Say hello to one of the most iconic dishes of the summer season, the classic Caprese salad. With a dreamy combination of heirloom tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese, and a flavorful mint basil pesto sauce, this beautiful salad is a guaranteed crowd-pleaser.
During the summertime, I am always in the mood for something light, refreshing, and packed with flavor. Luckily, this Caprese salad recipe covers all of those bases.
Plus, if you want to skip the dairy, you can easily sub out the cheese for slices of fresh avocado!
This easy no-cook recipe takes only a few minutes to whip up and looks absolutely stunning on a platter. If you’re looking for a way to impress your friends and family without putting in much effort, this is the way to go.
What is Caprese salad? Named after the island of Capri, the Caprese salad is a classic Italian salad made with tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, olive oil, and basil.
While there are many variations to the dish, like the amazing mint & basil pesto we’re using here, there is one consistent factor that every Caprese salad shares: fresh ingredients.
This is not the kind of dish where you can use dried basil, subpar mozzarella, or —I almost can’t say it— canned tomatoes. Fresh, quality ingredients are key, which is one of the reasons why this easy Italian salad is a summer staple.
I love serving this Caprese salad with mint basil pesto sauce for a light lunch on the weekends or alongside classic cookout dishes at family gatherings.
Try it out for yourself and let me know what you think in the comments!
The key to the best Caprese salad is opting for fresh, quality ingredients. Let’s break down the ingredients you’ll need to bring this crave-worthy dish to life.
- Heirloom Tomatoes: I love using heirloom tomatoes during the summer months when they’re at their peak, but you can use any fresh tomatoes you prefer.
- Fresh Mozzarella Cheese: To truly do this salad justice, make sure to opt for a nice ball of fresh, soft mozzarella. You can find this in the gourmet cheese section at most major grocery stores. (Tip: You can sub the fresh tomatoes with slices of fresh avocado if cheese isn't your thing.)
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil: When making homemade pesto sauce, it’s essential to use quality extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) for the best-tasting results.
- Fresh Basil and Mint: While many Caprese salad recipes call for simply topping the dish with torn leaves, I like to kick things up a notch by blending mine into a fresh and flavorful pesto sauce. It’s delicious and really enhances the salad!
- Pine Nuts: This is a key ingredient in any pesto recipe and can be found in the same grocery store aisle as the other types of nuts.
- Lemon Juice: Fresh lemon juice brightens up our pesto sauce and enhances the amazing flavors of the dish.
- Microgreens: This is optional, but I love sprinkling a bunch of microgreens over my salad as a special touch that makes the presentation pop even more.
How to Make Caprese Salad
You can make this fresh and flavorful salad in under 15 minutes. All you need is a few basic ingredients and a food processor or blender! Be sure to check out the recipe card below for exact measurements.
Step 1: Arrange Tomatoes and Mozzarella
Arrange the fresh tomato slices and mozzarella on a plate or platter. Top with microgreens and sprinkle with red pepper flakes.
Step 2: Make Mint Basil Pesto Sauce
In a food processor or blender, add the basil, mint, olive oil, pine nuts, salt, and lemon juice. Then, pulse until smooth.
Step 3: Garnish and Serve
Drizzle a bit of pesto over your salad just before serving the dish and reserve the rest. You can use the leftover pesto to top salads, grilled chicken, and pasta!
This Caprese salad recipe is the perfect dish to serve during the summer season on its own for lunch or as part of a larger meal. Make it a low-carb meal by adding grilled chicken or serve it with your favorite pasta.
Want some more ideas? Here are some of my favorite ways to serve this dish:
- Host an Italian-themed dinner party by pairing this dish with this Creamy Pasta Recipe or your noodles of choice with this delicious bolognese sauce.
- Soup and salad, anyone? Try this Easy, Healthy Minestrone Soup or Lemony Chicken Quinoa Soup.
- Add a refreshing beverage like this Homemade Lemonade with Honey Simple Syrup for the ultimate summer barbecue or pool party.
