Does the Ultimate Caprese Salad recipe need balsamic vinegar? Find out my thoughts and get tips for the most delicious summer salad.
When we set out to come up with a perfect Caprese Salad, there was instantly a debate about whether balsamic vinegar should be included. This classic Italian appetizer only needs a few ingredients, so find out if balsamic is one of them.
Scroll down to read more about how it all comes together or click here to jump straight down to the recipe.
Does Caprese Salad Need Balsamic Vinegar?
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 a balsamic glaze. 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 maybe it’s sweet enough as it is.
What Kind Of Tomatoes For Caprese?
The most important quality of tomatoes for caprese salad is that they are fresh and perfectly ripe tomatoes. If they are garden-fresh tomatoes, even better, but you want them to be flavorful and not watery tasting, so make this salad as often as possible when they are in season. Remember, the beautiful flavor of the tomatoes are the star.
I like to use a mix of sliced Beefsteak tomatoes and halved grape or cherry tomatoes. The combination is beautiful and delicious, but you can use another type if that’s what is available and higher quality.
Putting Together The Best Caprese Salad
Get those nice slices of tomatoes and alternate with slices of mozzarella. You want to use fresh mozzarella cheese for your caprese salad. This is the soft, spongy mozzarella that is usually found in logs or balls and often packed in water. The harder blocks of mozzarella or the bagged shredded version is not what you want in a caprese salad.
Drizzle some good quality olive oil over top and sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper. Tear up some fresh basil leaves to add, and that’s it! No need to reduce any balsamic to make a glaze.
The perfect summer salad to enjoy as a side or appetizer, I think it can make just about any meal better.
More Tasty Salad Recipes
- Melon and Feta Salad
- Chinese Chicken Salad
- Korean Lettuce Salad
- Lemon and Cucumber Salad
- The Best Tossed Salad Recipe
Podcast Episode About Making Caprese Salad
Listen to our editor, Christine Pittman, explain briefly how to make this recipe, with great tips along the way, by clicking the play button below:
- 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)
- 1/2 tsp. coarse flaky sea salt
- 1/4 tsp. coarse black pepper
- 8 fresh basil leaves
- Arrange tomato and mozzarella slices in a single alternating and overlapping layer on a serving platter.
- Sprinkle with olive oil, sea salt, and coarse pepper.
- Using hands, tear up basil leaves and let them fall onto the salad. Do not add a balsamic vinegar reduction.
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This post originally appeared in June 2016 and was revised and republished in July 2023.