With their crunchy coating and tangy flavor, pan-fried green tomatoes make a satisfying side dish that takes 30 minutes, start to finish. Here's how to bring them to your table.

June 09, 2015

To get a toasty-crunchy coating on tomato slices, we dredge them in flour, milk, eggs, and bread crumbs in assembly-line fashion. Once pan-fried, the tomatoes remain soft, tangy, and hot on the inside. This is a lovable way to serve under-ripe tomatoes. Here's our classic recipe, along with some tips for making them the absolute tastiest.

Fried Green Tomatoes

North or South?

The popular 1987 novel (and subsequent film) Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe piqued America's interest in fried green tomatoes. Because the novel takes place Alabama, it's easy to assume that this is a Southern specialty. However, some culinary historians believe fried green tomatoes have traditionally made their way to the table in other parts of the country, too, especially the North and the Midwest. In such climates, frying the tomatoes offered a tasty way for cooks to serve any under-ripe fruit that was in danger of being damaged by a coming frost.

Green or Red?

The "green" in fried green tomatoes refers to under-ripe tomatoes, which are often green in color. Keep in mind that some tomato varieties -- such as Green Zebra -- are green even after they ripen. To make fried green tomatoes, be sure to use tomatoes that fit the other definition of green: under-ripe. Virtually any variety of tomato may be used, as long as it's firm; unripe red tomatoes may be used as long as they're the size called for in the recipe.

Avoid using soft, ripe tomatoes; the riper the tomato, the juicer it is, and the juices can cause the fried batter to become soggy.

Tips for Making Fried Green Tomatoes

  • Use a large, heavy skillet, such as a cast-iron skillet, to fry the tomatoes. Make sure the tomato slices you fry in each batch fit in one layer, but without too much space between slices.
  • Use a thin metal spatula to lift and turn the tomato slices.
  • Make sure the oil is well heated before you add the tomato slices. Oil should be shimmering but not smoky before you add the first batch.
  • If the tomatoes brown too quickly as you fry them, reduce the heat to medium-low.
  • After cooking, remove the tomatoes from the skillet and place on several layers of paper towels to drain. Serve them warm, but not hot, as the juices from the tomatoes can burn your mouth.

How to Make Fried Green Tomatoes

This recipe serves six as a side dish or appetizer.

1. Prep the Tomatoes

Cut three medium unpeeled firm green tomatoes into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Sprinkle the slices with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper. Let the tomatoes stand for 15 minutes.

2. Prep the Coating

Using four separate shallow dishes, place 1/2 cup all purpose flour, 1/4 cup milk, 2 lightly beaten eggs, and 2/3 cup fine dry bread crumbs each in its own dish. Dip the tomato slices in the milk, then the flour, then the eggs, then the bread crumbs.

3. Cook the Tomatoes

Heat 1/4 cup cooking oil in a skillet over medium heat until it shimmers. Fry the coated tomato slices, half at a time, in the hot oil for 4 to 6 minutes on each side or until browned. (If the tomatoes begin to brown too quickly, reduce the heat to medium-low. If necessary, add additional oil). Transfer the fried tomatoes to paper towels to drain. If desired, season to taste with additional salt and black pepper. Serve warm.

Tip: To serve fried green tomatoes as an appetizer, present them with a dipping sauce made from 1/2 cup sour cream; 3 cloves garlic, minced; 1-1/2 teaspoons fresh cilantro; and salt to taste.

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