You may not even have realized that people eat quail eggs. Yes, they most certainly do. The general American view that the only egg for eating is the chicken egg is quite mistaken.
But, quail eggs are small compared to chicken eggs!
How Many Quail Eggs Does it Take to Equal One Chicken Egg?
It generally takes about 4 quail eggs to equal one chicken egg, making one boiled quail egg about one bite. But they have a big yolk relative to the amount of white with a richer flavor and a more delicate texture. The shells have a yellowish gray to rich chocolate milk color with irregular dark brown splotches.
Where to Buy Quail Eggs
Quail eggs can be found in Chinese markets or specialty gourmet stores and, although they are certainly more expensive than chicken eggs, they aren’t as expensive as you might expect. You might expect to pay around 6 dollars per dozen. Still, it’s best to reserve them for special gourmet occasions since one dozen quail eggs equal about 3 chicken eggs!
How are They Used?
They are usually hard boiled or poached, but you will occasionally find fried quail eggs perched on top of a salad, but even in salads they are usually boiled.
For instance, a very famous salad that includes boiled eggs is a Salad Nicoise. The use of quail eggs in this salad adds a bit of luxury and also makes for a more appealing dish, since the tiny eggs do not need to be quartered like the chicken eggs do.
Salad Nicoise is salad made with tuna steaks, tomatoes, green beans, salad greens, tuna or anchovies (or both); and sometimes olives. Hard boiled eggs are a very common addition, as well as boiled new potatoes. The British particularly like quail eggs with smoked salmon and potatoes.
Another way turn a humble dish into a dainty little gourmet bit is to use quail eggs to make Scotch Eggs. Okay, it doesn’t really make it more gourmet, but it does make it more dainty, if you like that kind of thing. This is, obviously, a Scottish dish but it’s popular all over the U.K. Scotch eggs are basically hard boiled eggs that are jacketed inside a ground meat mixture (usually pork). The ground meat is placed around the egg (floured) to make a meatball with egg in the middle. The meatball is then dredged in flour, dipped in beaten egg, and coated with bread crumbs. The coated balls are then fried in oil until golden brown. Quail eggs make much more practical size and it’s great with a salad and some bread.
There are also specific recipes that call for quail eggs. These tend to include aspic, where the rich and delicate quail eggs make for a much better texture and flavor than chicken eggs would.
Another perfect use for quail eggs is any tapas that calls for eggs. They are the perfect size for an individual canapè, where they can be fried and place on top of the other ingredients. A typical quail egg tap is a Cojonudo which is basically a slice of toasted baguette topped with a slise of fried chorizo sausage and a fried quail egg. Think that sound too simple? Well, the word cojonudo, although it may not be acceptable in polite company it basically means something great or amazing. A bit like the F word in English. So, I’m not sure if a Spaniard would say it like this but if you said, “Es un canapé cojonudo,” you’d be saying “That’s an F’in awesome canapé!” Another great recipe is given below.
Quail eggs are common in Chinese cooking, along with other specialty eggs. They are also popular in Japanese cuisine, where they are used in soups, salads and even sushi.
You can use quail eggs in any recipe that calls for chicken eggs. Due to the small size and extra expense, you just need to use a little common sense. Obviously, you wouldn’t want to bake a large cake using quail eggs and a big souffle would be ridiculously expensive and very time consuming.
There are several places you can look for quail eggs. A local Chinese grocer may have them. Also, a gourmet specialty store is likely to carry them. You can also find quail eggs online.
Cooking with Quail Eggs
To boil quail eggs, place them in COLD water, bring to a boil, and cook for two minutes. To make shelling easier, you may want to first soak them in cold water, enough to cover them, along with a couple of tablespoons of white vinegar. This will help break down the lining in the shells so that they peel off easier.
Frying quail eggs can be done just like a chicken egg. Although a well seasoned cast iron pan will always be recommended by a true foodie, you’ll probably do much better with a nonstick pan.
You only need a little oil but an animal based fat is usually a lot better. Fancy smancy chefs might use duck fat, but for something closer to home, I’d recommend clarified butter.
