Tomato Fritters That Evoke a Greek Island Paradise

Domatokeftedes, a specialty of Santorini, are the perfect summertime meze
August 20, 2020 Updated: August 20, 2020

If you’re longing to spend time in Greece but can’t get there this year, these tomato fritters may be the next best thing.

Domatokeftedes, as they are called in Greek, are perfect bites of sunshine: an explosion of freshness and herb-y goodness in every bite. A taste of Greece.

“Keftedes” actually refers to meatballs (you can find our recipe for Greek meatballs here), but Greek cuisine has a huge repertoire of vegetarian and vegan fritters that are referred to as a composite of their primary ingredient and the word “keftedes.” This entire array of dishes became popular because they are less expensive to make than anything meat-based. Also, since they often contain no eggs or dairy, they are perfect for periods of lent, and for vegans as well as vegetarians.

It doesn’t hurt that these mezes, or appetizers, are so easy to eat: two bites and you’re done, your hands free to pick up another.

Epoch Times Photo
Santorini tomatoes. (Yiannis Velissaridis/Shutterstock)

Memories of Paradise

Our parents have always made all sorts of fritters: some baked, some fried, some with cheese, others without, and all perfectly delicious. Domatokeftedes, however, entered our lives a little later.

It all began when one of us took her first trip to Santorini, that idyllic Greek island known for its heart-stopping sunrises, quintessential landscape of white-washed houses with sea-blue roofs, and remarkable volcanic setting. It’s got some pretty nice beaches, too.

When she was back from paradise, with Santorini memories still vivid, our parents heard of the amazing domatokeftedes that were enjoyed on the island.

About a week later, during a family dinner, the table was set buffet-style, and there amidst the tzatziki, the moussaka, and the horta was a platter piled high with these tomato fritters. Our parents hadn’t said a word about them, but watched on as the lot of us scanned their offerings, our eyes finally settling on this something new.

“Are those domatokeftedes?” exclaimed the Santorini traveler.

“They are!” our parents proudly responded, in unison.

“I didn’t know you knew how to make these!”

“What do you think? It’s hard? It’s not hard! Now taste, and tell us what you think.”

First taste went to the one of us who had eaten the amazing tomato fritters in Santorini—eyes closed, mouth slowly chewing, enjoying flavors that brought back a flood of happy moments.

Sure, they weren’t quite the same. They weren’t made with the special Santorini tomatoes from the island, and the Greek breeze was not wrapping itself around us as we looked out onto the sea. Instead, when eyes opened, we were in our family kitchen, around a plastic-covered table displaying food served on mismatched platters, with our parents waiting expectantly.

These domatokeftedes didn’t taste like those in Santorini. They were just a little bit better.

The Santorini Secret

Why are domatokeftedes considered a special dish in Santorini? The secret is in the tomato!

Santorini cherry tomatoes are tiny marvels, so small that you may mistake them for small berries. The unique Santorini climate and geology allow these tomatoes to grow only there, as they have done since the year 1818 when the first seed was reportedly sown by a monk named Fragkiskos at the Capuchins Monastery. Their flavor and texture comes from a combination of things, including the soil, which is replete with nutrients from volcanic ash.

Locally referred to as tomataki, or little tomato, their cultivation in Santorini flourished until the 1950s. Along with an earthquake in 1956, the largest threat to the farming of Santorini tomatoes resulted from the very thing that has so many of us falling in love with domatokeftedes in the first place: tourism. As farmers realized that the tourism industry was more lucrative than agriculture, fewer and fewer people devoted their lives and land to farming.

It’s truly unfortunate, as these tiny jewels have a slightly dry flesh, an intense aroma, and a sweet taste all their own. They are so unique and special that since 2013, Santorini tomatoes have been classified as P.D.O. (Protected Designation of Origin) within the European labeling scheme.

Helpful Hints

What type of tomato should we use for these tomato fritters?

Our parents use plum or Italian (also called Roma) tomatoes for these fritters. They do so because they tend to be less juicy than other tomato varieties and the flesh is relatively thick; they hold up quite well in the fritters.

You’ll note that there is also tomato paste included in the recipe. This enhances the rich tomato flavor and also helps to bind the various ingredients together.

How can we keep the fritters from falling apart while frying?

It’s important to add the amount of flour required to bind your ingredients together. We use 1/2 cup all-purpose flour, but if you feel you need a bit more, go ahead and add more, 1 tablespoon at a time. Go slowly; adding more flour than you need will produce a fritter that can be a bit mushy in the center.

Can I add an egg to help bind my domatokeftedes?

You can, but you really should not have to. We choose to keep these domatokeftedes vegan and they work really well even without the egg for binding. At the same time, you’ll be the one enjoying these, so if you prefer to add an egg, go ahead!

What is the best way to warm up leftover domatokeftedes to eat the next day?

As with most fritters, reheating is tricky. You certainly don’t want to warm them up in the microwave, because you will end up with a soggy meze. You can either re-heat them up in the oven, or on an un-oiled or dry frying pan. But more importantly, how do you have any leftover?

Greek Tomato Fritters (Domatokeftedes)

A Greek meze using all the delicious flavors of summer.

Prep Time: 30 mins
Cook Time: 10 mins
Resting Time: 10 mins
Total Time: 50 mins

Makes 15 fritters

  • 2 cups seeded and diced plum tomatoes (about 4–5 tomatoes)
  • 1 1/4 cups grated zucchini (about 1 medium zucchini)
  • 1/4 cup diced onion (about 1/2 medium onion)
  • 1 green onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 4–5 fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tablespoon dried mint or 2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon plain bread crumbs
  • Olive oil, for frying
  • Plain Greek yogurt or tzatziki, for serving (optional)

Ensure that your diced tomatoes are as “dry” as possible, meaning you should remove all the seeds and seed pulp. If your tomatoes still appear to have a lot of liquid, drain them in a fine sieve.

Use your hands or a cheesecloth to squeeze out as much liquid as possible from your grated zucchini.

In a large mixing bowl, combine the tomatoes, zucchini, both onions, tomato paste, parsley, basil, mint, salt, and pepper. Mix well to combine.

Epoch Times Photo
Fritter ingredients include lots of fresh tomato and zucchini, tomato paste for extra flavor, and fresh herbs for brightness. (Courtesy of Helen and Billie Bitzas)
Epoch Times Photo
Mix your batter together and let it sit to bind together; it should hold together when you scoop some out with a spoon. (Courtesy of Helen and Billie Bitzas)

In a smaller bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and breadcrumbs. Use a fork or whisk to combine well.

Add the flour mixture to the vegetable and herb mix and stir well to combine. Set aside for 5–10 minutes.

After your mixture has sat for approximately 10 minutes, give it another stir. It should hold together when you scoop some of the mixture out with a spoon.

Heat approximately 1/2 inch of olive oil in a pan over medium heat (we like to use a nonstick pan).

Use two spoons (we use tablespoons) to portion out the mixture for the fritters. Use the first spoon to scoop out the mixture, and the second spoon to help shape it and to then slide it off the first spoon into the hot oil.

Fry for 2–3 minutes, until golden brown, and then use two forks to flip your fritters over. Press down slightly and fry for an additional 2–3 minutes, until golden brown on both sides and cooked through.

Remove from the oil and drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Allow to cool, and then serve with a side of plain yogurt or tzatziki. Enjoy!

Recipe Notes

We use plum tomatoes for this recipe because they are less juicy than other tomatoes. Still, you have to be sure to remove as much of the seeds and pulp as possible, otherwise your mixture will be too wet.

It is important to allow your tomato fritters to cool enough so that they don’t fall apart when you lift them; this may happen if you try to eat them immediately from the pan.

Looking for more delicious fritter ideas? How about these:

Revithokeftedes (Chickpea Fritters)

Kolokithokeftedes (Zucchini Fritters)

Pumpkin Squash Fritters

Helen and Billie Bitzas are sisters and co-founders of the food blog MiaKouppa.com, a site devoted to showcasing and honoring traditional family recipes. Focusing primarily on classic Greek cooking, the sisters share stories, photos, instructional videos, helpful hints, and of course recipes, to help others enjoy a taste of Greece and a bit of nostalgia. You can also find Mia Kouppa on YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest. This article was originally published on MiaKouppa.com