It’s that time of year when everyone is talking about Caprese salads. We’re all looking for the best tomatoes to make our favorite dish, but there are so many options! Which ones are best for Caprese salads?
We’ve got the rundown on some of the most popular varieties of tomatoes for Caprese salads, along with some tips for choosing them.
What is a Caprese salad?
It’s the ultimate Italian salad, and it’s so simple you can make it at home.
A Caprese salad is made with tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, and basil. That’s it! It gets its name because it’s traditionally made with ingredients that are grown on the island of Capri in Italy.
You can make this salad with any kind of tomato, but heirloom varieties are especially delicious—they’re usually smaller than regular tomatoes and have a more intense flavor. The same goes for fresh mozzarella: The drier the better!
The health benefits of Caprese salads are numerous: they’re rich in antioxidants that can help reduce inflammation throughout your body; they contain lycopene (an important nutrient found in tomatoes) which has been linked to cancer prevention, and they’re low in calories!
The best part about making this dish yourself is that you don’t have to buy everything separately—you can use whatever you have lying around your kitchen and mix it together in a big bowl for everyone.
What tomatoes are best for Caprese salad?
The best tomatoes for Caprese salad are those that are ripe, sweet, and firm. The tomatoes should have a deep red color and a very slight orange tone.
Ideally, the skin would be flawless and have a uniform hue all over the body. Choose a tomato that is firm yet yields slightly when pushed.
Don’t buy tomatoes that have any signs of injury. When pushed, the tomato should feel hefty for its size and have a mild juicy quality.
Identifying the best tomatoes for a Caprese salad
The color of your tomatoes is important for a famous salad like Caprese salad.
You want tomatoes that are ripe and red and that are going to pair well and contrast well with the white of the mozzarella and the deep green of the basil.
You want a tomato that is very ripe, but not overripe, and one that is going to be vibrant and red.
The type of Caprese that you are making helps determine what size tomato you need.
If you are doing a whole tomato Caprese you want to choose small tomatoes. A cherry tomato or a grape tomato is a great option that is going to be easy to eat.
Also, they can be tossed with your oil and your cheese and basil without having to do any cutting.
You also need to consider the weight of the tomato.
You want one that is not too large if you are planning on not cutting it and if you are going to cut it, you need to make sure you are chopping it into the right size pieces.
You want a tomato that is juicy and ripe but that is not overripe and that is not too overly soft.
When choosing a tomato, you want one that is very fresh. A fresh tomato is not going to have a light tomato scent but it not going to smell too strongly.
It is also not going to smell rotten. You want a tomato that smells pleasant and flavorful, but that is not too strong.
5. Bruises and cracks
When choosing a tomato for a Caprese salad, you do not want one that has any cracks, bruises, or other spots.
These might end up being rotten and may not taste great. You want a tomato that does not have any sort of blemishes and that they are pristine.
This is going to be the freshest and most delicious way to make a great, fresh Caprese salad.
You can use older tomatoes for Caprese if you are going to cut your tomatoes down and you are not going to be doing any sort of whole tomato salad.
If you are not going to be cutting your tomatoes up and you want to keep them whole, you want to use newer tomatoes as this is going to give you the freshest salad and make it taste the best.
When it comes to firmness, you want a tomato that is firm and that does maintain its shape.
Even if you are going to be cutting up the tomato, you want it to be firm so that it can stand up to the cheese and the basil.
Some great types of tomatoes that are perfect for Caprese are Roma, grape, and cherry, as well as smaller varieties, as they have tons of flavor but are not super large.
Also, they do not require as much preparation and you can eat them whole or just sliced which makes bringing this salad together super easy.
Best tomatoes for Caprese
1. Roma Tomatoes
Roma tomatoes are the most common variety of tomatoes, and they are ideal for making tomato sauce. The Roma’s high water content makes them excellent for soups, too.
Roma tomatoes do not have much flesh compared with other varieties, but what they lack in the amount of pulp that some prefer can be made up by using more tomatoes in your recipe.
