Fried Parsley and Lemon Crostini or Tacos

by Kathy Witkowsky

Parsley—it’s not just for garnish anymore!

This I learned recently when I was in Mexico—specifically in the beautiful colonial city of Guanajuato, which is a popular cultural and tourist mecca, full of gorgeous architecture, roving bands of costumed musicians, and—best of all, as far as I was concerned–culinary delights. Our enthusiastic concierge, upon hearing that we were foodies, immediately recommended that we try the fried parsley and bacon tacos at a restaurant overlooking the picturesque main square. This we did—and loved them as well as the view. The parsley—curly parsley, not the flat Italian parsley I gravitate towards–was bright green, crisp and delicate, and the bacon added the right salty notes, while the salsa it was served with gave it just a bit of spice.  Wrapped in fresh, soft corn tortillas, it was a taste treat.

I knew this was a dish I wanted to re-create once I got home. But when I did an Internet search for recipes, I found one on Epicurious that called for something even more intriguing: fried lemon slices instead of bacon. And it left out the salsa altogether.

I don’t normally fry foods, so I was tentative—and with good reason. My first attempts resulted in several sad bunches of wilted, soggy, oily parsley. But I was determined to crack the code. Here it is: the oil has to be a whopping 375 degrees. That is really fricking hot. And unless you have a thermometer, there’s no way you can know when it reaches the desired temperature. (Note: if the oil is much above 375, that’s no good, either: your parsley will burn nearly instantly. Trust me on this.) So if you’re planning on making this, buy yourself a candy/deep fry thermometer, which you can get for under $10. One other piece of advice: make sure you have a splatter guard (basically a flat wire mesh screen you place over your skillet or saucepan), or you will have a big oily mess on your hands (and on your stove, and your range hood, etc), and you might even burn yourself.  It’s worth the five or ten bucks it’ll cost you. Again, I speak from experience. 

The other trick to frying the parsley is to cook it just the right amount: about 45 seconds. Less and it won’t be crisp enough; more and it’ll get soggy. That means you’ll want to have a slotted spoon handy so you can remove it from the oil efficiently. Or better yet, if you have one, you can rig up your own fry basket using a wire mesh strainer, as I finally did.  (See photo below)

Once I got the parsley right, I moved on to the lemons. This was easier, and not as touchy. You let the oil heat back up to 375 degrees again, then cook them a bit longer than the parsley, a couple minutes, til they start to brown ever so slightly. And yes, you eat the whole slice, rind and all.

The tacos were very good, and worth recommending. But both my husband and I thought the taste of the tortillas slightly overwhelmed the more delicate flavor of the parsley. Plus they hid the vivid yellow and green of the lemon and parsley, which was a shame. So I decided to see whether the recipe would work better on thin slices of toasted baguette. Bingo—that was the winning combo, especially when we drizzled a little high-quality fruity olive oil on top.  Serve this to guests and I promise they’ll rave.


2 to 4 cups of vegetable oil, depending on the size of your saucepan or skillet

1 big bunch (or more) of curly parsley, stems cut off

2 lemons, thinly sliced

Nine thin slices of baguette, lightly brushed with olive oil and toasted, or four corn or flour tortillas, warmed


High-quality fruity olive oil for drizzling


Pour enough vegetable oil into a saucepan or skillet to cover 2 inches deep, or, if you’re using a mesh strainer, to cover the parsley that’s in it. Heat oil to 375 degrees.  While oil is heating, lightly toast the baguette; you don’t want it too crisp or it won’t absorb the extra olive oil you’re going to pour on top.

Once the oil is at the correct temperature, with your splatter guard poised and ready to place over the pan (this is also a good time to use an apron and oven mitts), set the parsley in the oil (being careful, because the oil will spatter) and cook til bright green and crisp, about 45 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on several layers of paper towels to drain. Or use a wire mesh strainer as a fry basket. Check the oil temperature—you want it to be to 375 degrees, as before–and fry the lemon slices until just beginning to brown, about 2 minutes. Remove with the slotted spoon or wire mesh strainer and place on clean paper towels to drain.  Coarsely chop the parsley and salt to taste (the salt is key).  Place slices of lemon on the toasted baguette or in the tortillas, divide parsley among them, and serve while still warm, with a little drizzle of olive oil on top.

 Serves three to four as an appetizer  

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