Classic southern fried green tomatoes have a seasoned cornmeal batter and are sautéed to a golden brown before being finished in the air fryer or oven. This make ahead appetizer or meatless main dish tastes amazing served with pimento cheese.
I can't help ordering fried green tomatoes whenever I spot them on the menu at a restaurant here in the south.
I've enjoyed them as a crispy appetizer, layered inside a tomato sandwich, and stacked on top of a bed of lettuce for a flavorful dinner salad.
Once I learned how to make pimento cheese spread at home, I had to try my hand at making homemade fried green tomatoes so I could serve them together to my family.
The creamy cheese melts over the warm tomato slices for a delicious appetizer or light dinner.
Why This is the Best Recipe
I think this is the best fried green tomatoes recipe because:
- Flavorful Batter: My cornmeal batter is seasoned with a few extra spices to give the tomatoes a boost. But, I promise it isn't too spicy.
- Easy Ingredients: You only need a few pantry items and fresh tomatoes to make this dish.
- Make Ahead Friendly: Don't miss my tips on how to make these ahead of time for easy serving at a party.
- Golden Brown and Crispy: You'll get the perfect crispy coating and the tomatoes will be warmed right through to the center with my special method for cooking.
Homemade fried green tomatoes come together easily with a short list of easy ingredients:
- Green Tomatoes: You can find green tomatoes at most farmer's markets and grocery stores here in the south. They are essentially an under ripe tomato. But if you have trouble finding them, a green heirloom tomato or even a ripe red tomato would be a simple variation.
- Seasoned Salt
- Cayenne Pepper: I promise this won't make it spicy, it just adds a burst of flavor to the tomatoes.
- Olive Oil: You could substitute your favorite vegetable oil but I love the flavor the olive oil adds.
Picking the Best Green Tomatoes
When you're shopping for your green tomatoes, you want to look for ones that are:
- Uniform in Size: Try to get same-size tomatoes so your slices are roughly around the same shape.
- Firm: Very gently squeeze the tomato. There should be a slight give but it shouldn't be too soft.
- Heavy: A heavy tomato means it will be have nice meaty slices.
Prepare the Tomatoes
To help the cornmeal batter better stick to the tomato slices, it is important to spend a few minutes prepping the tomato slices.
Line a large baking sheet with paper towels.
Slice the green tomatoes into thick slices, about ¼ - ⅓-inch thick. Lay them cut side up on the baking sheet.
Sprinkle just a pinch of kosher salt over the top. This will help draw out some of the juices from the seeds.
Let the tomatoes drain on the paper towels while you prepare the assembly line.
Add some flavorful seasonings to the dry cornmeal mixture so your green tomatoes will be super delicious.
Add the flour and cornmeal to a shallow dish. I used a shallow pasta plate but a pie plate or cake pan would work, too.
Add the seasoned salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper to the mix and whisk it together.
Prep the Assembly Line
To make the process of frying the green tomatoes extra easy, I always set up a simple assembly line at my stove:
- Add the baking sheet of tomatoes on the far edge.
- Next to it, place the buttermilk and egg mixture
- Next place the bowl of seasoned flour and cornmeal.
- Place a large skillet on the stovetop. Add ¼ cup olive oil.
- Place an air fryer basket or baking sheet lined with a wire rack on the other side of the skillet.
Here's what my assembly line looks like, the items are in reverse order since my stove is on the left of my counter:
Fry the Tomatoes
Heat the skillet with olive oil over medium-high heat. Once the oil is shimmering, you're ready to coat and cook the tomatoes.
First, dip a tomato slice into the buttermilk and egg mixture. Let the excess drip off into the bowl.
Then dip the tomato into the cornmeal flour mixture. Turn to coat both sides. Shake the excess off back into the bowl.
Lay the tomato slice into the hot oil in the skillet. Let it cook while you prepare another slice or two of tomatoes.
Keep adding the tomatoes to the pan but do not overcrowd it. There should be space between each tomato like this:
Saute the green tomatoes for 2 minutes on each side.
The batter should become golden brown and crispy
Transfer the sautéed tomatoes to the prepared air fryer basket or baking sheet with rack.
The fried green tomatoes are almost done, but I have found that the centers don't get quite as cooked as I want them to be when done just in the skillet.
