This Spinach Caprese Salad is fresh and vibrant with the most delicious homemade balsamic vinaigrette dressing. Ready in just 15 minutes, this easy salad recipe requires minimal prep work. Pair it with your favorite grilled protein or Italian dishes for a satisfying meal.
Being part Italian, nothing is more comforting than a home-cooked Italian meal. Especially around the holidays, I love making big batches of tomato sauce, meatballs, and lasagna to share with family and friends.
However, I used to struggle to figure out what to serve alongside these rich and hearty dishes. It needed to be something light and refreshing but with enough flavor to hold its own.
That’s why I created this spinach Caprese salad.
Made with homemade balsamic vinaigrette, it’s the perfect side dish for those hearty Italian meals. Plus, it only takes 15 minutes to toss together!
Today, I’m walking you through how to make the best spinach Caprese salad, including which ingredients to use, tips for success, and some of my favorite dishes to serve with this easy salad recipe.
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Why You'll Love This Recipe
- Fresh & Vibrant Flavors- The combination of baby spinach, cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, and balsamic vinaigrette creates a salad with bold, fresh flavors.
- Ready in 15 Minutes- Even with homemade dressing, you can have this easy spinach Caprese salad ready in just 15 minutes.
- Easy to Make- This simple salad is made with just a few ingredients and requires minimal chopping.
- Versatile- Serve this salad as a side dish, light lunch, dinner, or as an appetizer. It pairs well with Italian dishes like lasagna, meatballs, and fettuccine alfredo.
- Homemade Dressing- A game-changer for making the most delicious salads. And the balsamic vinaigrette in this recipe strikes the perfect balance between tangy and sweet.
Here are some notes on key ingredients. For a full list of ingredients, check out the recipe card below.
- Baby Spinach- I love using fresh baby spinach leaves for salad because there's no need to chop them before adding them to your salad bowl.
- Cherry Tomatoes- I like to cut the cherry tomatoes in half but you can also leave them whole for easier prep.
- Mini Mozzarella Balls- You can find mini fresh mozzarella balls in the specialty cheese section of your grocery store. I prefer to use mozzarella pearls, but ciliegine also works well.
- Fresh Basil- Chiffonade the fresh basil leaves just before serving to preserve its fresh aroma and vibrant color.
- Red Onion- Finely diced red onion adds a mild onion flavor, crunch, and a pop of color.
- Balsamic Vinegar- A sweet, rich vinegar that is commonly served with Caprese salad.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil- A high-quality extra virgin olive oil is the perfect base for a good balsamic vinaigrette dressing.
- Dijon Mustard- Adds a subtle tanginess and emulsifies the dressing, giving it a creamy texture.
- Honey- A touch of sweetness balances out the acidity of the balsamic vinaigrette.
- Garlic- Adds tons of flavor to this Italian spinach Caprese salad. Grating or finely mincing the garlic is best for an even distribution of flavor.
Substitutions and Variations
Here are a few ways to customize this spinach Caprese salad recipe to fit your diet and taste preferences.
- Baby Spinach- Swap baby spinach for chopped kale, arugula, or romaine lettuce.
- Cherry Tomatoes- Substitute cherry tomatoes with grape tomatoes, diced Roma or heirloom tomatoes, or sun-dried tomatoes.
- Mini Mozzarella Balls- If you can't find mini mozzarella balls, you can cut up regular fresh mozzarella cheese instead. Goat cheese, parmesan cheese, or feta cheese also work well.
- Fresh Basil- Swap fresh basil for other fresh herbs such as parsley, mint, or oregano. I do not recommend using dried basil in this recipe.
- Red Onion- Replace diced red onion with minced shallots or green onion for a milder onion flavor.
- Balsamic Vinaigrette- Substitute homemade balsamic vinaigrette with store-bought balsamic dressing if preferred. Basil balsamic vinaigrette, red wine vinaigrette, and Italian dressing can also be used.
- Protein- Adding grilled chicken, pan-seared chicken breast, steak tips, or pesto salmon makes this salad a more satisfying meal.
- Bacon- For a savory twist, crumble crispy bacon over the salad.
- Farro- Toss in cooked farro for a wholesome, grain salad.
- Pine Nuts- Sprinkle toasted pine nuts for an extra crunch and nutty flavor.
- Additional Toppings- Add croutons, diced avocado, olives, grilled or roasted vegetables, strawberries, grapefruit, or orange to your salad for even more flavor.
How to Make Spinach Caprese Salad
Here is how to make Caprese salad with spinach.
