What Is a Green Tomato? Unripe Red or Its Very Own Variety??

— Written By and last updated by Jessica Griffin
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This long unanswered question actually has an easy answer…Both! There are two types of green tomatoes, those that are green when fully ripe (generally heirloom varieties), and yes, unripe tomatoes.

So how can you tell? Tomatoes that are green when ripe (real green tomatoes) often have vertical stripes or other variations in the coloring, will feel soft when pressed, and will taste much like a red tomato, possibly slightly sweet or spicy depending on the variety. Unripe (red) tomatoes will be pale green all over, feel nearly solid and will have a more acidic or tart flavor. Nearly ripe green tomatoes (ones that feel soft) may be ripened in a paper bag on the counter top. Both can be used in several different recipes…no not just the fried green tomatoes!

Fried green tomatoes really are a part of Southern food culture, they are often served in southern restaurants as a side or a topping for sandwiches and burgers. They are quite tasty!

Ripe green tomatoes are a very good source of vitamins A and C and potassium. They also contain iron, calcium, dietary fiber, magnesium, and other minerals. Unripe (traditional red) tomatoes will not be as good a source for nutrients dense since they are not fully ripe. For those with sensitivities to acidic foods, green tomatoes (unripe) can be more acidic than ripe tomatoes. Both can be eaten and both are delicious!

Crunchy “Baked” Fried Green Tomatoes


  • 4 large firm green tomatoes
  • 1½ cup all purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt, more for sprinkling
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • 1½ cup Panko bread crumbs
  • Pam cooking spray or olive oil for drizzling


  1. Slice tomatoes ⅛ inch thick. On a large plate mix flour, salt, and pepper. Place yogurt and buttermilk on a second plate, and Panko Bread Crumbs on a third plate. Coat tomatoes with the flour mixture, then the yogurt – buttermilk mixture (you may want to put the yogurt in a small bowl so that dipping them is easier), then the Panko bread crumbs.
  2. Place coated tomatoes on a cookie sheet and spray with Pam cooking spray liberally on both sides or drizzle them on both sides with olive oil. Bake in a 350°F oven for about 7 minutes on one side then flip them over and bake for another 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a platter, sprinkle with extra salt and serve warm.

Basic Fried Green Tomatoes


  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • ½ cup buttermilk
  • ½ cup self-rising cornmeal mix
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • ½ cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 medium-size, firm green tomatoes, cut into ⅓-inch-thick slices (about 1¼ pound)
  • Vegetable oil


  1. Whisk together egg and buttermilk. Combine cornmeal mix, salt, pepper, and ¼ cup flour in a shallow dish. Dredge tomato slices in remaining ¼ cup flour; dip in egg mixture, and dredge in cornmeal mixture.
  2. Pour oil to a depth of ½ inch in a large cast-iron skillet; heat to 375°F over medium-high heat. Drop tomatoes, in batches, into hot oil, and cook 2 minutes on each side or until golden. Drain on paper towels. Sprinkle hot tomatoes with salt to taste.

Italian Farmhouse Pickles


  • 1 pound green tomatoes, cored and cut into ½-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 2 pieces sun-dried tomatoes (not under oil), soaked and minced
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh hot red chili pepper
  • 6 mint leaves, chopped
  • 12 basil leaves, minced
  • About 4 cups white wine vinegar (must be 7 percent acid)
  • About ½ cup fruity extra-virgin olive oil


  1. In a glass bowl combine tomatoes and salt, cover and refrigerate 24 hours. Turn into a sieve and rinse briefly under cold, running water. Toss tomatoes with garlic, chili pepper, sun-dried tomatoes, and herbs.
  2. Collect small jars and lids adding up to about 4 cups capacity. Wash them in hot soapy water, then immerse in water in a large pot. Bring lids and jars to a simmer, lift out with tongs and fill with tomato mixture to within 1 inch of jar’s lip. Add enough vinegar to cover, topping off with a little oil. Seal, cool, and refrigerate. Marinate 4 days before serving. Top off with more vinegar and seal after each serving.

Note: Tomatoes keep 6 months in the refrigerator as long as they are totally covered with vinegar after each use.

Green Tomato Salsa Verde


  • 2 pounds firm, green tomatoes, cored and quartered
  • 1 medium-sized yellow onion, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 fresh green Anaheim (or other large, mildly-flavored) chili pepper, stem and seeds removed, quartered
  • 3-4 green jalapeño chilies (for a medium salsa) or Serrano chilies (for a hotter salsa), stems removed, quartered
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • ½ teaspoon fresh lemon zest
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon honey or sugar
  • ⅓ cup loosely packed cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped


  1. Combine the green tomatoes, onion, chili peppers, garlic, salt, cumin, olive oil, and water in a stockpot. Bring to a boil and cook covered on a medium-low heat burner for approximately ten minutes, stirring occasionally. Add more water only if needed to maintain the most minimal broth.
  2. Stir in and simmer for an additional five minutes the lemon zest, lemon juice, honey (or sugar), and cilantro. Taste the mixture and adjust the seasoning, if needed, by adding more lemon juice, honey, and/or salt, to taste. Spoon the mixture (in batches if necessary) into the container of a food processor or blender and pulse until the salsa reaches the consistency you prefer, either chunky or a smooth puree. Makes approximately one quart of salsa, which should be stored in the refrigerator or freezer. This recipe may be doubled or tripled.

Cajun Grilled Green Tomatoes with Cajun Dip


  • 3 to 4 large green tomatoes (6 to 8 ounces each)
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 teaspoon Cajun blackening rub
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons of your favorite hot sauce (could be Tabasco, Franks or Sriracha)


  1. Heat grill. Put the grill screen on grill to heat up. Cut tomatoes into ½-inch-thick slices. Coat slices with canola oil and sprinkle with Cajun Blackening Rub and salt; set aside.
  2. Mix sour cream, mayonnaise, and hot sauce in bowl until blended; set aside. Coat grill screen with oil; place tomato slices on screen and cook uncovered until browned, about 6 minutes, flipping halfway through. Serve grilled tomato slices topped with dollops of Cajun mayonnaise.

Makes 4 servings.

Green Tomato Parmesan


  • 2 pounds medium green tomatoes, cut into ½-inch slices
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 4 egg whites
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1½ cups dry whole wheat bread crumbs
  • ⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 3 cups favorite spaghetti sauce
  • 1 cup fat free Ricotta cheese
  • 2 cups shredded part-skin mozzarella cheese


  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Place tomato slices in a single layer on paper towels; sprinkle with salt. Let stand for 5 minutes; pat dry. In a shallow bowl, whisk egg whites until foamy. Place flour in a separate shallow bowl. In another shallow bowl, combine breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, garlic powder and basil. Coat tomato slices in flour, then dip in egg whites and coat with breadcrumb mixture. Place on greased baking sheets. Bake, uncovered, 35-40 minutes or until lightly browned, turning once.
  2. Spread 1½ cups spaghetti sauce into a greased 11 x 7-in. baking dish. Top with half of the tomatoes and spread with ricotta cheese. Sprinkle with 1½ cups mozzarella cheese. Layer with remaining tomatoes, spaghetti sauce and mozzarella cheese. Bake, uncovered, 35-40 minutes or until bubbly and cheese is melted. If you like serve over whole grain spaghetti noodles or spaghetti squash.

Yield: 8 servings