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Bake the tomatoes for 5 minutes to warm them all the way through.
Air Fryer Instructions
If you have an air fryer, you can bake the tomatoes on HIGH for 3 - 4 minutes or until they are heated all the way through.
My oven actually has an air fryer feature, so I prepared the tomatoes and placed them into an air fryer basket made for use in the oven just like this one.
This is such a handy kitchen tool, you may want one even if you don't have an air fryer feature on your oven! It lets air flow move around each tomato slice keeping them nice and crispy.
Serve the fried green tomatoes warm with a sprinkle of salt over the top and a dip, sauce, or pimento cheese dollop.
You could also serve southern fried green tomatoes:
- Southern Fried Green Tomato Sandwich: Add 2 tomatoes to a toasted brioche bun with shredded lettuce and remoulade sauce
- Southern Fried Green Tomato Salad: Pile up mixed greens. Add 2 tomato slices and homemade cornbread croutons. Drizzle buttermilk herb dressing over the top.
- Southern Fried Green Tomatoes Appetizer: Place the fried tomatoes on a pretty platter with one or two of these dips and sauces:
Sauces for Fried Green Tomatoes
The perfect complement to the tangy green tomatoes and seasoned cornmeal batter has just a touch of creaminess and zesty flavor.
Traditionally, a spicy remoulade sauce is served with fried green tomatoes but I love how a homemade pimento cheese melts over the top.
My spicy sauce for sandwiches would be tasty on top of the tomatoes or used in a fried green tomato sandwich.
Pair my sour cream horseradish sauce with layers of roast beef for a delicious roast beef po'boy sandwich with fried green tomatoes.
Southern Fried Green Tomatoes
- 3 green tomatoes
- 1 pinch kosher salt
- ¼ cup all purpose flour
- ½ cup cornmeal
- 1 tsp seasoned salt
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- ½ cup buttermilk
- 1 large egg
- ¼ cup olive oil
Prepare the Green Tomatoes
- Slice the tomatoes into thick slices, about ⅓-inch deep. Lay the tomato slices on a large baking sheet lined with paper towels and sprinkle just a pinch of kosher salt over the top.
- Let the tomatoes drain some of their juices while you prepare the assembly line. Just before you are ready to bread and fry them, pat the tops dry with more paper towels.
Prepare the Assembly Line
- Add the flour, cornmeal, seasoned salt, black pepper, and cayenne pepper to a shallow dish like a pie plate. Whisk them to combine.
- Pour the buttermilk into a shallow dish and add the cracked egg. Whisk them together until combined and set aside.
- Place a large skillet on the stovetop. Add ¼ cup of olive oil to the skillet.
- Place an air fryer basket OR a baking sheet with an oven-safe rack nested on top next to the skillet.
Fry the Tomatoes
- Heat the skillet with olive oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is shimmering, you're ready to add the tomatoes.
- Working one or two tomato slices at a time, dip the tomato slice into the buttermilk mixture and turn to coat. Let it drain the excess back into the bowl.
- Place the coated tomato slice into the flour bowl. Turn to coat both sides. Shake the excess off.
- Place the battered tomato slice into the hot skillet. You can add 3 - 5 tomato slices to the pan to cook at once but do not overcrowd the pan. There should be an inch of space between each tomato slice.
- Cook for 2 minutes on each side of the tomato. Transfer the tomato slices to the air fryer basket to drain.
Bake the Fried Green Tomatoes
- At this point the tomato slices are battered and fried to a beautiful golden brown but the centers may not be as warm as you'd like them to be.
- Use your air fryer to bake the tomatoes on HIGH for 3 - 4 minutes or bake them in the oven at 375°F for 5 minutes.
Make Ahead TipsThe fried green tomatoes can be prepared in advance. Just follow the instructions all the way through to the point just before you add them to the oven or air fryer to warm through. Store them in a single layer on a baking sheet in the fridge for up to 24 hours. To warm them through, let them sit on the counter and come to room temperature for 15 minutes while the oven or air fryer preheats. Warm them in the oven at 375°F for 5 - 7 minutes or in an air fryer on HIGH for 3 - 5 minutes. NOTE: Transfer them to a room temperature pan before putting them in the oven. A chilled pan will create steam inside the oven and cause the tomatoes to become soggy.
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