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Southern Fried Quail

Southern Fried Quail are a delicacy straight out of my childhood. Simply seasoned, deep fried, and served with cheese grits on the side for an authentic southern dinner.

These Southern Fried Quail are straight out of my experience growing up in rural south Georgia from the 1950s through the early ’70s. It was a completely different world from today.

A serving of fried quail on a plate with cheese grits and asparagus.

Granted, we were somewhat isolated in our little corner of the state. There was one small town (pop. about 2,000), and the rest of the citizens were widely scattered throughout the many 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. And time to just play.

Living Closer to Nature

I’ve written 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.

We’d snap, blanch, and freeze green beans. And the same for squash. Summer was also the time for making pickles. Bread and butter pickles were always my favorite.

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.

Hunting and Fishing

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 was my favorite of the wild game because they had less of that gamey taste.

A while ago, I started craving some deep fried quail. It had been years since I’d had any and since we don’t have as many hunters in the family now, I started looking around for a source. To make a long story short, I finally found 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 this classic Southern recipe for the cost of a few shotgun shells.

Finished fried quail draining on a baking sheet.

Why You’ll Love This Recipe

  • There are only 5 ingredients, and it takes less than 30 minutes to prepare.
  • The Southern dinner table experience! Traditionally, deep fried quail is eaten with your fingers, so hold the utensils and dig in.
  • Deep frying quail makes these little birds crispy on the outside and cooked to perfection on the inside.
  • Quail tastes similar to dark meat chicken. It isn’t nearly as gamey as other wild birds.

Ingredient Notes

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  • Fresh or Frozen Quail – If you’re lucky enough to live in an area where hunters still take to the woods to shoot game birds, you’ll be able to enjoy really fresh, wild quail. Otherwise, look for them in the frozen meats or ask your grocer to order some for you.
  • Flour – Plain, all-purpose flour for dredging the birds.
  • Peanut Oil – I typically use peanut oil for frying because it has a high smoke point.
  • Salt and Pepper – Will enhance the delicate flavor of the quail meat, making the natural flavors shine.

The complete ingredient list with detailed measurements is included in the printable recipe card at the bottom of this post.

How to Make Southern Fried Quail

Prepare the Quail

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

Dredge the Quail in Flour

Quail dredged in flour.
  1. Place the seasoned quail in a pan or bowl and sprinkle over a generous amount of flour, turning the quail in the flour to thoroughly coat the birds.

Heat the Oil and Fry the Quail

  1. Meanwhile, in a well-seasoned black iron skillet, heat the oil. You’ll want the oil to a depth of about 1-inch for frying the quail.
  2. Bring the oil to frying temperature (about 325F) over medium-high heat.
  3. Add the prepared quail to the hot oil and fry, turning occasionally, until golden brown all over. If you’re frying a larger quantity, you’ll need to cook them in batches so as not to crowd the pan.
  4. Remove to a paper towel lined baking pan or plate to drain.
A single deep fried quail held in tongs.

Serving Suggestions

The beauty of fried quail is that they can be served with any starchy side dish and veggie. Think about what southern fried chicken is traditionally served with for ideas.

A serving of fried quail on a plate with cheese grits and asparagus.

Recipe Tips

  • Make sure you thoroughly pat dry the quail so that the flour will stick well and any excess water won’t make the oil pop.
  • Do season them well with salt and pepper. If you want to try changing the seasoning, feel free. I’ve given you the traditional seasonings and methods here.
  • For an even crispier skin, once the birds are seasoned and coated in flour, set them on a wire rack long enough for the flour to absorb any remaining moisture. About 15 minutes is all you need.
  • Make sure there is at least 1 inch of peanut oil in the skillet, and it reaches temperature before submerging the birds. For the best results, make sure the oil reaches 325 degrees.
  • Depending on the size of your skillet, you may need to fry in batches to avoid overcrowding the pan.
A serving of fried quail on a plate with cheese grits and asparagus.

Storing & Freezing

Storing: Store cooled fried quail in an airtight container for 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator.

Reheating: This recipe is best served freshly cooked. If you must reheat, do so in a low oven (about 250 degrees) for no more than 15 minutes. Keep in mind the texture will not be exactly the same. You can also reheat in an air fryer.

Freezing: The fried flour coating simply will not hold up to freezing.

Questions About Deep Fried Quail

What does quail taste like?

Some people say it tastes similar to duck, but I think it’s almost the same flavor as dark meat chicken. I suppose it would be fair to say that its flavor is sort of a cross between duck and chicken.

How many quail do you serve per person?

It depends on the size of the bird, but in general, I’d serve 3 or 4 per person as a main dish or one as an appetizer.

What goes well with quail?

