“What the heck do I do with this?” Green tomatoes can be a lovely mystery. Everyone knows that fried green tomatoes are a thing (and a good thing) but people don’t usually know how many wonderful green tomato recipes there are, for dishes ranging from breakfast through to dinner and dessert.
If you’re a new gardener with a bunch of green tomatoes at the end of the season, or if you just got some in your CSA box with no idea what to do with them, be glad. You’re in for a treat.
Green tomatoes are a joy in their own right, with advantages over ripe tomatoes in some dishes. Just try making a breaded fried ripe tomato—it can’t be done. It turns to mush. Enjoy the distinctive tangy, firm qualities of green tomatoes in green tomato curry, green tomato pie, green tomato relish, green tomato pasta sauce, and green tomatoes stewed, baked and au gratin. And that just scratches the surface of the possibilities.
Green tomatoes are chameleons that work in sweet recipes and savory. They work like tart apples in jams and desserts. Their firm texture and tart flavor work well as a vegetable in casseroles, soups, and of course breaded and fried. You can substitute green tomatoes for tomatillos in salsa verde. You can make dishes with green tomatoes that would never work with ripe tomatoes.
All of these dishes are easy to make. You don’t have days to process tomatoes and neither do I. Let’s just get in there and get it done, as quickly and tastily as possible.
What are green tomatoes?
Usually, when people say “green tomatoes” they mean unripe tomatoes. The degree of unripeness determines how they taste. The best flavor comes from green tomatoes that are up to full size but haven’t turned color yet. Even if the tomatoes are still small you can use them.
Some varieties of tomatoes stay green when they ripen. Those tomatoes develop full tomato-ey flavor but don’t turn red or orange or any of the other more familiar tomato colors. Example varieties are Green Zebra and Green Vernissage.
Since I garden in Colorado, most years I end the season with piles of unripe green tomatoes, racing to get them cooked, ripened or preserved at their optimal flavor as quickly as possible. Over the years I’ve used green tomatoes in just about every way imaginable.
How to ripen green tomatoes
What do you do if you have piles of green tomatoes? You may have picked them before the first snow or picked battered green bodies out of the wreckage after a hail storm. If that’s you, don’t despair. I’ve been there and I’ve got you.
Usually after a storm the tomatoes are wet and covered with dirt and debris. They might be semi-frozen or have gashes and bruises. The first step is to sort, then set some to ripen, use what you can fresh in recipes and preserve the rest.
Here are the steps to ripen green tomatoes
1. Wash the pile
Rinse off any dirt and debris. Put the tomatoes on dish towels in a single layer to dry.
2. Sort the pile
Pick through the pile. Pull out any frozen, semi-frozen, or damaged tomatoes. These are the ones you’ll use first.
3. Set some aside to ripen
Put undamaged close to full-size green tomatoes aside to ripen. Place them on a layer of newspaper or dishcloths, on a storage shelf or other dry undisturbed surface. Check daily.
4. Use the rest
Cook up your damaged, less ripe or ready to use green tomatoes in recipes, or preserve them to use down the road.
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Now what? Green tomato recipes for any time of day
These recipes are categorized by ways to use green tomatoes now, in cooked savory and sweet dishes, and ways to preserve green tomatoes in chutneys, relishes, pickles and jams. You may also choose to freeze or dehydrate green tomatoes now, and pull them out to use in recipes later.
Easy fried green tomatoes
The Fannie Flagg book and then the movie “Fried Green Tomatoes” popularized this tasty dish across America. You could have fried green tomatoes for breakfast, as an appetizer, or as the centerpiece of a light dinner. Here are fried green tomatoes five ways, including baked instead of fried.
This recipe from Melissa’s Southern Style Kitchen uses a cornmeal-based coating seasoned with garlic and paprika. There’s a bonus recipe for comeback sauce, which is similar to a Cajun remoulade.
This recipe uses cornmeal, flour and panko. There are some good tips about how to keep the tomatoes from getting soggy. This recipe is from Jocelyn at Grandbaby Cakes.
Need to keep it gluten-free? This version, from Alex at The Defined Dish, uses almond and tapioca flour for the breading.
This vegan version of fried green tomatoes uses a beer batter, which is a whole different experience than cornmeal breading. From Cadryn at Cadryn’s Kitchen.
