The Best Caprese Salad

I love this classic caprese salad recipe with tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil. This is truly one of my favorite recipes on Inspired Taste. It might also be the simplest.

The Best Caprese Salad

I know I’m not the only one who gets weak at the knees at the sight of fresh tomatoes and mozzarella. This authentic caprese salad, or “Insalata Caprese” as it’s known in Italy, is a classic summer dish that never disappoints.

This easy caprese salad is my go-to dinner throughout the summer, and I never seem to get tired of it. If you’re looking for more tomato salads, be sure to check out my chopped tomato salad, my favorite panzanella salad with bread and tomatoes, and this easy cherry tomato salad with feta.

The Best Caprese Salad

Key Ingredients

  • Tomatoes: I wait until I have the best summer tomatoes before making our caprese salad recipe. They should be smooth-skinned, heavy, and smell sweet and earthy. If your tomatoes don’t smell like anything, put them back. You can use various sizes and varieties. I like mixing large heirloom tomatoes and smaller garden tomatoes. When tomatoes come into season around us, we know it’s time to make as many caprese salads as we can! For authentic Italian caprese featuring the colors of the Italian flag, you can just use red tomatoes.
  • Mozzarella: Fresh mozzarella is ideal, but if you can find burrata, it has a creamy center that’s also delicious in caprese salad. When I add burrata to salads, I keep it whole until we are ready to eat. Then, I pierce the middle and allow the creamy inside to fall over the tomatoes and basil. AMAZING.
  • Basil: Fresh basil leaves add color and flavor. I tear the larger leaves and leave the smaller ones whole.
  • Salt: This is the secret ingredient! Sprinkle salt on your tomatoes and let them sit for 10 minutes. The salt draws out the juices, intensifying their flavor. The juices mix with the olive oil to create a simple dressing.
  • Olive oil: Use your favorite kind. It will combine with the tomato juices to make a delicious dressing.

How to Make the Best Caprese Salad

The word caprese is derived from the Italian island of Capri and is commonly used to describe dishes that combine fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil, like this incredible caprese salad.

To make caprese salad, I treat it like a layered salad. I choose a wide bowl or plate and start with a layer of tomato slices. Those slices get a sprinkle of salt, some pepper, and a slight drizzle of olive oil, and then I tuck in some basil leaves and mozzarella pieces that I’ve pulled into small chunks.

The Best Caprese Salad with Tomatoes, Mozzarella, and Basil

Once I have one layer done, I’ll add another, repeating with tomatoes, salt, pepper, basil, mozzarella, and olive oil. By layering and seasoning as I go, I guarantee that every bite of the salad is seasoned and delicious.

The most important step is to let your tomatoes sit with the salt for 10 to 15 minutes before digging in. This resting time guarantees that the salt has time to season the tomatoes and bring out their juices, which mix with your olive oil and turn into the caprese salad dressing! We do the same when making our Greek salad.

What to Serve with Caprese Salad

I’m happy to polish off an entire plate of caprese salad without help from others or other dishes. That said, a few slices of homemade focaccia or grilled bread rubbed with garlic (like we do when making tomato bruschetta) is lovely. You can also add some protein. Try our caprese chicken salad or add our garlicky shrimp scampi.

The Best Caprese Salad

  • PREP
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Caprese salad (or Insalata Caprese) is a simple salad made with ripe tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and basil. To make the best caprese salad, choose the highest quality ingredients you can find.

Makes 4 small servings (as a side or appetizer)

You Will Need

1 pound (450g) ripe tomatoes

4 to 5 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese or burrata

Handful fresh basil leaves

Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more as needed

Directions

    1Slice tomatoes into thin slices. For a more rustic salad with many shapes and textures, we leave some slices as full circles and slice a few into half-moon shapes. If using smaller tomatoes, like cherry tomatoes, cut in half and thirds, adding a variety of shapes and sizes to the salad.

    2Tear the mozzarella cheese into smaller chunks. For burrata cheese, keep whole to break open when serving.

    3Pick the basil leaves from the stem. Leave smaller leaves whole and tear larger leaves in half or into quarters.

    4Arrange half the tomatoes onto a serving plate and lightly season with salt and pepper. Add a light drizzle of olive oil, then tuck some of the basil and a few pieces of the torn mozzarella in and around the tomatoes.

    5Repeat with the remaining tomatoes, seasoning them with salt and pepper and layering in more basil and mozzarella.

    6Let the salad sit for 10 to 15 minutes at room temperature. This allows the salt to draw out the tomato juices, creating a flavorful dressing.

    7Serve and enjoy! Don’t forget to soak up the delicious juices at the bottom of the plate with some crusty bread.

Adam and Joanne's Tips

  • Storing: Caprese salad is best served within an hour or two after making. More than that and the tomatoes will lose some of their texture.
  • Tomatoes: We love using a mixture of sizes, colors, and varieties of tomato. Choose smooth skinned, heavy tomatoes that smell sweet and earthy.
  • Burrata: Burrata cheese is an excellent substitute to fresh mozzarella and has an almost molten middle of cream. If using burrata, layer the seasoned tomatoes and basil first, then place a ball of burrata right on top of the salad. When it is pierced, the creamy inside will fall over the salad.
  • The nutrition facts provided below are estimates.
Nutrition Per Serving Serving Size 1 serving (1/4 of the dish) / Calories 187 / Total Fat 15.2g / Saturated Fat 5.7g / Cholesterol 28mg / Sodium 373.6mg / Carbohydrate 5.2g / Dietary Fiber 1.4g / Total Sugars 3.4g / Protein 8.9g
AUTHOR:  Adam and Joanne Gallagher
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5 comments… Leave a Review
  • Chris July 1, 2023, 5:47 pm

    I figured I’d try your recipe for caprese salad because your recipes are always SO good. But — I’ve never really *loved* caprese salad, even with really good tomatoes. I’m going to follow your technique exactly. Maybe I’m not using enough salt. But I have a question for next time (which will be soon, since I have a lot of mozzarella and tomatoes on hand). What do you think about garlic? Could I steep a garlic clove in some EVOO for a bit, so there’s a little yummy garlickiness involved? Or could I smash and mash up a clove of garlic with a little salt, and stir that into the EVOO?

    Reply
    • Joanne September 6, 2023, 7:04 pm

      Hi Chris, Thanks for your kind words. Yes, you can absolutely add garlic. My preferred way is to rubs raw garlic on toasted bread and then serve the garlic bread with the tomatoes and mozzarella. If you don’t want the bread, you could finely mince or grate a small amount of garlic into the oil before drizzling over the tomatoes (maybe 1/2 a small clove).

      Reply
  • Gina January 9, 2022, 6:57 pm

    Love your recipes and so easy to make 😋

    Reply
  • Linda Wood January 18, 2021, 9:50 am

    Really like your recipes

    Reply
  • Kelley Ryan August 3, 2019, 10:07 pm

    Your Caprese Salad Recipe with Insider Tips turned out as delicious as I’ve ever enjoyed at a Restaurant (in Italy or USA)! I’m excited to try more of your fine Recipe offerings.

    Reply

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