The only thing that could make vegan fried green tomatoes more inviting are these three words – potato chip crusted. This tempting appetizer or side dish is made in the air fryer. I also give a panko breading option for people who would prefer something on the lighter side.
Last week my parents brought up an array of goodies from their garden including cherry tomatoes, ripe red tomatoes, and a batch of green tomatoes. Obviously when it comes to green tomatoes, there’s only one choice – vegan fried green tomatoes.
See how to make vegan fried green tomatoes in the air fryer:
Since I’ve been on an air fryer kick these past 6 months, I wanted to stray from cooking the green tomatoes in oil in a skillet, like I typically would in the summer. Luckily, they work fabulously in an air fryer with less clean-up and no splattering.
(Let me know if you try these in a skillet, though! I haven’t made this specific fried green tomato recipe that way, but I bet it would work.)
If you’ve never made fried green tomatoes, here’s a primer.
What kinds of tomatoes should you use for fried green tomatoes?
Green tomatoes can be a little confusing, because there are heirloom tomatoes, like zebra tomatoes, which are also green. That’s not what you want.
For fried green tomatoes, you want unripe tomatoes that would eventually be red, but that haven’t gained their pinkish hue yet.
Firm tomatoes that haven’t started their ripening process work best for frying. They aren’t as juicy as red tomatoes, which makes for easier breading. (And if you’re frying tomatoes in a skillet, less splattering.) That’s the problem with juiciness. It’s hard to get batter to stick, and the coating wants to come off. So drier is better.
Potato chip crusted fried green tomatoes
Sometimes the gluten-free option of a dish is the wanting, runner-up version. Not this time! The gluten-free option is the decadent version – potato chip crusted vegan fried green tomatoes. Yeah, you heard me.
This was easily David’s favorite of the two. If you’re having guests over and you want them to lose any preconceptions about vegan food being uber healthy & virtuous, this is the one to make.
Because the chips already have oil in them, you’ll actually see them sizzling when you open the air fryer after the time is up. They have lots of wonderful crunch and a super satisfying flavor.
I used plain salted potato chips, but I bet that flavored potato chips would add something extra to the mix too. I’d really like to try my favorite potato chip – salt & pepper – and see how that goes. I bet it would be gooooood.
Panko crusted fried green tomatoes
If you’re not in the mood for potato chips, the panko breading is lighter in feeling and lower in calories. If you go with this method, I recommend giving a spritz of oil before air frying to help with browning.
This version lets the spices come to the forefront. So you really taste all of that oregano, basil, and granulated onion.
In this post, there are pictures of both the potato chip crusted fried green tomatoes and the fried green tomatoes breaded with panko. You can tell the difference between the two, because the potato chip version has thicker crumbs and a yellow-ish tone. The panko version is on the whiter side with a thinner crumb.
Remember mise en place
For best results with your vegan fried green tomatoes, get everything ready before you start. You’ll want to make a work station with cornstarch, vegan mayo, and your crumb mixture.
It’s all about the breading.
In a way, fried green tomatoes are kind of like fried zucchini. There’s not loads of flavor going on with green tomatoes or zucchini. So it’s all about the breading. Slice the green tomatoes thin for best crunch factor & breading-to-tomato ratio.
As I mentioned above, for the optimum frying experience, it helps if things are dry. Green tomatoes vary in their amount of moisture. Some are pretty dry inside while others are on their way to becoming a ripe red tomato. So for that reason I like to dry them on a clean towel before moving them through the breading station.
Then I use cornstarch to dry them out further. (It also helps with the browning.) Plus, that way when they move to the mayo, they aren’t diluting the mayo with their juices. If you have an aversion to cornstarch for whatever reason, it can be done without it, but the results aren’t quite as brown and crisp.
Fried green tomatoes are often dipped in egg before coating with cornmeal. Since these are vegan fried green tomatoes, obviously I’m not doing that. Instead, I’m using eggless mayonnaise.
It’s handy in that it’s pre-made. So there’s one less step to the process. (I use Vegenaise. However, if you prefer to make your own, Susan’s recipe for tofu-cashew mayo on Fatfree Vegan is quite good.)
Vegan mayo is brilliant at getting crumbs to stick. I got the idea from Becky Striepe from Glue and Glitter. She’s used mayo as the glue for breading for several recipes, including this one for baked buffalo tofu bites. (That recipe looks so inviting, and I bet it would work in the air fryer too!)
Serve them hot
As with any fried food, serve them hot. They’re going to be their crispiest, most intoxicating best when they are fresh out of the air fryer. So go ahead and dive into that first batch before you make a second one!
(And remember, subsequent batches will likely cook a couple minutes faster in the air fryer than the first, because it will be warmed up.)
These vegan fried green tomatoes would also be delightful with a batch of vegan BBQ Soy Curls (made in the air fryer!)