Honey-and-sumac-glazed Quail

When we initially started work on The World in a Skillet, we wrote a lot of great material, but it quickly became obvious that if we were to include everything we had originally hoped to include, no one would be able to lift the finished book. This recipe was inspired by the research we did on the Middle East. Unfortunately, we didn’t have room for it in the book.

Sumac may not be a part of your spice rack, but it should be. It imparts a pleasantly tart flavor to food. Native Americans used sumac in a drink that was similar to lemonade. It’s not unreasonable to think that they would have used it to season their food. In this recipe, honey counters some of the tartness of the sumac, while also making for a nice glaze.

On the other side of the world, you’ll also find sumac used as a tart enhancement in Middle Eastern food, and it’s a common ingredient in the spice blend za-atar.

Honey-and-sumac-glazed Quail

Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Servings 4 main dish servings


  • 8 quail split and flattened
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 teaspoons dried sumac powder divided
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter ½ stick
  • 4 tablespoons honey raw honey if available


  • Combine the salt, pepper, and 1 teaspoon of sumac powder in a small bowl. Sprinkle both sides of the birds with the seasonings.
  • Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat until it foams and just begins to brown, about 2 minutes. Carefully add the quail to the skillet, skin-side down. Work in batches if necessary to prevent crowding the skillet. Cook the quail for 6 minutes, without turning, until the skin is golden brown.
  • While the quail are cooking, combine the remaining 2 teaspoons of sumac powder with the honey in a small bowl.
  • Turn the birds in the skillet and brush the skin-side of the birds with the honey mixture.
  • Continue cooking the quail until the juices run clear, about 4 minutes longer. Remove the skillet from the heat and let the quail rest, covered, for about 10 minutes.
  • Serve with rice or potatoes and a green salad.

Kitchen Passport

If quail aren’t readily available to you, feel free to substitute 4 Cornish game hens. The glaze is also wonderful over chicken, turkey, or pork. The honey-sumac blend works with grilling as well and is great stirred into plain Greek yogurt.

Sumac is a beautiful purplish-red powder that can make intriguing sweets that can test your tasters’ palates. Pair it with the color and flavor of pomegranates. Add a pinch to chicken salad with grapes and almonds. Sprinkle lightly over grilled fish.

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