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The Jewish Origins of Fried Green Tomatoes and a Kosher, Non-Dairy, Gluten-Free Recipe

Natalie Frank (Taye Carrol) has a Ph.D. in clinical psychology, publishes on topics in health, behavioral science, writing and other fields.


When many people hear the phrase “fried green tomatoes,” they think of the movie by that name or perhaps other movies set in the Deep South, such as Steel Magnolias or Driving Miss Daisy. While I was aware most of my friends from outside the South had never tasted this Southern staple, I didn’t know that a number of them believed the dish to be made up and no more than Southern legend. I set out to educate those friends nearby with my own rendition of the dish, and the dish was given such rave reviews that I decided to write up the recipe and put it online here.

The dish is something that few who are gluten-free try since often the thought of something fried is correlated with breaded, as in “only real bread crumbs or some sort of grain or cornmeal will do.” Yet many of the principles used for substituting gluten-free options for grains that are used in other types of cooking and baking apply here as well. The key is in choosing an option that has a taste you enjoy and that will enhance the somewhat tart taste of the tomatoes. I have also included a recipe for a simple buttermilk ranch dipping sauce and another recipe for a quick remoulade sauce, both of which complement the tomatoes beautifully.

Fried green tomatoes are delicious as an appetizer when served with a sauces such as remoulade, chipotle, or ranch, on top of your favorite burger, or as a substitute for a ripe red tomato on practically any sandwich. They’re also perfect as a substitute in many recipes, such as when substituting them for the eggplant in eggplant parmesan. No matter what you decide to eat these crunchy tomatoes with, you will find them to be scrumptious and satisfying.

The Origins of Fried Green Tomatoes

Most people think of the movie when someone mentions fried green tomatoes. It is, in fact, that movie with the same name as the dish, that we have to thank for the widespread belief that this fried delicacy is of Southern origins. However, if you look at newspapers and restaurant menus from the South before 1970 or so, you will be unlikely to find a mention of fried green tomatoes. If you want to find recipes for the dish before then you would have to turn to northern or midwestern sources.

“What?,” I can hear you all shouting. Yes, that’s correct. Before 1991, the year the movie premiered, you would have been as unlikely to find fried green tomatoes on any menu or in any home in the South as you would have in most other areas of the country. If you were going to find them, you would have had to venture north or west to do so. This is because they were most likely brought into American cooking by Jewish immigrants, most of whom settled in those areas of the country. A noted food historian, Robert F. Moss, clarified this in his well researched book by stating, "[Fried green tomatoes] entered the American culinary scene in the Northeast and Midwest, perhaps with a link to Jewish immigrants, and from there moved onto the menu of the home-economics school of cooking teachers who flourished in the United States in the early-to-mid 20th century." Regardless of where they originated, fried green tomatoes have become a much appreciated dish nation wide with the South having adopted them the most fervently.


Selecting Green Tomatoes

A quick word about selecting green tomatoes for frying: Green tomatoes are just red tomatoes that haven’t yet ripened. In the South, they are in abundant supply since there is a long growing season and they must frequently be cut from the vines to prevent them from breaking the branches due to the excess weight. This is largely why you see so many recipes for green tomatoes in the South. In the north, green tomatoes are largely harvested at the end of the growing season when unripe tomatoes are picked before the first frost can ruin them. To choose a good green tomato for frying, make sure they are firm but not hard like an apple. They should be green all the way through, though a little pink in the very center is okay.



  • 4-5 firm green tomatoes
  • 2-3 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Vegetable oil of choice for frying—I prefer coconut oil since it can take higher temperatures without burning

Coating Options

Crunchy Cornmeal

This is the more “traditional” coating for Fried Green Tomatoes.

  • 1/4 cup garbanzo bean flour (can sub garfava flour)
  • 1/4 cup brown rice flour (can sub sorghum or all-purpose gluten-free flour)
  • 1/2 cup non-GMO blue or gold cornmeal
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp fine-ground sea salt
  • 1–2 pinches of cayenne pepper (optional)
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  • 1/2 cup garbanzo bean flour (can sub garfava flour)
  • 1/4 cup brown rice flour (can substitute sorghum or all-purpose gluten-free flour)
  • 1/4 cup sorghum flour (can substitute brown rice or all-purpose gluten-free flour)
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp fine-ground sea salt
  • 1–2 pinches of cayenne pepper (optional)

Crunchy Almond

  • 1/2 cup brown rice flour (can substitute sorghum or all-purpose gluten-free flour)
  • 1/2 cup blanched almond flour
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp fine-ground sea salt
  • 1–2 pinches of cayenne pepper (optional)


  1. Slice the tomatoes about ¼ to ¼ of an inch thick. Put them on a plate and lightly salt them. Set aside for about 15 minutes so the salt can draw out the moisture. Blot them with a paper towel.
  2. Mix together the ingredients for the coating of your choice in a large shallow bowl. I prefer to put about a third of the coating on a plate for dredging then adding more coating as needed.
  3. Beat the eggs to create an egg wash and place next to the coating.
  4. Heat oil in a large skillet.
  5. Dip the tomato slices in the egg, followed by the coating, then place it in the oil. Fry for about 2 minutes, flip, fry for 2 more minutes. Tomatoes should be just barely brown when done.
  6. Place slices on a paper towel to absorb any excess oil
  7. Place under broiler briefly to make sure slices are dry and crispy

Dairy Free Buttermilk Ranch Dipping Sauce


  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons lime juice
  • ½ cup soymilk
  • ½ teaspoon dried chives
  • ½ teaspoon dried parsley
  • ½ teaspoon dried dill weed
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper


  1. In a large bowl, mix together lime juice and soymilk and set aside for 15 minutes.
  2. Add the mayonnaise, chives, parsley, dill, garlic powder, onion powder, salt, and pepper.
  3. Whisk ingredients together until well combined.
  4. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes or until needed.
  5. Serve topped with a dill sprig or a sprinkle of paprika for color.

Quick Remoulade Sauce


  • 1 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons gluten-free Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon Louisiana-style hot sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons capers, roughly chopped
  • 1 teaspoon worcestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon mild paprika
  • 1 scallion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper


  1. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl
  2. Whisk until smooth

© 2017 Natalie Frank

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