Spinach Caprese Salad is a flavorful and impressive dish that takes just minutes to make. This beautiful salad is packed with fresh ingredients and dressed with a Basil Balsamic Vinaigrette. The dressing is full of bright flavors to complement all the healthy greens and juicy tomatoes.
What is Caprese Salad
Legend has it that a man created Insalata Caprese (or as we call it, Caprese Salad) in honor of Italy after World War I. The ingredients were common in his region, the island of Capri, and were the same colors as the Italian flag (red, green, and white).
This traditional Italian salad has the fresh ingredients that you will find in most Italian and Mediterranean dishes in one way or another. Fresh spinach, fragrant basil, tangy balsamic dressing, olive oil, mozzarella cheese, and ripe tomatoes come together to bring a taste of Italy to the table in an easy recipe.
Often you will see the more traditional version of this dish with a row or circle that is made by lining up a slice of tomato and a slice of fresh mozzarella repeatedly and adding a few basil leaves in between or on top. Then it is drizzled with high-quality extra-virgin olive oil and a sprinkling of salt and pepper.
I like to make my Caprese salad a bit more full by adding sweet baby spinach. Sometimes I add grilled chicken breasts to make it a meal. Basil is added into the dressing, along with the balsamic vinegar, to give you all of the bright and tangy flavors you are expecting. It is a light and easy dressing that is delicious on any salad, and can also be used as a marinade!
Why You Will Love This Recipe
Caprese salad is one of my favorite summer dishes! The flavors are colors are so vibrant! It is the perfect side dish to serve at your next cookout. Grill up some elk burgers or regular hamburgers and hot dogs, husk a few ears of fresh corn, and you have a colorful, delicious summer meal! And don't forget the dessert, like this incredible peach cobbler pound cake!
- Fresh Summer Ingredients - Fresh ingredients from the farmer's market or produce aisle come together to perfectly complement each other in this summer salad.
- Easy to Prepare - You can make this recipe in five minutes, probably even two minutes. Just slice the tomatoes in half, mix up the dressing, and you're done.
- A great twist on a classic recipe - I took the traditional Caprese salad recipe and made it even easier and more filling, with added nutrients of spinach.
Another great salad recipe is the Chick-Fil-A copycat Kale Crunch Salad!
- Spinach - Tender baby Spinach has a sweeter flavor than mature spinach leaves. It is packed with antioxidants, folate, and lots of vitamins, and it has all kinds of health benefits. You can substitute chopped spinach leaves if you do not have baby spinach.
- Cherry Tomatoes - I like the shape of cherry tomatoes but you can use grape tomatoes instead. They are both sweet and juicy! If you have larger tomatoes that are garden-fresh then just dice them into small pieces. Roma tomatoes have a similar sweetness to cherry tomatoes.
- Mozzarella Pearls - Mozzarella pearls are little bite-size pieces of mozzarella cheese, and they are perfect for salad. If you can't find them then cut a ball of fresh mozzarella cheese into 1-inch squares.
- Basil Leaves - You'll need fresh whole basil leaves for this recipe. If you can't get fresh basil then you can use 2 teaspoons of dried. However, this substitution will change the flavor quite a bit.
Step One: Prepare Dressing
- You can make this dressing in a blender, a shaker bottle, or simply stir it all together in a small bowl.
- Mix all of the ingredients except for the olive oil. Then slowly pour in the oil while whisking or blending, to emulsify the oil into the dressing
Step Two: Place Spinach in Bowl
- Wash and drain your baby spinach leaves.
- Make sure the leaves are dry before placing them in a large bowl so that you have a crisp salad.
Step Three: Top with Tomatoes & Mozarella
- Add the tomatoes and mozzarella pearls on top of the spinach.
- You can do this step several hours ahead of time and store it in the refrigerator until you are ready to serve.
Step Four: Toss the Salad
- Drizzle the dressing over the salad.
- Toss the salad well to coat the spinach, tomatoes, and cheese.
- You can also portion individual salad plates and add the dressing to each serving.
- Fruit: Add strawberries or blueberries for added freshness and flavor. Even diced watermelon is delicious with this dish!
- Nuts: Toasted pecans or walnuts add a nutty flavor to counter the light and fresh basil leaves in the dressing. Pine nuts or chickpeas would add even more depth to the freshness of this salad.
- Vegetables: Red onion would add a tanginess to the recipe, and cucumbers would add an additional crunch.
- Protein: You can easily make this salad into a main course by adding grilled or roasted chicken, fresh flank steak strips, your favorite fish, or even tofu.
- Different Greens: Replace the spinach with chopped kale or arugula.
- Bottled Dressing: If you want to use a bottled dressing you will need to add two tablespoons of chopped basil to your salad to replace what is in this dressing. The addition of the fragrant and flavorful basil really makes a Caprese salad special.
This fresh salad is so versatile that it can be served at a fancy dinner party, casual summer barbeque, or a simple family meal. It is the perfect complement to a pizza dinner!
This also pairs very well with barbecues, and would make a great side dish for smoked kalua pork or pulled pork.
Perhaps the most obvious pairing is to serve this with pasta, like this Garlic Butter Pasta, for a full on Italian meal!
View the web story for this Caprese Salad recipe.
Refrigerator your salad without dressing in an airtight container for up to three days. Keep the tomatoes in a separate container to help prevent the spinach from wilting.
The dressing can be stored in an airtight bottle or container in the refrigerator for up to a week. Just mix well before you use it.
The spinach, tomatoes, and basil are packed full of beneficial nutrients! It fits well into many diets! Add the cheese and dressing sparingly for the most nutritious salad.
Let me know how you like this recipe by leaving a review! And follow along on Instagram @stateofdinner for behind-the-scenes and to be among the first to know when new recipes post!
Spinach Caprese SaladRecipe by:
Spinach Caprese Salad
- 5 ounces baby spinach
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes halved
- 8 ounces fresh mozzarella pearls
- ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons chopped basil leaves (6-8 leaves)
- 1 garlic clove minced
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
Basil Balsamic Vinaigrette
- Stir the balsamic, basil, garlic, salt, and pepper in a medium bowl or jar. You can also prepare the dressing in a blender.
- Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while whisking continuously. If you are making the dressing in a blender then run the blender on low while slowly pouring the oil through the opening in the lid.
- Taste and add more salt and pepper, if desired.
- Stir or shake well before serving.
Spinach Caprese Salad
- Place the spinach in a large serving bowl. Top with cherry tomatoes halves and mozzarella pearls.
- Drizzle vinaigrette over the salad immediately before serving.
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