What Are Fried Green Tomatoes?

Fried Green Tomatoes

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Not just a popular film, fried green tomatoes are also a dinner dish in some parts of the world, especially in the United States. But what are fried green tomatoes exactly? And what makes them so special? 

Let’s take a closer look. 

What Are Fried Green Tomatoes?

Fried green tomatoes are exactly what the name suggests: green tomatoes that have been fried before serving. 

There is a little more to the recipe, of course, but that’s the basic gist of it. Add a few other ingredients, such as herbs and spices, and the end result is a savoury dish that puts late-summer green tomatoes (or ripe/red tomatoes, if you’d prefer) to good use. 

What Do Fried Green Tomatoes Taste Like?

The end result will very much depend on the ingredients added to the green tomatoes when they are fried. There are countless recipes available on the internet, each of them offering a new and unique twist to the traditional Southern USA dish. 

Generally, the flavours in the tomato dish are bold and tangy, and the dish is both soft and a little crunchy, all at once. Green tomatoes are a little firmer than red tomatoes, and they turn hold more of their shape than red tomatoes do when cooked. 

Fried green tomatoes, made in the traditional way, can also be described as: sour, acidic, and bitter. 

Additional herbs, spices and other ingredients will add extra flavours. That’s one of the things that makes fried green tomatoes so great: the ingredients can be tweaked and customised to find a recipe that you really enjoy. 

Why Do People Fry Green Tomatoes?

Green tomatoes are usually unripe tomatoes, although there are tomato varieties that are green even when they have fully ripened. 

Green tomatoes have a different taste and texture plus a lower water content. That’s actually what makes them perfect for frying: the reduced water content. They will sizzle and spit much less than red tomatoes when fried. 

Green tomatoes do not work in all recipes that call for red/ripe tomatoes, and that’s why they are often fried and served as ‘fried green tomatoes’ instead. The fruits don’t go to waste, which they might otherwise do. 

Where Do Fried Green Tomatoes Come From?

Nobody really knows where fried green tomatoes first came from, although they are believed to have started out in southern United States, where people had an abundance of under-ripe, green tomatoes that they didn’t want to waste. 

As well as southern US states, Pennsylvania in the north has a long history with fried green tomatoes, although they are created slightly differently in the Pennsylvania Dutch community. White flour is used rather than cornmeal. 

Some experts believe that fried green tomatoes actually started in the Jewish community, or the north-east and Midwest United States – quite far away from the southern origins.

According to some reports, fried green tomatoes were mentioned as far back as 1919 in a Jewish cookbook, and even earlier than that: in 1889, in a cookbook titled “Aunt Babette’s Cook Book”. 

Perhaps the fried green tomatoes starting mystery is one that we’ll never solve. There are certainly advocates for all sides of the debate, and there seems to be evidence to support all of the theories I’ve mentioned, too. 

Green Tomatoes

Photo by Karim Ghantous on Unsplash

What Tomatoes Are Best For Fried Green Tomatoes?

Green tomatoes that have yet to turn red, and are therefore slightly under-ripe, are the best tomatoes to use, if you want to mimic the traditional bold and bitter taste of fried green tomatoes. 

It doesn’t actually matter which variety or type of tomato you’ve got to hand, provided they are under-ripe and, as the name suggests, still green. (Although fried red tomatoes is an actual dish, too!) 

The typical fried green tomato recipe is a great one to use up the green tomatoes that haven’t ripened, and probably won’t ripen, at the end of tomato season. 

In case you weren’t aware, there are actually a few different ways you can use under-ripe green tomatoes before the season ends and you have to dispose of them. I’ll talk about those in more detail soon. 

You could also use green varieties of tomato for fried green tomatoes, but they will usually have the properties of red tomatoes and likely won’t closely mimic traditional fried green tomato flavours and textures. 

How to Stop Fried Green Tomatoes Tasting Bitter

Sugar is the best ingredient to help counteract the tart bitterness of green tomatoes, but this will need to be added to the fruit before it is fried. 

After you have cut the tomatoes into slices, add a sprinkle of sugar to each one, on both sides if necessary. The sugar should be added to your taste, but adding too much will take away the mild tangy bitterness that fried green tomatoes are known for. 

You could also add a sprinkle of sugar to the flour or mix you coat the tomato slices in, although this isn’t recommended. You’ll have less control over how much each slice of tomato gets. 

Fried Green Tomatoes

What is the Best Flour to Use For Fried Green Tomatoes?

Traditionally, friend green tomatoes would have been made with cornmeal, but you can substitute that for a wide variety of other flour types. 

In other places and communities, fried green tomatoes are made slightly differently. One example of this is the Pennsylvania Dutch version of fried green tomatoes, which sees the cornmeal replaced with white flour. 

Can You Use Breadcrumbs For Fried Green Tomatoes?

Yes, you can use breadcrumbs for fried green tomatoes. 

You can also use a number of other pre-fry coatings for fried green tomatoes, too. 

I found the following recipes for fried green tomatoes, some with flour alternatives:

Spaceships & Laser Beams – Fried Green Tomatoes Recipe

This fried green tomatoes recipe, by Spaceships & Laser Beams, uses buttermilk, breadcrumbs, eggs, yellow cornmeal, and all purpose (plain) flour, amongst other flavourings (herbs, spices, etc.). 

100 Days of Real Food – Fried Green Tomatoes Recipe

100 Days of Real Food has a fried green tomatoes recipe that is egg-free, gluten-free, peanut-free, and also vegetarian-friendly. It uses cornmeal and ghee rather than plain flour. 

The Food Blog – Fried Green Tomatoes Recipe

And this fried green tomato recipe, by The Food Blog, uses all-purpose flour, too, but without some of the other additions seen in the Spaceships & Laser Beams recipe. The regular all purpose or plain flour could easily be switched for gluten-free flour, or a mix of flours to make a gluten-free mix. 

By Buzzy Kitchen

Lovers of food, owners of opinions, pleased to share!