Fried Green Heirloom Tomatoes with Saffron Aioli

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Fried Green Heirloom Tomatoes with Saffron Aioli  ~ traditional Southern fried green tomatoes are made with tart, unripe green tomatoes, but I’m using beautiful green heirloom tomatoes instead.  

sliced green heirloom tomatoes

Fried tomatoes aren’t the most photogenic food in the world, I admit, but boy are they tasty.  And it’s good to know how to fix them for yourself, because you sure won’t find them on many menus outside of the true South.

Normally you’d use unripe green tomatoes for this dish, but I’ve changed it up just a bit to use naturally green (and ripe) heirloom tomatoes.  It makes the dish a little sweeter and a little juicer.  Not a bad thing in my book.

slicing green tomatoes with a mandoline

You’ll need a nice sharp knife to slice your tomatoes evenly.  I like to start with large, round tomatoes for the best slices.  The variety I’m using is Green Zebra.  As heirloom tomatoes go, it’s on the firmer side, with a zesty flavor ~ perfect for this dish.

A stack of fried green tomatoes on a plate with cutlery

Tip: be sure to get the oil nice and hot before you put the tomatoes into the pan, that way the crust will cook up to a nice crisp golden color quickly, and the tomatoes will stay firm.  You should hear a nice strong sizzle when you drop the first one in.

Don’t crowd the pan, either, give your tomatoes enough space or they’ll stem instead of fry.

Fried Green Heirloom Tomatoes on a plate

A side dipping sauce is essential to great fried green tomatoes, and my Saffron Aioli adds a colorful touch.  My Lemonnaise would be great with these, too, or even a buttermilk dressing to serve as a dipping sauce.

Eat these fried green heirloom tomatoes alongside eggs, bacon and grits for breakfast, or just on their own as an appetizer or lunch.  

slicing green tomatoes with a mandoline
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3.67 from 3 votes

Fried Green Heirloom Tomatoes with Saffron Aioli

Course Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine American, Southern


  • 2 or 3 large firm, green heirloom tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup corn meal
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour
  • salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • olive oil for frying

Saffron Aioli

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise homemade is best!
  • a good pinch of saffron threads crushed
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • zest of 1 lemon


  • Slice the tomatoes about 1/4 inch thick.
  • Whisk the cornmeal, flour, salt, pepper, cayenne and paprika together in a pie tin or dish.
  • Put the buttermilk in another pie tin or dish.
  • Heat about a 1/4 inch of olive oil in a cast iron skillet.
  • Dip the tomato slices in the buttermilk, then dredge them in the flour mixutre, coating all surfaces.  Drop into the hot oil and fry until golden on both sides.  Flip them carefully.
  • Serve immediately with Saffron Aioli.
  • To make the aioli, crush the saffron threads between your fingers and mix them into the mayo, along with the lemon juice and zest.  Season with a little salt and then let it sit for about an hour.  This allows the saffron to dissolve into the mayonnaise and release its color and flavor into the sauce.  Mix again, and serve or store in the refrigerator.


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  • Reply
    SavoringTime in the Kitchen
    May 5, 2013 at 2:22 pm

    I never thought I’d like fried green tomatoes but they’re delicious! The aioli sounds very special too.

    • Reply
      June 27, 2019 at 7:41 pm

      They were a big surprise to me too, now I’m obsessed!

  • Reply
    May 3, 2013 at 8:56 pm

    these ain’t my grandma’s fried green tomatoes, but i’d still enjoy them quite a bit! 🙂

  • Reply
    Heather Schmitt-Gonzalez
    May 2, 2013 at 10:25 pm

    Oh, these look and sound amazing. This is a happy summery meal…and I want it in my life!

    • Reply
      June 27, 2019 at 7:42 pm

      They’re a summer staple 🙂

  • Reply
    Tricia Buice
    May 2, 2013 at 4:21 pm

    Those tomatoes are gorgeous! I think they photograph extremely well 🙂 Being a GRITS myself (girl raised in the south) I have made fried green tomatoes many, many times. I love the crunch and green flavor only found in a properly fried tomato. The mayo sounds great too 🙂

  • Reply
    May 2, 2013 at 2:42 am

    Every October when the frost looms – I tell myself I will do these. Bookmarked! This year I will!

  • Reply
    Abbe Odenwalder
    May 2, 2013 at 3:37 am

    I have yet to find tomatoes looking this good around here. Denver had major snow today and I’m hoping we have any this year! Because I love me some fried green tomatoes!

    • Reply
      Sue/the view from great island
      May 2, 2013 at 5:04 am

      I heard about the snow on the news tonight! The good thing about fried green tomatoes is that you can use the unripe ones…
      Stay warm!

  • Reply
    Eva Kosmas
    May 2, 2013 at 12:04 am

    My stomach is growling at the idea of saffron aoili, so creative! And these look absolutely delicious. Nice and perfectly crisped on the outside 🙂

  • Reply
    Chris Scheuer
    May 1, 2013 at 4:47 pm

    Yum! Saffron aoili? How delicious does that sound! The green tomatoes are like works of art, so lovely! I’m sure the crisp tomatoes with the creamy, flavorful sauce must be amazing!

  • Reply
    Carol | a cup of mascarpone
    May 1, 2013 at 4:47 pm

    OMG! Love fried green tomatoes…have totally forgotten how much until seeing this wonderful post…now I need it…soon! Those heirloom tomatoes are gorgeous! Absolutely lovely, Sue!!!