Recipes & Cooking  |  06/10/2022

Gamebird Gourmet // Tandoori Quail


A taste of India for the uplands

By Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley

This grilled curried quail recipe is inspired by tandoori chicken, an Indian dish of marinated meat that is cooked in a cylindrical clay oven called a tandoor. Sticky bead dough is slapped onto the hot clay surface to cook, while meats are typically cooked upright on skewers. This special oven is fueled by charcoal or wood, so if you don’t have a tandoor oven — which is probably the case for most people — a charcoal grill would work just fine.
Tandoori chicken’s signature bright red color is usually achieved by food coloring, although spicier recipes get their intense hue from generous amounts of cayenne and red chili powder. Neither option sounded appetizing to me — the latter being painful ­­­­­­— so I skipped the red color and didn’t miss it. 

Although basmati rice is a mainstay with Indian food, quail is not chicken. There’s no avoiding eating these birds with your hands, and trying to grab hold of a fork with greasy digits can be awkward. Instead, serve these tandoori quail with finger-friendly side dishes such as naan bread, roti or samosas. They also taste great with French fries or blistered shishito peppers tossed with olive oil and sea salt.

Could this possibly be the perfect finger food? We think so!

Recipe: Tandoori Quail

Servings: 4
Prep Time: 4 hours
Cooking Time: 10-15 minutes

  • 8 whole quail, skin on
  • 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil, plus extra
  • ½ teaspoon of coriander
  • ½ teaspoon of turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon of cumin
  • ½ teaspoon of Cayenne pepper 
  • 1 teaspoon of onion powder
  • 1 tablespoon of sweet paprika
  • 2 teaspoons of garam masala powder
  • Juice of half a lemon 
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 inches of fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 1 teaspoon of kosher salt
  • ¾ cup of plain yogurt

  1. Using kitchen shears, cut open each quail down the back. Turn each bird breast-side up and press down with the palm of your hand to break the wishbone to flatten birds. Set aside.
  2. In a non-reactive bowl, whisk together the remaining ingredients. Add the quail to the marinade and coat each bird. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight. 
  3. Remove birds from the refrigerator 1 hour prior to cooking. When ready to cook, prepare grill for medium-high heat cooking. Brush grates with oil right before setting down quail. Shake off excess marinade on quail before grilling. Cook birds until slightly charred and cooked through, about 5-7 minutes on each side. Serve immediately. 

Jenny Nguyen-Wheatley is associate editor of Nebraskaland Magazine and a frequent contributor to Quail Forever Journal. She and her husband run the wild game cooking blog

This story is featured in the Summer 2022 issue of 
Quail Forever Journal. If you enjoyed it and would like to see more delicious quail recipes in the pages of Quail Forever Journal, become a Quail Forever member today!