15 Facts You Need To Know About Eating Quail Eggs

You may have seen quail's eggs in your local grocery store or at the farmers' market. You may even have marveled over how delicate and tiny they look, like eggs meant for a doll's tea party, with a speckled exterior that's reminiscent of the Robin Egg candy that used to be a staple in children's Easter baskets. If you've passed them over because you wonder how they might taste or what to do with such small eggs, then wonder no longer.

Quail eggs are often associated with luxury, but don't let that scare you away. Sure, they're rich and decadent but think of them like butter. In other words, you can use them in your everyday cooking just as easily as you can use them in more elegant dishes. From breakfast favorites to ramen noodles, there's a dish that's already in your repertoire that could benefit from the addition (or substitution) of quail eggs.

Quail eggs are richer than chicken eggs

The taste of quail eggs is similar to chicken eggs, so if you're already an egg lover, you'll like them just fine. The biggest difference is that quail eggs have a richer and creamier taste and texture. The reason for all the richness is the fact that quail's eggs have a much higher yolk-to-white ratio. If you look at a fried quail egg, you'll notice the big, golden yolk center, with just a small rim of white around it.

The high yolk ratio is part of what makes a quail egg so wonderful for cooking and eating. While egg whites are great for certain things, like adding volume and lightness to baked goods, the yolk is where all the flavor of the egg resides. Some bakers like to add an extra egg yolk to cake batters just for the extra richness it brings. With quail eggs, the extra richness is built right in because it's mostly yolk.

They're nutritionally dense

Considering how small they are, quail eggs contain an impressive array of nutrients. There's a lot packed inside each little shell. Each quail egg contains part of the recommended daily allowance of choline, folate, vitamin A, and iron, and they contain as much as 6% of the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin B12 and riboflavin. There's also a full gram of protein in each egg, close to the same amount of protein as a cube of tofu, but a whole lot tastier.

Dieters should appreciate that a quail egg only has 14 calories, so they're a great way to get a bite of something rich-tasting without going overboard. The downside: The high yolk ratio means that quail eggs are high in cholesterol for their size, with 75mg per egg. That's a lot less than a chicken egg, but if you're watching your cholesterol, don't indulge in several at a time. Instead, have a single quail's egg as a treat or as a way to cut back on your intake of full-size eggs.

Quail's eggs have been served at historic events

Perhaps because of their rich taste, quail's eggs have an association with luxury, and are often served at parties and events that want to convey an upscale sensibility. Like caviar or champagne, they are sometimes served as a display of decadence. At the 2014 party thrown by Cartier to celebrate their panther mascot, masked male models served quail's eggs and caviar from ornate trays. Quail's eggs have also appeared on menus at important events like the sumptuous banquet for the 2,500th anniversary of the founding of Persia (now Iran), where the menu featured quail eggs with truffle pearls.

When the Obamas hosted French President Francois Holland at the White House, the dinner included quail's eggs and dry-aged ribeye steaks. The eggs are also a favorite menu item at royal weddings. The canapé reception for William and Kate in 2011 included quail's eggs with celery salt, and the Queen's lunch reception for Harry and Meghan in 2018 featured a garden pea panna cotta with quail's eggs and lemon verbena.

Famous chefs love to use quail's eggs

It should come as no surprise that some of the best-known chefs love to work with quail eggs. The visual impact alone makes for elegant plating, while the creamy texture easily adds richness to all manner of dishes. Chef Gordon Ramsay revealed (in a Tasting Table exclusive) that he uses quail eggs to top his version of a niçoise salad, and he also recommends them as an elegant topping for Triscuit canapés. Another British chef, Jamie Oliver, is also a fan of the versatility of quail's eggs, which he described to The Globe and Mail as "wicked." 

Chef Wolfgang Puck has included quail's eggs as part of the swanky post-Oscars feast he has headed for an incredible 29 years running. In 2018, his menu reportedly required the cracking of 1,500 of them. If you'd like to try an elegant chef-created dish with 1,499 fewer quail eggs, you can try Chef Sohui Kim's recipe for a pea risotto topped with ham and a single fried quail egg.

You can find them on restaurant menus

If you're not ready to try making quail eggs for yourself, you can always give them a taste test at a restaurant. You might not have to look very hard to find a place that serves them, as they pop up on menus all over the country. Your best bet is at a sushi restaurant, where quail eggs are a popular topping. They also feature frequently in ramen bowls and hot pot dishes, and many finer restaurants like to use a raw quail's egg for their steak tartare.

