Look at these Tomato Fritters right from Santorini’s island. If you are lucky enough to visit Santorini island someday, order “tomato keftedes” (come on! It isn’t that hard to pronounce) and you will get one of the most delicious Greek appetizers. For all of you that Santorini isn’t on your travel plans, I’ve got you covered. Make this appetizer at home and find a unique way to enjoy summer’s best tomatoes! Crispy fried bites bursting with Mediterranean flavor and begging to be dipped into creamy tzatziki.
As summer is drawing to an unfortunate close, it’s a great time to celebrate the last summer tomatoes among other summer produce. Well, don’t take it the wrong way because I really like pumpkin, apples, and most autumn/winter produce but the sweetness of ripe tomatoes is just out of this world.
SANTORINI: AMAZING PLACE, UNIQUE PRODUCE
Hey! If you are here only for the recipe, by all means, Jump to Recipe otherwise keep on reading!
Santorini island is quite famous. The volcanic soil endowed the island not only with famous landscapes but also with special local produce: local cucumbers (called “katsouni”), white eggplants, cherry tomatoes, small round zucchinis, grapes, capers, fava beans (yellow split peas). The island’s volcanic soil which mostly consists of pumice and minerals, along with the island’s ecosystem (hot and humid) and the local agricultural methods have a considerable impact on produce flavor and quality.
As a consequence, 3 local products are already awarded PDO status (Protected Designation of Origin) by the European Union that gave to these premium agricultural products the place and the reputation they deserve:
- Vines of Thera
- Fava beans (local yellow split peas)
- Santorini cherry tomatoes
Three more products are waiting to achieve PDO status in the future. Not bad for a small-size island, looking like a dot on the Mediterranean map, right?
So, if you think that Santorini is just a beautiful volcanic island with unique views, wait until you taste the local cuisine and wine. They will blow your mind, for sure!
CHERRY TOMATOES FROM SANTORINI
It is said that the first tomato seeds were originally brought to Santorini in about 1870 by the crew working at the opening of the Suez canal.
Who could imagine that those seeds would find in Santorini’s dry volcanic soil the perfect conditions to produce tomatoes of unique sweet taste and distinctive aroma? About 5 decades later, 12.000 acres produced 7.000 tons of tomatoes. Just to give you an idea, Santorini’s total land area is 22.393 acres. Back then, how awesome would be to wander around Santorini’s fields of red, shiny tomatoes!
Not only the products covered the local need but in 1926 the first tomato processing plant was built by Dimitrios Nomikos followed by many others. The small local industry flourished until the catastrophic earthquake in 1956 and the remaining local, small industry was eliminated by competition and industrial mass-production.
Today, Santorini’s tomato is once more back on the scene as a PDO product and it is treated like an outstanding delicacy, facing new perspectives for its development.
SANTORINI’S TOMATO FRITTERS
I’ll be honest straight from the beginning. You won’t find Santorini’s tomatoes anywhere! Sorry. Not because most of you live overseas but because the local produce is extremely restricted even for locals. The demand exceeds the supply and it is said that the upcoming crop is usually sold many months in advance.
I know, that’s a bummer. My devoted readers know by now that the secret behind a tasteful Mediterranean dish is premium raw material. I still remember Margarita’s divine tomato fritters in “Nicola’s cave”, a tavern in Akrotiri. Back then I wasn’t bold enough to invade her kitchen and chat about her delicious food. Gosh! Her tomato fritters scarred me for life!
After everything, I got a lucky break and had the traditional recipe fall into my lap. To tell you the truth, the recipe seemed quite minimal and I was rather skeptical to post it. But I needed to replicate these amazing tomato fritters and share the recipe, its secrets, and its deliciousness with you. It took me three trials and quite a few pounds of wasted tomatoes (LOL) BUT I DID IT!
I hereby present you the recipe for the most delicious Santorini-style tomato fritters!
STEP 1: The best tomatoes
Choose the raw material wisely and you’ll get an excellent dish before even cooking. I already mentioned that it is impossible to find Santorini’s sweet tomatoes but if you know the secrets of the recipe, you can make tomato fritters almost as good as locals. So, keep in mind that you need ripe but firm tomatoes. A combination of Roma and/or cherry tomatoes is the best option. We need Roma tomatoes for their sweetness and cherry tomatoes for their firm nature.
Even so, you may use all kinds as long as your tomatoes or cherry tomatoes are ripe. We need to taste their sweetness in every bite of the fritters. Chop finely and drain into a colander for at least half an hour. Less moisture means less flour to bind the batter.
Don’t use a blender or food processor. I know it saves time and trouble but the batter will be too runny and you will add so much flour that will cover the tomato’s flavor.
Let’s cheat (just a little) – The secret ingredient
You already know that Santorini’s tomatoes are unique because of their sweetness derived from the island’s soil. If you cannot find sweet tomatoes, let’s add artificial sweetness trying to replicate the local exquisite produce. It takes only one teaspoon of sugar (or your favorite sweetener) for 2 pounds (1kg) of tomatoes. Totally optional for those who avoid sugar for whatever reason! Your tomato fritters will be equally delicious without sugar, I promise. We are just seeking perfection here, my friends!
