Caprese Salad

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This refreshing and nutritious Caprese Salad is inspired by the classic Italian salad of the same name. We’re switching things up a bit by adding a ripe avocado and an herby basil vinaigrette with the classic combination of tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella.

We’re completely obsessed with the basil vinaigrette that coats this salad, but you could simply drizzle everything with extra virgin olive oil or a balsamic reduction. 

Love these flavors as much as we do? Try our Balsamic Caprese Chicken or Caprese Pasta next!

Overhead image of Caprese Salad in a bowl.

Caprese Salad

I’ve shared a bit about our trip to Italy this spring and how inspired I’ve been by Italian ingredients and cuisine. We took a few cooking classes in the cities we visited and our favorite was in Siena. The class was in the upstairs farmhouse kitchen owned by a very lively Italian grandma.

She taught us how to make several authentic Italian dishes (including a Caprese salad which serves as the inspiration for this recipe!) and shared tips and tricks that have come from a lifetime of learning and owning a restaurant.

Quality Ingredients

Her very first lesson was all about ingredients. She very emphatically told us how important good quality, authentic ingredients are. While getting the best ingredients can often be more costly, she pointed out that using high-quality ingredients means you can use fewer overall ingredients, while still creating amazing masterpieces.

Each dish we made used remarkably few ingredients but with a focus on high-quality Italian-made ingredients. Caprese Salad has only a handful of ingredients and each one makes a huge difference to the end flavor.

  • I recommend using a good extra-virgin olive oil
  • Garden-fresh tomatoes and basil are the best if you have access to them.
  • A fresh and ripe avocado lends an amazing creamy texture to this salad; I recommend waiting until the avocado is fully ripe to make this salad. (Here’s how to tell an avocado is ripe.)

Process shots-- images of the fresh basil dressing being made; veggies being prepped and added to the bowl; and everything being mixed together.

Caprese Salad Variation Ideas

  • Swap out the tomatoes for fresh, ripe peaches. Combine with prosciutto and a balsamic reduction.
  • Swap out the basil vinaigrette for a balsamic reduction instead (see “quick tip” below).
  • Drizzle with a balsamic vinaigrette instead of the basil vinaigrette. A balsamic vinaigrette is much milder than a balsamic reduction. You can find the recipe for my favorite balsamic vinaigrette in this Caprese Quinoa Salad.
  • Skip the dressings altogether and drizzle everything with good quality extra virgin olive oil instead.

QUICK TIP

You can buy a balsamic glaze in the grocery store, or easily make your own. To make your own: whisk together 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar and 1/2 tablespoon honey in a small pot. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until thickened and reduced to about 2 tablespoons. This takes about 7-12 minutes.

Caprese Salad FAQs

1Is Caprese Salad healthy?

There are lots of nutritional benefits to the ingredients in a Caprese Salad. Here are a few:

  • Tomatoes are a great source of vitamin C, potassium, and vitamin K.
  • Mozzarella is lower in sodium and calories than most other cheese.
  • Basil is a great source of calcium, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin K
  • Avocados are loaded with fiber and fatty acids linked with heart health.

And also, there is no added sugar to this recipe.

2How do you eat Caprese Salad?

This salad can be served as an appetizer, light lunch, or a side salad.

3What do you eat Caprese Salad with?

  • As a side salad, we love it with grilled chicken or grilled flank steak (thinly sliced) on the side.
  • This salad also pairs very nicely with crusty bread — you can sop up the leftover dressing with the bread (delicious!).
  • You can add this salad on top of a bed of noodles for a tasty pasta salad.
  • This salad is delicious spooned over avocado toast.

4How do you say Caprese Salad in Italian?

In Italy, this type of salad is called Insalata Caprese

Southern parts of Italy will typically say “cah-preh-zseh”

More Northern parts will pronounce it “cah-prey-zay”

5Why is it called Caprese Salad?

The name translates to “salad of Capri” and has its orgins from the island of Capri which is south of the coast of Naples.

Overhead shot of Caprese Salad, ready to be eaten.

Caprese Salad Tips

  • Dress to preference. You may not want the entire batch of dressing on this salad. We usually add it all, but we love dressing! Refrigerate any leftovers in an airtight container for up to a week. Leftover dressing will slightly darken in color but is still great to eat. If it separates and solidifies, this is normal; olive oil solidifies at cold temps. Let dressing stand at room temperature for about 20 minutes and then shake to re-combine.
  • Rip the basil instead of cutting it. One of the fun tips I learned in Italy is to rip the basil rather than cut it — our instructor swears by this for a more pronounced flavor.
  • Season to taste. This salad benefits greatly from salt and pepper. If it tastes at all flat or less than spectacular, it may just be under-seasoned. You’ll also likely need more salt for less ripe/less fresh veggies. Taste before serving, adjusting the seasoning as needed.
  • Enjoy right after being made. This salad doesn’t sit or store well for any amount of time. It’s really best right after being assembled and loses texture (becomes watery) the longer it sits.