Quail's eggs aren't just meant for Asian dishes and fine dining. Some eateries like to include them as ingredients in places you might not be expecting them — like hot dogs. Columbian-style hot dogs are known for their over-the-top lashings of condiments and toppings, and they often include a hardboiled quail's egg (or two or three). Pizzerias have also embraced the quail's egg as a topping, such as Indianapolis's favorite Napolese Pizzeria, where the Broken Yolk pizza jazzes up a traditional pizza margherita with the addition of quail eggs.

They're easy to prepare, if you know a few tricks

The price and availability of quail eggs vary from place to place, so if you live somewhere where they are more costly, you may be nervous about working with them. If you can cook a chicken egg, you can prepare a quail egg with a few caveats. The most difficult part of the procedure is simply in opening it, as the delicate size of the egg belies the fact that the shell is pretty tough. You can purchase specialty quail egg scissors that cut off the top of the shells, or you can use the tip of a paring knife to carefully pierce the top and pour out the contents to fry or poach.

Of course, you may also choose to hard-boil them instead, which means you'll ultimately need to peel them. Though the shell is tough, the egg itself is delicate, and if you crush it or take away a chunk of it, you've lost almost the whole egg. Your best bet is to gently crack part of the shell before rolling the egg on the counter gently enough to keep your egg intact while making more cracks on the surface. Afterward, peel carefully.

You can substitute them for hen's eggs

Almost any dish you regularly make with eggs can be made with quail eggs as long as you know the ratio of eggs to use. The general guideline is that one chicken egg is equivalent to three quail eggs. Any dish that requires the addition of an egg as a binder, such as meatloaf or crab cakes, would then require three quail eggs.

You can, of course, cook quail eggs by themselves, just as you would any other egg. Plenty of people enjoy them scrambled, fried, or boiled, and the number you make just depends on how hungry you might be. Keep in mind that cooking times will be much shorter. For frying, you can see the doneness visually. For boiling, you'll only need to boil for about two minutes. A useful tip is to boil them in a skillet or pan, as they only need a few inches of water. When baking with quail's eggs, the additional yolk ratio may require a few minutes more cooking time with your recipe.

They're common ingredients in street food

Quail's eggs are popular items with street vendors, perhaps because of their convenient size, which makes for perfect snacking. In the Philippines, street market stalls sell hardboiled quail eggs as a treat, with salt on the side for dipping. Also popular in the Philippines are skewers of kwek-kwek, consisting of hardboiled quail eggs surrounded by crunchy fried balls of annatto-laced batter. Skewered quail eggs are a common street treat in China as well, but the eggs are grilled in a special cast iron aebleskiver pan before skewering.

In South America, quail eggs are often used as a topping, so you can find them all over the place where street food is sold, on top of hamburgers, stuffed into empanadas or decorating elaborate Columbian hot dogs. Thanks to the food truck trend, you can find quail's egg-topped dogs in North America, too, especially in big cities or almost any neighborhood with a strong street food culture.

Quail eggs feature heavily in Japanese cuisine

While quail eggs are enjoyed as part of many different cuisines, Japan may be a contender for preparing them in the widest variety of different ways. Street vendors sell them kushikatsu-style on skewers (sometimes fried, similar to kwek kwek) or as part of a special street food treat known as tako tamago, a candy-glazed whole baby octopus with a whole quail's egg stuffed inside its head. Japanese pubs, or izakayas, serve soy and mirin-marinated quail's eggs as nibbles with cocktails and beer.

A raw quail's egg is something you'll often see on sushi menus, and some restaurants list a quail's egg as an add-on that you can enjoy atop any sushi item. Gunkan sushi, featuring masago or tobiko (both types of fish roe), is commonly topped with a raw quail egg. Noodle dishes are also enjoyed with a raw quail egg, especially ramen, and the hot broth cooks the egg to a perfect soft-boiled state, or you can swirl the egg with chopsticks to enrich the broth with creamy, silky strands of egg. For lunchtime, a cooked quail egg is the perfect size to tuck into bento boxes.

They're enjoyed all over the rest of the world

If you're interested in trying quail's egg dishes from nations beyond Japan, you've got plenty to choose from. The French, no strangers to rich food, serve quail's eggs along with golden-fried potato galettes, and they're also sometimes used as part of a composed niçoise salad or on top of a steak tartare. You can find quail's eggs in Italian dishes like pasta carbonara or even stuffed inside ravioli, with each pasta pouch containing a single golden yolk.

