Southern Fried Quail

My experience growing up in rural south Georgia from the late 1950’s through the early 70’s was a completely different world from today. Granted, we were somewhat isolated in our little corner of the state. There was one small town (pop. about 2000) and the rest of the citizens were widely scattered throughout the various farms in the county. There were no cell phones, no computers, no video games. We got three television channels and then only if the antenna was positioned just right. Life was slower, much more mellow and there was time. Time to share with family and friends. Time to relax. Time to just play.

I’ve talked before about how we spent long, hot summers gathering everything possible from the garden and freezing or canning it to use during the winter. Back then in our little corner of the world, people grew much of what they ate. There were always peas to be picked and shelled. Butterbeans, too. And of course, the always dreaded corn shucking.  That wasn’t my favorite because you had to do it outside where the heat and mosquitoes tormented you until your task was finished. We’d snap green beans, blanch and freeze them. And the same for squash. Summer also was the time for making pickles. Bread and butter pickles were always my favorite.

Besides gardening and growing vegetables, people raised their own cows and pigs and they also hunted and fished.  All the men in my family were hunters and fishermen and they kept our tables and freezers supplied with fish, game and birds year round. We had a steady supply of catfish, bream and trout along with venison, dove and quail. Quail were my favorite of the wild game because they had less of that game-y taste. Right before Thanksgiving this year I started craving some southern fried quail. It had been years since I’d had any and since we don’t really have any hunters in the family now I started looking around for a source. To make a long story short, I finally found whole farm-raised quail at Whole Foods. Let me tell y’all something – quail are not inexpensive when you purchase them at Whole Foods. Whew! There was some sticker shock for sure! And to think we used to have them for the cost of a few shotgun shells.

8 whole quail
Salt and pepper
All-purpose flour
Peanut oil

Southern Fried Quail

Rinse the quail and pat dry thoroughly with paper towels. Generously season each bird with salt and pepper both inside and out.

Southern Fried Quail

Place quail in a pan and sprinkle over a generous amount of flour, turning the quail in the flour to thoroughly coat the birds.

Meanwhile, in a well-seasoned black iron skillet bring enough oil for frying up to temperature. You’ll want oil to a depth of about 1-inch.

Southern Fried Quail

Add prepared quail to the hot oil and fry turning occasionally until golden brown all over.

Remove to a paper towel lined plate to drain.

My favorite way to serve fried quail is atop a ladle of cheese grits with roasted asparagus on the side.

Serves 4.


Southern Fried Quail
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Fried quail - a southern delicacy
Serves: 4 servings
  • 8 whole quail
  • Salt and pepper
  • All-purpose flour
  • Peanut oil
  1. Rinse the quail and pat dry thoroughly with paper towels.
  2. Generously season each bird with salt and pepper both inside and out.
  3. Place quail in a pan and sprinkle over a generous amount of flour, turning the quail in the flour to thoroughly coat the birds.
  4. Meanwhile, in a well-seasoned black iron skillet bring enough oil for frying up to temperature. You’ll want oil to a depth of about 1-inch.
  5. Add prepared quail to the hot oil and fry turning occasionally until golden brown all over.
  6. Remove to a paper towel lined plate to drain.
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  1. Miss P says

    There are enough quail in my freezer to float a battleship. And, Uncle J is going hunting tomorrow. That will mean more. More. More. And, I don’t like to cook them.

    Nowadays, the cost of quail includes the cost of reserving the hunt at one of the local hunting preserves, the multi-years of dog training, and vet bills, not to mention the equipment and gear. If I go, it takes me about one box of shells per bird.

    It’s about the most expensive meat that hits our table. But it sure is tasty and fine eatin’…… until you bite down on a piece of shot that didn’t get picked out.

    Come on down and cook these birds for me.

    Miss P

    • says

      You’re so right! It’s a much more complicated proposition than it used to be. The men used to just grab their guns and a hunting vest and take off to the woods. They’d come back with a “mess” of birds that were dropped off to be cleaned “on halves.” Mama would pick them up the next day and either cook them or freeze them. Not quite so simple any more.

    • says

      I have lots of memories of my Daddy going hunting and bringing home lots of quail and doves. The doves were too dark for my taste, but I could really put away some quail.

  2. says

    well now this just makes me want to go load my shotgun – yep, spent many afternoon rustling through thorny scrubs with my quail hunting dog, many times to come home and thankful Momma had chicken on the table… sat a many afternoons in corn fields listening to footballs games waiting on doves too… ya got a mean streak in ya gal – have not had quail in a while and now I have a hankering… nothing better than these fried, tasty sweet birds

    • says

      Well, if you have a place to go hunting take advantage of it, Drick. You wouldn’t believe what they charge for quail at the grocery stores!

