Making Green Tomato Pie

Green tomato pie isn’t something you see very often in pie cases, but it’s a farm kitchen staple in many parts of the US. It’s a handy thing to have in your repertoire when either a.) your patch gets too prolific, or b.) cool weather and/or an early frost puts the hammer down on tomato ripening. All you need is 4-5 medium green tomatoes, or about 1 3/4 pounds, sliced about 1/4 inch thick.

Prepare your crust and get ready to roll and shape according to these directions here. Once your tomatoes are sliced, prepare the rest of the filling. Combine 1 cup (7 ounces of sugar) with 3 tablespoons (about an ounce) of instant tapioca plus 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon and a few gratings of nutmeg. Have 1-2 tablespoons of either fresh lemon juice or cider vinegar at the ready. Why are we using tapioca as a thickener instead of corn starch? Because corn starch doesn’t do well in high acid environments.

So then, sprinkle some of the sugar mixture on the bottom crust…

…and add a layer of tomato slices. A lot of people like to add a few golden raisins here and there for color and texture contrast, I’m one of them. Keep alternating tomatoes and the sugar mixture. When the shell is half full, sprinkle on a little lemon juice or vinegar. Sprinkle on a little more when the shell is heaping full.

Add your top crust, cut your steam vents and crimp. Let the pie sit for at least 30 minutes while you preheat your oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

Apply a pie shield to protect the crust, place the pie on a sheet pan and the sheet pan in the oven. Bake for 1 hour until the pie is lightly golden and the filling is bubbling in the steam vents.

Cool at least two hours — 4 is better — before serving. I took this to a party so I couldn’t slice it for you. Sorry about that.

23 thoughts on “Making Green Tomato Pie”

    1. But what about the lighting? I’m lost without my maple cutting board and bland natural daylight!

      – Joe

  1. Ooh. I’d never heard of this, but there are lots of green tomatoes here in Princeton, and not so many red ones. Going to have to try this. What does it taste like?

    Also, I imagine that you sprinkle the sugar/tapioca mixture into the pie in between the tomato layers? Unless I missed something, your current instructions just ask us to sprinkle a little on the bottom crust before filling.

    1. Hey Ella!

      I made that correction, thanks for pointing it out. The answer to your question is that it tastes very like a fruit pie, though of course with a hint of that meaty-ness that’s part and parcel of the tomato experience. When it’s completely cool or even chilled you can barely tell it’s not a berry pie from the flavor. Try it and get back to me with your impressions!

      – Joe

    2. After you gather what greenies you want for a pie, pull the whole vine with the remaining greenies still on it. Hang it upside down in a fairly warm garage or basement and what’s on it will continue to ripen slowly.

      They won’t have the flavor of sun-ripened fruit but you’ll still have genuine tomato when the stuff in the grocery stores isn’t worth having.

  2. At LEAST you have access to green tomatoes. I was going to make a dip with them, they are no where to be found in this Texas City of Abilene. I know I used to by them at the store. (sigh)

    1. What? Was there a tomato crisis in Texas this year? I thought they grew well in that climate!

      – Joe

  3. I was just a little unclear on the instructions. Are you doing repeating layers of sugar and tomato slices until the pie is full up? You only mention doing it once. Thanks!

  4. Just wanted some clarification – do you keep adding layers? Is that what you mean by heaping full?

    By the way I LOVE your blog. Only found it recently so I’ve been working my way through the archives. What a goldmine!

    1. Yes, you do, I fiddled with the writing a little to clarify it. But thanks, Justine! Very glad to have you. Feel free to ask any questions at all about anything. I’m pretty much around!


      – Joe

  5. Very interesting Joe, I have never heard of green tomato pie, I will have to remember this recipe next time I have some green tomatoes in the garden.

  6. Hello, Its for reasons like these thta I love to your site & make an effort to read it every day. I have never ever heard of green tomato pie! Ofcourse with just one tomato plant and sun all year round mummy won’t let me try these in the near future :). Tomatoe n sugar… wow. I wish if you had been able to take a pic pic of the cut pie… Thanks.



    1. Sorry about that Mel! Basically it comes out looking like a thick, green salsa between the crusts. But it tastes like a sweet fruit pie!

      Thanks for the comment and the compliment!


      – Joe

  7. I’ve long been a fan of (and a baker of) green tomato pie, but reading this post today, for the first time I wondered “If we make green tomato pie, could we not also make tomatillo pie?”. The two foods do taste quite similar.

    Also: if cornstarch “doesn’t do well in high acid environments”, why is it the thickener of choice for lemon meringue pie? Just wondering…

    1. Hey Maggie!

      Actually tomatillos are quite often used in sweet contexts, especially when they’re fully ripe. You certainly could use them in pie, though I’ve never tried it. There’s probably a sweet tomatillo pie recipe out there somewhere!

      And that’s a great question about cornstarch and lemon meringue pies. My guess is that it’s partly habit, since cornstarch was the go-to-thickener in American kitchens long before people started using tapioca to do the same jobs. Notice that it takes a whole lot of cornstarch to thicken a lemon meringue pie — 9 tablespoons or three full ounces, and that’s with the assistance of egg yolk proteins! That’s because the acid has a destabilizing effect on a cornstarch gel. Notice that for the green tomato pie I’m only using the equivalent of two tablespoons of tapioca flour to thicken a very acidic pie (green tomatoes plus vinegar for extra tang). Those two thickeners are normally equivalent in strength tablespoon to tablespoon, but the tapioca is clearly holding up a whole lot better in the face of all that acid.

      Thanks for a great question!

      – Joe

  8. Pie again – my favorite subject!! What can you tell us about the Great Pie Scandal at the KY state fair? It was one of the news headlines this weekend on the broadcast of Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me but I heard nothing else about it. Something about a store bought crust winning a blue ribbon??

  9. What a great idea! I’ve been making green tomato and habanero cornbread and green tomato muffins, and fried green tomatoes, and green tomato everything else for a month, since I could only get my tomato plants in flats of 12 this year from my local greenhouse.

    Then late blight took them all about 2 weeks ago and I’m just sitting here drooling over green tomato pie.

    Next year for sure.

    1. It’s a great way to use up four or five of them, Aaron, and it tastes pretty much just like a fruit pie!

      Cheers and thanks for the comment,

      – Joe

  10. Given that the store-bought “ripe” tomatoes taste about the same as garden greenie could you pull this off with ripe ones? Would they be too juicy?

    I love green tomato mincemeat (not as much as the venison version but close) so I may try this when the frost comes & green tomatoes need to be used up. Thanks!

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