This summer is the summer of heirloom tomatoes. Ripe, juicy heirloom tomatoes in all shades of red, yellow and orange. My friends have gifted me a few from their gardens this summer, and they’re so perfect when sliced and sprinkled with a little olive oil and flaky salt.
I couldn’t walk by the overflowing bins at Whole Foods one more time without stocking up and making something big and bold out of those gorgeous tomatoes. What better than a classic Caprese salad, made with the simplest of ingredients?
Traditional Caprese salads are made with slices of tomato, mozzarella, sprinkled generously with basil, salt and pepper, finished with a drizzle of olive oil.
Caprese salad (insalata Caprese) literally means “salad of Capri.” Capri is an Italian island in the Mediterranean. I can’t confirm that it actually originated there, but it is Italian and it is delicious.
A well-made Caprese salad will make a statement at your summer parties, but it’s easy and simple enough to enjoy on a regular weeknight.
How to Make the Best Caprese Salad
The trick to making a Caprese salad worth eating is to use fantastic ingredients. That’s it!
1) Ripe, juicy tomatoes
In other words, Caprese salads are for summertime and summertime only! I used a variety of heirloom tomatoes but regular garden tomatoes (good ones) will also work marvelously.
I recommend cutting them with a serrated knife for ease and for the cleanest slices (here’s my favorite and here’s a more affordable one, both are affiliate links).
2) Great mozzarella (or burrata)
Fresh mozzarella if you can find it. Otherwise, find mozzarella balls packed in water. The mozzarella balls that come in vacuum-sealed bags tend to be rubbery and don’t absorb olive oil and tomato juice like the other kinds do.
My only real deviation from classic Caprese salads was using burrata instead of mozzarella. Burrata is mozzarella with a glorious cream and mozzarella-infused interior. It’s more delicate than pure mozzarella, and it offers more texture and creaminess. I recommend it if you can find it.
3) Fresh basil
You want beautifully green, well-hydrated basil leaves. The smaller leaves look the nicest, so pick those if you have the option.
4) High-quality olive oil
You don’t have to spend a million bucks on good olive oil. You do need to make sure it’s real, pure, extra-virgin olive oil, which is made from the first pressing of the olives. Be sure to always screw the lid back on, and store it in a cool, dark place like a cupboard.
Olive oil should not taste bitter or rancid—if it does, it has gone bad. My go-to olive oils are California Olive Ranch (Arbequina or Everyday) or Trader Joe’s Kalamata olive oil.
5) Flaky sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Not the kind from salt and pepper shakers, please. Ideally, you want to use flaky sea salt (Maldon sea salt is worth every penny), but kosher salt will work, too. Freshly ground black pepper from a pepper grinder is the only way to go.
Sometimes you’ll find Caprese salads with drizzles of balsamic vinegar or pesto, which are only needed if your other ingredients aren’t flavorful.
But, they should be full of flavor. Caprese salads are for summertime only, remember?
Watch How to Make Caprese Salad
More Fresh Tomato Recipes
Hurry and make these recipes before summer ends:
- Classic Tomato Basil Bruschetta
- Caprese Pasta Salad
- Easy Tomato Salad
- Simple Caprese Skewers with Balsamic Dipping Sauce
- Tomato Gazpacho
I hope you love this Caprese salad as much as I do. It’s a Caprese salad to get excited about! Please let me know how you like it in the comments, and I’d love to see your gorgeous salads on Instagram—tag them #cookieandkate so I can see!
Heirloom Caprese Salad
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 0 minutes
- Total Time: 20 minutes
- Yield: 4 to 6 servings 1x
- Category: Salad
- Method: By hand
- Cuisine: Italian
The best Caprese salad you’ll ever have! Great ingredients are the key. Use ripe summer tomatoes, burrata or mozzarella, fresh basil and olive oil. Recipe yields 4 generous or 6 smaller servings.
- 2 pounds mixed heirloom tomatoes or the best ripe tomatoes available
- 8-ounce ball of burrata or mozzarella, preferably fresh or packed in water
- Handful of fresh basil leaves (smaller leaves look nicer)
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon flaky sea salt or ¼ teaspoon kosher salt, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper
- With a serrated knife, cut the tomatoes into ¼″ thick slices. Arrange them on a large serving platter, overlapping their edges and varying the shapes as best you can.
- Cut the burrata or mozzarella into ¼″ to ½″ slices (burrata is tricky since the inside is so creamy; I cut it into ½″ slices and gently tugged the slices into smaller sections, see photos). Tuck the cheese around and underneath the tomatoes, dispersing it relatively evenly across the platter.
- Sprinkle basil leaves all over, and tuck a few more into the crevices. Drizzle the olive oil over the salad. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.
- For the best flavor (if you have the time), let the salad rest for 30 minutes so the tomatoes release some juices and the flavors have time to mingle. This salad is best served within a few hours. Leftovers will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to 3 days.
