When picturing summer’s best tomatoes, my thoughts immediately turn to the big, juicy heirloom tomatoes. These tomatoes come in sultry jewel-like reds and oranges and purples, ideally warm and ripe in the sun. Then I remember green tomatoes. Green tomatoes may not get same attention of their big, red tomato brothers, but tough — and it must be said, largely flavorless — green tomatoes have an important place, too. And that place is in our cast-iron skillets, dredged in cornmeal and breadcrumbs, fried golden brown. Here’s the recipe for fried green tomatoes.
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Are Fried Green Tomatoes Southern?
Fried green tomatoes are widely considered Southern food. It is easy to see why. Much like southern Italian food, the beauty of truly good Southern food lies in seasonality, freshness, and simplicity. (And perhaps a little pan frying.)
Yet oddly enough, fried green tomatoes may not have originated in the South. According to this Bon Appétit article, food scholars date the earliest fried green tomato recipes and references to the Northeast and Midwest:
[F]ried green tomatoes first appear in 19th century Northeastern and Midwestern cookbooks such as the 1877 Buckeye Cookbook and the 1873 Presbyterian Cookbook, which was put out by the First Presbyterian Church of Dayton, OH. Recipes can also be found in Jewish cookbooks from the early 20th century.”
According to the article, fried green tomatoes are considered Southern largely by way of a modern book. Author Fanny Flagg wrote Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café, set in Alabama, in 1987. The book became even more famous after its 1991 film adaptation.
North, south, east, or west, this recipe for fried green tomatoes is great. Simply breaded, fried, and served up golden brown, these fried green tomatoes taste fresh and are simple to make, with only a few ingredients.
Recipe Notes: Fried Green Tomatoes
- Breading can vary. You could just dredge the tomatoes in egg and flour. But I like a combination of cornmeal and breadcrumbs, which turn out extra crispy.
- Do not use red, ripe tomatoes, or even semi-ripe tomatoes. You want the hard, green ones. The riper the tomatoes, the softer they will become while cooking, and the more moisture they contain. Moisture and frying do not go well together. Fried ripe tomatoes will come out soggy. You may also get splashed with hot oil in the process.
- Serve fried green tomatoes hot or at room temperature, with lemon wedges, or with a good, herb-y dip like ranch or green goddess on the side.
Did you make this recipe for fried green tomatoes? Tell us about it!
Fried Green Tomatoes
- 1 1/2 pounds medium to large green tomatoes (about 3 total)
- 2 eggs, whisked
- 1 cup plain breadcrumbs
- 1/2 cup cornmeal
- 1 3/4 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more to garnish
- 1 teaspoon fresh black pepper
- 1 generous pinch cayenne pepper, optional
- canola or neutral vegetable oil, for frying
- Slice tomatoes to 1/4" thick.
- In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, cornmeal, salt, pepper, and cayenne.
- In another bowl, whisk the eggs.
- Heat a cast-iron or other large skillet over medium-high heat, with enough oil to coat the pan and come up ever so slightly on the edges -- 1/8" high is plenty. When the oil begins to shimmer and run quickly when the pan is tilted, test the oil by adding a pinch of breadcrumbs. They should sizzle.
- Using a fork, dip the tomato slices one at a time into the egg, then dredge them in breadcrumbs. Add the tomato to the pan. Repeat, filling -- but not crowding -- the pan. Lower the heat to medium and cook the tomatoes until golden brown on each side, about 3 to 4 minutes per side. PRO TIP: To keep track of the order of my tomatoes, I work clockwise, starting at 12 o'clock, and going around in a circle, plus one in the center. Of course, you can always just peek to see which look the brownest.
- Drain the tomatoes on a paper towel-lined plate or a cooling rack until all the tomatoes have been cooked.
- Serve warm or at room temperature.