Roma’s small size also makes them perfect for slicing or chopping into salad toppings such as Caprese salads—you’ll get more tomato flavor without having to bite into large chunks!
2. Cherry Tomatoes
Another category of tomatoes is the cherry tomato. Cherry tomatoes are categorized as small tomatoes, smaller than Roma tomatoes.
However, they have the same amount of acidity but higher sugar content than their larger cousins. The sweetness masks the acidic taste.
This means that they’re great for salads and sandwiches but also work well in sauces and salsas.
3. San Marzano Tomatoes
San Marzano tomato is a plum tomato grown in the San Marzano region of Italy. It’s a paste tomato, which means that it has a low acid content and can be used to make sauce or canned tomatoes.
If you’re cooking with canned tomatoes, make sure you’re using an Italian brand like Bionaturae or Cento (many brands are imported from Italy).
You can also buy these tomatoes fresh at most grocery stores year-round.
The reason why San Marzano tomatoes are so commonly used for Caprese salads is that they have such a distinct flavor profile.
They’re sweet and rich, with notes of dried fruit and caramelization on the tongue.
4. Plum Tomatoes
Plum tomatoes are the perfect choice for salads. They’re sweet, juicy, and bursting with flavor—but they’re also best used in salads!
When you combine them with other ingredients, such as mozzarella cheese, fresh basil leaves, and balsamic vinegar (a staple ingredient of Caprese salad), you’ve got a winning combination on your hands.
In addition to being delicious additions to your favorite salad recipes (and even some non-salad recipes), plum tomatoes are great for cooking as well.
Try adding them to pasta sauces or making homemade tomato soup from scratch—you’ll love how much flavor these little guys pack into every dish!
5. Costoluto Tomatoes
Costoluto tomatoes are a variety of tomatoes that originated in Italy. They’re also known as Costoluto Genovese and Costoluto Fiorentino, but the names have been simplified to just “Costoluto” on many menus and labels.
If you love tomatoes but don’t like the seeds, then this is one to try!
The Costoluto tomato is a medium to large, round, red to a pinkish-red tomato that has very few seeds and almost no juice.
They can be used in any recipe calling for large vine-ripened tomatoes—they are great sliced into sandwiches or salads (like Caprese), blended into salsas or sauces such as marinara sauce or salsa verde (a staple ingredient in so many Italian dishes), baked with cheese over pasta like lasagna or stuffed into ravioli, where their texture helps hold together all those layers of deliciousness!
6. Campari Tomatoes
Campari tomatoes are a variety of heirloom tomatoes that are small, red, and very sweet with low acidity.
They’re perfect for Caprese salads because they’re sweet enough to be eaten by themselves
7. Beefsteak Tomatoes
Beefsteak tomatoes are large and round, with few or no seeds. They come in many colors, including red, orange, yellow, and green.
Beefsteak tomatoes have a meaty texture and a mild sweetness that makes them perfect for slicing raw over salads or sandwiches.
8. Heirloom tomatoes
Heirloom tomatoes are a type of tomato that is the result of open pollination, or not being pollinated by a specific variety.
This means that each heirloom tomato will be unique and different from all the others, with its own texture, flavor, and color.
Heirloom tomatoes can come in a wide variety of colors and shapes! Some heirlooms have bumpy red skins with pale yellow flesh; others are yellowish green with brown spots on their skin. Still, others have smooth orange skins and pinkish flesh inside…
Heirlooms often have sweeter flavors than other types of tomato because they’re naturally bred over time to produce this characteristic (this is also why some heirlooms are called “sweeter” than others).
9. Sungold tomatoes
Sungold tomatoes are a variety of cherry tomato that was bred in Japan and introduced to the US in 1990.
They have yellow skin and orange flesh, making them visually appealing on both the plate and in salads. They’re also sweet and tangy, making them ideal for salads.
You can find Sungolds at your local farmers’ market or grocery store during their peak season (Summer).
10. Grape tomatoes
Grape tomatoes are similar to cocktail tomatoes. They’re smaller than cherry tomatoes and sweeter, but they have higher water content.
