Caprese Salad with Cherry Tomatoes

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This recipe for caprese salad with cherry tomatoes offers convenience and flexibility while still maintaining the delicious caprese ingredients that we love.

This easy and fresh salad can made in less than 10 minutes, making it perfect for a quick summer snack or a salad for a larger meal. You’ll love it!

caprese salad with cherry tomatoes

In this particular Italian recipe I simply replace regular sliced tomatoes with the cherry tomatoes, and large slices of mozzarella with small balls, aka pearls.

You might be wondering if this is a real caprese salad, and I explain my opinion on that a bit further down. But don’t worry, I’ve been making this cherry tomato caprese salad for years while holding true to the original list of Italian ingredients and flavors.

Caprese Salad with Cherry Tomatoes

I created this version of a caprese salad using cherry tomatoes almost a decade ago as you’ll see in my old YouTube video here. My original intention when going to the store was to make a regular caprese salad, but instead of the large balls of mozzarella, they only had the pearls.

That’s how it got started.

Fast forward nearly a decade and I’ve often changed things up. That’s why I’ve done a massive rewrite on this recipe to reflect the use of cherry or grape tomatoes which is often my go-to choice when making a caprese salad using mozzarella balls.

It was never my initial goal to use cherry tomatoes in a caprese salad, but cherry tomatoes were all they had available. And bingo – it was perfect with the size of my smaller mozzarella balls.

I still love a good classic caprese salad, and these two recipes are closely related. However, there are benefits to using cherry tomatoes, and I’ll explain what I mean a little further down.

Can Cherry Tomatoes be Used in a Caprese Salad?

cherry tomato caprese salad

Technically, a traditional caprese salad uses large slices of fresh mozzarella and tomatoes, with basil leaves throughout the slices.

For this cherry tomato caprese salad version I replace the mozzarella with small mozzarella balls, and the large tomatoes with cherry tomatoes. Everything else remains the same and I’m able to keep the integrity of what goes in a caprese salad.

Let’s talk about the actual ingredients next.

Recipe Ingredients and Notes

Here are the ingredients you’ll need. Specific quantities (as flexible as they are) are found below in the recipe card.

Fresh mozzarella balls

These need to be packed in water, not marinated.

Cherry or grape tomatoes

Either will work just fine. Cherry tomatoes give off a little more liquid than grape tomatoes. I recommend cutting them in half for the salad.

Fresh basil leaves chopped

Do not use dried basil in this salad.

Extra virgin olive oil

Look for good quality organic first cold pressed extra virgin olive oil.

Dash salt and pepper

This is optional, but does give it a good pop of flavor.

Can I Add Balsamic Vinegar?

You can certainly add balsamic vinegar to the list of ingredients, but a true caprese salad does not use balsamic or any other vinegar. In all my time cooking from family recipes and old Italian cookbooks I collect, this is never suggested or done.

I believe it is more of an American trend from popular Italian restaurant chains that take creative license with the recipe.

Mozzarella, basil and tomatoes do however taste delicious with balsamic vinegar, so feel free to add it and get creative! Simply use half the amount of vinegar that you do olive oil.

Benefits of using Cherry Tomatoes

cherry caprese salad close up

Using cherry tomatoes, or grape tomatoes if you prefer, offers some benefits with this particular salad.

  1. Cherry tomatoes tend to have consistent flavor year-round at the stores, unlike slicing tomatoes.
  2. Cost less than larger tomatoes, especially during off season months.
  3. Easier to create a small single serving salad, since all you need is a handful of tomatoes.

How to Make a Caprese Salad with Cherry Tomatoes

This recipe couldn’t be easier to make since the mozzarella and tomatoes are basically a 1:1 ratio. Here’s the steps for how to make an Italian caprese salad with mozzarella balls and cherry tomatoes.

Rinse and drain the mozzarella balls and add to a serving bowl.

mozzarella balls in strainer

Wash and chop the cherry tomatoes in half and add to the same serving bowl. Make sure to chop the tomatoes so they about the same size as the mozzarella balls. See image below.

cherry tomato caprese salad

Wash and chop the basil leaves and add to the bowl as well.

add chopped basil

Add in the olive oil, along with a dash of salt and pepper which is optional. Mix everything together and serve at room temperature.

mix cherry tomatoes and mozzarella with basil

Recipe Tips for Cherry Tomato Caprese Salad

Although any type of caprese salad is virtually fool-proof, here are some tips I strongly recommend you follow.

Avoid marinated mozzarella balls

Only use fresh mozzarella balls packed in water or vacuum packed. You can get these in your grocery store usually near the deli area or specialty cheeses that require refrigeration.

Marinated mozzarella balls will completely alter the flavor of this caprese recipe. Plus, sometimes the oils used aren’t of good quality and it’s no longer the healthy caprese salad that we cherish.

In fact, sometimes it’s not actually marinated in olive oil but canola oil! That is not what we want to see!

marinated mozzarella ingredients
Notice the Canola Oil in the ingredients!