The trick is not so much the frying, but getting them open. Remember they are small and the the yolk is large. The shells are harder than chicken egg shells. IF you try to crack them on the side of a bowl or the counter; or use your thumbs, you’ll probably burst the yolks and make a mess of it. Use the edge of a knife to carefully crack them by giving them a nice quick tap, not too hard, and not too soft. Once you’ve made a crack, hopefully without harming the yolk, carefully break them open, close to the bottom of a bowl, and let the egg out into the bowl. Then drop (more like a pour) it carefully from the bowl to the pan to be fried.
s long as your eggs are room temperature (as they should be for frying), you can probably crack several eggs into a small bowl and then poor out one yolk at a time, so that some of the white goes with each egg. This may be tricky though, so you might want to go with several small bowls, say four, and pour out one at a time.
Once you have your eggs ready to go, heat your nonstick pan over medium heat. Add a tablespoon of clarified butter. Once it is melted and hot, carefully pour out each egg into the hot pan. Fry the eggs sunny side up until set. Don’t put the heat on too high as quail eggs will burn quickly. You can also use olive oil to fry the eggs, but I like the clarified butter for frying eggs in general. If your egg whites are not setting on top, lower the heat and add more butter, then swish the pan to allow the hot butter to slosh over the top of the egg whites, which will help set them.
Spicy Pork Canapé with Fried Quail Egg
This recipe is adapted from a great Tapas cookbook by Penelope Casas called Tapas: The Little Dishes of Spain. It is very simple. Nothing more than a mixture of seasoned ground pork and veal, placed on toast and topped with a quail egg.
Before you get started, remember that the first part of this dish needs to be prepared in advance so that it can chill overnight to marinate.
1/4lbs ground veal
1/4lbs ground pork
4 large garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons sweet paprika (smoked is best)
1 bay leaf
2 tbs dry white wine
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 tsp olive oil
8 toasted bread slices from a long loaf, like a baguette (crusty and firm bread)
8 quail eggs
Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, up to and including the salt. cover and let rest in the fridge overnight.
Heat the olive oil over low heat in a skillet and sauté the meat just until cooked. Taste and add more salt if needed. Turn off the heat, cover, and let the cooked meat sit for five minutes.
Spread some of the meat mixture onto each of the bread slices. Top each with a fried quail egg. Serve immediately.
Canned and Pickled
Quail eggs also come pre-cooked in cans, as hard as this is to imagine. Many Asian markets will carry them. These can be used as is to slice for salads or other dishes, but they may tend to be bland, so some salt is recommended. Also, although you can buy commercial pickled quail eggs, already canned or jarred, canned quail eggs are good for pickling, which is a very simple thing to do, if you happen to be one of those persons who loves pickled eggs. Different flavors can be added to the pickling solution, such as curry powder, cumin, cayenne, mustard, etc. Here is one way:
Pickled quail eggs
2 14 oz cans quail eggs or 4 7 oz cans
2 cups white vinegar
3/4 cups water
2 tsp kosher salt
2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp mustard seeds
8 black peppercorns
1 tsp garlic, crushed
2 bay leaves
mason jars, enough to hold all the eggs
Here is one way. Use two cans of quail eggs or boil up about 24 eggs. In a saucepan, heat 2 cups of white vinegar and all the remaining ingredients (except the eggs) to boiling. Once the mixture has reached a boil, turn off the heat, cover the pan, and allow to cool until almost completely cooled off. Then place the eggs into the jar(s) and pour the liquid over the eggs to cover, making sure all of the eggs are completely submerged. Seal tightly with the lid and place the jars in the refrigerator for at least one week, to allow the eggs to pickle sufficiently.
Note: Even when you are making something as acid as a pickling solution, it is never a bad idea to process your jars in a boiling water bath. Also, although it is often done, you should never store home pickled eggs at room temperature. Store them in the refrigerator. Home pickled eggs stored at room temperature have caused botulism poisoning. For further information, see the National Center of Home Food Preservation’s section on pickled eggs. If you follow some simple tips, you shouldn’t have any problems. There are other recipes available on the NCFP’s page, as well.
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