Step 1: Prepare the balsamic vinaigrette. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, honey, grated garlic, salt, and pepper. Set the bowl on a towel to prevent it from moving. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while whisking continuously to emulsify. Set aside.
Step 2: Assemble the salad. In a large salad bowl, combine the baby spinach leaves, halved cherry tomatoes, mini mozzarella balls, chopped basil leaves, and diced red onion.
Step 3: Dress the salad. Pour the prepared balsamic vinaigrette over the salad ingredients. Toss the salad until everything is evenly coated with the dressing.
Step 4: Season and serve. Season the salad with additional salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately and enjoy!
Tips for Success
Make this spinach Caprese salad recipe successfully the first time using these helpful kitchen tips.
- Use fresh, high-quality ingredients. This salad is all about fresh, bold flavors. Use the freshest produce and the highest-quality ingredients you can find.
- Drain the mozzarella balls. If using mini mozzarella balls packed in water, make sure to drain them well. Excess moisture can dilute the dressing and affect the texture of the salad.
- Dress just before serving. Spinach is a tender, delicate leafy green that wilts quickly once coated in dressing. For the freshest salad, toss with dressing just before serving.
- Serve the dressing on the side. If serving this salad at a party, consider leaving the balsamic vinaigrette in a bowl on the side to avoid soggy salad.
- Prepare the dressing ahead. The balsamic vinaigrette can be made up to 2 weeks ahead of time. Not only is this convenient but it also gives the flavors time to melt together.
What to Serve with Spinach Caprese Salad
From comforting Italian dishes to grilled summer mains, this Caprese spinach salad makes a light and refreshing side dish for just about any meal.
This simple spinach Caprese salad also makes a light and refreshing side dish for grilled proteins. Try it with grilled chicken breast, steak tips, shrimp, salmon, turkey smash burgers, or BBQ bacon burgers.
How to Store
If the salad is already dressed, store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. After about a day, the spinach becomes too wilted to be enjoyable.
For an undressed salad, store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for about 2-3 days. Keep the spinach, tomatoes, mozzarella, basil, and red onion separate to maintain their textures.
Store leftover balsamic vinaigrette dressing in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks. Before using the vinaigrette, let it come to room temperature briefly and give it a good shake to re-emulsify any separated ingredients.
Prepare the balsamic vinaigrette dressing up to 2 weeks ahead. This has the added benefit of letting the flavors meld for a more flavorful dressing.
Additionally, you can halve the cherry tomatoes 2-3 days before, and chop the onion up to 5 days in advance.
Frequently Asked Questions
A traditional Caprese salad recipe is typically made of fresh tomatoes, mozzarella cheese, fresh basil, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper.
While you can prepare some components, like the dressing, in advance, I recommended dressing the salad just before serving to prevent sogginess.
Add a bit more honey to the dressing to balance out the tanginess. Taste and adjust until you achieve the desired flavor.
Once opened, fresh mozzarella cheese will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
To chiffonade basil, stack the leaves, roll them tightly, and slice thinly. This technique creates thin, ribbon-like strips.
Spinach Caprese Salad
For the Balsamic Vinaigrette
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 clove garlic grated or finely minced
- ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt
- ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
For the Spinach Caprese Salad
- 5 ounces (approx. 5 cups) baby spinach
- 10 ounces (approx. 2 cups) cherry tomatoes halved
- 8 ounces mini mozzarella balls drained if necessary
- ½ cup fresh basil chiffonade (thinly sliced) or chopped
- ¼ cup red onion finely diced
- In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, honey, grated garlic, salt, and pepper. Set the bowl on a towel to prevent it from moving. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while whisking continuously to emulsify. Set aside.3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, 1 teaspoon dijon mustard, 1 teaspoon honey, 1 clove garlic, ⅛ teaspoon kosher salt, ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
- In a large salad bowl, combine the baby spinach leaves, halved cherry tomatoes, mini mozzarella balls, chopped basil leaves, and diced red onion.5 ounces (approx. 5 cups) baby spinach, 10 ounces (approx. 2 cups) cherry tomatoes, 8 ounces mini mozzarella balls, ½ cup fresh basil, ¼ cup red onion
- Pour the prepared balsamic vinaigrette over the salad ingredients. Toss the salad until everything is evenly coated with the dressing.
- Season the salad with additional salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately and enjoy!
- Quick Tip: Dress the salad just before serving to avoid soggy spinach.
- Storage: Store any leftover dressed salad in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. Undressed salad can be stored for up to 3 days.
- Make Ahead: Prepare the balsamic vinaigrette up to 2 weeks ahead.