If you do decide to use marinated mozzarella, do me a favor and don’t use the word caprese. 😊

Use only fresh basil

This may seem obvious but two tips here. Don’t use dried basil – at all. And secondly, make sure the only herb you’re using is basil and nothing else. Once you start deviating, it’s no longer a caprese salad in any form.

Using cherry or grape tomatoes

I could go either way for using cherry or grape tomatoes in the salad, but make sure to chop the tomatoes in half crosswise. This makes it easy to spear the tomatoes when eating. We all know what happens when trying to spear a whole cherry tomato!

Extra virgin olive oil vs regular olive oil

If you’re new to Italian cooking, you’ll soon discover how much we use extra virgin olive oil instead of regular olive oil. The reason is because the extra virgin, especially first cold-pressed, has more flavor and is meant to be used on cold salads.

Preparation and Storage

I don’t recommend making this salad days in advance. Since it only takes 10 minutes to make, I think the best option is to make it an hour ahead of time. This allows time for the mozzarella balls, cherry tomatoes, and basil to marinate with the oil in the salad before serving.

If you do need to store the salad in the fridge, then I suggest only mixing the cherry tomatoes and mozzarella balls in an airtight container, then add the basil and olive oil right before serving.

This salad is always best served fresh and at room temperature. Therefore, make sure to allow at least 30 minutes for the ingredients to get to room temperature.

What to Serve with a Cherry Tomato Caprese Salad

What doesn’t this salad go with?! I could eat it with just about anything!

Seriously though, this caprese salad which is mostly served during summer months goes with pasta recipes, other Italian salads, Italian picnic foods, and meats.

Here are Some Complimentary Italian Recipes

pasta salad angel hair

This fun Italian recipe for angel hair pasta salad is a refreshing main dish that is filling and satisfying. It will complement the lightness of the caprese salad’s sweet cherry tomatoes and bright basil.

italian tortellini pasta salad

This tortellini pasta salad recipe is full of suitable flavors that go well with this tomato and mozzarella salad. It includes olives, and other Mediterranean flavors you’ll love!

italian stuffed zucchini boats

If you’re vegetarian or looking to eat healthier, try my vegetarian stuffed zucchini boats. It’s a nice side dish or light lunch that will go great with this cherry tomato and mozzarella recipe.

Other Mozzarella and Tomato Recipes You May Like

Try these other recipes or mark them for later. They all use either mozzarella or tomatoes.

eggplant stacks

This recipe for Eggplant and Mozzarella Stacks is easy and delicious! It uses fried eggplant slices between freshly sliced mozzarella. It’s wonderful!

pasta with fresh tomatoes and garlic

If you love easy, you’ll love this Pasta with Fresh Tomatoes and Garlic recipe. You can use cherry tomatoes or regular tomatoes too!

caprese salad party skewers

Why not serve your mozzarella and cherry tomatoes on skewers? It makes for a great party appetizer!

Frequently Asked Questions

Can I use cherry tomatoes in a caprese salad?

Yes. As I explained throughout the article, cherry tomatoes can be used if you also use the small fresh mozzarella balls called pearls that are packed in water.  This is not a traditional caprese salad but uses the same ingredients.

Is this a healthy salad?

Yes. A caprese salad with cherry tomatoes is indeed healthy as it contains good protein and lots of healthy nutrients from the tomatoes. You can read my full article that talks about making a healthy caprese salad – which uses traditional preparation and serving methods.

Can I make Caprese salad with cherry tomatoes ahead of time?

Yes, but I only recommend preparing the tomatoes and mozzarella balls the day before at most. Add the basil and olive oil after bringing the salad to room temperature before serving.  

I hope you’ve enjoyed this caprese salad with cherry tomatoes recipe. It’s so easy to make and there’s lots of room for creative freedom.

If you choose to make it, let me know how it goes – I’d love to hear about it!

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cherry tomato caprese salad

Caprese Salad with Cherry Tomatoes

Make your caprese salad even easier with cherry tomatoes and mozzarella balls!
5 from 2 votes
Print Rate
Course: Salad
Cuisine: Italian
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 10 minutes
Servings: 4

Ingredients

  • 24 ounces fresh mozzarella balls/pearls packed in water, not oil
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes cut in half crosswise
  • 6-8 fresh basil leaves chopped
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Instructions

  • Wash and drain the mozzarella balls and add to a medium serving bowl.
    24 ounces fresh mozzarella balls/pearls
  • Wash and cut the cherry tomatoes in half. Add to same bowl.
    1 pint cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes cut in half crosswise
  • Add the chopped basil and olive oil and mix well.
    6-8 fresh basil leaves chopped, 1 1/2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Notes

  1. I recommend a 1/2 cup for each serving size.
  2. This recipe does not use balsamic vinegar on purpose. You can however use it if you prefer it that way. If you choose to use it, use half of the amount used for olive oil.  
  3. Use more or less basil. Leaf sizes vary so adjust accordingly. 
  4. Serve at room temperature and in bowls for guests. 
  5. Use a slotted spoon when serving. 

Nutrition

Serving: 0.5cup

Caprese Salad with Cherry Tomatoes

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