Spinach Caprese Salad is a simple, fresh, and flavorful side dish that pairs perfectly with any Italian meal. Made with baby spinach, cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella cheese, and sweet basil, this healthy salad recipe is dressed in a homemade balsamic vinaigrette. And it’s ready in just 10 minutes!
Salad tends to get a bad rep. Often described as boring, salad is usually an afterthought at the dinner table. A healthy side dish that isn’t worth getting too excited about.
Well, I’m here to change all of that with one of my favorite salad recipes. This spinach caprese salad is an easy, delicious, and satisfying dish that is sure to impress your family and friends.
I love serving this salad at cookouts as a fresh summer appetizer or as a side dish. It is also perfect for holiday parties or even just a regular weeknight dinner.
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What is Caprese Salad?
Traditional Caprese Salad, also called Insalata Caprese, is a simple Italian antipasto dish made with fresh mozzarella cheese, sliced tomatoes, and sweet basil. The salad is typically dressed with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper.
Believed to have originated from the island of Capri in Italy, this vibrant dish highlights the colors of the Italian flag. It is often served on a large platter and can be enjoyed any time of day.
Why You’ll Love This Recipe
- Ready in 10 Minutes- Even with the homemade dressing, you can have this fresh and delicious salad ready in just 10 minutes. So easy!
- Flavorful- Tangy balsamic vinaigrette pairs beautifully with sweet cherry tomatoes, peppery basil, and mild mozzarella cheese.
- Versatile- Serve this spinach tomato salad as an appetizer, side dish, or even as a main entrée.
- Homemade Dressing- Making your own salad dressing at home can really up your salad game. The homemade balsamic vinaigrette dressing used in this recipe is so flavorful and super easy to make.
- Healthy- Full of vitamins and minerals, this tasty spinach salad won’t leave you feeling sluggish and heavy.
- Special Diet-Friendly- This low-carb salad recipe is naturally gluten-free, nut-free, egg-free, and vegetarian.
Here are some notes on key ingredients. For a full list of ingredients, check out the recipe card below.
- Baby Spinach- I love using baby spinach leaves because there’s no need to chop them before adding them to your salad bowl. You’ll need 5 ounces of fresh baby spinach leaves for this salad.
- Cherry Tomatoes- A 10-ounce container of cherry tomatoes is the perfect amount for this caprese spinach salad recipe. I like to cut mine in half, but feel free to leave them whole for easier prep.
- Mini Mozzarella Balls- Is there anything more fun than little balls of cheese? You can find mini fresh mozzarella balls in the specialty cheese section of your grocery store. If they’re packed in liquid, you’ll want to drain that before using them.
- Basil- Just a little basil adds a fresh, herbaceous note to this salad and rounds out the caprese flavors.
- Red Onion- A small amount of finely diced red onion adds flavor and crunch.
- Balsamic Vinegar- A sweet, rich vinegar that pairs perfectly with the rest of the flavors in this spinach caprese salad.
- Olive Oil- A high-quality extra virgin olive oil is the perfect base for a good balsamic vinaigrette dressing.
- Dijon Mustard- Mustard acts as an emulsifier in our homemade vinaigrette, holding the oil and vinegar together.
- Honey- Just a touch of sweetness balances out the acidity of the balsamic vinaigrette.
- Garlic- Adds lots of flavor to the salad dressing and acts as an emulsifier. I prefer to grate my garlic, but you can also mince it very finely.
Step by Step Instructions
Here is how to make this caprese salad with spinach.
Step 1: Make Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing. Whisk together the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, dijon mustard, honey, grated garlic, salt, and pepper in a small mixing bowl. Set aside.
Step 2: Mix the Salad Together. Add the baby spinach leaves, cherry tomatoes, mozzarella balls, fresh basil, and chopped red onion to a large salad bowl. Pour the balsamic dressing over the salad and toss until everything is well coated. Season with additional salt and pepper, if desired, and serve immediately.
Tips for Success
- Add the dressing just before serving. Spinach is a tender, delicate leafy green that wilts quickly once coated in dressing. For the freshest salad, toss with dressing immediately 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.
- Double the recipe. Spinach caprese salad is easily doubled or tripled to serve a large crowd.
- Prepare the dressing ahead. Want to get a jumpstart on making this salad? Prepare the balsamic vinaigrette up to 2 weeks ahead.