- Don’t forget dessert! Pair this salad with a delicious summer dessert like my Healthy Watermelon Mint Popsicles or this No-Bake Raspberry Vegan Cheesecake.
Caprese Salad Recipe Variations
One of the beautiful things about this classic Italian salad is that there are plenty of ways to modify the recipe to suit your dietary needs and flavor preferences. Here are some of the best ways to customize this Caprese salad recipe:
- Caprese Salad with Balsamic Glaze: If you love the tangy and sweet flavor of balsamic glaze, feel free to add a drizzle to your salad or swap out the pesto for chopped fresh herbs and balsamic glaze instead.
- Vegan Caprese Salad: When heirloom tomatoes are in season, they do a perfectly good job of standing on their own. You can make this salad vegan by simply omitting the cheese and serving the tomatoes with your mint basil pesto.
- Roasted Tomato Caprese Salad: For a fun twist, try roasting your tomatoes in the oven before adding them to your salad platter. This enhances the natural sweetness of the tomatoes and is a great way to switch things up.
- Burrata Caprese Salad: If you love the creamy consistency of burrata, try replacing the mozzarella with fresh burrata instead for a flavorful twist.
- Caprese Skewers: These are perfect if you plan on hosting a party! Swap the heirloom tomatoes for cherry tomatoes and the large mozzarella for mini mozzarella balls, then skewer your ingredients and drizzle with pesto to serve.
With tomatoes ripe this season it’s an obvious choice to try a Caprese salad. Made with heirloom tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and a tasty homemade pesto sauce, you really can’t go wrong.
- 2-3 medium heirloom tomatoes, any color, sliced
- 6-ounces (or 1 ball) of fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced*
- 1 bunch microgreens
- Red pepper flakes, optional
Mint Pesto Sauce:
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves
- 1 cup fresh mint leaves
- ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ¼ cup pine nuts
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon lemon juice
- Arrange fresh tomato slices and mozzarella on a plate. Top with microgreens and sprinkle with red pepper flakes.
- In a food processor or blender, add the basil, mint, olive oil, pine nuts, salt, and lemon juice. Then, pulse until smooth.
- Drizzle a bit of pesto over your salad and reserve the rest.
*Make this dish dairy-free by subbing the cheese for fresh slices of avocado.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Here are the answers to some of the most common questions about this classic Caprese salad recipe:
Is Caprese salad healthy?
Yes! Caprese salad is an easy, healthy dish made with fresh ingredients. Tomatoes are loaded with beneficial vitamins and minerals, and mozzarella is relatively low in fat compared to other cheeses.
This salad is low-carb, gluten-free, and free from additives and artificial ingredients. It can also be made dairy-free by omitting the mozzarella or swapping it for fresh avocado.
What kinds of tomatoes are best for Caprese salad?
Heirloom tomatoes are widely believed to be the best tomatoes for Caprese salad for their incredible flavor and beautiful color. However, if you can’t find any or want to try something else, any variety of ripe tomatoes will work well.
I would recommend choosing a larger tomato, like beefsteak or vine tomatoes, so the size is similar to your mozzarella slices.
Can you store leftovers?
Caprese salad is best served fresh, but you can store it in the fridge for up to 2 days if needed. To store, tightly wrap the sliced tomatoes and mozzarella with plastic wrap and keep them separate from the pesto sauce.
You can store the leftover pesto in an airtight jar or container in the fridge for up to 4-5 days.
What is the difference between Caprese and bruschetta?
Caprese is an Italian salad made with fresh tomato slices, mozzarella, and basil. On the other hand, bruschetta is an antipasto consisting of toasted bread topped with diced tomatoes, basil, and garlic.
While the flavor profile is similar because of the combination of fresh tomatoes and basil, the dishes are totally different.
More Delicious Summer Salad Recipes
If you liked this heirloom tomato Caprese salad, you’ll love these summer salads: