Learn how to make the best Caprese salad (Insalata Caprese)! Plus, learn the proper Caprese pronunciation, if it’s healthy, and what to serve with this classic Italian salad. 

Red and yellow heirloom tomatoes, mozzarella slices, and basil leaves close-up photo depicting a delicious Caprese salad.

Caprese salad is a classic Italian recipe and one of the most delicious summer salads around. This recipe exemplifies just how wonderful simple dishes can be when made with just the right combination of ingredients. 

This simple recipe is one of my favorite salads during the summer months. It’s the perfect salad to showcase juicy farmer’s markets or garden tomatoes and basil.  I’ll show you how to make the classic recipe as well as some variations. 

Have you ever wondered what “Caprese” means in Italian in regards to this salad? Let’s find out the answer as we learn how to make the best Caprese salad. 

A beautiful landscape photo of the Island of Capri ocean and coastline with an old marble statue of a man in the foreground.

What does Caprese Mean? 

The word Caprese refers to being from the island of Capri. This beautiful island is situated just off the coast of Naples, in the region of Campania. 

Tomatoes and mozzarella di bufala (buffalo mozzarella) are both well-known specialties of the Campagnia region. In fact, San Marzano DOP and Mozzarella di Bufala DOP both must be produced from start to finish in this area. It’s no surprise then that Caprese salad originated on the island of Capri. 

Pizza is another world-famous Italian recipe that was invented in the Campania region with these same ingredients. They truly are a match made in Heaven (Italy). 

A Caprese salad on a white plate on a marble countertop. This traditional Italian salad is made with tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella.

Caprese Pronunciation

Italian foods can be tricky for English speakers to pronounce. Especially words like Bruschetta, which is pronounced broo·skeh·tuh. If you want to pronounce Caprese properly, say it like this: kuh·pray·zay. 

What is Caprese Salad? 

Caprese is a simple Italian salad made with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil leaves. This is a classic summer Italian flavor combination, and this festive dish features the colors of the Italian flag: red, white, and green! 


It’s believed that Caprese salad was the invention of a patriotic stonemason in the 1920s, just after World War I. He created this delicious and beautiful salad to represent the red, white, and green Italian flag. Insalata Caprese really became popular in the 1950s when it became a famous dish on the Island of Capri and beyond. 

Fresh basil, tomatoes, a ball of mozzarella, olive oil bottles, sea salt, and basil oil on a wooden cutting board.

How to Make Caprese 

Caprese is made with just a few simple ingredients and after you make it once, you won’t need a recipe again. However, to make the best Caprese, there are a few guidelines to follow. 

Insalata Caprese was originally made with just tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil and finished with olive oil, salt, and white pepper. 

What Type of Tomatoes to Use 

The type of tomato you use for Caprese doesn’t matter as much as the quality. Choose perfectly ripe, juicy, and flavorful tomatoes. I like to use red heirloom tomatoes when possible.

Originally, Re Umberto or Fiascone tomatoes from around the Amalfi Coast were used. Italian plum tomatoes such as Roma or San Marzano are similar and could be used for a traditional Caprese. 

What Type of Mozzarella to Use 

Traditional Caprese salad is made with fresh cow’s milk mozzarella or buffalo mozzarella. Italian mozzarella di bufala is very soft and creamy, and not at all stringy like American mozzarella. This is due to the water buffalos’ diet of grazing in the swampy pastures of the region. 

Some people use burrata cheese. Burrata is much creamier and doesn’t slice well, but can be torn or left whole. Fresh mozzarella (Fior di latte) and burrata should always be served at room temperature, as they lose their flavor when cold. 

Caprese Salad Dressing 

Caprese salad is traditionally dressed only with a drizzle of olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. 

This salad has evolved and today many people like to also add balsamic vinegar and even a bit of basil oil.  Opt for a balsamic glaze for a thicker balsamic that holds its shape. My favorite is the 25-barrel-aged balsamic from il fustino. I have also tried the Trader Joe’s Balsamic Glaze and found it too thick and sweet. For a classic Caprese, less is more when it comes to dressing. 

An overhead photo of Caprese Salad on a white plate drizzled with basil oil (pesto) and balsamic glaze. A small jar of basil oil sits in the corner.

A dressed-up Caprese salad with tomatoes, basil, mozzarella, basil oil, and balsamic glaze.


This recipe always results in a beautiful presentation. For a classic Caprese salad, arrange thick slices of tomato, creamy mozzarella, and basil leaves on a serving platter. Add a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, and a pinch of flaky sea salt and pepper. 

A close-up photo of Caprese salad on a white plate: tomato and mozzarella slices with basil and drizzles of basil oil and balsamic glaze.

Is Caprese Salad Healthy and Good for Weight Loss? 

