Use up the last of the summer tomatoes to make one of my very favorite Greek street foods, Tomatokeftedes or Tomato Balls. These pan-fried tomato and feta fritters are truly delicious and the one new-to-me food item I couldn’t get enough of in Greece.
Tomatokeftedes (Tomato Balls)
Why should spanakopita get all the mediterranean appetizer glory when we also have Tomatokeftedes at our finger tips?
A little back story: There were a countless items I was excited for prior to our Greece trip a decade ago – the scenery, the clear turquoise waters, the sunsets, the shopping,– but as you can imagine, what I was looking forward to most was the food. I pictured myself stuffing my face with gyros from street vendors, the freshest seafood, loads of pita bread, tzaziki sauce and Greek salad. However sometimes the least expected items we try are the ones that make a lasting impression. Tomatokeftedes were just that.
I’d been hearing about these little jewels for quite some time from sources like Giada in Paradise, Trip Advisor reviews etc, and knew I had to get my hands on them. They’re a Santorini specialty and on almost every single restaurant menu littering the streets. Rightfully so, since they utilize one of Santorinis most treasured fruits (or vegetables depending on where you fall), the tomato.
I’m not really sure why they call them tomato balls, because they are not shaped into a ball form, they’re more like what we in America would call a fritter.
They peel, seed and chop ripe tomatoes into tiny pieces and then simply combine with a mixture of herbs, onions, a little bit of salt and flour. They’re shaped into patties and then fried in a bath of good quality Santorini olive oil until they’re puffed and golden brown. Most are served by themselves as an appetizer, but I preferred mine dunked in a vat of tzatziki sauce (of course).
Ingredients in Tomatokeftedes
Tomatoes. Of course we can’t have tomato balls without tomatoes. Any kind will do, I’ve used vine ripened, roma and beefsteak.
Onion. I love onion in any capacity. but if you don’t like it in big pieces be sure to finely dice.
Herbs. There is nothing quite like fresh herbs, here we use lots of basil and mint.
Baking powder + baking soda. The combo of these two are going to make our tomato fritter tender, crisp and puffy.
Flour. We need something to bind everything together and like most friitters, flour does just that.
Feta. This is optional and not all Tomatokeftedes have it but I love the addition.
Olive oil. You’ll need good quality olive to fry the balls.
Tzatziki sauce. Store-bought or use this easy recipe of ours!
Let’s make Tomatokeftedes!
Make the tzatziki sauce and prep ingredients. Once the batter comes together, things move fast so be sure you have everything prepped. This can be made a few days in advance.
Toss everything. In a bowl combine, tomatoes, feta, salt, onion, basil and mint. In another bowl, mix baking powder, baking soda and flour. Stir into tomatoes. Season to taste with PLENTY of salt. You don’t want these under seasoned.
Heat a large non-stick skillet with about ⅛ inch of olive oil to a medium-high heat.
Spoon the batter into the oil, making about 3 inch long fritters. Cook until golden brown on both sides, about 1-2 minutes per side.
Drain on paper towels and serve with tzaziki Sauce.
Are Tomatokeftedes tasty leftover?
Unfortunately no. They are best served hot.
Do I have to use fresh tomatoes?
Tips and Tricks for Recipe Success
- Don’t overmix!
- Be sure to get most of the moisture out of the tomatoes before adding them to the flour
- 2 cups tomatoes, peeled, seeded and finely diced (make sure to get ALL the seeds and juice out!) See instruuctions
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup minced onion
- 2 tbsp minced basil
- 1 tbsp minced mint
- 1/4 tsp baking powder
- 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 3/4 cup flour (may need more depending on how wet the tomatoes are)
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta
- Olive oil for frying
- 1 Mixing bowl
- 1 Large skillet
- Fill a large bowl with ice water. set aside.
- Peel the tomatoes. Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. Cut an X on the top of each tomato. Drop the tomatoes into the boiling water and let them boil for 30 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon and dunk into ice bath. Once cool, peel the skin off. Cut the tomatoes in half and remove all seeds and juice. Dice tomatoes.
- In a bowl combine, tomatoes, salt, onion, basil and mint. In another bowl, mix baking powder, baking soda and flour. Stir into tomatoes. Season to taste with PLENTY of salt. You don't want these under seasoned!
- Add about ⅛ inch of olive oil to a large skillet. Heat over medium-high. Spoon the batter into the oil, making about 3 inch long fritters, this should be about 1/4 cup of batter. Cook until golden brown on both sides, about 1-2 minutes per side.Drain on paper towels and serve with tzaziki Sauce