In summer I used to fill my garden with a lot of beefsteak tomato plants. Those are the large and super juice varieties. These fruits can grow to be as large as 2 pounds each. I would eat them right off the vine as you would an apple because they are so sweet when fully ripened.
As summer turned to fall, I would have an excess of tomatoes that were still green and very firm. They had to be picked before there was a frost. Some would go on my kitchen window sill in hopes that they would ripen. Others were pickled and canned to enjoy throughout the winter. But, my favorite way to prepare green tomatoes was to slice them, season and coat them in cornmeal, and fry them in canola oil in a hot cast-iron skillet.
The coating was crunchy and the tomato slices were warm and juicy. They never made it to a plate. These went straight from a brown paper-lined cutting board to my mouth. This was such a great snack on a cool fall afternoon.
Where did the Fried Green Tomato Recipe Originate?
There is much debate about the origins of this dish. Some historians say it was a dish popular in Jewish cuisine and may have come to the US via immigrants to the New York area in the early 1900s. This version of the recipe did not have cornmeal. It was more of a flour-based batter.
Others will tell you that fried green tomatoes were a midwestern staple on farms where the tomatoes were harvested before the snow fell and had to be utilized in a variety of ways, including fried.
All I know is that I found fried green tomatoes on many menus in the deep south of the states, especially on the east coast. You may read that this was not a southern dish until the movie “Fried Green Tomatoes” debuted in 1991. The movie was based on Fanny Flagg’s novel set in the 1930s in Alabama and revolved around the owners of a fictional restaurant called Whistle Stop Café. I know I ate fried green tomatoes in the south well before that movie came out.
The recipe here is based on the southern style of fried green tomatoes that are coated with all-purpose flour, an egg and buttermilk wash, and finished in cornmeal. They are seasoned generously. The tomato slices maintain a bit of tartness after being air-fried.
Can You Make Fried Green Tomatoes in an Air Fryer?
The simple answer to this question is that you sure can. Remember, we have already successfully made things like fried pickles in an air fryer.
Cooking green tomatoes in your air fryer is definitely healthier than deep-frying them in oil. You will only need a spritz of vegetable oil on both sides.
The key to getting a crisp exterior and moist interior is to use green tomatoes that don’t have any red areas and pat them dry with paper towels before coating them. The cornmeal in the coating will give the much-needed crunch. You also want to cook them at relatively high heat. I use 390°F and cook for approximately 8 minutes.
I like to serve fried green tomatoes with a spicy mayo dipping sauce. You could swap that out for ranch dressing, remoulade, or Russian dressing.
Air Fryer Crunchy Fried Green Tomatoes (Vegetarian)
- 2 medium unripe green tomatoes
- 6 TBS all-purpose flour divided in half
- 1 egg lightly beaten
- 1/3 cup buttermilk
- 1/3 cup yellow cornmeal
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
- Vegetable oil spray
Total time:23 min – Prep time:15 min – Cook time:8 min per batch – Serves:3 people
1. Trim off the bottom and stem ends of the tomatoes. Cut the tomatoes into 1/3-inch thick slices. Place the slices on paper towels and pat them dry.
2. Set up your dredging station with 3 shallow bowls. Place 1/2 the flour in the first bowl. In the second, whisk together the egg and buttermilk. In the third bowl, mix together the remaining flour, cornmeal, salt, and pepper.
3. Preheat your air fryer for 3 to 5 minutes at 390°F.
4. Dip half the tomato slices in the flour, shaking off any excess flour. Then dip them in the egg wash. Finally, coat them with the cornmeal mixture being sure to cover all sides.
5. Give the basket or crisper plate of the air fryer a light spray of vegetable oil. Place the first batch of breaded tomatoes in a single layer in the air fryer. Cook for 4 minutes. Give the green tomatoes a light spray of oil and flip them over. Continue to cook until golden brown, approximately another 4 minutes.
6. While the first batch is cooking, coat the second batch as described in step 4. Then cook as described in step 5.
7. Serve the air-fried green tomatoes while hot and crunchy with a dipping sauce (recipe follows).
Dipping Sauce with a Kick (Vegetarian, Gluten-free)
- 1/2 cup good mayonnaise
- 3 TBS jarred chili sauce
- 1-1/2 tsps fresh lemon juice
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1/4 tsp sea salt
- A few dashes of sriracha or Tabasco sauce
- 1 scallion, minced finely
Total time: 10 min – Prep time: 10 min – Serves: 3 people
1. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the mayonnaise, chili sauce, lemon juice, pepper, salt, and sriracha.
2. Stir in the minced scallions.
3. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside until ready to serve with your fried green tomatoes.
Other Ways to Serve Fried Green Tomatoes
Vegetarian: If I am in a vegetarian mood, which I often am, I really enjoy a classic macaroni salad that has a little bit of sweetness with fried green tomatoes. The salad plays nicely with the tartness of this unripe tomato dish. You can add some thinly sliced fresh cucumbers that are lightly dressed with rice wine vinegar or mirin and fresh dill leaves. This is a perfect late summer meal to enjoy on your deck or patio.
Fried Platter: If you prefer to stay with the fried food theme, there are plenty of things you can pair with fried green tomatoes, some of which can be prepared in the air fryer. Just keep everything warm in a low oven on a sheet pan until you are finished air frying. I had the tastiest fried oysters with fried green tomatoes during a vacation along the shore of the Chesapeake Bay. The combo was terrific. I would think fried or sauteed soft shell crabs, fried shrimp, or fried chicken would all be good options for your fried food platter. Pile on some French fries or simple potato chips on the side.
Sandwiches: Fried green tomatoes are great additions to sandwiches. A fried green tomato BLT is a nice spin on the classic with bacon, lettuce, and mayonnaise. I also like topping a cheeseburger with a crunchy fried green tomato. You could also use the breaded tomatoes in place of bread to make a ham and egg breakfast sandwich. In New Orleans, you might come across a fried green tomato po’boy sandwich with remoulade sauce on menus.