Buster began cooking as a wee pup by watching his mother fix the kibble. He was hooked. He loves preparing—and writing about—food.
A Classic Southern Dish
Yes, there really is a trick to making gorgeous fried green tomatoes.
I'm from the South and have fried hundreds of them. Fried green tomatoes are about the "how"—that is, the technique.
Read All of These Instructions Before You Start!
Don't let the length of this article scare you off. I've included the reasons for the techniques I suggest.
When these tomatoes are done right, they're incredibly delicious. But, when done wrong, you'll end up with something tasteless—and downright unattractive.
Too often, I read recipes that don't explain the "why" of making genuinely beautiful fried green tomatoes. If you'll read all the way through these instructions, you'll have fantastic fried green tomatoes.
- green tomatoes (they should be firm and feel heavy in your hand)
- black pepper
- 1 egg
- 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
- 1 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cup yellow cornmeal (you can use white cornmeal; I prefer yellow)
- canola (or peanut) oil
I haven't mentioned the amount of salt, pepper, and sugar, nor the amount of green tomatoes—this recipe can be used to fry just 2 or 3 tomatoes or to make enough for a crowd.
Step 1: Prepare and Batter the Tomatoes
- Slice your green tomatoes 1/3 of an inch thick. Some people slice them too thickly, which means that your batter will get soggy and they won't have a crisp exterior. Slice them too thinly and they're tasteless.
- Lay the sliced tomatoes on a foil-covered baking sheet (or simply lay foil on your counter) and generously add salt, pepper, and a pinch of sugar to each one.
- Let them sit for at least 15 minutes. You'll notice that the tomatoes will start to sweat liquid—this is what's supposed to happen.
- Pour the canola (or peanut) oil into your skillet to a depth of 1 inch, and turn your heat to high. Use a cooking thermometer to make sure you bring your oil up to 360°F. Having a high temperature before you put in your battered green tomatoes is really important; it's what makes them crisp, and it helps them to color really beautifully.
- Meanwhile, in a paper sack or gallon-size freezer bag, mix the flour and cornmeal.
- In a bowl, mix the egg with a fork, then pour in the buttermilk and mix.
- Put the slices of green tomato into your flour/cornmeal mixture and turn to coat. I usually do all of my tomato slices before moving on to the next step.
- See how the flour/cornmeal sticks to the tomatoes? This is because of the liquid that comes to the surface because of the salt and sugar.
- Now place the green tomato slices into the egg/buttermilk mixture, and then put them back into the sack to coat them with your flour/cornmeal mixture. Shake off the excess.
Step 2: Fry the Tomatoes
Once your oil has reached the right temperature (did I mention how important it is to get your oil heated to 360°F? It's important—really. The tomatoes need to fry quickly so the oil won't penetrate the tomatoes and make the batter soggy from the inside), you can fry them.
- Slowly lower the battered tomatoes into the oil. I usually put in about six at a time.
- Let them fry for several minutes (you'll see that the bottom has turned a golden brown), then carefully turn the slices over and let them continue to fry until they're golden on all sides.
Step 3: Set Aside, Fry in Batches, and Serve
- Using a slotted spoon, remove the fried green tomatoes to a plate that has been lined with paper towels.
- Do not cover the tomatoes. Covering them will cause the crust to soften and become soggy.
- Do not stack the tomatoes on top of each other until they have been on the plate for at least 10 minutes. Stacking them will cause the ones on the bottom to become soggy.
- Wait a minute or two for the oil to return to 360°F, then put in another batch of battered green tomatoes.
- Before you serve them, salt the fried green tomatoes again. Believe me, they really do need a second salting for flavor. You'll get raves!
Some people like to eat them with ranch dressing. I like to eat them with sour cream—or just as they are!
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Answers to Frequently Asked Questions
Frying green tomatoes is an art. Don't become discouraged if your first batch doesn't look like the photo. You'll have the best chance of success if you follow my directions to the letter.
Do You Really Need to Add Sugar?
Yes. Green tomatoes are very acidic, and the sugar will balance that tartness and give them a wonderful depth of flavor.
Why Do You Need to "Double Dip"? Most Recipes Say to Dip the Tomatoes Only Once.
Green tomatoes will extrude juices when frying. I've discovered that double dipping them in a batter (specifically, a batter with egg/buttermilk) creates a crisp exterior and a perfectly textured interior.
Why Is the Oil Temperature so Important?
Frying is an art. Really. Ask any chef. Of all the cooking techniques, I really believe that frying is one of the most difficult. If your oil is not hot enough, you end up with odd-looking tomatoes. If the oil is too hot, the outside will brown too quickly, and your tomatoes won't be cooked all the way through.
Isn't Frying Bad for You?
Well, I believe "everything in moderation." I fry foods every two weeks or so. I know some people who fry more often, and others who simply will not fry anything. Balance is important. Every once in a while, fried foods are delicious!
Enjoy this fantastic Southern dish!
Questions & Answers
Question: How do I store fried green tomatoes overnight without them getting soggy?
Answer: Fried green tomatoes are always best the same day they're made.
Storing them will cause them to become soft. It's impossible to avoid.
However, there is another option: after you've fried them and let them come to room temperature, they can be stored in the refrigerator until the following day. Lay them on a baking sheet and put into a 400-degree oven for about 12 minutes or so. This will crisp them again so they can be served.
Question: Why use cornmeal when making fried green tomatoes?
Answer: Cornmeal is commonly used in the South for fried green tomatoes because the flavor is complementary.
Question: Is there a way to fry green tomatoes in an air fryer?
Answer: I've never tried an air fryer, but it's certainly worth a try!