Fresh and juicy, creamy and satisfying. With only a few simple ingredients, the Caprese salad hits all the marks. And while most cooks know this mozzarella-tomato-basil recipe by heart, we’ve found a few ways to make this iconic dish taste so much better.
Choosing the Best Ingredients
This salad is super simple, which means each ingredient has a chance to shine. We recommend using the highest-quality tomatoes and cheese you can find.
- Tomatoes: Heirloom tomatoes, for example, are a gorgeous, delicious addition to this salad. They’re available in many beautiful colors, and their complex flavors will really elevate the dish more than Romas or on-the-vine tomatoes. But don’t buy blindly, learn about the varieties here.
- Mozzarella: As for cheese, fresh is best. Look for mozzarella di bufala or buffalo mozzarella on the label and choose a larger piece that’ll help you slice large pieces for layering.
- Basil: Look for fresh basil that’s green throughout and has not begun to wilt. If you have the option, choose Genovese basil, an Italian variety that’s sweetness will help the dish shine.
How to Make a Mozzarella Tomato Basil (Caprese) Salad
Melissa Pearson from Sandy, Utah, submitted this time-honored recipe to us. “My husband and I love Caprese salad, but not the high prices we pay for it in restaurants,” she says, “Here, we created our own version which tastes incredibly close, if not better, than any restaurant version we’ve tried.”
- 4 medium tomatoes, sliced
- 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
- 1/2 pound fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon ground mustard
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon pepper
Step 1: Whisk Up the Vinaigrette
In a small bowl or mason jar, combine the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, mustard and seasonings. Give the ingredients a stir, or if you’re using a mason jar, screw on the lid and give it a vigorous shake.
Pro tip: Vinaigrettes like this one are easily customizable to your taste. Get our Test Kitchen guide here. Feel free to omit the mustard or trade the balsamic vinegar for a flavored version for a sweet spin. Give this set a try ($24).
Step 2: Arrange the Ingredients
The classic way to arrange a Caprese salad is to layer the mozzarella, tomato and basil in a ring or row, however, some home cooks prefer to stack the ingredients vertically for individual servings. The choice is yours, but remember to alternate ingredients as you go. Ideally, the finished dish will showcase a beautiful palette of red, green and white—the colors of the Italian flag!
Step 3: Add the Finishing Touches
Just before serving, drizzle the balsamic vinaigrette over the entire dish.
How to Make the Ultimate Mozzarella Tomato Basil Salad
Taste of Home
While the traditional Caprese salad offers a level of simplicity you can fall back to, again and again, this recipe submitted by reader Julie Merriman kicks the classic dish up a notch by incorporating a ton of new zest and texture—making it perfect for summer parties.
What You’ll Need
- 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, divided
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1 whole star anise
- 3/4 cup thinly sliced red onion (about 1/2 medium)
- 2 pounds medium heirloom tomatoes, cut into wedges
- 2 cups heirloom cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 cup pitted green olives, halved
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced and halved
- 1 tablespoon each minced fresh basil, tarragon, mint and cilantro
- 1 serrano pepper, thinly sliced
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 1-1/2 teaspoons grated lime zest
- 1/4 teaspoon salt, optional
Step 1: Marinade the Onion
In a small saucepan, combine 1 cup of the red wine vinegar, sugar and star anise. Bring it to a boil, carefully stirring to dissolve the sugar. Remove the pan from the heat and let it cool slightly. Stir in the sliced red onion. Let stand for 30 minutes.
Step 2: Mix the Goods
In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, olives, cheese, herbs and serrano pepper. Remove the star anise from the onion mixture. Drain out the onion, reserving 2 tablespoons of the marinade. (You can discard the remaining marinade or save it for another use.) Add the onion to the tomato mixture.
Editor’s Tip: Wear disposable gloves when cutting and handling hot peppers; the oils can burn skin. Avoid touching your face!
Step 3: Dress, Drizzle and Devour
In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, lime juice and zest and remaining vinegar. Pour this dressing over the tomato mixture. Then, drizzle everything with the reserved marinade and toss gently to coat all of the veggies and cheese. Season the salad with salt if desired. Serve immediately.