Substitutions and Variations
Here are a few ways you can customize this spinach caprese salad to fit your diet and taste preferences.
- Baby Spinach- Try using chopped kale, arugula, or romaine lettuce in place of baby spinach.
- Cherry Tomatoes- Grape tomatoes, diced Roma tomatoes, or sun-dried tomatoes make delicious substitutes for cherry tomatoes.
- Mini Mozzarella Balls- If you can’t find mini mozzarella balls (sometimes called pearls, perline, or ciliegine), cut up regular fresh mozzarella cheese instead. You can also use goat cheese, feta cheese, or parmesan cheese if preferred.
- Fresh Basil- While not quite the same, you can substitute fresh basil leaves for their dried counterpart. To do this, add 1 tablespoon of dried basil to the balsamic vinaigrette.
- Red Onion- Shallots or diced green onion can be swapped for the red onion.
- Balsamic Vinaigrette- Of course, you can use store-bought balsamic vinaigrette dressing or balsamic glaze if you already have it on hand. Additionally, Italian dressing, red wine vinaigrette, or a creamy avocado dressing can be used in place of the balsamic dressing.
- Gluten-Free- This spinach caprese salad is naturally gluten-free, which makes it the perfect side dish for anyone with celiac disease or gluten intolerance.
- Dairy-Free- Swap the mozzarella balls for dairy-free mozzarella cheese.
- Vegan- Use vegan mozzarella cheese and swap the honey in the balsamic vinaigrette for maple syrup.
- Add More Protein- Want to make it a meal? Add grilled chicken, steak tips, salmon, or shrimp on top for an extra boost of protein.
- Additional Toppings- Toppings are the best part of any salad. Add bacon, toasted pine nuts, diced avocado, olives, or grilled vegetables to your salad for even more flavor.
What to Serve with Spinach Caprese Salad
Caprese salad with baby spinach makes a light and refreshing side dish for just about any meal. Pair it with grilled or roasted meats, seafood, pasta, pizza, and more. Here are a few of my favorite dishes to serve with this flavorful Italian salad.
- Roasted Chicken
- Parmesan-Crusted Halibut
- Blackened Salmon Alfredo
- Lasagna Bolognese or Chicken Broccoli Lasagna
- Turkey Burgers
- Eggplant Calzone
- Bolognese Pizza
- Meatballs in Tomato Sauce
- Pasta Bolognese
- Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese
- Vegetarian Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms
How to Store
- Dressed Salad- Store any leftover dressed salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours. After about a day, the spinach becomes too wilted to be enjoyable.
- Undressed Salad- If you know you’ll have leftovers, it’s best to leave the salad undressed. You can store the undressed salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. To keep it as fresh as possible, line the container with a dry paper towel to absorb excess moisture.
- Balsamic Vinaigrette- Store leftover balsamic vinaigrette dressing in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
If you’re looking to get a head start on making this spinach caprese salad recipe, you’re in luck! Prepare the homemade balsamic vinaigrette dressing up to 2 weeks ahead of time.
The vegetables, on the other hand, don’t last quite as long. You can halve the cherry tomatoes 2-3 days before needed and chop the onion up to 5 days ahead.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, this low-carb leafy green salad is filled with fiber, protein, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals. It’s also naturally gluten-free, nut-free, egg-free, and vegetarian.
Caprese salad is the perfect starter dish for any Italian meal. Try pairing it with pasta dishes, lasagna, meatballs, or pizza. This light and flavorful side dish also pairs beautifully with roasted or grilled meats, seafood, or portobello mushrooms.
Sort of. The balsamic vinaigrette dressing can be made up to 2 weeks before making the rest of the salad. You can also prepare some of the vegetables ahead of time, but I don’t recommend it. The fresher, the better.
Once opened, fresh mozzarella cheese will stay good in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
More Italian Appetizers
Spinach Caprese Salad
For the Balsamic Vinaigrette
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 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
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)
- ¼ cup red onion finely diced
- Whisk together the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, dijon mustard, honey, grated garlic, salt, and pepper in a small mixing bowl. 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
- Add the baby spinach leaves, cherry tomatoes, mozzarella balls, fresh basil, and chopped red onion to a large salad bowl. Pour the balsamic dressing over the salad and toss until everything is well coated. Season with additional salt and pepper, if desired, and serve immediately.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
- 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.