This chopped caprese salad with avocado is the perfect reminder that food doesn't always have look pretty to taste really, really good.
Your standard caprese salad features thick slices of tomato, fresh mozzarella, and whole basil leaves arranged in artful layers on a plate or platter. Frequently it is topped with a gorgeous drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
And while I love a caprese salad like that in a restaurant setting, on the average weeknight I'm going for speed, not art. And that's where a chopped caprese salad truly shines.
If you don't know, since our move from L.A., Jimmy and I spent our first month and a half apartment hunting while living with his parents here in Boston. My mother-in-law made this chopped caprese salad with avocado on one of our first nights in town, when we were still quarantined upstairs and jetlagged af, and it quickly became part of our regular dinner rotation.
When this chopped caprese salad is on the table it's like Pringles — "once you pop you can't stop." I always reach for it first and don't start in on anything else until my bowl is empty. Every bite makes you want to take another bite. Because it's just so good! And it's so easy to make.
It's basically the perfect "oops I meant to put a vegetable on the table and forgot until 5 minutes before dinner" salad.
When we're back in our own place again (which is soon, because we're moving this week!) and I need to make quick lunches on my WFH days, this is 100% the kind of quick and easy recipe I'm going to reach for. Why not for dinners? Because Jimmy doesn't like raw tomato or avocado other than in guac (Jimmy is wrong). But that's fine, tbh — more chopped caprese salad for me.
Plum tomatoes are perfect for a chopped caprese salad, sliced into large half-inch cubes and generously salted as a crucial first step. The salt begins drawing water out of the tomatoes as they sit, intensifying their flavor and enhancing their sweetness.
For mozzarella, you'll want the good stuff — liquid packed, the kind that comes in a round ball instead of a brick, and definitely not the kind that comes pre-shredded in a bag. I like using a 6 oz mozzarella ball and cubing it myself so that it matches the size of the diced tomato, but if you want to use the smaller balls of mozz, by all means, go for it.
Avocados might not be standard in a caprese salad, but in this chopped version they're a more than welcome addition. They add a fatty, somewhat earthy flavor to balance out the brininess of the cheese and the salty, sweet tomatoes.
Like I said, this is not the prettiest salad. As you toss and stir everything together and the abrasive salt and freshly ground black pepper begin to break down the avocados, it will start to look a bit messy. But who cares??? It's tasty and that's what matters.
I know my photos here are absolutely stunning (thank you, thank you) but I worked hard to arrange those bowls for the photos! On a normal night, if the avocado pits cooperate and pop out without a fight, I can get the whole salad on the table in about 5 minutes start to messy, delicious finish.
a few quick recipe notes
- At BJ's you can buy a 3-pack of 6-oz individually sealed pouches of Galbani fresh mozzarella (this is not an ad) that is so perfect for this salad. I don't know what prices look like where you live, but here in Boston it's around $7 for the 3 pack.
- If you want really pretty thinly sliced basil leaves, check out my blog post: "How to chiffonade basil."
- My preference is to use roma or plum tomatoes because they handle the salt really well, but it's really up to you what kind of tomato you prefer.
- Fresh basil grows really nicely in windowsill gardens or hydroponic gardens (like an Aerogarden) and is easy to snip and propagate so you always have fresh basil when you want it. To learn how to thinly slice your basil like a pro, click here.
- If you've ever wondered what salt and pepper do for a recipe try this recipe first without either, then add a generous sprinkle of both and taste again — you'll see just how much of a difference it makes.
other recipes you might like
- lettuce and walnut salad
- shaved brussels sprouts salad with maple-bacon vinaigrette
- one-avocado guac with quick-pickled red onions
- perfect for a party salsa roja (roasted tomato salsa)
- sheet pan chicken tacos with summer corn salsa
chopped caprese and avocado salad
- 1 avocado
- 2 plum tomatoes
- 6 oz whole mozzarella (water packed, preferably)
- fresh basil
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- diamond crystal kosher salt
- freshly cracked black pepper
- balsamic vinegar (optional, for drizzling)
- Dice your tomatoes into large ½" chunks. Place in your serving bowl and sprinkle generously with salt to begin drawing water out while you prep the other ingredients.
- Slice the mozzarella and avocado into large ½" chunks. Add to the tomatoes.
- Drizzle with a glug of olive oil (about 2 TBSP) and freshly cracked black pepper. Toss gently to combine.Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
- Immediately before serving, thinly slice (chiffonade) 5-6 fresh basil leaves, add to the salad, and stir to combine. Serve with balsamic vinegar on the side for people to drizzle on their own, if desired.
- This salad is best same day, as the avocados begin to brown rather quickly.