An easy caprese salad with balsamic vinegar that looks absolutely gorgeous and tastes like summer. It's one of my favorite summer lunches!
Salads are a summer staple and with good reason. They are fresh-tasting, easy to make, and they don't require heating up the oven or slaving over a hot stove. 🥗
Caprese salad (pronounced cah-preh-seh) is quick, fresh, and tastes like summer. It's one of those super-simple dishes that are surprisingly delicious. Such a wonderful flavor combination! I've come to strongly associate this fresh-tasting dish with summer.
What's the origin of the salad's name?
It's called "Insalata Caprese" in Italian, which translates to "salad of Capri." So it probably originated from the Island of Capri.
The ingredients you'll need
You'll only need a few ingredients to make this tasty salad (exact measurements are included in the recipe card below):
Fresh tomatoes: They need to be truly red, ripe yet firm. Certainly not pale and mealy.
Fresh mozzarella: The fresher you can find, the better it will taste.
Basil leaves: Pick beautiful green ones, free of blemishes and brown spots. Basil doesn't keep for long in the fridge. Here's a tip from reader Lee (thank you, Lee! ❤️): Never put basil in the refrigerator. Put it in a plastic bag on the kitchen counter and you'll have it for about a week.
Kosher salt and black pepper: If using fine salt, you should reduce the amount you use.
Olive oil: Extra-virgin olive oil is so flavorful - I highly recommend using it in this salad.
Balsamic vinegar: I like to use a 10-year aged vinegar, but a younger vinegar (aged for 5 years) will be good too.
Dijon mustard: It's thicker, creamier and less vinegary than yellow mustard.
How to make a caprese salad
It's so easy! Scroll down to the recipe card for the detailed instructions. Here are the basic steps:
Whisk the dressing ingredients and set aside.
Slice the tomatoes thinly. Then, using a sharp knife, slice the mozzarella thinly.
Arrange the tomato and mozzarella slices on a platter, alternating and overlapping each other. Arrange the basil leaves on top.
Sprinkle the salad with salt and pepper. Drizzle with the salad dressing, and serve.
Use the best ingredients!
As always when it comes to simple recipes, the individual ingredients must be of high quality to make this simple salad as good as it can be. So when you make this salad, I recommend that you follow these suggestions:
Make sure you use good olive oil and aged balsamic vinegar.
Choose Kosher salt or sea salt rather than table salt.
Pick fresh whole-milk mozzarella, as fresh as you can get.
Most importantly, use good tomatoes. 🍅Big, red and ripe but firm, not mealy, and definitely not refrigerated. If your tomatoes did spend some time in the fridge, take them out of it and bring them to room temperature.
Can I use low-fat mozzarella?
I don't recommend it. Low-fat mozzarella is not very tasty. And it's such an important part of this dish.
The best dressing for caprese salad
This is nontraditional, but I like to add a small amount of Dijon mustard to the dressing. This helps it emulsify.
You can skip the Dijon and simply drizzle the salad with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. It won't be as pretty, but it will be just as tasty.
Can I make it the night before?
It's better not to. The whole thing can turn quite soggy overnight in the fridge. It's a very easy recipe to make, so I don't mind making it right before we plan on eating.
How to serve it?
Caprese salad is traditionally served as an Italian appetizer. But at home, I either serve it as a side dish with dinner (it goes really well with oven chicken kabobs) or as a main course for lunch.
More salad recipes that you might enjoy
Another simple summer recipe that I love is this recipe for cherry tomato salad. And if you like main-course salads,, I think you will love this chicken cobb salad. It's a bit labor-intensive, but it's amazing.
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- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 2 medium tomatoes
- 8 oz fresh whole-milk mozzarella
- 9 medium basil leaves
- ½ teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt (or ¼ teaspoon sea salt)
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- In a small bowl, whisk the dressing ingredients with a small hand whisk until they emulsify into a smooth salad dressing. Set aside.
- Slice the tomatoes thinly. Aim to get a total of 10 slices.
- Using a sharp knife, slice the mozzarella thinly into 9 rounds.
- Arrange the tomato and mozzarella slices on a platter, alternating and overlapping each other. Arrange the basil leaves on top, as shown in the photos.
- Sprinkle the salad with salt and pepper. Drizzle with the salad dressing. Serve immediately.