An easy Caprese salad is a great option for healthy eating, especially if you like to follow a Mediterranean Diet

Tomatoes are a good source of vitamins A and C. They’re also low in calories and high in fiber. Mozzarella cheese is a good source of protein and calcium. And basil is a good source of antioxidants. 

Is Caprese salad good for weight loss? The answer is yes! Caprese salad is a great option if you’re trying to lose weight. The salad is low in calories and high in fiber. Fiber helps to keep you feeling full, so you’re less likely to snack between meals.

One serving of Caprese salad has about:

  • 150 Calories
  • 5 grams of carbohydrates 
  • 11 grams of protein
  • 11 grams of fat 

If you’re watching your calorie intake, you can easily make a few changes to the recipe to reduce the number of calories. For example, you could use less mozzarella cheese or swap it for a lower-fat cheese. You could also use a smaller amount of olive oil and bulk up your dish with greens. 

What to Serve with Caprese Salad 

You may be wondering what to eat with Caprese salad. Serve as a side dish or main course. As the main course, I like to add it to a large bowl of arugula tossed with more oil and vinegar with olives on the side.

As a side dish for dinner, Caprese would be great with any other Italian dishes such as pasta. This refreshing salad is also a great veggie side dish when you’re grilling. This beautiful salad is a family favorite and is one of my favorite recipes to bring to a party. 

Cherry tomato and mozzarella Caprese skewers on a rustic white wooden board for an appetizer.


Cherry Tomato Caprese 

For a “chopped” cherry tomato Caprese salad, use halved cherry tomatoes, mozzarella pearls, and fresh basil leaves. Arrange on a platter or toss in a bowl. 

Avocado Caprese

Living in California, I love to add avocado to Caprese. Creamy avocado slices make a great dairy-free swap for mozzarella. 

Caprese Skewers

To make Caprese salad skewers, simply thread cherry or grape tomatoes, ciliegine mozzarella, and basil leaves onto cocktail picks and arrange on a serving platter. 

Burrata Caprese 

Burrata falls apart and does not cut into slices the way mozzarella does. To make a Burrata Caprese, arrange the tomatoes and basil on a plate and keep the burrata ball whole. 

Caprese Bruschetta 

Make bruschetta the traditional way, but instead of the pomodoro topping, top with slices of mozzarella and tomato and finish with basil, salt and pepper. 

Vegan Caprese  

The best vegan Mozzarella I’ve found is from Myoko’s. However, I prefer to simply omit the cheese altogether and use avocado instead. 

Yield: Serves 4

Caprese Salad

Prep Time 15 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes

Learn how to make the best traditional (and updated) Caprese Salad (Insalata Caprese). Caprese salad is a classic tomato, mozzarella, and basil salad from the island of Capri. It is a beautiful salad to serve as an appetizer, side dish, or main dish.

A traditional Caprese Salad with tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella is drizzled with olive oil.


  • 3 medium heirloom tomatoes
  • 8-oz. fresh mozzarella
  • 1 bunch fresh basil
  • high-quality extra virgin olive oil
  • flaky sea salt
  • freshly cracked black or white pepper
  • aged balsamic vinegar (optional)
  • basil oil (optional)


  1. To make your Caprese Salad, slice the tomatoes and mozzarella crosswise into ½-inch thick slices. Slices of heirloom tomatoes and mozzarella on a cutting board with fresh basil.
  2. On a serving plate or platter, arrange the tomato and mozzarella slices, in an overlapping pattern alternating tomatoes and cheese. A hand arranging tomatoes and mozzarella on a white rimmed plate to make Caprese.
  3. Tuck fresh basil leaves between the slices and garnish the Caprese salad as you would like. Fresh basil leaves are tucked into a tomato and mozzarella salad.
  4. Drizzle the tomato and mozzarella salad with olive oil. Season with sea salt and pepper. Add a drizzle of balsamic and/or basil oil if desired. Olive oil is drizzled over a freshly made Caprese salad on a white plate in a white kitchen.


Caprese salad was not traditionally made with balsamic vinegar or pesto/basil oil. It was only made with 4 ingredients: Re Umberto or Fiascone tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, basil, and olive oil, and seasoned with salt and pepper.

Today many people enjoy the flavor of balsamic vinegar added to Caprese salad. My favorite balsamic to use here is the 25-Year Barrel-Aged Balsamic from Il Fustino.

Basil oil has a pesto-like flavor and is made by blending fresh basil, olive oil, a clove of garlic, salt, and red pepper flakes. It can add a lot of flavor to Caprese but is not traditional.

Caprese salad can be made up to one hour in advance, but not any longer as the ingredients can dry out too much.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 157Total Fat: 11gSaturated Fat: 6gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 4gCarbohydrates: 5gFiber: 1gSugar: 3gProtein: 11g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated by Nutritionix. I am not a nutritionist and cannot guarantee accuracy. If your health depends on nutrition information, please calculate again with your favorite calculator.