Fresh Caprese Salad: It’s What Happens When You Have Basil

Have you ever sat down to a Caprese Salad, mouth watering in anticipation, only to bite into rubbery cheese, soggy tomatoes, tough basil, and a dressing that’s too sharp? Don’t settle for less than amazing. Tomatoes and basil were meant for each other. They need to be so fresh, the cheese-soft and tender and the dressing-so light that it compliments and enhances the stars of the recipe.

This recipe is nothin’ but fresh!

It’s so clean tasting, you’ll find it hard to be polite and stop eating before it’s all gone! There’s no way you want to ruin what you’ve been waiting for while that basil was growing near your kitchen door. When you have basil, good Caprese Salad MUST happen!

The key to an amazing Caprese Salad that you’ll want to make every time you see a basil plant is these few, easy to find, ingredients. There’s a couple of surprises in this keeper and the bonus is that there’s NO cooking.

What if you don’t have a basil plant near your kitchen?

Well, what are you waiting for? Go get one! Basil is easy to find in the produce section of your grocery store. Many offer the best option, which is a potted plant. Other places to look for potted basil plants is a fresh fruit market (we call them fruit stands). Our local home improvement stores also sell them in Spring and Fall. Check your local stores for the season they have them for sale. It really is important to find a plant. Caprese salad needs basil that was growing on the plant just moments before. If you get the packaged leaves, you’ll be disappointed. Besides, if you harvest the leaves from your very own plant, you can encourage your plant to grow more leaves for you! I can show you how.

Here are the step-by-step instructions for tending your happy basil plant.

  • Place the plant where it will get only morning sun. It gets sunburned easily! Basil will get sick in the shade, so morning sun is a happy medium.
  • See the photo below to find out how to trim your plant so it will grow more leaves for more fresh Caprese Salad!
  • Water consistently when the topsoil feels dry to the touch. Be sure the pot drains well. You may have to water daily.
  • You may wish to fertilize weekly with a mild solution of fertilizer. I recommend organic fertilizer. After all, you will be eating this!  

Cut just above the new, baby leaves

See those baby leaves? They will grow big, for more Caprese! Yay!

When all you can think about is fresh Caprese Salad!

Fresh Caprese Salad

The fresh ingredients are what makes this salad exceptional! Plan ahead and get the best you can.

  • 12 large Basil leaves or combination of smaller leaves to equal 12 large
  • 3-4 Italian or medium salad tomatoes, sliced ⅓ inch thick
  • 12 oz. fresh Mozzarella cheese.

A note about Fresh Mozzarella Cheese

I have been known to visit the deli case and squish the wrapped tube of cheese. Never mind the price-the most expensive is not necessarily the best. If it feels rubbery in the package, it will feel rubbery in your mouth! Go to the dairy case next. Squish those too! Choose the softest brand you can find. My favorite so far is BelGioso that is presliced.

Plan and Prepare:

There’s no cooking required but plan ahead and take time to find these special ingredients. Your taste buds will thank you!

Do you have an Asian grocery store near you? If not, search online for Asian vinegar. You can substitute American versions but they tend to mask the taste of the food rather than enhance it. The stars of this recipe need to shine! You don’t want the dressing to kill their note, do you?

Super Easy Dressing

  • 2 tbs. Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbs. Balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tbs Zhenjiang Vinegar
  • 1 tsp. Ground mustard
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Whisk the olive oil, both kinds of vinegar, and ground mustard together. Save the dressing until the last possible minute before serving. Salt and pepper go last.

Note about mustard: You can easily make your own fresh ground mustard. Purchase mustard seeds from the spice section of your grocery store. Put 2-3 tbs of the seeds into a coffee grinder and pulse until it becomes powder. Store in an old repurposed spice jar or similar jar.

Build the salad:

Here’s how to “wow” your guests.

  • Find a pretty serving dish or dinner plate
  • Layer in a pretty pattern around the dish:
    1. Slice of tomato
    2. Basil leaf
    3. Slice of mozzarella cheese
  • Repeat the layers
  • Drizzle with dressing, right before serving, no soggy basil leaves allowed!
  • Salt and pepper are optional but it gives it that last little bit of finesse

You are going to close your eyes, roll your eyes, stop talking….whatever you do when you bite into something sumptuous! You are not going to believe the freshness of the basil and tomatoes, the tender bite of the cheese, and the perfect dressing for such a masterpiece.

You’ll say to yourself, I never knew it was this easy!


basil, tomato, mozzarella cheese on plate with dressing drizzled over

Did you make it? Tell us about it!

Do you have questions? I’ll answer if I can!

Please leave your comments below so everyone can benefit from the answers.


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