Caprese Salad

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Caprese salad is one of the best ways to show off those juicy in-season farmer's market tomatoes or your own backyard harvest. Hailing from the island of Capri and mirroring the colors of the Italian flag, this simple salad is the perfect way to start any late-summer meal. Though the preparation is super straightforward, there are a couple of things to keep in mind:

What should I look for when buying tomatoes?

Since tomatoes are the true star of this dish, it's best to wait until local tomatoes are in season. The growing season can vary depending on where you live, but it's safe to say that in most cases, the best time to make caprese salad is mid to late summer. (Into early fall in certain parts of the country!)  Look for tomatoes that feel heavy in your hands and show a bit of resistance when pressed. (But don't squeeze them!) They should smell a bit earthy and sweet. We love the traditional bright red beefsteak tomatoes, but heirlooms are great too; they can add new dimensions of flavor, not to mention beautiful color. To ripen unripe tomatoes, keep them in a single layer in a paper bag on your kitchen counter.

Is there any difference in the mozzarella I buy?

Absolutely, yes! For caprese salad you want to avoid anything aged or labeled as "low moisture". These cheeses are closer to string-cheese texture and won't give you the luscious creaminess needed to counteract the acidity of the tomatoes. Secondly, if you can get your hands on it, look for any mozzarella packaged in water or brine, which helps maintain the cheese's flavor and texture. To make slicing a breeze, keep the mozzarella cold until right before you're ready to slice. If you're obsessed with burrata's creamy, runny texture, check out our recipe for burrata salad

What should I top my salad with?

With good quality tomatoes and mozzarella, all you really need is some good olive oil, salt, and freshly cracked pepper. Even the lightest sprinkling of salt on a slice of tomato helps to bring out the sweetness and the natural umami, so don't hold back! We love the texture added by flaky sea salt (like Maldon), but use whatever you've got. Freshly ground, coarse black pepper will impart a slight floral heat, and a drizzle of fruity, extra-virgin olive oil mellows the tomato's acidity.

Some prefer a drizzle of sweet-tart balsamic glaze; it's easily made by combining equal measures of balsamic vinegar and sugar (or honey) in a pan and simmering until thick. Check out our recipe for Balsamic-Glazed Carrots for step-by-step instructions. If you need some caprese-style genius dinner recipes, try this Caprese Chicken.

If you tried this recipe, let us know how it went in the comments below! 

Editor's note: This page was updated to include a video and provide more information on the dish on July 25, 2022.

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Yields: 4 - 6 servings
Prep Time: 0 hours 5 mins
Total Time: 0 hours 5 mins
1 lb.

fresh mozzarella

4 large or 6 medium ripe tomatoes, sliced


bunch fresh basil, stems removed and discarded

Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling

Flaky sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

  1. On a large plate or platter, layer mozzarella and tomato slices in an alternating pattern. Top with basil leaves, drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.
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Parker Feierbach

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