Classic Caprese Salad Recipe

Simplicity at its best with 3 main ingredients, a classic Italian caprese salad makes a delicious summer recipe in less than 10 minutes. The delicious combination of sweet tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil are perfect for an appetiser or main dish.

two hands holding fork and spoon to serve caprese salad on a black plate. Bread and bowl of tomatoes in background.

Why You’ll Love Caprese Salad

Simplicity at its finest. Fast, easy, and so delicious

Nothing represents Italian summer more than a good classic caprese salad. 

With plump sweet juicy tomatoes matched with creamy fresh mozzarella, pepped up with aromatic basil leaves and tied together simply with good quality extra virgin olive oil and sea salt, caprese salad takes only 10 minutes to make and possibly the same amount of time to devour!

What I love about the caprese salad is that you can serve it anytime during a meal. 

Try caprese salad as an appetiser, serve as a side dish with pork or add to a selection of antipasto dishes for a main meal. And when you are thinking of an afternoon aperitivo, this easy Italian salad and crusty bread work deliciously as a snack. 

Caprese salad relies on the freshest ingredients to shine therefore, the best time to make this is during the warmer months. Summertime is when tomatoes and basil can be found in abundance and of the highest quality of flavour. 

What Does Caprese Mean In A Salad?

Caprese salad (also known as insalata caprese) is originally from Capri, an island in the Bay of Naples, Italy. This is where it takes its name from. Pronounced “cah-PRAY-ze”, caprese literally means it is from Capri. 

What Goes In A Caprese Salad?

A traditional caprese salad recipe only has 3 main ingredients – tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil. Seasoned simply with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.

However, as time progresses, there are many variants to the classic tomato, mozzarella and basil combination. We also like to create our own twists including watermelon tomato caprese.

Adding balsamic vinegar as well as extra virgin olive oil has become so popular that many people mistake it for being in the original recipe. 

If I do use balsamic, I prefer balsamic glaze or a good quality aged balsamic vinegar for a touch of sweetness and thicker consistency. 

Another popular variation to the traditional version is switching the mozzarella cheese. Typically fresh mozzarella is added to caprese salad but you can also switch to bocconcini just like our strawberry caprese version or serve a burrata caprese.  

Buffalo mozzarella in brine in a bowl with basil and tomato in the background

What Salad Dressing To Use For Caprese Salad?

There is no real salad dressing for caprese salad. Extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper are enough to add flavour to the mozzarella, tomato and basil salad. The tomato juices help add sweetness. 

If you would like a little more tart flavours, our balsamic vinaigrette is a great addition or basil mint dressing for extra oomph. 

Best Tomatoes For Caprese Salad?

Typically speaking, I would go for heirloom or beefsteak tomatoes for a caprese salad. However, I do believe it is a personal choice which tomatoes to use in a caprese salad. 

Regardless of the variety used, make sure the tomatoes are fresh and of good quality. An unripe or a tomato not in season will ruin your experience with a caprese salad. 

Spend a bit more for the best tomatoes because it is totally worth it.

Recipe Overview

Flavour/Texture: Sweet, aromatic and creamy rolled into one. I love a good sharp extra virgin olive oil to really bring in the flavours. The textures are soft and juicy.

Ease: No cooking involved, just simple chopping. Just like our other easy classic salad recipes, Greek Salad and Indian Kachumber Salad.

Time: Basically depends on how fast you can chop! Ready in less than 10 minutes. 

Ingredients

These are the ingredients you need for caprese salad:

caprese salad ingredients with tomatoes, basil and mozzarella

Tomatoes: Select quality plump tomatoes. Heirloom, beefsteak, tomatoes on a vine, whatever you like or that is in season at the time. For a tossed caprese salad recipe, can also add cherry tomatoes.  

Mozzarella: I typically use buffalo mozzarella in a caprese salad which is also known as fresh mozzarella in some places. I love the creaminess of buffalo mozzarella and because I can slice into thick slices. Depending on the size of your cheese, you may need more than 2 mozzarella balls. 

Basil: Nothing beats the smell of fresh basil. The aromatic aniseed flavours are a perfect match for a caprese salad. Do not need to cut the basil leaves. Leave whole or gentle tear into small pieces. 

Extra Virgin Olive Oil: A high quality, sharp extra virgin olive oil plays an important role in this recipe. 

Salt and Pepper: Good quality sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper help enhance the sweetness of tomatoes.

Variations and Substitutions

Vegan option: Substitute fresh mozzarella for your favourite vegan mozzarella brand.

Dressing variations: Balsamic vinegar or glaze is a popular variation of the original recipe. Pesto is also another delicious option.

Substitution for mozzarella: If you can’t find fresh mozzarella, try bocconcini which is baby-sized fresh mozzarella balls or switch to burrata for a creamier lush form of mozzarella. You can also use fior di latte in place of fresh mozzarella. 

Additional ingredients: The tomato mozzarella and basil combination can serve as a base for many other ingredients. Create your own twists with grilled peach, watermelon, strawberries, avocado, arugula or spinach leaves. 

Instructions

Step by step instructions for how to make Caprese Salad:

How to Make the Salad

Slice tomatoes into large round slices.

slices of tomato cut on a wooden chopping board with a knife and whole tomatoes next to them.

Pat dry fresh mozzarella after taking out from whey. Slice into thick large rounds. 

If there is still extra moisture from the cheese slices, pat dry again with paper towel.

hand holding mozzarella ball drying in a paper towel
sliced mozzarella cheese on a wooden chopping board with knife next to them.