In parts of Africa and the Middle East, quail eggs are sometimes used instead of chicken eggs to top skillets of shakshuka. Quail eggs are popular in Mexico, where they're prepared in a myriad of different ways, from pickling as a snack to being stuffed into tortas. In China, the famous century eggs and tea eggs are sometimes made with quail eggs for a quick, pop-in-your-mouth treat. In Thailand, you can try quail egg wontons.

They're the perfect size for hors d'oeuvres

It's for a good reason that quail eggs turn up on a lot of tapas bar menus. Their small size makes them perfect for small plates or appetizers. Quail's eggs seem custom-made for party-perfect deviled eggs. Though they may take a little more fiddling with, guests are usually wowed by a plate of tiny, filled eggs. For maximum appeal, decorate each one in a slightly different way. Embellish away with tiny cuts of radish, cornichons, smoked salmon, dill, poppy seeds, caviar, or whatever you have on hand.

While quail eggs are great when stuffed, they also make wonderful hors d'oeuvres when stuffed inside something else. Baby-sized baked potatoes are sized just right to hold a poached or fried baby-sized quail egg. Try baking a quail egg inside a mushroom. They're also perfect for topping a mini waffle — just add some crumbled bacon for a one-bite breakfast-themed app or on top of sliders for a novel effect.

You can pickle them

For the devoted group of folks who are crazy for all things pickled, pickled eggs are a special treat. Pickled quail eggs are an even bigger treat, even though the eggs are smaller (don't forget about that yolk ratio). The rich taste of the egg contrasts beautifully with the pickle brine to make a tangy, salty, yet wonderfully creamy snack. You can make a quick batch with your favorite pickled egg recipe. Be sure and peel your eggs first, as the brine will dissolve an eggshell.

What to do with your pickled eggs once they're pickled? Whatever you want! You can slice them carefully to use as an elegant cracker topping or slice them for use on sandwiches and burgers. You can place them whole into pasta salads, potato salads, or green salads for a little zest. The very best way to eat them, though, is straight out of the jar for an anytime snack.

They make a super garnish

Taste aside, almost any dish can benefit from the added aesthetic appeal of a quail's egg garnish. Even the most seasoned foodies have to admit that they're just so darned cute. Try topping a soup with a soft or hardboiled quail's egg. They also look particularly great on top of dishes with a high contrast to the egg's white and gold, like a bowl of fresh green guacamole or a summery red gazpacho. Secure two or three quail eggs with a skewer to garnish a huge burger or a club sandwich.

Fried or poached quail eggs are just as useful in the garnish department. A single poached or fried quail's egg is like a savory, golden version of a cherry on top. Because they're so small, some dishes can be garnished with multiple poached eggs. Why not top a pizza with four or five? Breakfast hash browns look extra delicious with a few quail's eggs on top, and if you poach them just right, the runny yolk will make them taste extra delicious, too.

Quail's eggs can be used in cocktails

Quail's eggs aren't just for garnishing food dishes. Cocktails can also benefit from the added intrigue of a quail's egg garnish. The Bloody Mary is a perfect partner for a quail's egg, and its small, elegant size is a nice switch-up from the over-the-top carnivalesque garnishes that have become popular. A pickled quail's egg works well with a Bloody Mary, too. If the egg rests above the rim, try dusting it with seasoned salt for flavor and color.

Of course, cocktails can be made with eggs as an ingredient, too, and once again, the quail egg's size is its superpower. One quail egg is just right for making a single cocktail without a lot of waste. Try an Antartique cocktail from cocktail expert Joshua-Peter Smith. It's a genius blend of flavors, made frothy by being shaken with ice and a whole quail's egg. Any cocktail that calls for an egg can be made with a quail's egg, and if you need more froth, crack another one.

You can buy them fresh, in cans, or in jars

Have all these dishes from around the world convinced you to try a quail's egg? Keep in mind that you don't have to get fancy. Remember, you can always try scrambling a few for breakfast or as a taste test. Your regular grocery store may have them, and you've just overlooked them, but if they're not available at the supermarket, try your local natural food shop or co-op. Asian markets are great places to shop for fresh quail eggs, as they're used in many popular dishes. Another good bet is your local farmers' market.

If fresh quail eggs aren't available in your area, order them online. Lots of places ship fresh ones to a limited delivery area. If you've exhausted all resources for fresh eggs, you can still try them, as they're often sold in cans and jars at Asian markets and specialty food shops. Just rinse them off, and they're ready to eat.