Their size makes them great for snacking raw on the go, while their sweetness makes them a good choice for salads when you want to add a little something special to your meal.
Should your tomatoes be refrigerated for a Caprese?
On one hand, some people say that tomatoes should be kept at room temperature so that they retain their flavor and texture. On the other hand, some people say that refrigerating tomatoes is the best way to keep them fresh.
So, what is the verdict? Well, it depends on who you ask. If you are looking for a fresher-tasting tomato, then refrigerating them may be the way to go. However, if you are looking for a tomato with more flavor, then keeping them at room temperature is probably your best bet.
The main reason people refrigerate their tomatoes before chopping them up is that they want to keep the fruit firm and prevent it from getting mushy or turning brown (which is apparent if you slice it into an overripe tomato).
If you’re using good-quality tomatoes, there’s no need to store them in the fridge before serving them on your Caprese.
Big tomatoes versus small tomatoes for your Caprese
This is a question that often plagues home cooks. The answer, of course, depends on your personal preferences.
Some people prefer smaller tomatoes because they are sweeter and more flavorful. Others prefer the larger tomatoes because they are juicier and have more of a bite to them.
Sure, bigger tomatoes are great for slicing up and adding to a salad, but they’re also perfect for making fresh tomato sauce or even just eating raw with a little olive oil drizzled over them.
And if you’re planning on making that classic Italian dish Caprese. You’ll find that firm, medium-sized tomatoes are easier to handle and make for a better presentation.
Ultimately, it is up to you to decide which size tomato you prefer for your Caprese salad.
What can you substitute tomatoes in your Caprese?
But what if you don’t have any traditional tomatoes? Never fear! We’ve got some solid substitutes for your Caprese.
You can use cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes, or even roasted red peppers.
Each of these options will add a different flavor to your dish, so choose the one that best suits your taste.
Cherry tomatoes are a good option if you want sweetness in your salad. Grape tomatoes will add a more tart flavor, while roasted red peppers will give the dish a smoky flavor.
If you’re interested in sprucing up your Caprese even further, then you can consider adding these ingredients as well.
Zucchini is one of those vegetables that cooks down to be super soft and tender, which means it works well in place of tomatoes. Just slice your zucchini into thin slices and roast it in the oven until it’s soft enough to spread on your bread.
Avocados are another vegetable that gets soft when they’re heated up—not unlike zucchini—so they can be used as an alternative to tomato in your Caprese sandwich. Avocados have a similar texture to tomatoes and deliver a creamy taste when added to sandwiches or salads; they also contain antioxidants like Vitamin C and E, which help protect against cancer cells!
Artichoke hearts are another great substitute for tomatoes if you need something more substantial for your Caprese sandwich instead of just mozzarella cheese alone (we won’t judge). The art
A cucumber is also a valid option. You can add sliced cucumbers to your Caprese salad instead of tomatoes. This substitution is especially great because it doesn’t change the flavor profile much. It just adds another crunchy texture element!
Bell peppers have a similar texture and flavor to tomatoes after a little bit of cooking on the stove. They’re also super versatile. You can use them in salads like this one, or sauté them with other veggies and then top a pizza or pasta dish with them.
Whichever option you choose, make sure to slice the vegetables thinly so that they resemble the traditional Caprese salad ingredients.
How thin should you slice your tomatoes for Caprese?
Traditionally, you should cut your Tomatoes at least 1/8 of an inch thick and no thicker than 3/8 of an inch.
But that isn’t the entire story.
Tomatoes are the unsung heroes of salads. They’re the little things that make everything taste better. But when they’re sliced too thick, they can make your salad soggy and don’t add much flavor.
So, how thin should you slice your tomatoes for a salad? Basically, as thin as you can make them without them falling apart!
Now, we’re not talking about cutting your tomatoes into razor-thin slices.
If you want to make sure your tomato slices don’t fall apart when tossed with the rest of your salad ingredients, try this trick:
Cut a thin cross-section from the bottom of each tomato so that there’s something to hold onto when you cut into them later on. That way, they’ll be easier to handle and less likely to fall apart when tossed into the bowl.
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