Cherry Tomato Caprese Salad is a summery Italian salad featuring ripe cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, and fresh mozzarella. It’s drizzled with high quality olive oil and a sweet tart balsamic reduction.
The ripe juicy tomatoes of summer just beg to be the centre of attention in every dish. Enjoy them with fresh herbs in a Walnut Tomato Cucumber Salad or preserve them in a classic Italian style Passata.
Cherry Tomato Caprese Salad
Simply put, there isn’t an easier salad than Insalata Caprese made with cherry or grape tomatoes. Six high quality ingredients and five minutes is all it takes to have this gem on the table for dinner.
It’s amazing how much flavour those few ingredients deliver when they are combined together. The ripe cherry tomatoes are so sweet and juicy, they burst open in your mouth.
Combine the sweetness of the tomatoes with the creamy fresh mozzarella and the sweet acidity of the balsamic vinegar reduction. Then, finish it with a herbal edge from the torn basil, high quality olive oil, and bursts of sea salt. It’s magical.
What is a Caprese Salad?
Caprese Salad, or Insalata Caprese, is a traditional Italian salad of tomatoes, sliced fresh mozzarella, and sweet basil. It’s seasoned with salt, olive oil and sometimes balsamic vinegar.
This starter salad, or antipasti is believed to have originated on (and is named after) the island of Capri, in the Campania region of Italy. However, it is much loved throughout the country and around the world.
The tasty trio of basil with tomato and mozzarella reflect the colours of the Italian flag, making it an Italian treasure. However, other ingredients such as olives, arugula, romaine lettuce may be used in non traditional versions.
The patriotic combination is also served as a pizza (pizza Margherita), as a pasta, or together in a sandwich.
As always, using high quality ingredients in this salad recipe is what will make you fall in love this salad. The list of ingredients is small, but together they pack on heck of a punch.
- Fresh Basil
- Olive Oil
- Balsamic Vinegar Reduction
- Sea Salt
There are few exceptions when it comes to choosing tomatoes for this dish. Choose bright smooth cherry tomatoes in classic red or multiple colours.
They should be perfectly ripe, but not over ripe as to be soft or wrinkled. Think sun ripened flavourful tomatoes. Alternatively, add a slice or two of green tomatoes to bring a wonderful tang that balances out sweetness.
If you prefer your tomatoes sliced, choose large heirloom tomatoes and fresh mozzarella of a larger size (so it can also be sliced). For this dish the tomatoes and cheese are usually quite similar in size and shape.
For a fun and very non traditional serving of Caprese, substitute strawberries for the cherry tomatoes!
Since I love Caprese with cherry or grape tomatoes, I almost always buy fresh mozzarella balls, or bocconcini in the same size as the tomatoes. If you prefer, you can substitute the mini bocconcini for a smaller size, or slice them in half.
Note that quality fresh mozzarella contains very little salt, so seasoning them liberally with sea salt will really make them pop.
Fresh basil is a very prevalent flavour in this salad. Tearing the leaves by hand may seem tedious but it allows the fresh flavour of the herb to shine through. A fresh basil pesto also makes a great flavour addition to this dish.
A high quality finishing olive oil will make all the difference in this salad. Extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) with bright, slightly peppery notes is the best choice.
Does Really Great Caprese Need Balsamic Vinegar?
It depends on personal preference and sometimes on the quality of tomatoes available. Some would argue that only vine ripened tomatoes should be in Caprese. However, flavourful hothouse grown tomatoes do exist, and most cherry tomatoes are full of flavour.
Many prefer only a drizzle of olive oil, salt and pepper as it allows the tomatoes and mozzarella to shine. However, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, balsamic glaze (or reduction) can really crank up the flavour.
A balsamic reduction is balsamic vinegar that is sweeter and thicker than the original. You can purchase a bottle or reduce the balsamic on your own.
How to Make Cherry Tomato Caprese Salad
Five minutes is all the time you need to make a great Caprese salad using cherry tomatoes. If you leave them whole (and I suggest you do), you won’t even need a knife.
PSA: Drain the bocconcini well so the salad doesn’t become watery. Next, place the cherry tomatoes and bocconcini in a small bowl. Tear the basil and scatter it all over the tomatoes and mozzarella cheese.
Finally, drizzle both the EVOO and balsamic reduction over the salad. Season with salt (and pepper if you like) then toss to combine. Serve immediately.
Caprese Salad Variations
Sometimes I’m hesitant to suggest variations on a dish as traditional as Caprese. Messing with perfection is risky business!
However, I’ve seen (and made) some really tasty alternate salads featuring Caprese flavours. Try these on for size:
- Add chopped avocado (avocado everything my friends!)
- Use ripe strawberries instead of tomatoes. They go so well with the balsamic!
- Make it colourful by adding other colours of grape tomatoes, including tangy green tomatoes.
