This easy caprese salad layers juicy tomato slices with fresh mozzarella and basil. It’s lovely paired with crusty bread for an appetizer or grilled protein for a meal.
I may complain about the heat and humidity, but overall I LOVE summer. I love the warm temps, I like being outside and I enjoy swimming, reading books next to the pool/ocean and wearing shorts and cute dresses. Summertime food is the best too. Fresh veggies and herbs, lots of berries, peaches and melons, all things grilled, smoothies and my absolute favorite: salads.
Don’t even get me started on perfectly ripe, juicy tomatoes. Every summer we load up on fresh, local tomatoes from nearby farmers, Isaac’s parents or our own backyard plants. At any given time during the summer we have at least 20 tomatoes on our kitchen counter. We eat them at just about every meal and make a ton of different tomato recipes… which is where this caprese salad came about!
It’s the perfect appetizer for a summer shindig. Not only does it highlight two ingredients that are abundant (and cheap) during the summer months, but it’s amazingly flavorful without requiring a ton of ingredients.
Here’s What You Need:
Fresh tomatoes and basil are key ingredients for this salad and if you don’t have perfectly ripe tomatoes, I honestly don’t recommend making it. Caprese salad is really only as good as the tomatoes you’re using.
ripe tomatoes – like I mentioned above, tomatoes are the star of the show here so make sure you have tomatoes that are perfect ripe and juicy.
fresh basil – another key ingredient.
fresh mozzarella – a fresh mozzarella cheese ball works great for caprese salad. I haven’t tried it yet, but Miyokos makes a vegan mozzarella ball made from cashews that could be worth trying if you want to make a dairy-free caprese salad.
olive oil – Caprese salad is a great time to break out your fancy olive oil! Since you’re not cooking the oil you’ll really be able to taste its subtle flavor.
balsamic vinegar – the same goes for the balsamic vinegar… I recommend using the best balsamic you have on hand! That said, if you decide to make a balsamic reduction (see below) you can use a less expensive option.
sea salt and fresh ground pepper – I highly recommend using fresh cracked pepper from a grinder and flaked sea salt for extra flavor. We’re hooked on Maldon sea salt flakes.
How to Make a Simple Balsamic Reduction (Balsamic Glaze)
If I have time I like to make a balsamic reduction for drizzling over the caprese salad. The reduction is sweeter, thicker and tends to stick to the tomatoes and mozzarella better. Making a balsamic reduction is really easy. Here’s how:
In a small saucepan, add 1 cup of balsamic vinegar and bring to a boil
Once boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer and let the vinegar simmer for 10-15 minutes
Once it’s reduced down by 1/2 remove from heat and let cool
How to Make Upgraded Caprese Salad
There are many, many caprese salad recipes out there. The concept is relatively simple — alternating layers of mozzarella, tomato and basil. I kept it super simple for this version (sometimes simple is best!) but there are a ton of ways to upgrade a caprese salad. Here are some things to experiment with:
Add additional fresh herbs to the mix like fresh parsley, thyme or oregano
Caprese salad can be served as an appetizer, a light lunch or as a side salad with dinner. It pairs amazingly well with whole grain crusty bread and grilled protein. It would be delicious with my grilled apple cider vinegar chicken.
aged balsamic vinegar or balsamic reduction, for drizzling
On a plate or serving dish arrange fresh mozzarella and tomato slices in alternating layers. Add a basil leaf between each layer. Chop remaining basil and sprinkle on top. Season with fresh ground pepper and sea salt.
Drizzle on a high-quality olive oil and balsamic vinegar or balsamic reduction. Serve immediately or cover and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes before serving.
Caprese salad is best served fresh, but it will keep in the fridge for 2-3 days.
Optional toppings to spruce up caprese salad: dried Italian seasoning, fresh parsley, capers, crushed red pepper, roasted garlic and/or roasted red peppers