STEP 2: Herb time
Meanwhile, chop the herbs and enjoy their odor! You can jazz it up with more or fewer herbs. Fresh or dry or even a mix of fresh and dry herbs.
My favorite combo is fresh (right from my tiny garden) basil-mint-parsley but you may use oregano-dill-thyme as well.
STEP 3: The flour
Mix everything and then add as much flour as the mixture needs. I know it’s a bummer every time you hear that line “add as much as it needs”. It happens all the time, especially with Greek recipes. I guess it is kind of a tradition coming from old times when there were no written recipes or cookbooks. A family recipe was passed down from generation to generation with hands-on practice, from grandmother to daughter and grandchild.
Driven purely from experience and senses, the technique “me to mati” (explanation = “use your eyes to estimate the amount”) is the ultimate Greek cooking measurement. Whether you’re a newbie cook or even quite seasoned, “as much as it needs” just doesn’t seem to make sense!
In spite of that, it doesn’t need too much experience to bind all ingredients to a firm batter. Just common sense. Don’t you worry! Even if you don’t add the right flour quantity, you will have another chance. Because, the mixture needs to rest and cool in the fridge for a little bit, at least half an hour. Then, you will see water around the edges and you will add some more flour to bind the batter one last time. Done! Easy, enough? You cannot mess it up, trust me!
STEP 4: The frying
Grab your non-stick pan and add olive oil. It should cover the pan. We are going to shallow fry the tomato fritters meaning that the olive oil will cover about half of the batter. Take a look at the video below.
To answer your question, I always use olive oil to fry. I use olive oil for everything like my mother, my grandmother like her grandmother, etc. Wait until the olive oil is sizzling hot. Use a spoonful of batter and roughly form the fritters with the spoon.
Don’t overcrowd the pan because the fritters won’t be crispy. Wait for 3-4 minutes, flip them once and that’s it. Be gentle and don’t stab them with a fork or anything else. Don’t turn them more than one time because they will absorb too much oil.
MY TOMATO FRITTERS ARE READY! NOW, WHAT?
For those who don’t have a clue about the “mezze plate”, it is a combination of several small-sized appetizers, veggies, cheese, condiments, sauces, olives, and bread/crackers in one plate. You may know already the Spanish tapas. Mezze is the Greek version of this relaxing, gastronomic and socializing aspect of the Mediterranean lifestyle.
Back to our tomato fritters, now!
Keep your meal vegan and serve them with Fava, another traditional dish from Santorini, or pair fava dish with seafood, just like this recipe. Open up a bottle of Assyrtiko, a Santorini variety, or a Sauvignon Blanc, and use your imagination to travel to one of the most beautiful places on the planet.
MORE MEDITERRANEAN RECIPES WITH TOMATO
If you want to taste more Mediterranean recipes using tomatoes as the main ingredient, I’ve got some excellent dishes:
GREEK SALAD: I’ve been eating this traditional Greek salad all my life and let me tell you this: you are most definitely going to LOVE IT!
STUFFED TOMATOES: They are called “gemista” in Greek. Their reputation precedes them. Find out why!
LADENIA: Another traditional Greek recipe that tastes like pizza but instead of cheese you taste layers of tomatoes and onion. So good!
OVEN ROASTED CHICKEN MEATBALLS: My sun-dried tomato sauce is to die for! Don’t get him started on the meatballs, or you’ll never hear the end of it!
If you make this recipe, you have to let me know! I absolutely love your feedback. This is a huge motivation for me and it keeps 30daysofgreekfood’s kitchen alive. Bookmark this recipe and leave your rate and comment below, or take a photo with your Tomato Fritters recipe and tag me on Instagram with #30daysofgreekfood and Facebook with @30daysofgreekfood.
Tomato Fritters – Santorini's Recipe
- 1 pound (500g) tomatoes, ripe but firm, finely diced*
- 1 pound (500g) cherry tomatoes, ripe but firm, finely diced*
- 1 ½ big onions, finely diced
- 4 spring onions, finely sliced
- ½ cup parsley, finely minced
- ½ cup basil, finely minced
- ½ cup mint, finely minced
- 1 teaspoon sugar (optional)
- 1 ½ cups (200g) all-purpose flour*
- Olive oil for frying
- Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste
- IF YOU USE TOMATOES: Wash well your tomatoes and pat dry. Slice each one in half lengthwise and then into quarters. Cut out the stem but leave the seeds. Cut each quarter into thin strips and dice them. Place them in a colander. Season lightly with salt and let them drain at least half an hour.
- IF YOU USE CHERRY TOMATOES: Wash well the cherry tomatoes and use a knife to remove the stem. Use your hand to smash and cut them into pieces or dice them with a knife, if it is more convenient. Place them in the colander with the rest of the diced tomatoes. Season lightly with salt and let them drain at least half an hour.
- In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, onions, herbs, and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Stir in the flour, mixing until you have a thick batter.
- Keep the mixture in the fridge for at least half an hour. It is probable to find water around the edges. Add more flour to bind the batter.
- Heat 1-2 inches of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Drop tablespoons size balls of batter into the oil for 3-4 minutes on each side until golden and crisp on all sides. Don't pinch them
- Remove and drain the fritters on a plate lined with paper towels to absorb the excess oil.