It might sound like a contradiction, but you can bake your breaded green tomatoes to make this a lighter dish. From Tanya at Lemons for Lulu.
Green tomato recipes for breakfast
Start your day off right with green tomatoes and eggs.The green tomato flavor perfectly complements eggs in frittatas and benedicts. Or, try the green tomato breakfast cake that looks a lot like dessert.
This breakfast cake is based on a recipe using plums but uses green tomatoes. Try it as a sweet breakfast or save it for dessert. Layer green tomatoes in a cake pan and pour the batter over the top. From meal-planning site Relish.
It turns out I didn’t know what a frittata was. My husband won the debate—a frittata differs from an omelette in that you put the “fillings” in the bottom of the pan then pour the eggs on top. This frittata starts with fried green tomatoes and goes from there. From the New York Times
Still on the fried green tomato train, this eggs benedict version uses green tomato slices as the base with poached eggs and hollandaise on top. See the tips for making perfect poached eggs. From Garden and Table.
This quiche is gluten-free and easy to make because it’s crustless. Just pour the egg mixture over the vegetables. From Taylor at inclusive vegetarian cooking site Coseppi Kitchen.
Indian green tomato recipes
Indian spices and cooking methods perfectly complement the qualities of green tomatoes. There are lots of tasty chutneys and curries to choose from.
Make tangy and spicy Indian chutney from raw green tomatoes in less than 20 minutes. Use the chutney on dosa, idli or chapati. From Bhavana at Indian Veggie Delight.
This chef says that if you have two green tomatoes and you fry one of them, you should always curry the other. This is a sweet and tart and savory and succulent vegetarian dish. From Maithili at M In The World.
This vegan stew balances the tanginess of the green tomatoes with the sweetness of coconut milk and Indian seasonings. Serve over rice. From Vaishali at Holy Cow Vegan.
Fried green tomato sandwich recipes
The firmness of the unripe tomatoes lend body and tartness to green tomato sandwiches, in a twist on more familiar sandwich recipes.
Fried Green Tomato Sandwich
Visit tomato heaven with this take on the traditional BLT. It’s green tomatoes, but fried, plus ripe red tomatoes. From Wendie at Butter Your Biscuit.
This po’ boy sandwich (a Louisiana sandwich on a baguette) pairs fried green tomatoes with spicy shrimp and a mayonnaise-based sauce. From Kevin at Closet Cooking, where he cooks in a kitchen the size of a closet.
Green tomato recipes for stew, chili, casserole and tart
These dishes use green tomatoes up in baked entree dishes, including a gratin, stew, chili, tart and savory cobbler.
Combine green tomatoes with cream, cheese, seasonings and potatoes and you have this gratin. This and similar dishes with cheese or white sauce, crumb toppings and different mixes of vegetables are also called green tomato casserole. This version is from Giangi’s Kitchen.
This slow cooker stew takes advantage of the qualities of green tomatoes. Just set it and forget it. From Steph at Fearless Fresh.
Green tomatoes give this chili body and tanginess. With beef and cilantro and served with cornbread. Also, who knew there are three essential garnish categories? From Kate at Hola Jalapeno.
Layer green tomatoes with cheese and caramelized onions in a crust and you have a tomato tart. This recipe finishes with feta and mint leaves on top but you can use basil leaves instead of mint if you like. From Linda at Roti n Rice.
This is an interesting twist on cobbler for lunch or dinner. The filling is savory, with thyme and cornmeal biscuits. From Sue at The View from Grand Island.
Green tomato dessert!
Green tomatoes work like apples in lots of desserts, so much so that they’re sometimes called “mock apple”. The tanginess and firmness means they hold their structure in baked desserts.
This is a prime example of how green tomatoes mimic apples in baked desserts. You seriously will swear that this is an apple pie. Try it with ice cream and caramel on top if you really want to go big. From Amy at House of Nash.
Fruit crisps are my favorite easy desserts to make. Fall is the perfect time to make this tasty green tomato crisp. From Daniel at Daniel Kanter.
If you’re looking for dessert on the go, try this green tomato bar recipe. It’s fruit crisp finger food. From Ashley at Basil.
Make this recipe like you would zucchini or banana bread. The bread tastes a lot like banana bread but not as sweet. The green tomatoes add moisture but don’t taste like tomatoes. From Janelle at Num’s the Word.
