How to make tomato mozzarella salad – a classic fresh Italian layered tomato and mozzarella salad with basil and a simple olive oil and (optional) balsamic dressing. This Caprese salad is perfect for serving as an appetizer or side!
I have already shared a delicious heirloom burrata Caprese salad recipe for a little twist on the classic Caprese salad. However, I realized that this simple tomato and mozzarella salad deserves a post of its very own.
What is Caprese?
Caprese salad is one of those ultimate simple salads where the quality of every ingredient counts. Especially since there are only 6 ingredients needed! These include ripe and juicy tomatoes, creamy mozzarella, fresh basil, and a simple salt, pepper, and olive oil seasoning!
This Italian salad is believed to have originated on the island of Capri. Some even believe that it is an homage to the Italian flag.
How is it that something so simple can taste so amazing? I don’t know, but this mozzarella and tomato salad combination is a true classic. I’ll have this on my table at least 6 times over the summer (and that’s a conservative guess).
Whether you serve it up as-is as a Caprese appetizer, over toast for a simple Caprese bruschetta, or even with pasta/proteins, you’ll never get bored of this simple and delicious combination of ingredients!
In this post, I’ll share how to make the ultimate classic Caprese salad. But I will also show also how to jazz up this tomato and mozzarella salad with a few modern inclusions. However, I implore you to try the classic version even if just once. It’s balanced perfection that needs to be savored by all!
What’s in Tomato Mozzarella Salad
- Tomatoes: Vine-ripened heirloom tomatoes are my favorite option for this easy tomato mozzarella basil salad. You could pick up a variety of different colors for depths of flavor. Make sure they are juicy, sweet, and packed with flavor (no mealy flavorless tomatoes, please!)
- Fresh mozzarella cheese: You can buy pre-sliced (if the thickness works for you) or a whole piece of mozzarella (usually packed in liquid) to cut/tear yourself. Try a high-quality version (fiordilatte or buffalo) for the best flavor and texture. If you can, buy it fresh on the day and leave it at room temperature before serving.
- Basil: Fresh basil and lots of it! If you can, then I recommend picking it from the plant right before serving. You could also experiment with arugula (rocket) or even use a combination of basil and mint.
- Extra virgin olive oil: Use high-quality olive oil for the best flavor and mouthfeel. You can adapt this with the addition of Italian herbs to create an Italian Dressing. Or, add a little pesto to the oil for a simple pesto dressing.
- Balsamic vinegar/glaze: This is technically an optional but delicious addition. Brands will vary in flavor (and price) – something mid-level with a well-rounded flavor would be perfect. I recommend trying the Caprese salad first before touching the balsamic, though. Sometimes it only serves to cover up those fresh flavors.
- Salt and pepper: These simple seasonings really help to enhance the flavors of this Italian salad. I recommend using kosher salt or even salt flakes (for great texture too). The pepper is optional too but recommended.
- Caprese salad with cherry tomatoes: when tomatoes are out of season, you can make this salad with cherry tomatoes. Cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes are a great alternative.
- Caprese salad skewers: this is another appealing variation. Caprese salad skewers are perfect for holidays and parties. Just alternate cherry tomatoes and mozzarella pieces on each skewer. This would be an excellent Caprese appetizer.
- Caprese sandwich: to make this, just layer tomatoes and mozzarella on your slice of bread (toasted or not) and enjoy.
- You can use balsamic reduction or balsamic glaze instead of balsamic vinegar for another depth of flavor.
How to Make Tomato Mozzarella Caprese Salad
Step 1: Chop/tear the Ingredients
Gather your ripe tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil. Slice the tomatoes into even slices with a sharp knife or mandoline. Then chop (or tear) the mozzarella and gather basil leaves.
Finally, arrange them all in your dish. You can do this as little stacks, layer them around a dish (as I have), or even stack them on their side in a small dish. It’s up to you.
You could even keep the mozzarella whole in the center of the plate, surrounded by tomato slices.
Step 2: Add the Seasonings
Drizzle the tomato basil mozzarella salad with olive oil and salt and pepper (to taste). Then, optionally, add a drizzle of balsamic, too.
