Fried artichokes are a classic Italian dish you can enjoy as an appetizer or a side dish. They're a perfect combination of crispy, savory, and slightly sweet flavors making them irresistible.
In this recipe, you'll learn how to make the perfect fried artichokes at home that are crispy on the outside and tender on the inside.
Artichokes are a type of vegetable that are actually the edible flower bud of a thistle plant called Cynara cardunculus. They're not considered a fruit, but rather a member of the sunflower family.
Artichokes are believed to have originated in the Mediterranean region, specifically in parts of modern-day Egypt, Ethiopia, and Tunisia. They have been cultivated for thousands of years, with ancient Greeks and Romans considering them a delicacy.
Artichokes grow best in temperate climates with mild winters and cool, foggy summers. They are typically grown as annuals, meaning they are replanted each year, and take about 6 to 8 months to reach maturity.
Today, artichokes are grown in many parts of the world, including California, France, Italy, and Spain. They are a popular ingredient in many dishes, such as dips, salads, and pasta dishes, and are known for their distinct, slightly sweet flavor and tender, meaty texture.
Artichoke Season in the Northern Hemisphere
In the Northern Hemisphere, artichoke season typically runs from February through May, with the peak harvest time varying slightly depending on the location and climate.
In some regions, a second, smaller harvest may occur in the fall. However, it's worth noting that artichokes are available in many grocery stores year-round, as they can be imported from other parts of the world.
Artichoke season in Italy is from December to May, with the peak being February and March.
In southern Italy you begin to see them at the market in January and the fruttivendoli really start selling them towards the end of the month and for the rest of the season.
Fried Artichokes Recipe
In Italian fried artichokes are called carciofi fritti. Southern Italians love fried food but Calabrians take it to another level. So this was the perfect recipe to ask Giuseppe's Calabrian mom about.
Giuseppe's mom, Lina, is an incredible cook and this is an iteration of her recipe. It took 1 1/2 months to write because it’s very challenging to get Lina to measure ingredients. She cooks based of feeling, or as they say in Italian 'quanto e basta'.
We kept sneaking a scale under the mixing bowl to collect correct measurements. When I asked her how much flour she uses the first time she responded ‘7 big spoonfuls’.
The rest of the instructions were ‘until it looks good’ or ‘until the batter covers the artichoke’. Perfect units of measurements for someone who has been cooking the same dish for 40 years! But not ideal for novice cooks who might end up with pancakes instead of crispy fried artichoke hearts.
Preparing the artichokes is the most time-consuming part of making this dish, but it is essential to ensure that they cook evenly and have the right texture.
Make sure to boil the artichokes before you fry them. This is to ensure they're fully cooked and not too tough. Don’t skip this step unless you’ve made them before and familiar with the tecture.
While cleaning and trimming the artichokes rub the ends with lemon and keep them in a bowl of lemon water to prevent them from turning brown.
Lastly, don't forget to salt the boiling water!
The Key to Crispy Fried Artichokes
Lina says the key to beautiful fried artichokes is making sure the batter is thick enough to coat the them. The batter should be about the consistency of very thick pancake batter.
She uses a method where she cups the artichoke with a spoon, then adds more batter on top before adding it to the fryer. Lina delicately drops the artichoke into the oil without allowing the spoon to touch the oil and make a mess.
We almost exclusively fry with extra virgin olive oil, however, it’s not required for this recipe. Use your preferred frying and/or cooking oil.
Depending on the type of pot/pan you’re using and the temperature of your oil the artichoke may cook more/less quickly. The artichokes should be lightly brown on each side and have cooked for at least 2 mins in order to esure the consistency inside is nice. If they’re cooking faster than that turn down the heat slightly.
Frying with Olive Oil
If frying with olive oil be mindful of the heat. Olive oil cannot be on high heat when frying or it will smoke. Medium or medium-high is usually the best setting. Adjust accordingly. Practice makes perfect!
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