Easy pesto Caprese salad features creamy fresh mozzarella, sweet cherry tomatoes, and aromatic basil all served over sharp arugula and drizzled with lemon pesto. With only a handful of ingredients and a quick prep, you can have this gorgeous tomato mozzarella salad ready in a jif!
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There’s nothing I like more in the warmer weather than Caprese salad.
I grow my own tomatoes just so I can eat all the Caprese.
And I do mean all of it.
I love making tons of variations on the classic combo from warm Caprese pasta to shrimp Caprese.
This pesto Caprese is one of my go tos when I don’t want to fuss at all or I am looking for caprese with no balsamic reduction.
It’s also super handy if I don’t have a ton fresh basil but still want the yummy tomato, mozzarella, basil combo.
What is pesto caprese salad made of?
My version of this salad features the classic Caprese salad ingredients of tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella.
For extra veggies, I like to serve it over greens and go for arugula for the flavor contrast between the smooth, creamy mozzarella and the sharp vegetable.
Then I drizzle the whole shebang with lemon pesto.
Ingredients and Kitchen Supplies
To make this you only need a handful of ingredients:
- Tomatoes– I like using cherry or grape tomatoes, but sometimes I will also use roma tomatoes. Go for any you like but try to choose ones with a bit of a firmer texture.
- Mozzarella– Fresh mozzarella is a must. Don’t substitute the shredded kind in the bag. The smaller balls of mozzarella, Bocconcini, make it easy for prep but you could also cube up a large ball of fresh mozzarella.
- Basil– Again fresh basil and not dried basil.
- Arugula– Totally optional but a nice touch if you want more veggie action.
- Pesto sauce– You could make your own or your could use your favorite storebought kind.
- Lemon– Since I’m not using homemade pesto, I squeeze fresh lemon juice right into the pesto to brighten and freshen it up.
Kitchen supplies you’ll need include:
How to Make
1. Prep the tomatoes.
Rinse the tomatoes. Cut them in half legnthwise.
2. Assemble the salad.
Lay the arugula (if you are using it) down on the bottom of a platter or serving dish. Top it with the halved tomatoes, the mozzarella pearls, and fresh basil.
3. Drizzle with pesto.
Stir the lemon juice into the pesto until it’s well combined. Liberally drizzle the lemon pesto over the salad. Serve and enjoy!
Like most salads, I don’t recommend storing leftovers for more than a day.
While the arugula holds up well, tomatoes get mealy in the fridge and the acid from the lemon juice will start to break them down.
If you do plan to store it, store leftovers in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a day or two.
Is pesto healthier than tomato sauce?
Pesto is higher in calories than tomato sauce since it has a base of olive oil and pine nuts. That said both those ingredients and the basil in it have healthy benefits.
What kind of tomatoes should I use in Caprese salad?
Cherry or grape tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, or any tomato that is sturdier will work well in Caprese salad.
What can I substitute for mozzarella in Caprese?
Mozzarella is one of the main ingredients in Caprese. You could use burrata, which is very similar to mozzarella with a creamy center, but using a different cheese will change the flavor.
What is pesto made out of?
Pesto is made out of olive oil, pine nuts, garlic, basil, and a harder Italian cheese like Parmesan or Pecorino Romano,
Tips and Tricks
- Adding lemon juice to the pesto is optional but highly recommended. The touch of acid along with the bright citrus flavor really jazzes the storebought pesto up.
- You can use your favorite homemade pesto in this recipe.
- Want to fill this salad out more? Add grilled chicken, shrimp, pasta, or even bread to it.
- Substitute burrata for vibes like this Burrata Panzanella Salad Recipe
Other Caprese Recipes
- Shrimp Caprese Salad with Honey Balsamic Reduction
- Strawberry Caprese Salad
- The Best Shrimp Caprese Pasta
- The Best Burrata Caprese Salad
- Panzanella Caprese Salad
- Mini Caprese Skewers
- Elegant and Easy Prosciutto Caprese Skewers
- Air Fryer Gnocchi Caprese
- Fried Mozzarella Caprese Salad
- Instant Pot Caprese Pasta
- Puff Pastry Caprese Cups
- Caprese Zoodle Bowls with Chickpeas
Other Recipes with Pesto
- Quick Lemon Pesto Chicken and Orzo Skillet
- Pea Pesto Pasta with Burrata and Sun Dried Tomatoes
- Kale Pesto Pizza
- Lemon Pesto Hummus
- Pesto Chicken Burgers
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- 1 pint of cherry tomatoes, halved
- 8 ounces of mini mozzarella balls
- 1 cup of fresh basil
- 6 ounces arugula
- 1 6.5 ounce jar of your favorite pesto
- juice of half a lemon
- Rinse the tomatoes and cut them in half legnthwise,
- Assemble the salad by laying the arugula down on a platter or in a bowl.
- Top the arugula with the cut tomatoes, mozzarella balls, and basil.
- Set the salad aside and stir together the pesto and lemon juice.
- Top the salad with the pesto mixture.
- Serve and enjoy!
Don't worry if your pesto is a bit more or less than 6.5 ounces. Some brands sell 8 ounce jars, some 6.7 ounce jars.
Also you can use more or less fresh basil, depending on how much you have.