If you’ve been wondering what to do with green tomatoes, you’re in luck! While most people know what to do with the famous red tomato, you may be struggling with your green ones. When your tomato plants start to mature, the fruit turns red. However, when the weather turns cold, you may find yourself with lots of green tomatoes and be unsure of what to do with them.
First, let’s look at what makes them green, and then we’ll talk about some great ways to cook or use them in your recipes. Fried green tomato is a classic Southern dish, but there are many other things you can do with those green ones that you may not even know about.
Why Are Some Tomatoes Green?
The green color isn’t just aesthetic. They are actually late-season red tomatoes that have not ripened yet. This means they stay green and harder than your fully ripened red tomatoes. Basically, they were left on the vine after summer temperatures have started to cool down, meaning they never turn to ripe tomatoes. They have a zingy, tart flavor to them, and they also have a different texture.
This is different from certain types of tomatoes that were bred to be green when they are ripe, like these green zebra tomatoes. These are completely different and not the same type of green tomatoes we’re talking about here in this post. Unripened tomatoes still have a use, however, so don’t worry.
Now that you know what they are, let’s look at some different ways you can prepare and enjoy them. Yes, fried green tomatoes are a real thing – but there are tons of other ways to enjoy them, too.
More Ways To Use Green Tomatoes
1. Green tomato salsa
Here’s a classic and delicious recipe that you will love dipping your chips into. If you’ve ever enjoyed salsa verde from a Mexican restaurant, then you’ve had green tomato salsa and may not even have realized it. The flavor is slightly different from a red salsa and many people enjoy having both together. Here’s a good recipe if you’d like to try it.
2. Pickled green tomatoes
YUM! My mom made these when we were kids, back in Romania. They are called gogonele, and we ate them with beans, potatoes, meats, and soups. Delicious!
Who doesn’t love pickles? You can pickle your green tomatoes for a yummy flavor and a great way to preserve them for a long time to come. You can use any of your favorite pickling recipes and add green tomatoes like you would cucumbers or red tomatoes. They’ll be a bit spicy and tangy as the flavor of the green tomatoes comes out. You can also make green tomato relish with the same process.
Here’s how to make pickled green tomatoes: wash them, (you can use them while or sliced), arrange them in a glass jar with a few of your favorite veggies (we love carrot and celeriac sticks), a couple of garlic cloves, and hot pepper or two (if you like your picked spicy), a couple of pieces of horseradish (this keeps your green tomato pickles firm and crunchy) and some dry dill.
Separately, bring to a boil a combination of salt and water (1 heaping tablespoon of pickling salt for every quart of water). Let the brine cool for 5 minutes and pour it on top of the veggies in the glass jars. Leave on the table uncovered until the next day, then add a tablespoon of vinegar to the top of the jar, close the lids and place it in a cool dry place for a few weeks (we like to wait for 6 weeks for the perfect crunchy deliciousness).
3. Green tomato chili
You can make chili in a lot of different ways but there’s a good chance you didn’t know you could make it from green tomatoes! You can use unripe tomatoes in traditional, vegetarian, and vegan chili recipes of your choice. Just replace the red tomatoes in the chili recipe with green instead. You can add some raw onion, fresh basil, and other seasonings. Add some black pepper or even some cayenne pepper if you like your chili spicy!
4. Pasta sauce and pizza sauce
When you want to mix it up some from the traditional red sauce, try green tomatoes in your pasta sauce or pizza sauce recipes. Of course, it’s going to change the flavoring a bit, but a lot of people really enjoy something a bit different and tangier. You can also make sauces and can them for use later, making sure the tomatoes don’t go to waste. Green tomato pasta sauce can be used the same way you’d use a red sauce.
5. Green tomato frittata
If you love a great frittata, you can also make it with green tomatoes. Perfect for breakfast, brunch, or lunch, you can mix green tomatoes, eggs, and whatever vegetables and herbs you may have handy to throw into the mix. Finish it off with some mozzarella cheese sprinkled on the top.
6. Quiche with green tomato
If you have chickens, you might also have lots of eggs (and if you don’t, they are readily available at any grocery store) that you can mix with green unripened tomatoes to make a quiche. You can use any kind of quiche recipe, with or without crust, and add your green tomatoes like you would red ones. The flavor will be slightly different, of course, but the overall recipe is the same. Feel free to customize it as you wish.
7. Add them to your salad
You can also add green tomatoes chopped or diced to nearly any kind of salad. It’s quick and easy and deliciously fresh, with a nice crunch. You can also put green tomato slices on a cold sandwich. It can make a tasty soup-and-salad combo.
8. Green tomato tartines
You can use the green tomatoes, fresh or fried on sandwiches too (here’s one more fried green tomato recipe!). Consider these open-face sandwiches as a nice light meal or appetizer. Add a single layer to the top of the sandwich and serve. They’re perfect for summer when it’s too hot to cook a hot meal.
As you can see, there are many great ways to enjoy these green tomatoes. While your sun-ripened tomatoes will be yummy and sweet, there’s still hope for those left on the vine that don’t make it to red. With these recipe ideas, you’ll always know what to do with your green tomatoes.
Still have ripe tomatoes? Here are some ways to use them up:
- make creamy tomato soup
- what to do with too many tomatoes
- make tomato powder
- tomato sauce ideas
- 41 yummy cherry tomato recipes
FAQ of What to Do with Green Tomatoes
Next, let’s look at some common questions people often have about unripe green tomatoes.
What can I do with green tomatoes that are not ripe?
As you can see from our list of recipes and ideas, there are many things you can do with green tomatoes that are not ripe. Don’t feel like you have to toss them because they didn’t get sun-ripened on the vine. Use these ideas in your kitchen instead.
Can you eat tomatoes that are green?
Yes, it is safe to eat green tomatoes and if you’re not a fan of the flavor, there are many ideas to help you make them more palatable.
Can green tomatoes be used for cooking?
Yes, as explained above, you can use green tomatoes in your cooking. While they can also be eaten without cooking them first, some people find the flavor to be too tart and strong, so cooking is preferred.
Why won’t my green tomatoes turn red?
When the temperature is not right, the pigments responsible for giving tomatoes their orange to red appearance – lycopene and carotene, are not produced.
Lisa Clark is a freelance writer who grew up on farmland, then moved to the city, and has now retired back to her rural roots. She's having fun teaching her kids about gardening, planting flowers, and collecting houseplants.