Caprese salad is a classic Italian salad made with alternating slices of juicy, ripe tomatoes, and creamy mozzarella. It’s topped with fresh basil leaves, drizzled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and sprinkled with salt and pepper. It’s simple, fresh, and one of my favorite summer salad recipes.
Caprese salad (also known as insalata caprese) is a classic dish from the Italian island of Capri. It’s simple, juicy, creamy, fresh, and my go-to salad whenever I travel to Italy. Imagine sitting in a cafe on the Amalfi coast, gazing out at the ocean while enjoying a freshly made caprese salad with an Aperol spritz. It’s the most perfect experience ever.
So, I say let’s bring that same experience into your kitchen and whip up this caprese salad recipe. It’s easy to make, light and refreshing, and guaranteed to be a hit for all your summer dinner parties and cookouts.
Caprese Salad Ingredients
The most important thing about a caprese salad is the quality of the ingredients. That’s why it’s a summertime staple — when tomatoes and basil are fresh and at their best. Here’s what’s in it:
- Tomatoes: Splurge on the juiciest tomatoes you can find. Whether that’s organic heirloom tomatoes or plum tomatoes, just make sure they’re ripe with no hint of green and almost about to burst.
- Mozzarella: Again, don’t skimp on cheap stuff. Grab a big ball of fresh, creamy, authentic mozzarella (mozzarella di buffalo is also great) for the perfect texture. You’ll usually find it packed in water.
- Fresh Basil: Pluck those leaves fresh from the plant right before serving, if possible. You want a bright green color and a fresh aroma that make you feel like you’re wandering through an Italian garden.
- Olive Oil: I’m sure you’ve gathered the theme here, but freshness is also crucial with olive oil. Opt for an excellent cold-pressed, extra-virgin olive oil with a bit of a bite. It doesn’t have to be expensive, but it does have to be good. California Olive Ranch and Lucini are two of my go-to brands.
- Balsamic Vinegar: I’ll be the first to say that balsamic vinegar is not classic or necessary on caprese salad, but boy do I love it. And when it’s made into a balsamic reduction, it’s thick, sweet, and lovely. You can add it or leave it off, it’s up to you!
- Salt and Pepper: Use a flakey salt like Maldon Salt or triangular sea salt for that perfect texture. Just don’t use table salt. Add freshly cracked black pepper for the finishing touch.
Find the printable recipe with measurements below
How To Make Caprese Salad
Slice the tomatoes and mozzarella. Once sliced, simply alternate them in layers on a plate. You can place the layers in a vertical row or round them out into a circle as I did. It’s all about presentation here!
Add the finishing touches. Layer the basil leaves in between the tomatoes and mozzarella, with a few baby leaves on top. Then, drizzle the olive oil and balsamic reduction on top, and sprinkle with salt and pepper before serving. Then — cue the bottle of wine!
Caprese salad is always best served fresh. But you could also make this up to 24 hours in advance (without the oil and balsamic vinegar). Just slice up the tomatoes and mozzarella and store them in the fridge until you’re ready to serve.
If have a few slices left over, the salad will also keep in the fridge for up to 4 days. Just note that the tomato will soften over time.
More Caprese Recipe Ideas
- Persimmon Caprese Salad – a delicious way to enjoy caprese flavors in the fall or winter
- Caprese Skewers – the perfect finger food appetizer!
- Avocado Caprese Salad – the ultimate California spin
There’s never too much caprese salad during summer. So once you make it, let me know what your thoughts are on this recipe in the comment box below!
Caprese Salad Recipe
- Prep the tomato and cheese. Add a slice of tomato to a plate, then add a slice of mozzarella on top. Keep alternating slices of tomato and mozzarella until you've used up all of the ingredients.
- Add the basil. Place fresh basil leaves in between the layers. I prefer smaller basil leaves to keep them whole, but if you have large basil leaves you can cut them up.
- Finishing touches. Drizzle olive oil and balsamic reduction on top. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then serve immediately.
- Make sure to check out my separate recipe for how to make a Balsamic Reduction (Balsamic Glaze). It’s easy and much better than store-bought.
- You can get creative and substitute the tomatoes for a variety of fruits, including peaches, nectarines, strawberries, and more. Use what’s in season!
Originally posted July 2019, but updated to include new information.