Recipe created with guidance from Serious Eats and Bon Appetit.
Make it dairy free/vegan: As long as you’re using great tomatoes, you’ll enjoy this salad without cheese. If you’d like some creaminess, I think this salad would be nice with dollops of my vegan sour cream or with slices of avocado.
Change it up: Try substituting ripe peaches for some of the tomatoes!
Those tomatoes are GOR. GEOUS!
Thank you, Sarah!
What beautiful food photography!
Thank you, Danica!
I appreciated the info on the type of cheese. I made a Caprese earlier this week and used the mozzarella packed in water – really horrible stuff! Absolutely no flavour. I will follow your recommendations next time. It’s the perfect salad for a hot summer day! Thankyou :)
You’re welcome, Lise! Thanks for your review.
My husband just lovingly brought home a giant bag of tomatoes to which I said, “shoot what am I going to make with all of these tomatoes?!” Cooke & Kate to the rescue!
Ha, that’s awesome! I love it. Thanks so much for your review, Natalie!
I make this every summer – I add sliced peaches, a drizzle of balsamic reduction from TJ’s, and a sprinkle of Maldon sea salt!
Wonderful to hear, Sally! Thanks for your star review.
I love this kind of dish! Great photos too :-)
I could eat Caprese salad every night for the rest of my life. We are making this tonight with heirloom tomatoes from the store and garden tomatoes from my yard. Found burrata, too. I love Caprese salad, one of the best I ever tried was served on a sea salt block. You really can’t go wrong when your ingredients are so good! I do prefer mine with balsamic, and I too like to mix it up and add avocado slices and juicy peaches. The more summer bounty, the better!
I know, right?! Sounds like a delicious combination, claire.
Made and brought this yesterday to a BBQ with regular mozzarella but I bet burrata makes is much better. Lucky that is year my heirloom tomatoes grew in my garden. I also made your mango salsa recipe, I loved it! Using the left-overs tonight with shrimp tacos! Thanks.
Homegrown would make this better, I think. :) Thanks for sharing Maria!
Amazingly simple and tasty, though best to have fresh tomatoes in season, as they’re the main ingredient.
Thank you, Anthony! Completely agree. :)
Thanks for tips on type of mozzarella! I have always used the vacuum sealed mozzarella and agree that is just isn’t the same as what you can get at some restaurants. Where do you buy fresh mozzarella or burrata in Kansas City?
Yes! Where in KC is best?!
Hey Stacy and Kara! You’ll like water-packed mozzarella better than vacuum-sealed (even better if it’s burrata). I usually buy it at Whole Foods. I think Cupini’s might sell fresh cheese! I know they sell fresh pasta.
Correction—my husband just called Cupini’s and they sell it, but don’t make it.
I made this delicious and beautiful salad. I usually make little towers with the tomatoes, cheese and basil but this was so much better and the flavors married better. Using the heirloom tomatoes was a wonderful new element and added more flavor and of course the presentation was almost too pretty to eat! Thank for a new twist on an old favorite.
You’re welcome, Gayle! Thank you for sharing.
After enjoying an amazing ricotta appetizer at an Italian restaurant a couple weeks ago, I got it in my head to make ricotta at home, and I did it this morning! But I felt bad just standing at the counter and eating it on little slices of toasted French bread, so I used some to make this salad. Ricotta may not be the traditional cheese, but oh my, was it good! I’ll make another salad for dinner guests tomorrow (if I don’t eat all the cheese before then!) Thank you Kate – your recipes are always perfection!
I LOVE Caprese Salad. I have adapted it to an easy tossed salad using Romain lettuce, fresh pearlini mozzarella, cherry tomatoes (I love the heirloom varieties) fresh basil (green and purple) and balsamic vinaigrette (added to individual bowls so that any leftovers -not usually – won’t wilt).
That’s a great idea, Gina! Thank you for sharing.
I will try this for sure as well as the ratatoille!
I can’t wait to try this! We’ve been addicted to Caprese Salad since our first tour in Italy. Our stops included a visit to the Isle of Capri, as beautiful a site as this salad is delicious! Last summer, I learned to make our own fresh mozzarella from whole milk. You should try it, it only takes a few ingredients and about an hour and I get the equivalent of about two grocery store balls. Oh, and try drizzling your salad with balsamic glaze just before serving. I saw elsewhere that you love the taste and every Caprese I had in Italy was drizzled with it.
This Caprese salad looks really tasty, we also have a tasty and easy to make Caprese salad recipe.
I made this tonight and it was delicious! I usually make Caprese salad with fresh mozzarella and I splurged and used burrata (from Whole Foods). It was different and so good! I also followed the suggestion to let it sit for 30 minutes and that really brought out the flavors. In response to another comment, I live in Kansas City and have bought fresh mozzarella at Bella Napoli. I don’t know if they make it there, however, its MUCH better than the vacuum packed stuff. Now I’ll have to check and see if they have burrata!