- Instead of EVOO and balsamic, mix up an Italian style vinaigrette with basil and oregano.
- Boost the flavour with fresh basil pesto.
- Serve the tomatoes and mozzarella balls on a bed of romaine lettuce or arugula.
- Make it like they do in Campania by using Buffalo Mozzarella, or Mozzarella di Bufala. If an ingredient (such as Mozzarella di Bufala) comes from the same region as the dish does, there’s a great chance they were meant to be together.
We NEVER have leftover Cherry Tomato Caprese Salad and I’ll tell you why. Firstly, it’s just too delicious to leave any left in the serving bowl.
Secondly, leftovers will need to be kept in the fridge. This means that the bocconcini will dry out, the basil will wilt and tomatoes will lose flavour and become mealy. Tomatoes do not do well under refrigeration.
Cherry Tomato Caprese Salad
Cherry Tomato Caprese Salad is a summery salad made with ripe cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, and fresh mozzarella drizzled with olive oil and balsamic reduction.
- 8 oz (275g) ripe cherry tomatoes (approx 20)
- 14 oz (400g) bocconcini balls
- 1/4 cup fresh basil
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar reduction
- sea salt
- Drain bocconcini and place it in a medium bowl. Add tomatoes.
- Tear fresh basil by hand (add more according to taste) and scatter it over the tomatoes and bocconcini.
- Drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar reduction over all. Season with sea salt.
Amount Per Serving:Calories: 27Total Fat: 2gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 99mgCarbohydrates: 1gFiber: 0gSugar: 1gProtein: 0g
Nutritional calculation was provided by Nutritionix and is an estimation only. For special diets or medical issues please use your preferred calculator.
Always a delicious classic. I love the variation ideas, yummy!
Thank you Sabrina. We eat this salad on repeat during the summer…any way we can!
These are my favorite flavours together. It’s amazing how so few ingredients can be soo divine!
yep. those few ingredients together are simple magic.
I love how refreshingly taste this salad seems- looks like something perfect for summer!
It sure is, especially with those vine ripened summer tomatoes. So good!
These are such a great side for the summer time! I love how fresh and healthy it is too! Can’t wait until my garden tomatoes ripen so I can make this.
It might be just me, but I consider any salad healthy…even with cheese!
Caprese is one of my favorite salads, I love your version on it. Definitely making this!
Me too. I’m in love!
love this recipe, so simple but the flavours are so fresh and bold! great for my next dinner party!
Yes! This salad would be great at any dinner party for sure.
To be honest, this is one of my favorite salad, perfect to be pair with a delicious barbecue.
Bring on BBQ season!
I love a good caprese salad! I don’t normally use cherry tomatoes (usually just slice tomatoes), so I love this idea for a variant. I love how vibrant and colourful it looks. Delicious!
Yes, that’s a more traditional serving…however this one is a bit more hardy for transport, etc. Plus I like how they explode in your mouth.
You photos are GOREGOUS! Could olives work in a salad like this?
Thankyou so much Gina. Yes, olives would be fine in the salad though it’s not traditional. It’s all about what you like.
This is, by far, my husband’s favorite salad. I think it’s because it’s so little “salad”. We love that it can be an appetizer, a quick lunch or a pre-dinner treat. Thank you for sharing.
Agree. All that cheese allows it to walk a thin line…
I see I’m not alone in preferring mini-tomatoes and mini-mozzarella rather than going for the classic sliced tomatoes and mozzarella as in traditional caprese! I’ve loved bocconcini since I was a kid. To me, this version of caprese is lunch. I’ll just make a huge batch and take it to work. Perfect lunch option any summer day. And the best thing is that the whole cherry tomatoes hold their shape and don’t just lose all their juice as sliced tomatoes do. So it’s a winner if you have to eat it a couple of hours later.
Exactly!! You have hit the nail on the head with your preferences. I eat this for lunch all of the time too.
This is the ultimate summer salad and these photos have me salivating! I love the idea of adding avocado too. Great suggestion!
I’m going to give it a try the next time I make this salad for sure.
This is one of my favourite way to use all my garden tomatoes. It’s always a hit, no matter who I serve it to. Such a beautiful salad.
Mmmm garden tomatoes still warm from the sun. Amazing.
Always a go to fave summer salad for me! Can’t wait to give it a try with the fresh tomatos
Me too. I’ll eat it a few times a month at least.
Delicious! This way I can have a Caprese salad ANY time of year. Thanks!!!
Yes! I find the grape tomatoes often have flavour during the ‘off season’.
I am really loving the juicy colors of those tomatoes! My wife will surely enjoy your Cherry Tomato Caprese Salad recipe.
The colours are very attractive, we eat with our eyes as well.
With BBQ season finally here, I am always looking for easy side dishes to serve. This salad is pefect. In fact, I would use it as an appetizer.
I eat it for an entire meal. In fact, that’s lunch today again.