I Dunno, Lad, But It’s Green….

Every time my Mom visits me and ’tis the season, I cook her up a pan of fried green tomatoes (green as in unripe, not green as in a tomato that is green when ripe)–yet another classic southern dish that gives away my hillbilly Applachian heritage. But I do it, because both she and I love the darned things, and no one else we know does.

Now, I can’t rightly figure that out. They are tangy on the inside, and crispy, crunchy and full of browned goodness on the outside, so what is not to like? I don’t get why it is anyone would -not- like them. I mean, okay, if a person just plain old doesn’t like tomatoes in the first place, well, I can forgive them for being afraid of them fried and green, but hell, for the rest of the world who looks upon them with distaste, I have this to say:

They are fried! How can you argue with that?

In truth, I have to admit to being fearful of them when I was a small child. They just looked odd on the plate to me. I loved ripe tomatoes, and would gulp down slices of beefsteaks at every meal once the season started, and in fact, would eat them to the exclusion of all other food if I could get away with it. But the green ones, for all that the color was compellingly beautiful–like transluescent jade shaded with hints of white and gold–smelled funny to me. There was an acrid scent to them that made my youthful tastebuds wary, and it wasn’t until I was much older that I mustered up the courage to try them.

Once I did, it was all over, and the gene that in southern folks makes us up and bread any innocent edible thing and fry it up in bacon fat and consume it with much gusto was activated, and I haven’t looked back since.

Which is good, because hell, if I looked back, I might see the size of my backside which has billowed with the consumption of all that bacon-grease fried goodness.

Because here is the deal–you don’t fry them in olive oil, or canola oil or any damned fancified cold pressed walnut oil business. No. That is just not the right and proper way to fry green tomatoes. Do you think Fannie Flagg would approve? Well, I bet she wouldn’t, and I know that no one in my family would approve, either.

It is bacon grease or nothin’ when it comes to the green tomato frying. If you are a vegetarian–okay, use the olive oil, and I will forgive you. Or if you are Muslim, okay. But for the rest of y’all, use the bacon grease, and stop snivelling. Live a bit, and eat something that tastes really damned good. No, of course these are not health food–but not everything has to be health food. Just eat a plate of them once a year and relish them, and let them give your tongue and stomach great joy.

How do you fry ’em?

Well, it is easy.

Get some green tomatoes, cut them into thin slices with serrated knife, and then follow my recipe. I give the breading mixture in proportions–because I don’t have any idea how many tomatoes you are going to be frying, so you can scale the recipe yourself. Just keep the ratios of the ingredients the same, okay?

Oh, and fry them in small batches and eat them hot, as soon as you get them out of the pan, preferably. Don’t try the trick of putting them in a warm oven to hold them. You lose the incomparable crispness that is part of their delectability–the whole point is to contrast the tangy tenderness of the tomato flesh with the crisp brown crunchiness of the crust. The best way to do this is to make a panful, then sit down and eat, and if you want more, get up and cook another panful.

Repeat as necessary.

Fried Green Tomatoes


1 part stone ground yellow cornmeal
1 part masa harina or corn flour
1 1/2 parts all purpose flour
salt and pepper to taste
ground dried chipotle to taste
Spanish smoked paprika to taste
bacon grease as needed (About one tablespoonful per 12″ skillet’s worth of tomatoes)
Green (unripe) tomatoes, cored and cut into very thin slices
beaten eggs as needed


Mix up dry ingredients in a shallow bowl or on a plate.

Melt bacon grease in a skillet on medium high heat.

Take your very thinly sliced (1/8″ is ideal) green tomatoes, and dip in beaten egg to coat. Shake off excess, then dredge in dry ingredients, liberally coating both sides in the stuff that will magically turn into something wonderful when you put it in the hot fat.

Immediately place the tomato slice into the hot fat, and repeat with as many tomato slices as will fit in the pan comfortably without crowding them, all in one single layer.

Fry until brown on the bottom, then flip each slice carefully so as to lose as little of the fragile coating as possible. (It takes about a minute to brown the tomatoes on the first side.) Cook until the other side is just as golden brown as the first, and flip onto a paper-towel lined plate to drain for a few seconds, then put onto a serving plate and eat up.


Hot sauce is great on these.

Salsa is also beautiful.

A sprinkling of freshly minced herbs is nothing to sneeze at, either.

You can add any dried herb or spice to the dredging mixture, but you do not want to go too far overboard and lose the native tartness of the tomatoes.

