The Best Types Of Tomatoes To Use For Caprese Salad

The fresh and simple Caprese salad is just the thing whenever you're craving something light and herbaceous. It's a delightful and colorful dish that brings to mind summer on the Italian coast. This classic salad deserves to be enjoyed all year round but is at its best whenever you can get your hands on the tastiest tomatoes. 

Choosing the right tomato for your Caprese salad sets the salad up for success. Since this is tomato's time to shine, it's worth splurging on the best variety. If you can track them down, an heirloom tomato is often your best option. These tend to be bursting with just-picked bold flavors compared to common grocery store hybrid varieties. The difference in flavor can be night and day. So much so that if you've only ever had grocery store hybrid tomatoes, get excited — that first taste of a good heirloom tomato can be life-changing.

While most tomatoes will do for a common dinner salad, a Caprese salad is a delicate, layered presentation of sliced tomato, fresh basil, and creamy mozzarella cheese and needs the right ingredients in order to soar with flavor. You can enjoy it as is, dressed simply with good extra virgin olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt, for a delectable, herby, salty, juicy stack of bright flavor, or add a ribbon of balsamic vinegar for extra zing. 

Heirloom tomatoes provide a whole new world of flavor

Store-bought hybrid tomatoes from standard supermarkets look and feel like a tomato should, but can taste like, well, red orbs of nothingness, and won't lend the best juicy flavor to your salad. This is because, unlike an heirloom tomato, a hybrid tomato usually has a man-made element. They're crossbred intentionally to develop characteristics like pest resistance, making them hold up well during commercial farming and transport cross-country, but not always prioritizing creating mouthwatering flavor. For that, reach for a well-respected heirloom variety – which hasn't been crossbred or genetically modified — such as Cherokee Purples or San Marzanos. Heirloom tomato varieties often come from seeds that have been lovingly saved for generations. 

All kinds of tomatoes come in heirloom varieties, and even firm cherry tomatoes such as the Black Cherry variety will work in a Caprese salad (mix yellow and red ones for a rainbow salad). Steer clear of watery varieties with mild flavor such as beefsteaks, however, which may make a soggier salad. Heirloom tomatoes come in many colors, with more whimsical shapes than the perfectly round bright red tomatoes on grocery store shelves — but that only adds to their charm. You'll often find the best varieties at farmer's markets.

Once you have your perfect tomatoes, splurge on the best mozzarella and basil you can, too. This is a recipe where each ingredient truly shines, so going for the good stuff pays off with each juicy, flavorful bite.