  3. says

    Wow, I love quail…and this looks like a great recipe. Now I just need to figure out how to buy it in the Midwest (Whole Foods will be my first stop!).

    • says

      If they don’t have it at your Whole Foods, they (or any other grocery store) can special order it for you, I’m sure. My Publix store offered to special order, but it was a little less expensive at Whole Foods – go figure!

  4. says

    I had an old roommate that use to go hunting and would bring home quail for dinner. I just remember they had the tiniest little drumsticks. LOL I remember he fried them too. Thanks for the memories Lana! :)

  5. says

    My dad and I loved to go pheasant, quail and dove hunting. None of us were too keen on eating dove, but our neighbors across the street loved them and got all that we could hunt. My favorite to hunt is pheasant, but my favorite to eat is quail (pheasant is a VERY close 2nd). Mom used to make “Sunday Quail”, which she called Smothered Quail and we just could not get enough of it. Mom always cut up the quail, but having it whole is a much better idea because they are so small! I went pheasant hunting this year and hope to do the same next year but would sure like to add quail to the agenda! I love your story and recipe. Brought back lots of good memories.

    • says

      Thanks, Suzanne. Allt hose old memories are so precious to me and I love sharing them. I’ve never had pheasant or smothered quail – just fried. That was the standard old southern treatment for most any kind of meat, you know.

  6. says

    I really enjoyed reading about your childhood. Thanks so much for sharing. Have you read the book by Midred Armstrong Kalish called ‘Little Heathens: Hard times and high spirits on an Iowa farm during the great depression?’ I know I don’t know you very well, but it seems like you might enjoy reading it.

    On another note, every time I go to Whole Foods I experience sticker shock! Yet I keep going back…haha

  7. Kate says

    Whew! I knew you were my kind of gal when you had a recipe for quail! Now I know a good way to do them, I usually just roast em quick like a chicken.

    Found your site on Tasty Kitchen, and I love it!

    • says

      So glad you found the blog, Kate. This is really the same way that I make fried chicken and honestly it tastes just about the same. Except that the quail are just a little sweeter. Hope you’ll visit here again and find something interesting to try.

  8. says

    Your wonderful post brings back such memories for me. Shelling butter beans (the very young, difficult ones) all afternoon every afternoon at my grandparents farm with plenty of time for easy conversation. Hunting for quail (if the truth be told, I didn’t like it) with my father and the 4-10 he bought me. And then eating those quail and cracking teeth on all the pellets! Fried quail is new to me — Mom always cooked them in a wine cream sauce — but I love love love your recipe.

    • says

      Yes, sometimes I really miss that easier, slower life and I regret that my grandchildren will probably never know that kind of existence. It sounds like your mother’s recipe was much more elegant a treatment than my fried-chicken-like method. I’d be really interested in seeing her recipe if you have it available to share.

  9. says

    I hardly ever buy quail. I have no idea why, this looks so easy and delicious. Nice work. I grew up on deer and moose which is really hard to find here so i never make it.

  10. joe says

    Lana the onething about quail now days is the grocery sales the Texas a&m type an not the bobwhite . If you want any bobwhite quail please feel free to E-mail me . I am a state licensed quail grower & sale to the public.

  11. Cindy Means says

    My father was raised in North Carolina and was a bird hunter. It wasn’t sport, it was putting meat on the table. I was born and raised in Oklahoma and he continued to bird hunt for the family. I have eaten my share of fried quail, and I loved it. Mom made cream gravy to go with it and mashed potatoes. When Dad would go pheasant hunting in Kansas, we would have Mom’s special recipe for that. She would cut up the pheasants, lightly dredge them in flour, brown them in butter ( I am sure she used margarine, not butter) and then lay them on top of a deep bed of sour cream (at least 2 inches deep) in an 8 quart pot. She would cover the pot, then bake this in a slow oven, maybe 300 for about 1 1/2 hours. The pheasant would fall off the bone, and it and the accompanying sour cream “sauce” would be served over rice. I am also pretty sure she used “Minute Rice”. No apologies, it was utterly decadent. Mom also cooked quail this way at times. My husband is not a hunter, so I adapted the recipe to use chicken breasts or tenders. We call it Chicken Stuff, and it is so rich and delicious it is reserved for birthdays and holidays.
    I love your blog.

  12. Carole says

    Hi there. The current Food on Friday on Carole’s Chatter is collecting links to dishes using duck or other game birds. I do hope you link this in. This is the link . It would be great if you checked out some of the other links – there are some good ones already. Cheers


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