Then allow it to sit for 10 minutes to allow the flavors to meld. The tomato juice and oil will combine and “marinate” at the bottom of the salad – for even better flavor!
How to Serve Caprese Salad
My favorite way to serve this mozzarella and tomato salad is as a Caprese appetizer alongside some crusty bread. However, you could also use the ingredients to make simple bruschetta, serve them up over avocado toast, or Caprese salad skewers. You can also serve it with pasta. Or even make it into more of a meal with the addition of extra protein like grilled shrimp or even a marinated tofu.
How to Store?
This mozzarella and tomato salad is best enjoyed immediately. However, leftovers can be enjoyed for up to 24 hours.
More Simple Tomato Dishes
- Burrata Caprese Salad
- Caprese Sandwich
- Peach Caprese Salad
- Pesto Rosso | Red Pesto
- Easy Pickled Green Tomatoes
If you try this classic Caprese salad recipe, I’d love to hear your thoughts and questions below. Also, I’d really appreciate a recipe card rating below, and feel free to tag me in your recipe recreations on Instagram @Alphafoodie!
Tomato Mozzarella Salad (Caprese)
- 1 lb tomatoes vine-ripened heirloom or other juicy in-season tomatoes
- 8 oz fresh mozzarella high-quality
- 1 tablespoon olive oil Extra virgin
- 1/4 cup basil
- 1/4 teaspoon salt or to taste
- 1/8 teaspoon pepper or to taste
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar/glaze optional
- Mandoline optional
Step 1: Chop/tear the Ingredients
- Gather your tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil. Slice the tomatoes into even slices with a sharp knife or mandoline and then chop (or tear) the mozzarella and gather basil leaves and arrange them in your dish. You can do this as little stacks, layer around a dish (as I have), or even stack on their side in a small dish – it's up to you.You could even keep the mozzarella whole in the center of the plate, surrounded by tomato slices.
Step 2: Add the Seasonings
- Drizzle the salad with olive oil and salt and pepper (to taste) and then, optionally, add a drizzle of balsamic, too.
- Then allow it to sit for 10 minutes to allow the flavors to meld and the tomato juice and oil to combine and ‘marinate’ at the bottom of the salad – for even better flavor!
- Make this during tomato season: Okay, I know tomatoes are mostly available year-round, but there is a WORLD of difference when using fresh, ripe, in-season tomatoes and the often mealy and somewhat tasteless tomatoes that can appear at other times of the year. Even better, buy your tomatoes at a farmers’ market – you won’t regret it!
- Use high–quality ingredients: as a follow-on to the above note. This recipe is best when enjoyed during summer for the best tomatoes – but they’re not the only ingredient that counts. Make sure to use high-quality mozzarella, fresh basil, and delicious extra virgin olive oil, too!
- Allow the salad time to “marinate”: I love to allow the salad at least 10 minutes for the juices from the tomato and the olive oil to meld and the flavors to marinate into a delicious dressing perfect for mopping up with crusty bread.
- To tear or slice the mozzarella? There’s a bit of a debate about which is best. While sliced mozzarella may look best as part of a neatly layered Caprese salad, torn mozzarella is meant to be superior in texture. Try both and you decide!
- Can you make Caprese salad in advance? This tomato mozzarella salad tastes best within a few hours (especially since it’s best not to chill it!).
- Avocado Caprese salad: Add some thin slices of ripe avocado to the ingredient layers.
- Peach Caprese salad: This version asks you to substitute some tomatoes for fresh peach slices instead. You can do it as a 50:50 blend, though I prefer to still use around 70% tomato and 30% peach for just a few pops of sweetness.
- Chopped Caprese Salad: This is precisely what it sounds like and is great when served as a side salad with lettuce or other leafy greens. Chop all the ingredients up into small pieces (or even use the mini mozzarella balls!).
- Vegan Caprese salad: You can swap out the mozzarella for vegan mozzarella, instead.
- Garlic: Add a little fresh minced garlic for a pop of additional flavor.
- Onion: Thin slices (I use a mandoline) of a sweet onion like Vidalia onion can add a burst of tangy, sweet flavor.
- Dried oregano: Use in place of or alongside the basil.
- Pine nuts: Garnish the mozzarella salad with some lightly toasted pine nuts for extra flavor.