Here’s a cake that pairs chocolate with pureed green tomatoes to make a chocolatey, moist and brownie-like cake. Sign me up. From Vicki at Watching What I Eat.
Green tomato salsa, jam and pasta sauce
The Mac Daddy of green tomato sauces is salsa. You can use green tomatoes anywhere you would use tomatillos. Or, experiment with green tomato pasta sauce and ketchup. Green tomatoes make a wonderful freezer jam that goes well on toast or as part of a sweet and savory appetizer. Some of the sauces are preserved by canning and some by lacto-fermentation (it’s easy, I promise).
This version of green tomato salsa verde takes a cue from the New York Times version by broiling the tomatoes to give a richer smoky note, and then improves on the NYT recipe. See the great tip on how to soften the sharpness of raw onion too. From Shannon at Yup It’s Vegan.
End of Harvest Roasted Green Tomato Sauce
This is an Italian sauce with basil and garlic. Roast the tomatoes with onions and garlic and then finish with basil and cheese. From Deborah at Italian Food Forever.
This simple freezer jam goes well with cream cheese, on pork chops or just on toast. The last time frost ended my tomato season I made 12 jars of this, which have held well in the freezer. From the Spruce Eats.
Canned and fermented green tomato recipes: Pickles, relish and ketchup
Most people who have come into piles of green tomatoes make fried green tomatoes a few times or a casserole and then preserve the rest through canning or easy lacto-fermentation. Green tomato chutney, ketchup, relish and pickles will extend your green tomato possibilities into the winter.
Green Tomato Relish
Who doesn’t love a good relish? Well, my husband doesn’t like relish but I do. This classic green tomato condiment uses up the last of the green tomatoes in the garden. Add green and red peppers and onion to amp up the flavor. From Jack and Martha, the team behind A Family Feast.
This recipe from The Spruce makes a cool-looking smooth ketchup like the ketchup you’re used to, only green. Green tomatoes are cooked with vinegar, pureed, strained and reduced before canning in pint jars. The addition of vinegar makes the ketchup safe to process in a hot water bath.
This green tomato chutney is one of my favorites, and something like what my English mother made. Cook the tomatoes up with onions, spices, vinegar and raisins and quickly can it in a water bath. Use the chutney on bread, cheese or to accompany cured meats. From Tanya at Lovely Greens.
This recipe starts with a green tomato salsa like the one above and then preserves it through fermentation. For this recipe, use kombucha or apple cider vinegar with mother to start the cultures along. From Cultures for Health, where you can purchase lots of different starter cultures for sourdough or yogurt or any other fermented thing you can think of.
My family likes lacto-fermented pickles, even though they don’t like vinegar pickles. Fermented pickles have a less sharp, more complex flavor than vinegar pickles. This method is so incredibly easy and doesn’t heat up the kitchen. From Coleen at Grow Forage Cook Ferment.
Easy preservation: Freezing and dehydrating green tomatoes
If you still have tons of green tomatoes you can easily just freeze or dehydrate your green tomato bounty for later. I usually do some fresh cooking, some easy recipes to ferment or can and then freeze or dehydrate the rest.
Use the tomatoes in stews and soups through the winter. You can dry slices of green tomato in a low oven, on protected screens in the sun or use a dehydrator. To preserve the color, heat the tomatoes beforehand by blanching, steaming, or microwaving. From Healthy Canning.
Freezing green tomatoes
This couldn’t be easier. Wash, chunk and freeze your green tomatoes in a single layer on cookie sheets. Store them in freezer bags or jars.
Mystery no more: Green tomatoes for any time of day
I hope you’ve gone from wondering what you can do with a green tomato to having a world of options. Green tomatoes work in meals throughout the day. It’s easy to preserve green tomatoes in relishes and ferments, or just by drying and freezing.
Next time you find green tomatoes at the farmers’ market or find yourself with an unexpected bushel from the garden you’ll know exactly what to do. Green tomatoes are wonderful in their own right, and a versatile ingredient in a whole host of dishes.
Now that you know how versatile green tomatoes are, you may find exciting and creative new twists for the recipes you’re already using. I would love to hear how you use your green tomatoes, or to hear about the recipes you find or create. There is a use for everything under the sun and part of the fun is figuring out how to use what you have. Happy cooking!
P.S. If you liked this roundup you might like this one too: The best dandelion recipes for every season: 35 tasty ways to use this free superfood all year long.
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