Moroccan-Inspired Grilled Quail with Sauteed Kale and Grilled Lemons

If you’re someone who has wondered if cooking a bird as small as a quail is worth the time and effort, let us remind you that good things do indeed come in small packages. As far as time and effort goes, it requires very little of either to serve quail. Its small size means that it takes just a sprinkle of seasoning or a brief amount of time in a marinade to add tons of extra flavor. Not that you need to; even with just a dash of salt, quail meat is tender and succulent. And quail cooks very quickly – 10 minutes or so on the grill and dinner is ready.

The daintiness of quail makes it seem like a fancy meal, but we recommend putting away the white tablecloth and good silver. Quail is the perfect finger food, so drop the knife and fork and dig in. If your butcher gives you a choice, semi-boneless quail (rib cage removed) are easier to eat than un-boned quail (which are what we used for this recipe). Not all butchers carry quail, but it should be easy to special order. Plan on about 2 quail per person.

Grilling quail makes the outside nice and crispy, and the slightly charred flavor of the skin is perfect with this toasty Moroccan-inspired spice blend. On the side, kale sautéed with kalamata olives is finished with the sweet, smoky juice of grilled lemons.

You can have this whole meal on the table in about 30 minutes, although it will taste like you slaved over it for hours. Enjoy!


3-4 servings

  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 8 quail

  • 1 lemon, cut in half
  • 2-3 bunches of kale, leaves pulled off the tough stems
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup pitted kalamata olives
  • A drizzle of olive oil


Mix together the 8 rub ingredients. Use your fingers to smear the rub all over the quail.

Prepare your grill so the heat is medium-high.

Grill the quail 4 to 6 minutes on each side. It’s normal for fully cooked quail meat to remain a little pink at the bone. If you can easily pull meat away from the leg bones with a fork, it’s done.

Rub a little olive oil on the cut lemon and grill next to the quail, cut side down.

Remove quail and lemons from the grill.

In a large pot of boiling water, cook the kale until tender, about 3-5 minutes. Drain and shake off excess water.

Heat a little bit of olive oil in a skillet and add shallot and garlic. Saute a few minutes then add kale, olives and red pepper flakes.

Saute a few minutes more then finish by squeezing juice from the grilled lemon on top.

About the Author

If you'd like to add an avatar to all of your comments click here!

22 thoughts on “Moroccan-Inspired Grilled Quail with Sauteed Kale and Grilled Lemons”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  1. Is it wrong to think that those little grilled birds look both cute and delicious?

    Love these posts Mark, thanks!

  2. Awesome recipe! I do the same with a whole chicken and spinach. Might give this one a try since quails are on sale at my local supermarket!

  3. Sounds like I need to venture out and try more birds! This looks absolutely fabulous – just like ALL of your recipes!

  4. I just can’t stop thinking that those are really NYC pigeons….
    Did you purchase them in Chinatown?
    Not that consuming pigeon is a bad thing but that city diet may make for toxic meat,

  5. What a great looking plate of food. And those spices sound fantastic. Another great post. Thank you.

    From the “don’t buy without inspecting” department: I bought a cheap but shrink-wrapped low carb cookbook somewhere, got it home and found that the recipes all included junk like straight fructose powder. Burned!

    Checking out the local quail supply.

  6. I had a brace of quail sitting in the freezer that I couldn’t decide what to do with, this looks perfect!

  7. This looks awesome.

    About kale– this recipe suggests cooking i for 3-5 minutes. If you go past that, does it lose is nutritional value?

  8. This looks really good. And you used my favorite kind of kale in the pictures!

  9. Could do the same with game hens- they might be easier to get than quail.

    Squab might be good, too. That’s farm raised pigeon

  10. quail are cute…but i still like to shoot them. probably i burn more calories chasing mountain quail than i get from them(only cuz i don’t have a bird dog). grouse are a little bigger and almost as tasty. and they don’t run up and down steep hillsides so much. usually they just perch in the tree and let you shoot them. i like doves, too–you need about 4 per person for a meal and usually you do have to shoot them on the wing–it takes more skill than i possess with a shotgun, but my husband gets them. a guy i used to work with once questioned how i could feel good about eating doves because it “takes so many for just one meal.” i reminded him of the shrimp he’d had for lunch.

  11. One of my clients brought me some fresh kale from her garden the other day. If I get my hands on some quail I will give this one a shot!

  12. Why not just saute the kale with the shallots and garlic, this way you don’t loose so much nutritional value of the kale. Just add a top to the pan you are sauteing the kale in and a tablespoon of water if needed and set on low heat.;)

  13. Awesome looking recipe Mark! I’ve always seen Quail widely available at my local supermarket, and never really been brave enough to take it upon myself to crack out a tasty result. One to try this!

    Thanks again!

  14. Sounds delicious, but I’d substitute brocoli rabe for kale; don’t know why, but I’ve never liked kale…

  15. just finished cleaning the kitchen from this meal prepared with wild quail harvested from my uncle’s farm. I substituted fresh spinach for the kale because I was unable to find kale at my small town local market.

    Not too bad, go easy on the garlic though

  16. No quail at my supermarket – but there are packages of quail at my pet food store in the raw section 🙂 May do this with Cornish hens instead though… sounds delicious.