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!
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.
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.
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.
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 ½. Remove from the heat and it will continue to thicken as the glaze cools.
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.
- Sriracha Mayo Marinated Grilled Lamb Chops
- Perfect Grilled Pork Chops with Sweet BBQ Pork Rub
- Best Beef Kabobs
- Easy Creamy Chicken Marsala
More Recipes Like This
- Trader Joe’s Lentil Bruschetta Feta Dip
- Easy Tomato Basil Bruschetta
- Fried Green Tomatoes
- Watermelon Basil Feta Salad
Did you make this recipe?
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- 1 cup balsamic vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons honey
- 3 large tomatoes cut into ½-inch slices
- 16 ounces fresh mozzarella cut into ¼-inch slices
- ½ cup fresh basil leaves
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon coarse Kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 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 ½. 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.
- 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.
- Drizzle with as much of the balsamic glaze as you would like, then serve immediately.
- 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.