Since quail are similar in appearance and taste to chicken, you can serve anything you’d normally pair with fried chicken.

Is quail healthier than chicken?

I’ve read in various sources that quail contains 4 times the vitamin C as chicken, 3 times more iron, more vitamin A, and is higher in minerals and amino acids.

Lana Stuart.

Questions? I’m happy to help!

If you have more questions about the recipe, or if you’ve made it and would like to leave a comment, scroll down to leave your thoughts, questions, and/or rating!

Thanks so much for stopping by!


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A serving of fried quail on a plate with cheese grits and asparagus.

Southern Fried Quail

Southern Fried Quail is a southern delicacy that is simply seasoned and deep fried. Serve them with cheese grits for an authentic experience.
4.72 from 42 votes
Print It Rate It
Course: Main Dishes
Cuisine: Southern, Vintage
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 480kcal
Author: Lana Stuart


  • 8 whole quail
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • 1 cup All-purpose flour
  • 2 cups Peanut oil for frying


  • Rinse the quail and pat dry thoroughly with paper towels.
  • Generously season each bird with salt and pepper both inside and out.
  • 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, add enough oil to cover the pan to a depth of about 1 inch.
  • Bring the oil to frying temperature (about 325) over medium-high heat.
  • Add prepared quail to the hot oil and fry 4 to 5 minutes on each side until golden brown all over.
  • Remove to a paper towel lined plate to drain.


  • Make sure you thoroughly pat dry the quail so that the flour will stick well and any excess water won’t make the oil pop.
  • Serve with anything you’d normally pair with fried chicken. You can make the meal as casual or fancy as you want.

Nutrition Information

Serving 1 | Calories 480kcal | Protein 43g | Fat 33g | Saturated Fat 9g | Polyunsaturated Fat 9g | Monounsaturated Fat 12g | Cholesterol 166mg | Sodium 116mg | Potassium 471mg | Vitamin A 530IU | Vitamin C 13mg | Calcium 28mg | Iron 9mg

Nutrition information is calculated by software based on the ingredients in each recipe. It is an estimate only and is provided for informational purposes. You should consult your healthcare provider or a registered dietitian if precise nutrition calculations are needed for health reasons.

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Fried quail on a vintage dinner plate.

— This post was originally published on January 14, 2011. It has been updated with new photos and additional information.

4.72 from 42 votes (41 ratings without comment)

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Recipe Rating


  1. Darn tooting that was some good a—s Bird.

  2. Derrell Cook says:

    5 stars
    I really like this quail recipe and I also enjoyed everyone’s comments.
    I’m from the south and this “Southern Delicacy Recipe” was very interesting to me.
    Keep up the great work!

    Derrell Cook
    Buena Vista, Ga.

  3. I am SOLD! I’m cooking some quail tomorrow and this is just what I was looking for! I have everything I need already… even the peanut oil!
    I dont know if you grew up in Moultrie (I did) but it sure sounds like the same place. Fond memories… fried quail, fried bream, fried dove, even fried squirrels (a bit tough but really good)! Sweet tea or Coke (Coke= Coca~Cola/Pepsi/RC/Nehi/Dr. Pepper… all soft drinks were Cokes)
    I subscribed.
    Thank you SO much!

  4. dollabill says:

    U can purchase quail in a pack of six at most asian grocery stores for about $11.00 hope this help

  5. 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. It would be great if you checked out some of the other links – there are some good ones already. Cheers

  6. 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.

  7. 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.

    1. You’re right. These were not bob whites that I got at the grocery store. They were Texas type quail. Different taste, too.

      1. Gary Simmons says:

        Bobwhites are Native to Texas but you have to hunt them you can not buy them. Pharaoh Quail usually from Georgia not Texas is what you are buying.

  8. 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.

  9. Barbara @moderncomfortfood 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.

    1. 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.

  10. 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!

    1. 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.

  11. DessertForTwo 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

    1. Hi! No, I haven’t read that book, but sounds interesting. My grandmother occasionally talks about life during the Great Depression.

  12. 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.

    1. 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.

  13. 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! :)

    1. Yes, those little drumsticks are so teeny tiny. I usually serve two quail per person, but healthier eaters would probably enjoy more :-)

  14. 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!).

    1. 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!

    2. I get mine at the game bird breeder farm near me about 6.00 per bird already dressed I’m too old to go out and chase em any more.

  15. 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

    1. 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!

  16. SMITH BITES says:

    i remember my dad hunting quail when i was a child but i don’t remember how my mother cooked it – maybe in some kind of cream sauce. Yum Lana!

    1. 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.

  17. Nisrine | Dinners & Dreams says:

    It sounds easy and delicious. I love quail but I don’t have it as often as I’d like.

  18. 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

    1. 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.