We have a surplus of tomatoes this summer, and it’s glorious. I dreamed up this simple tomato salad recipe to make use of the excess. I simply sliced ripe tomatoes into bite-sized pieces, then I added some crisp red onion, lots of fresh basil, and drizzled it all with olive oil and good balsamic vinegar.
The end result is so delicious! This salad really lets raw, peak-season tomatoes shine. The recipe is also quite versatile, so you’ll never tire of it. Try adding some cucumber, mozzarella, avocado, arugula or even peaches.
Serve this tomato salad as a fresh, healthy side salad to any summer meal. It’s best when it’s freshly made, so I recommend cutting the recipe in half if you’re not serving a crowd.
I grew heirloom tomatoes from seed for the first time this spring. It was a fun process that proved easier than expected. In fact, I underestimated how many of the seeds would sprout. I grew so many tomato plants that we filled our family’s three garden plots and passed along the extra to friends.
Strangely enough, our growing tomato plants have provided a sense of continuity and hope during a tumultuous year. I’ll do it all again next spring, but maybe leave some room for more peppers and cucumbers. Or maybe I need a bigger garden plot. I think I’m hooked!
Tomato Salad Ingredients
Ripe tomatoes are absolutely key to making a great tomato salad. In other words, do not attempt to make tomato salad with subpar tomatoes. It’s just not worth it.
For this salad, I like to use a combination of cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced in half, and small-to-medium tomatoes, sliced into bite-sized wedges. You can use any combination of tomatoes, though, as long as they’re good ones. You’ll need about 1 3/4 pounds total.
Raw onion can be intense, so we’re going to soak our onion in ice-cold water while we prepare the remaining ingredients. The colder your water, the more crisp your onions will become. Soaking the onion is a simple and quick way to improve the overall flavor and texture of your salad.
You can’t go wrong with the combination of fresh tomatoes and bail, ever. If you’re short on basil, this salad is also nice with parsley, dill and/or chives.
Extra-Virgin Olive Oil & Thick Balsamic Vinegar
Now’s the perfect time to bust out your best olive oil and balsamic vinegar, because their flavors will really shine on this salad. If you’re curious, my go-to olive oils are California Olive Ranch Everyday and Trader Joe’s Kalamata.
By “thick” balsamic vinegar, I mean a high-quality aged balsamic that will drizzle nicely over the salad. I love Napa Valley Naturals’ Grand Reserve Vinegar (affiliate link)—make sure you get the bottle with “25 stars” on it. Or, use store-bought balsamic glaze/reduction by DeLallo or Alessi. You can even make your own balsamic glaze with runny balsamic—check the recipe notes for details.
Salt & Pepper
If possible, use Maldon flaky sea salt (affiliate link). Flaky salt is a “finishing salt” that offers a hint of crisp texture and enhances the flavor of anything underneath. It’s such an easy way to make a recipe seem gourmet! If you don’t have it, use kosher salt. If you don’t have kosher salt, use half as much table salt.
Lastly, use freshly ground black pepper, always. Pre-ground pepper is nearly flavorless and not worth the cost.
Tomato Cucumber Salad Variation
Easy! Layer some thinly sliced cucumber into this recipe for the best tomato cucumber salad you’ve ever had. I prefer English cucumber or Persian cucumber for their crisp texture and less bitter skin. If you’re using a regular garden cucumber, taste a slice first—if the skin is bitter, peel it off before slicing the rest.
This tomato salad recipe is so versatile. For a more hearty salad, add some mozzarella or ripe avocado. If you have arugula, try adding a handful or two. You could even substitute ripe peaches for some of the tomatoes. The recipe (below) provides guidance on quantities and how to layer in these optional ingredients.
Craving more tomatoes before summer ends? Below are a few of my favorite recipes featuring juicy raw tomatoes, or you can browse all tomato recipes here.
- Caprese Salad with Burrata
- Classic Pico de Gallo
- Fresh Huevos Rancheros
- Layered Panzanella
- Tomato Basil Bruschetta with Balsamic Drizzle
- Vegetarian “BLT” Sandwich
Easy Tomato Salad
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Total Time: 20 minutes
- Yield: 4 servings 1x
- Category: Salad
- Method: By hand
- Cuisine: Mediterranean
- Diet: Vegan
Extra tomatoes? Make this simple tomato salad recipe! It’s delicious, versatile and easy to make. This recipe features ripe tomatoes, fresh basil, soaked red onion, balsamic vinegar and olive oil. Recipe yields 4 to 6 side salads using 1 ¾ pound tomatoes; you can cut the recipe in half by using either the cherry tomatoes or the pound of regular tomatoes.
- ½ cup chopped red onion (about ½ small red onion)
- 1 pint (12 ounces or 2 cups) cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 pound additional tomatoes (about 1 large, 2 medium or 3 small), cut into bite-sized wedges
- ¼ cup thinly sliced fresh basil and/or small basil leaves (or substitute parsley, dill and/or chives)
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons thick balsamic vinegar* or balsamic glaze
- ½ teaspoon flaky sea salt or kosher salt, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- ½ English cucumber or 1 Persian cucumber, thinly sliced
- 1 torn mozzarella ball or around 1 cup mini mozzarella balls or cubed part-skim mozzarella
- 1 ripe avocado, sliced or diced
- Handful of baby arugula
- First, fill a small bowl with ice water and add the chopped red onion (soaking the onion will tame its intense flavor and make it more crisp). Set aside as you prep the remaining ingredients.
- To assemble the salad, spread the tomato wedges over a large serving platter. Drain the onions well, and layer about one-third of the onions on top. Add half of the cherry tomatoes, followed by a layer of any optional additions, followed by another one-third of the onions. Finish with the remaining cherry tomatoes, followed by the remaining onions, and sprinkle the basil all over.
- Drizzle the olive oil over the salad, followed by the balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle the salt and several twists of black pepper on top. Serve promptly. This salad is best consumed within a couple of hours, but leftover salad will keep in the refrigerator, covered, for 3 days.
Change it up: Add any of the optional additions. Use any combination of tomatoes (you’ll need about 1 ¾ pounds total), cut into wedges or even large slices. You could also substitute ripe sliced peaches for some of the tomatoes.
*Balsamic vinegar note: For a beautiful drizzle, use high-quality, thick balsamic vinegar (I love Napa Valley Naturals’ Grand Reserve Vinegar—it’s about $10 at Natural Grocers or other well-stocked grocery stores—make sure you get the bottle with “25 stars” on it) or store-bought balsamic glaze/reduction (DeLallo and Alessi make them). Or, make your own balsamic reduction by following the note below.
How to make balsamic reduction: Bring 1 cup (or more) runny balsamic vinegar to a boil in a small, thick-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer and cook, stirring often, until the vinegar is reduced by half, about 10 to 15 minutes. Allow the reduction to cool, then transfer to an air-tight jar and store in the pantry. Balsamic reduction is great on everything from pizza to ice cream, Caprese and green salads, and more.