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Caprese Salad

Caprese Salad is a simple and elegant salad made with alternating slices of juicy, ripe tomatoes and creamy mozzarella. It’s topped with fresh basil leaves and drizzled in olive oil and balsamic vinegar, then sprinkled with salt and pepper. It’s a classic Italian salad and my personal favorite!

Slices of tomato and mozzarella on a plate with fresh basil leaves.

Caprese salad (also known as insalata caprese) is a classic Italian salad from the island of Capri. It’s made from only a handful of fresh ingredients and couldn’t be easier to make. It’s simple, juicy, creamy and always what I order when I’m traveling Italy. Imagine sitting in a cafe on the Amalfi coast, gazing out at the ocean and eating a caprese salad. It’s the most perfect experience ever.

But this week when I saw fresh organic tomatoes in the market I knew I had to whip it up. Warm weather and juicy tomatoes makes caprese salad feels like summertime on a plate. It’s light and refreshing and perfect for an appetizer or small meal that won’t weigh you down.

Caprese salad ingredients, including tomato slices on a cutting board next to mozzarella.

Caprese Salad Ingredients

The most important thing with caprese salad is the freshness 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 most perfect texture. You’ll usually find it packed in water.
  • Fresh Basil: Pluck those leaves fresh from the plant right before serving. You want a bright green color and a fresh aroma that makes you feel like you’re wandering through an Italian garden.
  • Olive Oil: I’m sure you’ve gathered the theme here, but fresh is also key 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 and sweet and lovely. You can add it or leave it off, it’s up to you!
  • Salt and Pepper: Use a flakey salt like a 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.

Slices of tomato and mozzarella on a plate with fresh basil leaves.

How to Make Caprese Salad

Once your tomatoes and mozzarella are sliced, just alternate them in layers on a plate. Then, pluck some of your fresh basil leaves (I personally love the smaller baby leaves) and place them under a few of the layers. Drizzle the olive oil and balsamic reduction on top and sprinkle with salt and pepper before serving it up. How easy is that? And if you want to enjoy with a beautiful bottle of wine, by all means go for it!

Caprese Salad Recipe Video (1-Minute)

While it’s easy to make this salad recipe, it always helps to watch a quick tutorial video. Give it a watch!

If you want to enjoy caprese salad in the fall or winter, make sure to whip up my Persimmon Caprese Salad. It’s a spin on this classic recipe that I’m confident you’ll love.

And if you’ve got an abundance of fresh tomatoes, give my Zucchini Noodle Caprese, Marinara Sauce or Greek Salad a try!

Slices of tomato and mozzarella on a plate with fresh basil leaves.
5 from 5 votes

Caprese Salad Recipe

Prep Time: 5 mins
Total Time: 5 mins
Servings: 4 servings
Author: Lisa Bryan
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The best caprese salad recipe uses a handful of fresh, juicy ingredients. Keep it simple and tasty with this easy and classic Italian salad recipe. It's the perfect for summer salad. Watch the video above to see how I make it!

Ingredients

  • 3 large tomatoes, sliced
  • 8 ounces mozzarella, sliced
  • a handful of fresh basil leaves
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp balsamic reduction (balsamic glaze)
  • salt and pepper

Instructions

  • 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 the ingredients.
  • 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 as well.
  • Drizzle the olive oil and balsamic reduction on top of the tomatoes and mozzarella.
  • Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then serve immediately.

Lisa's Tips

  • 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. Whatever is in season!

Nutrition

Calories: 255kcal, Carbohydrates: 7g, Protein: 13g, Fat: 20g, Saturated Fat: 8g, Cholesterol: 45mg, Sodium: 360mg, Potassium: 262mg, Fiber: 1g, Sugar: 4g, Vitamin A: 1150IU, Vitamin C: 12.6mg, Calcium: 296mg, Iron: 0.5mg
Course: Appetizer, Salad
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: Caprese Salad, Caprese Salad Recipe, Insalata Caprese
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13 comments on “Caprese Salad”

  1. A friend from Italy was visiting me and was shocked to see me use basil pesto on my Caprese. I mix my pesto with olive oil so I can drizzle it – I always have pesto in my freezer and don’t always have access to fresh basil leaves.  

    He uses a black olive tapenade. It is an absolutely delicious option, I can assure you. The rich and salty tartness of the olive spread plays very well with mozzarella and ripe tomatoes. 

  2. I love salads and I’m always on the lookout for fresh summer salads. I can’t wait to try this!

  3. This looks so incredibly fresh and delicious! Can’t wait to try!

  4. I made this yesterday for a get together and it was a huge hit! Classic recipe and I love your tips!

  5. Definitely one of my favorite salads, too. And great taste with that balsamic vinegar – I always go back to it no matter what else I try from time to time :-)

    • Happy I’m not the only one who loves it with the balsamic. I know it’s not as traditional, but I just love balsamic on just about anything. ;) Thanks Danielle!

  6. What a light and flavorful salad! So robust in flavor and easy to make too!