Fried Red Tomatoes

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Fried red tomatoes may not get as much love as their green counterparts but they are just as delicious and make the ultimate summer appetizer, snack, or side dish. Read on for how to make crispy golden fried red tomatoes two ways: fried in a skillet in oil or in the air fryer.

Golden crispy fried tomatoes with lettuce, tomatoes, and lemon wedge in background.

Instead of the tangy flavor and firm texture you get from the unripe green tomatoes, fried red tomatoes are sweet and tender inside and crunchy on the outside. And they’re great with any Southern meal like fried chicken, brisket, or pulled pork.

With two easy frying methods, you can choose the option that best suits your family. Deep frying the tomatoes is the more traditional route and gives you that thick, crispy coating you’re used to. But air frying is an easy way to save on calories and fat and makes for a crispy texture, too.

Whether you serve them as a side, stack them on your sandwiches, or enjoy them as an appetizer with dip, this recipe is a fantastic way to use your surplus of garden tomatoes. You may want to add our crunchy fried pickle spears to the menu, too!


This section includes ingredient notes and substitution options. Get all measurements, ingredients, and instructions in the printable recipe card at the end of this post.

Cornmeal, flour, garlic powder, salt, pepper oil, 2 eggs, 5 tomatoes, buttermilk, and Parmesan cheese.
  • Tomatoes — Beefsteak tomatoes, Roma tomatoes, or plum tomatoes are good choices. The key is to choose firm tomatoes that are ripe but not too ripe, so they’ll hold up to frying.
  • Buttermilk — Buttermilk adds flavor but you can use regular milk if that is all you have on hand.
  • Eggs — The eggs are combined with the buttermilk to make the batter.
  • Cornmeal — Makes for a nice and crunchy coating.
  • All-Purpose Flour
  • Parmesan Cheese — This adds even more flavor to the coating and pairs perfectly with the sweet, ripe tomatoes. If you aren’t a fan of cheese you can omit it.
  • Seasonings — Garlic powder, salt, and pepper.
  • Oil — You’ll need about a cup of vegetable oil, peanut oil, olive oil, or any high smoke-point oil if you’re going to pan fry your tomatoes. For air frying, use olive oil spray.
  • Fresh Basil — This is optional for garnish to add a bit of color and fresh flavor.

How to Make Fried Red Tomatoes

This section shows you how to make the recipe with step-by-step photos and instructions. For the full printable recipe, see the recipe card below. 

Prep and Dredge the Tomatoes

Step 1: Cover a wire rack with multiple layers of paper towels. Lay tomato slices in a single layer on them to drain. Sprinkle tomatoes with garlic powder while they are draining so that they can soak up some of that flavor. Allow them to drain for 20 minutes, flipping them over halfway through.

Tomato slices in a single layer on paper towels.

Step 2: While the tomatoes are draining, prep your dredging station. Whisk together the buttermilk and eggs in a medium mixing bowl. In a shallow dish or bowl, combine the cornmeal, flour, Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

Two image collage. Image 1: buttermilk being poured into bowl with two eggs. Image 2: bowl with flour, cornmeal, and other dry ingredients.

Step 3: When the tomatoes are done draining, use a dry paper towel to blot off any excess moisture. Dip tomato slices in the liquid mixture and then the flour mixture, making sure they are coated on both sides. Place the battered tomato slices on the baking sheet.

Two image collage. Image 1: tomato slice being dipped into buttermilk mixture. Image 2: tomato being coated in cornmeal mixture.

Frying the Tomatoes in Oil

This is more of the classic method for making fried tomatoes.

Step 1: Add 1/2 inch to 1 inch of oil in a large skillet. Heat the oil over medium-high heat to 350°F.

Step 2: Gently add the battered tomato slices to the hot oil in batches and fry until a golden brown color on each side (about 2-4 minutes per side).

Two image collage. Image 1: battered red tomato slices on parchment paper. Image 2: 4 tomato slices frying in oil in a skillet.

Step 3: Place tomatoes on a plate lined with paper towels to allow them to drain any excess oil before serving.

Freshly fried red tomatoes on paper towel.

Air Frying the Tomatoes

Use the air fryer method if you want to save on fat and calories.

Step 1: Spray the air fryer basket with olive oil spray. Place 4-5 battered tomato slices in the basket, and gently spray the tops with oil.

Step 2: Cook in the air fryer at 400°F for 4-5 minutes or until the tops are golden brown. Turn the slices over, spray with oil again, and fry for an additional 2-4 minutes.

Two image collage. Image 1: tomato slices in air fryer before being air fried. Image 2: Golden brown air fried tomato slices in basket of air fryer.

Step 3: Garnish the tomato slices with basil and serve.

