Caprese Salad with Cherry Tomatoes

5 from 2 votes
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This easy Caprese Salad with Cherry Tomatoes is only 3 easy ingredients and can be made in 5 minutes (or less). A bright and fresh side dish that is perfect for summer!

Looking for more summer side dish ideas? Check out some of our favorite BBQ side dishes including our Vinegar Marinated Cucumbers or our Light Greek Pasta Salad.

A small plate of cherry tomatoes and baby mozzarella next to a large bowl of the same. Both are garnished with basil.

A Twist On Traditional Caprese Salad

This recipe is a slight twist on your traditional Caprese salad. When you make traditional Caprese salad, you layer big slices of tomato, basil, and mozzarella together. Although I LOVE the traditional way, I also love this easy, “toss-it-all-together” variation. It is a fresh, gorgeous, vibrant salad that you will be craving all summer long!

A side-view of a large bowl of caprese salad made with tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil.

What’s In Caprese Salad?

With this salad, you don’t want to take shortcuts. Use ALL fresh, high-quality ingredients, all the way down to the salt and pepper. After all, if you are going to make this salad, it is worth making right!

  • Tomatoes – For this recipe you can use cherry tomatoes, sun gold tomatoes, grape tomatoes, or any bite-sized tomato. You can also dice up your favorite garden tomato if you don’t have any cherry tomatoes.
  • Mozzarella – We like using bite-sized marinated mozzarella balls (aka ciliegine) in this recipe because they are just so convenient. You can also use bocconcini or dice fresh mozzarella into small cubes.
  • Fresh Basil – This is a MUST. Not only does it taste the best, hands-down, it is also part of what makes this dish so gorgeous!
  • Salt and Pepper – We always use Kosher salt or sea salt. Additionally, if you really want to bring out those flavors, use a course variety. In addition to that, you will want to use a grinder for the pepper. You definitely want to have fresh, ground pepper for this recipe!
A carton of cherry tomatoes, a container of mozzarella balls, and a basil plant.

Where To Find Marinated Mozzarella Balls

You can find marinated mozzarella balls at most grocery stores. We found a LARGE tub of them at Costco for a great price. I usually also see them at Trader Joes. Typically, you can find them near the FRESH mozzarella near the deli in most stores.

How To Make Mozzarella Balls

If you can’t find marinated mozzarella balls at your local store, you can always marinate your own! You can use plain ciliegine or bocconcini, or additionally, you can cut up fresh mozzarella into cubes and marinate those. Here’s what to do:

  1. Firstly, combine ½ cup olive oil, 2-3 cloves fresh minced garlic, 1 tablespoon fresh basil, 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, 1 teaspoon finely chopped green onion, and 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes in a bowl.
  2. Stir in fresh mozzarella balls or cubed fresh mozzarella until well coated.
  3. Then, cover and refrigerate 1 hour (best overnight).
A top-view of a bowl of caprese salad with cherry tomatoes, mozzarella, basil and seasonings.

Tips For Making This Recipe

  • Drain off some of the oil from the marinated mozzarella. Sometimes the mozzarella comes packed in a LOT of oil. So, it’s ok to drain some off to make it healthier.
  • Use a variety of tomatoes. When they are in season, we like to use cherry tomatoes and sun gold tomatoes from our garden. However, if they aren’t in season, we like to use the big variety pack from Costco. Serve at room temperature. This one is a biggie. DO NOT REFRIGERATE before serving. You want this salad to be bursting with flavor and that can only happen at room temperature.
A plate with cherry tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, olive oil, and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar reduction.

Add A Little Balsamic Reduction…

Kick it up a notch and add a little balsamic vinegar or reduction to your Caprese salad. We love using “Nonna Pia’s” Balsamic Glaze. It is a little sweet with a rich, bright, vinegar-y punch so, it pairs perfectly with this dish.

FAQ’s

What makes something “Caprese”?

“Caprese” is a culinary term that refers to a dish consisting of fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, and fresh basil. It is said to have originated from the island of Capri in Italy. Especially when layered on a plate, these ingredients are believed to symbolize the Italian flag.

Should Caprese salad be refrigerated?

In short, no. Do not make this dish ahead of time and refrigerate. It is meant to be served at room temperature. To clarify, tomatoes DO NOT do well in the cold. Tomatoes are not meant to be refrigerated. They will lose so much flavor. Moreover, they just don’t taste right when they are cold. Prepare up to an hour ahead of time and, most importantly, serve at room temperature.

What if I have leftovers? How can I store them?

If you have leftovers and absolutely MUST store them, you can store them in the refrigerator. It won’t be the same, but it’s better than letting them go to waste. When ready to serve, take the salad our of the refrigerator and allow to come to room temperature before serving.

What are the little mozzarella balls called?

Small mozzarella balls (like the ones in this recipe) are called Ciliegine. Additionally, the mozzarella balls that are slightly larger are called bocconcini. Either one can be used in this recipe.

Is Caprese salad healthy?

In short, yes! To clarify, Caprese salad is low in carbs and sugars and high in protein, vitamin C, vitamin A, and calcium. Tomatoes are high in lycopene and very healthy for you. If you want to make this dish even healthier, drain most of the oil from the mozzarella balls before tossing with the tomatoes.

What to serve with Caprese salad?

This dish can be serve with sliced baguette bread, over pasta, with grilled chicken, or any number of dishes! See below for more Caprese-inspired recipes.

Is it best to tear or to cut the basil?

This is a big debate among chefs. I like to tear the basil to keep the bright green color and get a punch of flavor when I bite into it. Some prefer to cut the basil to release the flavors throughout the whole dish, however, it all comes down to personal preference.

More Caprese-Inspired Recipes

A small plate of cherry tomatoes, baby mozzarella, and basil leaves next to a large bowl of the same.

Caprese Salad with Cherry Tomatoes

5 from 2 votes
This easy Caprese Salad with Cherry Tomatoes is only 3 easy ingredients and can be made in 5 minutes. A bright and fresh side dish that is perfect for summer!
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 0 mins
0 mins
Total Time 5 mins
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Italian
Servings 6

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Rinse tomatoes and basil. Cut about half of the cherry tomatoes in half and place in a serving bowl.
    A carton of cherry tomatoes, a container of mozzarella balls, and a basil plant.
  • Cut about half of the cherry tomatoes in half and place in a serving bowl. Add mozzarella balls (marinade and all, drain lightly if desired) and stir gently until well combined.
    A mixing bowl with cherry tomatoes and mozzarella.
  • Tear basil leaves and place them over the top. Sprinkle with Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste. Drizzle with balsamic glaze (optional). Serve at room temperature.
    A side-view of a large bowl of caprese salad made with tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil.

Nutrition Information

Calories: 85kcalCarbohydrates: 4gProtein: 8gFat: 8gSaturated Fat: 3gSodium: 8mgPotassium: 166mgFiber: 1gSugar: 2gVitamin A: 668IUVitamin C: 17mgCalcium: 144mgIron: 1mg

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About the author

Erica Walker

Erica lives in Boise, Idaho with her husband, Jared, an attorney, and her beautiful three girls. Beyond the world of recipes, she loves adventuring with everything from kayaking, to cruising, to snowboarding and taking the family along for the thrill ride.

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