I bet these would kick butt as the base for some sort of canape thing, but I haven’t been able to resist eating them as soon as they come out of the pan so I can experiment with them.


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  1. ” But I do it, because both she and I love the darned things, and no one else we know does.”

    Oh, Mei Mei what you said! I don’t know about Judi but you should know I /love/ all sorts of “low country” cooking. Fried green tomatoes, red beans and rice in a red eye gravy with a nice hunk of hot sausage on the side with coffee strong enough to stand a horseshoe up in followed with either a goodly slice of pecan pie or even better, a half dozen beignets ala Cafe Du Mond *sigh*

    Sorry drifted away for a moment.

    Comment by Bryian — September 15, 2005 #

  2. Well then. I’ll be frying some up for you next time you come over. Fried green tomatoes were a thing that only a few folks in our family liked, and which I have never convinced Zak he would like, though Morganna now promises she will try them next time I make them.

    Beignet! Howie and I were just talking about those yesterday. I need to make up a batch of those again soon.

    Comment by Barbara Fisher — September 15, 2005 #

  3. I love fried green tomatoes, the moment they come out of pan, they go into our mounths.

    Comment by Indira — September 15, 2005 #

  4. You know people who don’t like fried green tomatoes??? Who wouldn’t absolutely adore them?

    I confess that I have never tried them made with bacon grease. We have always had them fried in olive oil. Next time we get hold of some green tomatoes though – we promise we’ll fry them in bacon fat. Yum yum yum; I can’t wait!


    Comment by ejm — September 15, 2005 #

  5. Indira, you have given me the idea to add some spices to the dredging mixture, and to use besan instead of corn flour or masa. I bet that would taste really good.

    Elizabeth–the bacon grease sends them way over the top in flavor. The smoky richness is just fantastic.

    Comment by Barbara Fisher — September 15, 2005 #

  6. You make the beignet, and I have the Cafe Du Mond coffee sitting right in my kitchen.
    Hrmm…starting to sound like we need a good southern cooking night for all of us. Poor Heather might starve, but I think the beignet will keep her happy. If we are gonna do this, let me know in advance and I’ll cook some things as well to go with it.

    Comment by Bryian — September 15, 2005 #

  7. I could always make a pot of jambalaya–it has been a while since I made any.

    Howie and I were just talking about beignets a couple of days ago–maybe we should invite he and Karen over, too.

    As for Heather–I can fry up a pan of green tomatoes in olive oil just for her.

    But I am not too sure about leaving the ham and sausage out of the jambalaya….

    Comment by Barbara Fisher — September 15, 2005 #

  8. Leaving the ham and sausage out of the jambalaya??? I mean,we all love Heather but you know that is asking a bit much. I have a spare kidney if she needs it without a problem, but leaving the ham and sausage out of the jambalaya? I don’t think so. Hrrrmmm, maybe a nice little shrimp etouffee for her? I could do that. Would go nice with some sweet cornbread.

    Comment by Bryian — September 16, 2005 #

  9. Yeah, Bry, that is how I feel about it. Ham–especially-the name jambalaya comes from the French jambon, meaning ham. So, I mean, I can’t very well leave it out.

    Shrimp or crawfish etouffee would be good. I could make corn maque choux, too–that is pretty darned filling and as I recall, it does not require pork.

    I could also get rabbit and we could do rabbit etouffee, too, if we couldn’t get shrimp that we liked. Next time we go to Columbus, I could pick up a couple of rabbits–unless you know someone here who raises them.

    (I know I am weird, but sometimes I think I like rabbit etouffee even better than shrimp.)

    Comment by Barbara Fisher — September 16, 2005 #

  10. Okay, that’s it. I’m going to have to sneak into our next door neighbour’s garden and steal some of her green tomatoes so we can try frying them with bacon fat!


    Comment by ejm — September 16, 2005 #

  11. If you offer her a taste, I bet she’d give you some. That way you won’t get caught!

    Comment by Barbara Fisher — September 16, 2005 #

  12. My whole family loves them some fried green tomatoes and the season is upon us. The tomatoes on the vine don’t look like they are moving toward ripening anymore! We have bacon. We have hungry kids. We have grits on which to place them with the bacon and maybe an egg!

    Comment by Owen — September 16, 2005 #

  13. Lucky that they all love them, Owen!

    I am going to do some with Indian spices next time and see if I can get Zak to try them at least, because he likes pakora….

    Comment by Barbara Fisher — September 16, 2005 #

  14. Barbara, don;t know if you will see this as it’s on an old post… BUT… can I ask about the title of the post?
    When I read it, it sounded very Lancashite (England) to me…

    I have no idea about your hillbilly Applachian heritage – where did people from a European background come from?

