

Instructions 

  • Mix the buttermilk with the all the spices (except the salt). Coat the quail with the mixture and set in a covered container for as little as an hour, and as much as 8 hours.
  • When you are ready to fry, pour the oil into a large pan — a big cast iron frying pan or Dutch oven is ideal — and heat over medium-high heat. You want the oil to almost submerge the quail halves.
  • Meanwhile, take the quail out of the buttermilk and let it drain in a colander. Don’t shake off the buttermilk or anything, just leave it there.
  • Let the oil heat until it is about 325°F; this is the point where a sprinkle of flour will immediately sizzle. Do not let the oil smoke! When the oil is hot, pour the flour and salt into a plastic bag and shake to combine. Put a few quail into the bag and shake to get it coated in flour. NOTE: If you want your quail "extra crispy," let the battered birds sit on a rack until the flour absorbs the moisture of the buttermilk coating. Then give them a second shake in the flour bag. You'll get a much thicker, crunchier crust that way.
  • Fry for about 4 to 5 minutes. Fry gently — you want a steady sizzle, but nothing raging, and you definitely don’t want the quail to just sit in oil. You might need to adjust the heat a bit. Turn the quail over and fry for another 3 to 4 minutes. You will probably need to fry in batches, so just leave the unfried quail in the colander until you are ready to flour them up and fry them. Don’t let the floured pieces sit.
  • When the quail are good and fried, let them rest on a rack set over a paper towel to drain away any excess oil. Serve hot or at room temperature.

Nutrition

Calories: 738kcal | Carbohydrates: 58g | Protein: 54g | Fat: 31g | Saturated Fat: 10g | Cholesterol: 179mg | Sodium: 1990mg | Potassium: 788mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 1471IU | Vitamin C: 14mg | Calcium: 216mg | Iron: 13mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe? Tag me today!Mention @huntgathercook or tag #hankshaw!

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About Hank Shaw

Hey there. Welcome to Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, the internet’s largest source of recipes and know-how for wild foods. I am a chef, author, and yes, hunter, angler, gardener, forager and cook. Follow me on Instagram and on Facebook.

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33 Comments

  1. I harvest 30 to 40 put and take quail every year and have tried them several ways. This recipe was far and away the absolute best. The brining and double breading was the ticket. Not to mention the buttermilk soaking. First recipe I’ve ever commented on.

    Thank you!

  2. This is perfect– I received a mini waffle maker for Christmas and had the idea of basically doing Tiny Chicken and Waffles for breakfast some morning but using quail (or, if not quail, game hens) but wasn’t sure what exactly the frying time on a bird that small would look like. THANK YOU!

  3. Just did eight calis In the buttermilk oh my best ever, i have cooked Hundreds this is the best wow ,,,,,,

  4. I tried this recipe with 6 quail from Cavendish Game Birds. All I can say is WOW, AMAZING! I actually forgot to flour the first three birds, but they were just as tasty as the three that did get the flour. This is now my favorite quail recipe and I cannot wait to try it again! Thank you!!

  5. @dustin – we raise quail in our backyard. There are several YouTube videos that show very humane slaughter/processing procedures. Plucking them is a bit of a pain, but the taste is undeniable (especially if southern fried). Brine is recommended for captive and hunted birds.

  6. I am using some quail that my cousin raised in captivity. Can anyone give me instructions on how to slaughter, de-feather, and gut the birds and should i brine them if they are captive?

    1. Hold their body and pull their heads right off, that works best! Next just pull their feathers or from the chest and cut out the spine and rinse out their insides!

  7. We just used this recipe tonight for quail bagged on a hunt this past weekend and it was really great! They were the best quail I’ve ever had. Thanks very much for making it available.

  8. Fried up a mess of quail last night. As my Cajun buddy says that is the very back of the cat! The best ever crunchy, spicy, I thank you Hank for this and many more. A happy and prosperous new year to you.

  9. Henry: You can still use this recipe, but the end result will not be as good. The skin adds a lot of flavor.

  10. Question: I shot quail in field and skinned them, i.e. field dressed the same. Is there anything I should do different in the cooking or preparation?

  11. I made these last week with some quail that were left over from a hunt test. Amazing! I forgot the paprika and marinated them much longer than you recommended but they turned out great. Thanks for another great recipe to add to my arsenal. I just got your new book – can’t wait to try some of the waterfowl recipes now that the migration is starting. More goose recipes, please! 🙂

  12. Holy cow! Tried this out on 4 store-bought “Texas A&M Gourmet” quail (not quail season just yet, here in Texas); Outstanding, sir! Best wishes on your book tour, and keep up the great work. Huge fan of all your game bird creations. Your site is an invaluable resource to any consumer of fish and game. Thanks for sharing your ideas!

  13. Thanks! I have been looking for a recipe for old fashioned fried quail. Do you leave the skin on if they are plucked?

  14. Just wonderful!, and not that complicated at all.
    Just would love to have some quail right now.

  15. I am with Erika, splendid recipe for quail that often gets treated as fancy food –– look what you miss thinking of it that way!