More Delicious Salads

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Caprese Salad with Basil Dressing

5 from 4 votes
This refreshing and nutritious Caprese Salad is inspired by the classic Italian salad of the same name. We're switching things up a bit by adding a ripe avocado and an herby basil vinaigrette with the classic combination of tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella.
Print Recipe

Caprese Salad with Basil Dressing

5 from 4 votes
This refreshing and nutritious Caprese Salad is inspired by the classic Italian salad of the same name. We're switching things up a bit by adding a ripe avocado and an herby basil vinaigrette with the classic combination of tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella.
Course lunch, Salad, Vegetarian
Cuisine Italian, Vegetarian
Keyword caprese salad
Prep Time 20 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 4 -6 as a side
Calories 386kcal
Cost $6.72

Ingredients

Basil Dressing

  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic (~1 clove)
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • 1 cup (30g) packed coarsely chopped basil leaves, Note 1
  • 1 and 1/2 tablespoons (20g) red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon (15g) fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup (48g) extra virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly cracked pepper

Caprese Salad

  • 6 cocktail-style (Campari) or cherry tomatoes, sliced in half then cut into wedges (heaping 3 cups; 433g)
  • 1 cup (5 oz.; 168g) mozzarella pearls
  • 1/3 cup (10g) fresh basil
  • 1 large avocado, skin and pit removed 127g

Instructions

For the Basil Dressing

  • Add the garlic, shallot, and coarsely chopped basil to a small food processor. Pulse 6-8 times to chop the ingredients. Add the red wine vinegar, fresh lemon juice, and salt + pepper to taste (I use about 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper).
  • Pulse a few times and while running, drizzle in the extra virgin olive oil and pulse until smooth. Avoid pulsing the mixture too much with the olive oil, as sometimes oil from a metal can have a metallic reaction and alter the taste of the dressing.

Caprese Salad

  • Slice the tomatoes and add to a large bowl. Cut the mozzarella into small pieces (or halve mozzarella pearls) and add to the bowl. Tear the basil and add on top. Remove the skin and pit of an avocado and then chop. Add to the bowl, adding a squeeze of lemon to the avocado to keep it from browning.
  • Dress the salad with the basil dressing to taste (we like to add all the dressing, but you may want less; See Note 2). Add additional salt and pepper to salad if needed. (I typically add 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper, but add to preference.) Enjoy the same day this salad is made. (Leftovers do not keep well.)

Recipe Notes

Note 1: If purchasing packages of fresh-cut herbs (usually in the refrigerated produce section of the grocery store) this is about 1 and 1/2 packages of the 3/4 ounce containers. I give the basil leaves ( and the bulk of the stems are fine) a quick coarse chop then lightly pack them in a 1 cup measuring cup to get this measurement.
Note 2: Leftover dressing will keep for up to a week in the fridge. Leftover dressing will slightly darken in color, but is still great to eat. If it separates and solidifies, this too is normal (olive oil solidifies at cold temps). Let dressing stand at room temperature for about 20 minutes and then shake to re-combine.

Nutrition Facts

Serving: 1serving | Calories: 386kcal | Carbohydrates: 8g | Protein: 14g | Fat: 35g | Saturated Fat: 7g | Cholesterol: 21mg | Sodium: 53mg | Potassium: 532mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 4358IU | Vitamin C: 27mg | Calcium: 360mg | Iron: 3mg

We do our best to provide accurate nutritional analysis for our recipes. Our nutritional data is calculated using a third-party algorithm and may vary, based on individual cooking styles, measurements, and ingredient sizes. Please use this information for comparison purposes and consult a health professional for nutrition guidance as needed.

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A delicious take on the famous Italian Caprese Salad with a simple basil dressing! via chelseasmessyapron.com
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5 Comments

  1. I had the opportunity to go to Italy this past July! Wish we could have spent more time there…so fun you were there this year too! 🙂

  2. This looks delicious! In the ingredients list for the dressing, it says red wine vinegar, but in the instructions, it says balsamic vinegar…which is it? Thank you!

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