There are about a hundred ways you can fry a green tomato. Everyone has an opinion, and most of them will get you a tangy, tasty final result. This recipe is a good basic (because I like the basics) and you can easily adjust or build the flavors to your preference.
- Green tomatoes are firm and tangy
- Season your tomatoes well with salt and pepper in your dry ingredients and add more salt after frying
- Buttermilk and hot sauce add a nice tang for breading
- After coating, let the tomatoes sit four or five minutes before frying so the breading can “set”
- Fry your tomatoes in batches in a heavy skillet so they don’t steam, adding a bit of oil as you go
What is a green tomato?
A green tomato is any tomato that has not ripened yet. Where to find them? If you grow tomatoes yourself, just harvest them before they turn red.
No garden? No problem.
See if a friend grows tomatoes. Otherwise, you can usually find them at your local farmers’ market or grocery store.
I suggest going the grocery store route last. The quality just won’t be as good as homegrown or farmers’ market tomatoes.
What you’ll need for this recipe:
What makes fried green tomatoes so special?
Fried green tomatoes might sound like an odd concept. “Why fry unripe tomatoes?” you might ask. Because they are delicious.
Green tomatoes are firmer than a ripe tomatoes, allowing them to stand up better to frying. Plus, they have a delicious tartness to them.
When battered, properly seasoned, and fried, the combination of tart, salty, and crispy is hard to resist.
How to keep green tomatoes for frying
After harvesting or purchasing green tomatoes, I recommend storing them unsliced on the countertop until you are ready to fry them. They will be happy there for up to a week.
They might start to get a little pink the longer they sit. This isn’t a deal breaker. Go ahead and use them anyway. I do not recommend refrigerating green tomatoes.
The low temperatures will cause them to lose their flavor.
How to bread and fry green tomatoes
Mix hot sauce in to buttermilk and blend the cornmeal, flour, salt and pepper in a separate bowl.
Slice the green tomatoes to your preference but no more than 1/4″-1/2″ thick. Some people like them very thin and that’s fine too.
Flip the sliced tomato over in the cornmeal mixture once to get it lightly coated.
Use a fork to move the tomato to the buttermilk and dip it in, dripping off the extra buttermilk, then move back to the cornmeal.
Use a fork to toss the cornmeal on top of the tomato and press it on firmly on all sides. Set the coated tomatoes aside so the breading can set for four or five minutes.
Should I shallow or deep-fry green tomatoes?
You can deep-fry green tomatoes, but I prefer shallow-frying them. It’s less of a mess and I think it yields a tastier end product.
Heat just a few tablespoons of oil in the bottom of a heavy-bottomed skillet (I like cast iron but feel free to use something else) and start frying.
When it comes to oil, coconut oil or avocado oil would be my top choices here because they are less inflammatory than vegetable oil.
Feel free to use any cooking oil with a high smoke point, though. Keep in mind that green tomatoes will absorb oil as they fry.
To prevent an overly greasy finished dish, keep the oil at 375 degrees F. As the oil disappears, add a bit more and let it come to temperature before continuing frying.
The key is proper seasoning
The flavor of green tomatoes is so mild that they do not taste like much unless seasoned properly.
I recommend adding plenty of salt and pepper to the flour (as opposed to adding it directly to the tomatoes).
Give the fried tomato a taste test at the end and sprinkle with a bit more salt and pepper if needed.
Let the tomatoes cool without steaming
One of quickest ways to end up with soggy fried food is allowing steam to build and soften the breading, causing it to fall off.
To avoid this, do not stack the crunchy fried tomatoes once they have been cooked.
Instead arrange them in a single layer on a cooling rack to allow for maximum airflow.
Common frying problems and how to prevent them
Frying is an incredibly simple, versatile method of cooking that has the potential to yield some truly delicious results. It can be a little tricky, though. Here are a few common errors people make when frying tomatoes and how to avoid them.
- The breading falls off during the frying process. This is likely due to your frying oil being too cold. Turn up the heat slightly.
- The tomatoes are sticking to the pan. This is probably because the pan was too cold when you added them to the skillet. Turn up the heat a bit and give the tomatoes a little extra time before flipping them with a thin spatula.
- Burned breading. Hard tomatoes. This can happen when your tomatoes are too thick or when your breading is made up of fast-burning ingredients, such as Panko or breadcrumbs. Start with thinner slices and/or turn the heat down and flip the tomatoes often.
- The breading is falling off while the tomatoes are cooling. This is often because the fried tomatoes have been stacked on top of each other, causing them to release steam that softens the breading and causes it to fall off. Arrange them in a single layer on a wire cooling rack with plenty of space between tomatoes.
How to freeze
Don’t even try. Freezing causes the cell membranes on tomatoes to burst. When you try to thaw and reheat them, they will leak water, causing the breading to get soft and squishy. Ew!
To make them without cornmeal
I really think the cornmeal adds an irreplaceable crunchy texture to this classic southern dish. If you are set on making them without cornmeal, though, go ahead and replace it with Panko.
Do note that these ingredients burn faster than a cornmeal and flour breading. So keep an eye on the tomatoes and flip them often to avoid a charred finished product.
How to air fry green tomatoes
Air fryers are all the rage lately and you can absolutely use one to make these tangy fried green tomatoes.
Cook times will vary depending on the thickness of the tomato slices. I suggest slicing the green tomatoes into ¼” slices.
Preheat the air fryer to 400 degrees F and arrange the sliced and battered tomatoes in a single layer in the basket of the air fryer.
Spray or brush them with avocado oil before frying for 5-6 minutes. Flip the tomatoes over, spray or brush the other side with avocado oil, and fry for an additional 5 minutes.
While these fried green tomatoes are fantastic on their own, they are even better when paired with a delicious dipping sauce. Here are some ideas for you.
- Homemade Mayonnaise. Try a classic mayo. You could even add some sriracha to it or make an avocado mayonnaise instead.
- Garlic Aioli. I am a big garlic aioli fan. It’s super easy to whip up and goes great with these tomatoes.
- Thousand Islands. Grab some from the store or make your own.
- Ranch. Try making your own with my homemade ranch dressing mix.
- Remoulade. I love the sweet and tangy taste of remoulade paired with these crunchy fried green tomatoes.
What to serve with fried green tomatoes
These southern fried green tomatoes go great with pretty much anything. I enjoy serving them with dishes that are not fried to break things up. Here are some of my favorites.
Watch me make them here:
How to fry green tomatoes
- In a small bowl, add the buttermilk and a couple dashes of hot sauce if you want it, then stir to combine.
- In a separate shallow dish add the flour, salt, pepper, and cornmeal mix.
- Batter your tomatoes in this order: first into the flour/cornmeal, then into the milk and back into the flour.
- Add about four tablespoons of oil to a regular skillet and warm over medium-high until the oil sizzles as soon as a tomato touches it. As they cook, some of the oil will absorb, so you may need to add a tablespoon more between each batch.
- Fry the tomatoes in batches, being careful not to crowd them. Fry about 5 minutes per side and the breading should be golden brown. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with a little extra salt if needed. Serve immediately.