I love Italy and Italian food for simple recipes that showcase the freshest of ingredients, like this simple tomato + mozzarella Caprese salad!
The post contains helpful tips and tricks to make sure you're successful in your first attempt. But if you're in a rush, please use the link above to jump to the recipe card at the end!
🥗 What is Caprese salad?
Caprese salad literally means salad from the island of Capri - a beautiful, serene island in Southern Italy. Traditional Caprese salads use fresh tomatoes, beautiful and creamy mozzarella (or burrata), basil, extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. Occasionally, folks will drizzle balsamic vinegar or pesto. However, I recommend saving that for when you might not be able to get the freshest of summer ingredients).
💭 Why you'll love this recipe
- 15 minute, six ingredient recipe. Seriously, get the fresh ingredients, chop them up and you're in for a treat!
- Perfect for all your summertime needs and can make a great addition to any dinner party appetizer platter.
- Authentic recipe. This is a simple recipe but the tips and tricks I use are all from my time living in Rome!
📋 Traditional Caprese salad ingredients
My recipe uses the same exact ingredients as traditional Caprese salad - tomatoes, basil, mozzarella, olive oil, and salt & pepper. This salad only has six ingredients, so like most Italian food, you want to get the highest quality ingredients you can afford!
Top tips and ingredient notes
- Fresh basil leaves. Use whole or half leaves - a few brown spots are okay - but if it has large brown, black, or slimy spots, you should probably toss those!
- Mozzarella or burrata cheese, or mozzarella packed in water. You can also use burrata (which is a softer, creamier version)
- Heirloom tomatoes are the best tomatoes for Caprese salad. But you can also use any fresh garden tomato, cherry or vine tomatoes. I've used a mix of heirloom beefsteak tomatoes and cherry tomatoes. I try to avoid other varieties with high water content!
- Use a combination of salt and flaky sea salt (like Maldon's). This adds texture as well as flavor to the dish!
- Use extra virgin olive oil. Good quality olive oil is not expensive, but try to get the best possible EVOO you can.
👩🏽🍳 Top Tips & FAQs
A great Caprese salad begins and ends with great ingredients! But see below for some other top tips while you make yours.
You can add other ingredients like balsamic vinegar or pesto, or even avocados to this simple Caprese salad. But I like to leave these out (mostly due to worries about the wrath of my old Italian landlord)
Nope. I typically serve Caprese salad with room temperature ingredients - nothing chilled! Tomatoes, especially, don't do well chilled at all. They get super mushy.
I remove the core, and then use a serrated knife to slice tomatoes into thin bite sized slices. Mozzarella can also be sliced into thin medallions so each tomato slice rests on a slice of mozzarella!
My Caprese salad is about 5 net carbs per serving, so it can be enjoyed by those who are following a keto-diet or lifestyle.
🍴 Serving & Storage Suggestions
Caprese salad is best served fresh. If you made extras, it stays okay in the fridge for a couple of days (but the tomatoes typically go mushy) -3 days. If you need to make it ahead of time, slice the mozzarella and tomatoes and store them separately in the refrigerator.
What do you eat Caprese salad with? Well, glad you asked. Here are some great mains you can serve with this salad.
- Pastas like this authentic cacio e pepe, or pea shoot pesto pasta with oyster mushrooms
- Avocado toast! If you're craving a salad but also carbs, check out my ultimate guide to avocado toast toppings, including a Caprese option!
- Bread or rolls (I love serving with a rustic slice of bread) but hey - these cheddar biscuits taste awesome too!
If you like this recipe, check out my other summer salads:
Best Caprese Salad Recipe
- 3 tomatoes, heirloom and vine (fresh, medium size) - cut into 8 tomato slices
- 8 oz mozzarella, fresh (substitute with burrata if preferred)
- 10 basil leaves, small to medium size, rinsed
- 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ tsp flaky sea salt, I use Maldon's and love it!
- ¼ tsp fresh ground black pepper
- Slice the mozzarella into thin chunks - I typically get about 8 slices per mozzarella ball. Arrange this on a serving platter - this is the base for the Caprese salad.
- Use a serrated knife to thinly slice tomatoes into even chunks (I like to chop them about ¼" thick) - arrange them on a serving platter on top of the mozzarella
- Rinse the basil leaves and top the tomato and mozzarella with a few basil leaves
- Drizzle olive oil evenly across the platter - I typically do this in a back and forth motion along the length of the platter. Then, add salt (adjust to taste) as well as ground black pepper.
- Right before you serve, add some flaky sea salt crystals on top along with an extra teaspoon of olive oil, and enjoy away!
- I like to use a mix of tomatoes since it provides a bit more variety and charm to the salad - but you can use whatever fresh and juice garden or vine tomato you can find (including green tomatoes!) I use a serrated knife to cut tomatoes (and will occasionally core them to remove the seeds).
- Buy fresh mozzarella - if it has ingredients listed, check to make sure it doesn't include curd or citric acid. Often, that artificially speeds up the process and the mozzarella doesn't taste as fresh as a result. Also, don't put your mozzarella in the fridge! If you're using fresh mozzarella - buy them when you need to make this salad, and leave them out on the counter!
- Sweet Genovese basil (the one with smaller leaves) is the best for this salad, but it works with other basil as well - better yet, you can easily grow basil in your garden!
- I suggest not pouring straight from the packaged bottle and instead pouring out the quantity you need into a smaller ramekin, and then using a teaspoon to drizzle. Alternatively, if you a pour bottle like I do, you can just drizzle it straight!
Note: This recipe was originally published on 25 June 2020, and was updated on 29 April, 2021.