I’ve posted a few Caprese salad recipes over the years. If you look through the recipe index, you’ll find one with strawberries, one with plums, one with a drizzle of mint pesto, and even cute little Caprese skewers with peaches! What you won’t find, though, is this: a classic Caprese salad with soft, creamy fresh mozzarella, juicy seasonal tomatoes, and a generous amount of basil leaves. It’s a salad that’s been near and dear to my heart ever since we visited the island of Capri, years ago, just after Jack proposed. It was a magical trip where we ate Caprese salads every day while questioning how a dish with such simple ingredients could possibly taste so amazing. This is a recipe that you hardly need a recipe for, but keep reading for my tips to make the best(!) Caprese salad, along with a few more fun variations.
How to Make Caprese Salad
A great Caprese salad starts with great ingredients. This recipe is meant for summertime, when tomatoes are at their juiciest, sweetest, and most flavorful. I like stop by the farmers market and collect as many colorful heirloom tomatoes as I can. Not only are they beautiful, but each type tastes a little bit different, and it’s fun to showcase them in this simple salad. Look for greens, yellows, and reds, and try to find a variety of shapes – cherry tomatoes are fair game here too!
In addition to peak-season tomatoes, you need these 5 simple ingredients:
- Fresh mozzarella cheese. Look for soft, spongy mozzarella balls that are packed in water. Use a good sharp knife to gently cut them into thick slices. You don’t want squished mozzarella!
- Basil. Only fresh leaves here! Dot them over the tomatoes and mozzarella whole, or gently tear larger leaves before adding them to the salad.
- Extra-virgin olive oil. It’s worth finding good-quality, 100% extra-virgin olive oil to use in this recipe, because you can really taste it here. Extra-virgin olive oil has a strong, fruity flavor that’s a great finishing touch for the juicy slices of tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil – I don’t recommend using another oil in its place.
- Freshly ground black pepper. If you don’t already have a pepper grinder, now’s the time to get one. Grind it straight over the salad for the best flavor!
- Sea salt. I like to sprinkle the salad with generous pinches of flaky sea salt, such as Maldon sea salt. Regular sea salt will work too, but skip the iodized stuff here. It has a slightly bitter taste that can stick out in such a simple dish.
Slice your tomatoes and mozzarella and layer them onto a platter with the fresh basil leaves. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and serve!
Caprese Salad Recipe Variations
In the recipe below, you’ll see that I suggest a few variations. While it’s hard to beat a traditional Caprese salad made with good heirloom tomatoes, sometimes it’s fun to change things up. Here are a few of my favorite ways to do it:
- Use part peaches and part tomatoes, like I do in this burrata recipe. Or, skip the fresh mozzarella in this recipe and serve the tomatoes and basil with a ball of burrata instead!
- Add avocado, or use avocado in place of the cheese if you’re vegan.
- Try a combination of fresh basil & mint.
- Drizzle the whole thing in a balsamic reduction or balsamic glaze for extra tangy flavor.
- Finish the salad with generous dollops of basil pesto.
- Top the salad with toasted pine nuts for crunch.
How do you like your Caprese salad? Let me know in the comments!
If you love this Caprese salad recipe…
Try one of these summer salads next:
Or check out this post for more of my favorite salad recipes!
Author: Jeanine Donofrio
Recipe type: Salad
- 3 to 4 medium heirloom tomatoes, sliced
- 1 (8-ounce) ball fresh mozzarella, sliced
- Fresh basil leaves
- Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
- Flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Drizzle of balsamic vinegar or reduced balsamic
- Dollops of pesto
- Sliced peaches
- Mint leaves
- Avocado slices
- Strawberries (see this strawberry salad)
- Arrange the tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil leaves on a platter. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- If desired, add ingredients from the variations list.