The Ultimate Caprese Salad Recipe

Find out why we skipped the balsamic vinegar reduction in our Ultimate Caprese Salad recipe.

Caprese Salad on a wooden board with slices of tomato, halved cherry tomatoes, slices of fresh mozzarella, and torn basil leaves.

When we set out to come up with a perfect Caprese Salad, there was instantly a debate about whether balsamic vinegar should show it’s face here. I was adamantly opposed. Lyndsay was adamantly in favor. I’m the editor-in-chief though, so I win.

Does Balsamic Belong in Caprese?

Just kidding! We did a bit of research and found that the purists on Caprese Salad all say to skip the balsamic, that it is not a required core element of a Caprese Salad. In fact, as is my own opinion, the balsamic reduction is so sweet that it dims the sweetness of the tomatoes. To taste their sugar, you don’t want any other sweet flavor on the plate.

Now, if you want to ignore me and my argument about sweet-tomato-love, that’s fine. There’s nothing stopping you from making our recipe below and then drizzling with burgundy syrup. But I’d ask you to please try the salad as it is, without the syrup, first. Taste those sugary tomatoes with the creamy cheese and fresh basil. See how the flavors are so simple and go together so well. Then come to the obvious conclusion that…hmm…Christine is right, as always. It’s sweet enough as it is. 😉



The Ultimate Caprese Salad Recipe

Find out why we skipped the balsamic vinegar reduction in our Ultimate Caprese Salad recipe.

  • Author: Amy Bowen
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings
  • Category: Side Dish
  • Cuisine: Italian


  • 2 Beefsteak tomatoes, sliced
  • 1/2 cup grape tomatoes, halved
  • 8 oz. fresh mozzarella, sliced in 1/4 inch slices
  • 1 tsp. olive oil (taste it first and make sure you like the taste of it. See Tip #6 here for tasting the oil)
  • 1/2 tsp. coarse flaky sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp. coarse black pepper
  • 8 fresh basil leaves


  1. Arrange tomato and mozzarella slices in a single alternating and overlapping layer on a serving platter. Sprinkle with olive oil, sea salt salt, and coarse pepper.
  2. Using hands, tear up basil leaves and let them fall onto the salad. Do not add a balsamic vinegar reduction.

Keywords: Salad, basil, mozzarella

This post originally appeared in June 2016 and was revised and republished in May 2021.

The Ultimate Caprese Salad Recipe
The Ultimate Caprese Salad Recipe

Amy Bowen

Amy had no clue how to cook until she became the food reporter for a daily newspaper in Minnesota. At 25, she even struggled with boxed mac and cheese. These days, Amy is a much better cook, thanks to interviewing cooks and chefs for more than 10 years. She even makes four cheese macaroni and cheese with bacon, no boxed mac in sight. Amy is also on the editorial team at The Cookful.