    Sorry – am a bit off on one on words, language dialect etc tonight πŸ˜€

    Comment by Steph — April 22, 2006 #

  15. Steph–I would guess it is a Wallace & Grommit reference myself (A Grand Day Out – wherein Wallace & Grommit go to the moon and dine upon the green moon cheese: Wallace: “I dunno, lad. It’s like no cheese I’ve ever had before.”). So, yes, it would sound Lancashite.

    One of the predominant groups settling in Appalachia were 18th century Scots. That too left a Lancashite sounding flavor.

    ‘Course Barbara may tell me I’m utterly wrong. πŸ™‚

    Comment by Dan Jenkins — April 22, 2006 #

  16. Dan, that isn’t a bad answer, but it isn’t quite the right one. It is actually a reference to something that Commander Montgomery Scott said in a very old Star Trek episode. He had been ordered to get a malevolent alien drunk (the alien was not used to living inside a human form, so it was suceptible to human weaknesses and had no clue about them), so Scotty takes him to his quarters and empties his entire bar on him. The alien is drunk, but not out, and Scotty is reeling.

    Finally, Scotty is forced to dig out his last bottle–a dust-covered, baroque looking thing that he drags from under his bunk.

    “What is it?” the alien guy asks.

    Scotty holds it up to the light, “I dunno lad, but it’s green.”

    Scotty was supposed to be–surprisingly enough–Scottish, though in truth, sometimes his accent, as done by the American actor, Jimmy Doohan, came across as broad Lancashire, too.

    As for who settled Applachia–Dan, you got that right–the hills of West Virginia were mostly settled by Scotch-Irish immigrants. We also, by virtue of the coal, have a high percentage of Welsh immigrants as well, and later, waves of Germans, particularly, Bavarians, came through.

    So, the earlier hillbillies are primarily Scotch-Irish, mixed liberally with Native American, with some German and English thrown in for fun and good measure.

    So, now you know my own geneological background–on my mother’s side, Anglo-Irish and Welsh, with a goodly chunk of Cherokee from Mom’s mother, and on my father’s side, his dad’s family was all recent Bavarian immigrants, and his mother’s side was a mixture of Irish, and Dutch, though there is said to be a lone Frenchman lurking somewhere in her family tree.

    As far as I know, there is not a bit of Scottish blood in me, which may account for why I cannot abide the flavor of Scotch, but can freely drink Irish whiskey with no ill effect.

    Comment by Barbara — April 23, 2006 #

  17. > Scotty holds it up to the light, β€œI dunno lad, but it’s green.”

    LOL, I remember that scene now. πŸ™‚

    Jimmy Doohan was actually first generation Irish-Canadian, not American, though he spent decades in the USA. Scotty’s accent was 23rd century Scot, which is surprising Lancashite. πŸ˜€

    Funny… my Dad’s folks were Welch and Bavarian. The Welch drawn by the coal to Pennsylvania and the area. I’ve still got cousins down in West Virginia, I suppose. My Mother’s side was Anglo-Irish-Scot. Both sides got a touch of Native American.

    Bringing this back on topic, I have never actually tasted fried green tomatoes. When little, I was a picky eater. Later on no one I knew cooked them. I had forgotten all about them until now. You make them sound so wonderful, I’ll be keeping an eye out for green tomatoes this season. Thanks!

    Comment by Dan Jenkins — April 23, 2006 #

  18. Aigh! You are right–what a bad Trek fan I am! (That is what happens when you stop eating, breathing and living Star Trek–you forget all your stored up trivia!) I always remember Shatner as a Canadian, but never Doohan. Doh!

    Welsh and Bavarian, too? And Anglo-Irish? Wow. And Native American, of course….are you sure we aren’t cousins?

    You will not regret trying the fried green tomatoes. You want to make sure to get flavorful tomatoes, though. They should be nice and sour. If they are bland–they won’t be good fried. They should be very tart.

    Comment by Barbara — April 26, 2006 #

  19. I fry up my maters a bit different. I slice them both thin and a bit thick. The thickness changes the flavor and texture.

    I dip them in egg, then in flour, then fry them in shortening. I salt & pepper them right after I flip them.

    I don’t know why they don’t sell green tomatoes at the grocery store. People don’t know what they’re missing.

    I fry up my crookneck and zucchini the same way. Yum!

    Comment by Michelle — May 31, 2007 #

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