Serving Suggestions

Fried tomatoes make a delicious snack or appetizer when served with your favorite dipping sauce such as ranch, comeback sauce, hot sauce, or remoulade. They are also great as a side with popular Southern dishes like Smothered Pork Chops or Salisbury Steak and make out-of-this-world BLT sandwiches or additions to burgers.

Crispy fried red tomatoes garnished with basil and stacked on a plate for serving.

Storage and Freezing

Refrigerator: Store leftover fried tomatoes in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Place them in a single layer, separating layers with parchment paper.

Freezer: For longer storage, freeze fried tomatoes for up to 1 month. Flash freeze them for an hour first before placing in a freezer bag or container.

Reheating: Reheat in the oven or air fryer, turning halfway through cooking time.

Recipe Tips and Tricks

  • When selecting tomatoes, choose ones that are ripe, smooth, free of blemishes, and firm. Don’t use overripe tomatoes — they are too juicy and soft and will not hold up well to frying.
  • Cut the tomatoes into thick slices, about 1/4″ – 1/2″ inches thick. Any thinner and they won’t hold up well.
  • If the cornmeal and flour coating isn’t sticking to the tomatoes, pat them down more with a paper towel and try again.
Red tomato sliced thick on a wooden cutting board.

Additions and Variations

Use green tomatoes. This recipe works just as well for making fried green tomatoes. You don’t need to change a thing!

Make them spicy. For a little heat, add a pinch of red pepper flakes, cayenne pepper, or cajun seasoning to the cornmeal mixture. A bit of hot sauce in the batter would be tasty too.

Add bread crumbs. Replace half of the cornmeal with bread crumbs.

Fried red tomatoes served with fresh basil and lemon wedge. A couple bites have been taken out of one tomato to reveal the juicy red tomato inside.

More Southern-Style Recipes

No one does comfort food better than the South. Here are some of our favorite southern recipes:

Fried red tomatoes with fresh basil garnish and served with lemon wedge.
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Fried Tomatoes

Author: Jaclyn
Prep: 35 minutes
Cook: 10 minutes
Total: 45 minutes
Fried tomatoes are a Southern favorite for a reason. They are delicious! Perfectly crispy and full of flavor. Serve with your favorite sauce for dipping or pile on a BLT.


  • 5 tomatoes ends trimmed, sliced ¼ – ½ inch thick
  • ½ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 ¼ cups Parmesan cheese grated
  • 1 teaspoons salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • vegetable oil or other high smoke point oil, for frying
  • olive oil cooking spray for air frying
  • fresh basil optional garnish


  • Line a wire rack with a couple of layers of paper towels. Lay the sliced tomatoes on the paper towels. Sprinkle with garlic powder. Allow them to drain for 20 minutes, turning them over halfway through.
  • Meanwhile, get your dredging station set up. In a medium bowl, whisk to combine the buttermilk and eggs. In another bowl, stir to combine cornmeal, flour, Parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  • At the end of the 20 minutes, use a paper towel to blot any excess moisture off the tomatoes. You want them to be as dry as possible before moving on.
  • Dredge each tomato slice in the buttermilk mixture then coat it in the cornmeal mixture. Place battered tomatoes on the lined baking sheet, repeating until all tomatoes are coated.

To fry in oil:

  • Heat ½ – 1 inch of oil in a large, deep skillet to 350ºF. Line a large plate with paper towels and set aside.
  • Add battered tomato slices to the skillet in batches and fry until golden brown on one side (about 2-4 minutes). Then flip and fry until golden brown on the other side.
  • Transfer fried tomatoes to the paper-towel-lined plate to drain before serving. Garnish with basil (optional) and enjoy.

To air fry:

  • Lightly grease the air fryer basket with olive oil cooking spray. Place 4-5 battered tomatoes in the air fryer basket and mist tops with the olive oil spray.
  • Air fry at 400ºF for 4-5 minutes, or until tops are golden brown. Turn the tomato slices over, spray with olive oil, and air fry for an additional 2-4 minutes or until golden brown.
  • Garnish with basil (optional) and serve.


Beefsteak, Roma, or plum tomatoes are all good options. Make sure to choose firm tomatoes (not over-ripe).
Cut the tomatoes into thick slices, about 1/4″ – 1/2″ inches thick. Any thinner and they won’t hold up well.


Calories: 359kcal | Carbohydrates: 20g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 28g | Saturated Fat: 6g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 13g | Monounsaturated Fat: 7g | Trans Fat: 0.2g | Cholesterol: 47mg | Sodium: 464mg | Potassium: 248mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 3g | Vitamin A: 684IU | Vitamin C: 8mg | Calcium: 176mg | Iron: 1mg
Fried red tomatoes with fresh basil garnish and served with lemon wedge.

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