This is a delicious grilled quail recipe with Moroccan flavors. The marinade is inspired by a Moroccan dish called charmoula which has a tangy flavor with cumin, cilantro and several other great spices.
Quail is a very versatile game bird as its flesh is dark and richly flavored on its own. Therefore, it has a lot of flavor alone so pretty much any other flavor enhancers you throw at it will just accent that natural flavor. Frankly, you could simply salt and pepper a nice quail, throw it on the grill a few minutes and you’d have a tasty dish. However, many quail recipe ideas include bold herbs and spices to perk up the flavor and add complexity and interest. The bold flavor of the bird can stand up to other bold flavors like sage, cumin, cilantro, Dijon mustard or even bacon fat, to name a few. While I have tons of quail recipe ideas, some of which I’ll share elsewhere, this one is one of my favorites because it is a little exotic and just downright delicious.
What you will need:
While you can make this with pre-ground spices, I strongly urge you to use the whole cinnamon, seeds and peppercorns for the most authentic, fresh and intense flavor in this grilled quail recipe!
- Cinnamon, one stick broken in half
- Whole cumin seeds, 1 tbsp
- Whole coriander seeds, 1 tbsp
- Whole black peppercorns, 1/4 tsp
- Whole cloves, 3
- Paprika, 2 tbsp
- Ground cayenne, 1/2 tsp
- Ground ginger, 2 tsp
- Salt, 1 tsp
- Fresh cilantro, 2 cups, then chopped coarsely
- Garlic, 1 tbsp finely chopped or crushed
- Extra-virgin olive oil, 1/4 cup
- 8 semi-boneless quail – Semi-boneless quail (with the rib cage removed but the leg bones still intact) are a bit easier to eat than unboned quail but you can certainly use whole quail for this quail recipe as well. I don’t recommend trying to bone your own quail unless you have a lot of time as this is a difficult and very time-consuming process. Trust me, I know from experience!
- Lemon wedges
- Other equipment you will need: skewers (optional but makes grilling easier), an electric coffee/spice grinder.
How to cook this Moroccan Grilled Quail Recipe:
- Place both halves of the cinnamon stick along with the cumin, coriander, peppercorns and cloves together in the spice grinder. If you don’t have a coffee grinder you can use for this quail recipe, you can also grind the spices by hand with a mortar and pestle, although this can be difficult for the cinnamon. You want to get the spices to a fine powder.
- Transfer the ground spices to a bowl and add the paprika, cayenne pepper, ginger, salt, chopped cilantro, garlic and olive oil. Mix thoroughly.
- Add the quail and rub all the surfaces of the birds with the mixture. Cover tightly or seal in a large plastic bag and marinate in the refrigerator for 2 hours. The quail can withstand even longer, up to overnight, if you prefer to make this ahead.
- Prepare your grill so that you can cook over medium-hot temperature. You can use either direct heat or indirect heat because either way the quail will cook fast because of their small size. If you prefer to grill indoors you can also use a stovetop grill or grill pan. I prefer to cook over relatively high direct heat so that you can get some nice grill marks in the short time it takes to cook. Just watch your quail throughout the cooking time to avoid burning.
- If you prefer to use skewers to aid turning your quail, soak wooden skewers in water for about an hour. Then arrange 2 quail at a time side by side with legs toward you. Thread a skewer through the drumsticks and lower body of the quail, followed by a second skewer parallel to the first through the wings and upper body. Leave quail about 1 inch or so apart. Repeat for the rest of the quail. Alternately you can grill the quail separately, it will just take a bit more work getting the quail on and off the grill quickly.
- Lightly oil your grill grate, season the quail with additional salt, to your preference, and grill.
- Grill a total of only about 5 or 6 minutes, turning once halfway through the cooking time. Don’t overcook or your quail will dry out quickly!
- Serve this quail recipe with lemon wedges to add some citrus tang to the flavors.
I hope you enjoy this Moroccan grilled quail recipe!