How to Assemble the Salad

Caprese salad is usually arranged on a plate with alternating slices of tomatoes and mozzarella and then basil leaves scattered in between. You can also make a tossed caprese salad but I prefer to arrange it on a platter. 

On a large plate, layer alternating slices of tomatoes and fresh mozzarella.

Scatter basil leaves in between the slices of tomato and mozzarella. 

hand placing sliced tomato in between mozzarella on a round plate
hand placing basil leaf on top of tomato and mozzarella slices on a round plate

Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper to serve. 

How to Make This Salad Perfectly (Expert Tips)

Freshest ingredients: There is no hiding with this simple caprese salad therefore, you need the best produce. It thrives on simplicity and using quality ingredients is the key.

Ensure you also have a good quality extra virgin olive oil. The sharp peppery flavours will help enhance the sweetness of the tomatoes. 

Pat dry fresh mozzarella: Fresh mozzarella is stored in whey so it is best to pat dry the cheese before adding it to plate. 

Serve at room temperature: Serve the salad at room temperature so that the ingredients get a chance to mellow and shine on the plate. 

hands holding caprese salad on a round blue plate

Great Mains for This Salad

What to serve with classic caprese salad? Try these delicious main dish recipes:

A classic caprese salad deserves a good Italian main to keep it company. This simple eggplant parmigiana or warm and toasty zuppa Toscana with sausage, potatoes, and bacon would work really well.

For a heartier meal, you can impress your family and friends with this chicken puttanesca recipe with Calabrian chiles

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I make this salad ahead of time?

Yes, you can make caprese salad recipe ahead of time but it doesn’t really take long to make just when you are ready to serve. 

How to store caprese salad?

It is best to eat caprese salad fresh. If you have any leftovers, you can store it in an airtight container in the fridge for 1-2 days. 

What is the difference between burrata vs mozzarella cheese?

Burrata and fresh mozzarella are very similar – both semi-soft cheese, not aged and eaten soon after being made. They are both mild in flavour and have delicate finishes.

Fresh mozzarella is traditionally made with buffalo milk hence why it is also sometimes called buffalo mozzarella. Most fresh mozzarella cheese you find today is made with cow’s milk. 

Fresh mozzarella is made with fresh milk curds stretched, kneaded and then formed into a round smooth ball. The ball itself is solid and you can cut it into slices. 

Whilst burrata is not solid inside, it is like a money bag holding
stracciatella (shredded mozzarella cheese mixed with cream) in the middle. If you cut burrata, the creamy mozzarella filling will ooze out. 

The main difference between the two is the creamy stracciatella inside the burrata.

Can you substitute fresh mozzarella for regular mozzarella?

No, you can not substitute fresh mozzarella for regular firm mozzarella in a caprese salad recipe.

Regular firm mozzarella sold in a block or pre-grated is primarily used for melting on pizza or pasta. It will be too rubbery for this caprese salad.  


This might be one of the most simple salad recipes you can make, but with the freshest ingredients, caprese salad will outshine many complicated combinations.

Classic flavour pairings of tomato, mozzarella and basil together will not disappoint any summer BBQ or picnic gathering you have.

More Quick Salad Recipes

Caprese salad on a black rectangular platter

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Caprese salad on a black rectangular platter with gold fork and spoon
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5 from 69 votes

Classic Caprese Salad Recipe

Simplicity at it’s best with 3 main ingredients, a classic Italian caprese salad makes a delicious summer recipe in less than 10 minutes. The delicious combination of sweet tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil are perfect for an appetiser or main dish.
Prep Time10 minutes
Total Time10 minutes
Course: Salad
Cuisine: Italian
Suitable for Diet: Gluten Free, Halal, Vegetarian
Additional Dietary: Egg Free, Gluten Free, Keto, Low Carb, Nut Free, Vegetarian
Servings: 4 people
Calories: 87kcal
Author: Amy Chung

Ingredients

Salad

Click on the toggle below for conversion to US Cooking Units.

Instructions

Salad

  • Slice tomatoes into large round slices.
  • Pat dry fresh mozzarella after taking out from whey.
  • Slice into thick large rounds.

Assembly

  • On a large plate, layer alternating slices of tomatoes and fresh mozzarella.
  • Scatter basil leaves in between the slices of tomato and mozzarella.
  • Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.
  • Season with salt and pepper to serve.

Notes

  • Use freshest ingredients you can find for caprese salad. It thrives on simplicity and using quality ingredients is the key.
  • Serve the salad at room temperature.
  • Substitute fresh mozzarella for your favourite vegan mozzarella brand.
  • Balsamic vinegar or glaze is a popular variation to the original recipe. Pesto is also another delicious option.
  • If you can’t find fresh mozzarella, try bocconcini which is baby-sized fresh mozzarella balls or switch to burrata for a creamier lush form of mozzarella. You can also use fior di latte in place of fresh mozzarella.
  • The tomato mozzarella and basil combination can serve as a base for many other ingredients. Create your own twists with grilled peach, watermelon, strawberries, avocado, arugula or spinach leaves.

Nutrition

Calories: 87kcal | Carbohydrates: 11g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.1g | Cholesterol: 8mg | Sodium: 123mg | Potassium: 613mg | Fiber: 3g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 2284IU | Vitamin C: 35mg | Calcium: 41mg | Iron: 1mg

*Disclaimer: Nutritional information provided is an estimate only and generated by an online calculator.

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One Comment

  1. Amy Liu Dong says:

    5 stars
    I always love to make an easy, quick, and delicious salad for everyone, and this one is the best.
    Thank you so much!

5 from 69 votes (68 ratings without comment)

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