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There’s nothing better than a Caprese salad! This Italian classic pairs perfectly ripe, juicy tomatoes with fresh mozzarella and peppery basil.

Caprese salad
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There’s no better way to showcase summer’s best tomatoes than this: Caprese salad! This salad represents Italian cuisine at its finest: beautiful ingredients combined in a way that’s both elegant and simple.

Alex and I visited the island of Capri on our honeymoon and one of our fondest memories is eating this salad. So every summer when the tomatoes are peak, we make copious amounts of the stuff. Here’s how to make the perfect Caprese salad!

Who invented Caprese salad (insalata caprese)?

Caprese salad in Italian is insalata caprese, which means “the salad from Capri.” It’s a simple salad of fresh tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and basil leaves, seasoned with salt and pepper. Like pizza margherita, each of the ingredients corresponds to the colors of the Italian flag: red, white and green.

Who invented this popular salad? The first mention of Caprese salad was on a 1920’s menu from Hotel Quisisana, a 5 star hotel on the island of Capri. The salad didn’t catch on until the 1950’s, when King Farouk of Egypt visited Capri and tried it as a sandwich. He raved about it, and it caught on and became the international sensation that it is today!

Caprese salad

The best Caprese salad starts with great tomatoes

Making the best Caprese salad is all about the ingredients! Italian food is often simple and uses the highest quality ingredients to get the best flavor. Here’s what to know about how to find the best tomatoes for Caprese salad:

  • Use only juicy, perfectly ripe tomatoes. Do not even think about making this recipe outside of tomato season. Buy ripe and juicy tomatoes only: and local tomatoes if possible! A farmers market is a great place to shop. Garden tomatoes get even more points.
  • Heirloom tomatoes add nuance in flavor and variation in color. Heirloom tomatoes are a variety that has been passed down, through several generations of a family by saving the seeds. Each type of heirloom tomato has a different flavor and a beautiful color, from red to green to yellow to purple. Get creative and use heirlooms if you like!
How to make Caprese salad

Use fresh mozzarella or burrata cheese

Fresh mozzarella cheese is a must here: the higher quality, the better! And if you can find burrata, it’s absolutely worth the splurge. Here are a few notes on cheese:

  • Find best quality fresh mozzarella. Opt for a mid-price range fresh mozzarella that you can find at your grocery cheese counter. If you have a local creamery and you can buy some at the farmers market, even better!
  • Amp it up with burrata cheese. Burrata cheese is fresh mozzarella with cream inside, and man is it rich and decadent! It’s perfect for Caprese salad with a little twist (or use it for Burrata Salad).
  • Slice these in rounds or tear it into pieces. Caprese salad is often served with rounds of mozzarella cheese. But we like to tear it up into pieces: it makes it easier to eat and looks more interesting.

Season with olive oil, salt and pepper

Caprese salad is so simple because you barely need a recipe. Slice the tomatoes, tear up the mozzarella and sprinkle with basil leaves. The only other thing you need to do is drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. It’s absolutely necessary because fresh tomatoes need to be well-seasoned with salt.

Balsamic reduction

Step it up: drizzle with balsamic reduction

Want to really impress your guests with this Caprese salad? Add balsamic reduction! This syrupy glaze is also Italian and it adds flair to this recipe by bringing in a tangy sweet component. It’s absolutely not necessary and and actually not very traditional. But lots of restaurants serve their Caprese salad this way to dress it up. It’s very easy to make and you don’t even need a recipe! Here are the basic steps:

  • Bring to a boil: Place ½ cup or more balsamic vinegar in a small saucepan. Bring it to a boil, then immediately reduce to a simmer.
  • Simmer: Simmer gently for about 10 to 15 minutes until the quantity has reduced in half and it coats the back of a spoon.
  • Cool: Remove from the heat, then transfer to a separate container to cool.

Variations on caprese salad

Caprese salad is so beloved, it’s inspired many variations on the theme! Here are a few more foods that feature the popular mozzarella, tomato and fresh basil combination:

Dietary notes

This Caprese salad recipe is vegetarian and gluten-free.

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Mozzarella tomato basil salad

Classic Caprese Salad

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  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: 1 large platter (2 large or 4 small servings) 1x
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There’s nothing better than a Caprese salad! This Italian classic pairs perfectly ripe, juicy tomatoes with fresh mozzarella and peppery basil.


  • 6 to 8 ripe heirloom tomatoes, of different colors and sizes
  • 4 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese or burrata cheese
  • 1 handful basil leaves
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • Balsamic reduction (optional)
  • Sea salt
  • Fresh ground pepper


  1. Slice the tomatoes and place them on a plate.
  2. Top with torn or sliced mozzarella cheese and basil leaves. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil. If desired, drizzle with balsamic reduction. Top with sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Serve immediately. (Does not save well; tomatoes should not be stored refrigerated.)
  • Category: Salad
  • Method: Raw
  • Cuisine: Italian
  • Diet: Vegetarian

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes and the joy of cooking! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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