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Caprese Salad (also known as Insalata Caprese in Italian) is a classic side dish or appetizer that celebrates some of the best flavors of Italy while also showing off the colors of that country’s flag. It’s the perfect dish to celebrate some of summer’s best garden-fresh delights like juicy ripe tomatoes and fresh basil leaves!

If you have lots of garden fresh tomatoes, be sure to also try our other summer favorites like Easy Southern Tomato Pie or a Four Cheese Pizza with Tomato Basil Arugula Salad.

a classic caprese salad on a white plate made with balsamic glaze

Insalata Caprese

This simple, quick dish is so easy to make that anyone can pull it together in hardly any time at all. It’s perfect for cookouts and backyard barbecues. Caprese Salad is perfect with grilled chicken or other grilled proteins, although we have been known to make an entire meal of a large plate of caprese salad with a loaf of crusty bread on the side!

The creamy flavor of the fresh mozzarella pairs so well with the acidic tomatoes and balsamic glaze. And the bright, fresh flavor of the basil leaves always has us craving this classic summer side.

another plate of caprese salad

If you want to change things up, try adding in some sliced fresh peaches along with the tomatoes for an unexpected twist. Or switch out the mozzarella cheese for it’s even softer, creamier cousin, burrata. You could also add creamy sliced avocado or a drizzle of homemade pesto.

We enjoy caprese salad so much, that we have even made a caprese panini sandwich with the same ingredients, except in a pressed hot sandwich that rivals a classic BLT for our favorite summer lunch.

a close image of balsamic glaze drizzled over fresh mozzarella

Classic Caprese Salad Ingredients

  • Tomatoes: Use the best tomatoes you can get your hands on. We love using heirloom tomatoes from the farmers’ market during the summer, or the beautiful beefsteak or roma tomatoes grown on our own tomato vines.
  • Mozzarella: You’ll want fresh mozzarella for this classic Italian dish. It’s extra helpful if you buy the presliced kind.
  • Fresh basil: There is no substitute for fresh basil leaves, but fortunately, you can almost always pick up fresh basil at the store if you aren’t lucky enough to have basil growing in your garden.
  • Olive oil: Use the best quality extra virgin olive oil you have.
  • Coarse kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper: The size of your salt and pepper matter in this dish so don’t just use table salt or fine ground black pepper, which won’t give the same flavor as the coarser varieties.
  • Balsamic glaze: You can buy this at the store in the oil and vinegars aisle, or make your own at home using just balsamic vinegar and a little honey. It’s worth the extra effort.
caprese salad made with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil leaves drizzled with balsamic glaze

How to Make Caprese Salad

Make a balsamic glaze: This part is easy, but takes a little time. Add balsamic vinegar and honey to a medium saucepan over medium heat, whisking to combine. Once it comes to a simmer, reduce the heat to medium-low or even low and let it simmer until thickened and reduced by about 1/2. Remove from the heat and it will continue to thicken as the glaze cools.

a spoon drizzling balsamic glaze into a jar

Assemble Salad: Alternate slices of fresh tomato, mozzarella, and basil leaves on a large platter. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, then give the whole thing a good sprinkle of coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Can this be made ahead?

While this isn’t a great side dish to make more than an hour ahead, the good news is that it takes hardly any time to assemble. Our recommendation is to make your balsamic reduction in advance since it will keep in the fridge for weeks. Then if you are transporting this to a potluck or other gathering, take the other elements and assemble on a platter right before serving.

What to serve with caprese salad

This dish goes with almost anything, but here are some of our favorite ideas for serving as a main dish alongside this fresh and punchy salad.

a classic Italian caprese salad

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Caprese Salad
Yield: 6 servings

Caprese Salad

Caprese Salad (also known as Insalata Caprese in Italian) is a classic side dish or appetizer that celebrates some of the best flavors of Italy while also showing off the colors of that country's flag. It's the perfect dish to celebrate some of summer's best garden-fresh delights like juicy ripe tomatoes and fresh basil leaves!

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 3 large tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch slices
  • 16 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/4-inch slices
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse Kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

Balsamic Glaze

  1. Whisk the balsamic vinegar and honey together in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally, then reduce the heat to low and let it simmer until thickened and reduced by about 1/2. Remove from the heat and it will continue to thicken as the glaze cools. Cool to room temperature before using on the caprese salad. This can be made up to 2 weeks ahead and stored in the fridge.

Assembly

  1. Prepare tomatoes then arrange alternating slices of tomato, mozzarella, and basil leaves on a large platter. Drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle with the salt and pepper, using more or less to taste.
  2. Drizzle with as much of the balsamic glaze as you would like, then serve immediately.

Notes

  • This salad is really best within a few hours of preparing it, although I have been known to eat the leftovers the next day for lunch anyway.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

6

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 339Total Fat: 23gSaturated Fat: 9gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 12gCholesterol: 48mgSodium: 505mgCarbohydrates: 18gFiber: 1gSugar: 15gProtein: 15g

All nutritional information is based on third party calculations and is only an estimate. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods and portion sizes per household.

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Be sure to follow our Pinterest board for more summer BBQ ideas. Thank you to Christie from A Kitchen Hoor’s Adventures and Ellen from Family Around the Table for hosting the event.