Looking for a picnic-perfect vegetarian main dish? Try this Caprese sandwich! Stuffed with fresh basil and tomatoes, it’s simple and delicious.
Sometimes, the best things in life are the simplest, and this Caprese sandwich recipe is here to prove it. It’s super easy to make, but it’s still insanely delicious, thanks to juicy, sweet tomatoes, fresh basil, and creamy mozzarella cheese. Layer them between slices of freshly baked focaccia, and you have a mouthwatering lunch.
If you’ve been reading the blog for a while, you might already know that the combination of basil, tomatoes, and mozzarella was what first got me excited about cooking with seasonal ingredients. Jack and I were on a trip to Italy, and we ate Caprese salad after Caprese salad, wondering how something so simple could taste so good. If you’ve never tried a Caprese sandwich (or salad, for that matter), I hope you make this recipe this summer. It shows that as long as your ingredients are fresh, good cooking doesn’t have to be complicated. Oh, and it’s perfect for a picnic, too.
Caprese Sandwich Recipe Ingredients
Here’s what you’ll need to make this easy Caprese sandwich recipe:
- Focaccia – Chewy, savory focaccia really kicks this sandwich up a notch. If you can’t find any, make your own, or substitute fresh baguette or ciabatta rolls.
- Fresh mozzarella cheese – It offers a rich, creamy contrast to the fresh tomatoes and basil.
- Tomatoes – Any variety will work here, so choose the best ones you can find!
- Fresh basil leaves – A Caprese sandwich essential! If your leaves are particularly large, tear them into bite-sized pieces before adding them to your sandwich.
- Arugula – For a little crunch and extra green.
- Roasted cherry tomatoes and pickled red onions – I list these ingredients as optional, but if you can, use them! Their bright, umami flavors take this recipe over the top.
- Extra-virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper – They tie it all together and make the flavors pop!
Find the complete recipe with measurements below.
I love this Caprese sandwich recipe as written, but there are lots of tasty ways to change it up. Here are a few of my favorites:
- Toast the bread. Brush the cut side of each piece of bread with olive oil and toast it in the oven or on a grill pan until lightly golden brown. Then, assemble the sandwich!
- Or make a grilled Caprese sandwich. Swap the focaccia for slices of good crusty bread. Before you eat, cook the sandwich as you would any grilled cheese. Preheat a cast iron skillet or grill pan over medium heat. Brush the outsides of the sandwich with olive oil, and grill on each side until the cheese is melted.
- Add a dressing. Finish your sandwich with a drizzle of lemon vinaigrette instead of extra-virgin olive oil. Alternatively, use a combination of olive oil and balsamic vinegar or the balsamic glaze from this post.
- Amp up the herbs. Use fresh mint and thyme leaves in addition to basil.
- Swap the cheese. Can’t find fresh mozzarella? Don’t worry about it! Homemade labneh is great here too.
- Or make it vegan. Replace the cheese with sliced avocado, and slather the bread with vegan basil pesto for extra richness.
Caprese Sandwich Recipe Tips
- Better ingredients = a better sandwich. Because this recipe is so simple, each ingredient really shines through. As a result, your final sandwich will only be as good as the fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, basil, and bread that make it up. Always make this recipe in the summer, when tomatoes are sweet and juicy and basil is tender and fragrant.
- Don’t forget to season it. The salt, pepper, and olive oil in this recipe might seem like afterthoughts, but they’re just as important as the other ingredients. The salt highlights the sweetness and tang of the tomatoes, and the olive oil ties all the flavors together.
- Make it ahead. This Caprese sandwich is perfect for a picnic or packed lunch! Because the tomatoes contain so much water, it’s best if you make it just a few hours in advance. If you make it too far ahead, it’ll become soggy. Once you’ve assembled the sandwich, wrap it in aluminum foil or a reusable sandwich wrap, or pierce it with a toothpick so that it holds together until you eat. Find more of my best sandwich meal prep tips here!
Caprese Sandwich Serving Suggestions
This Caprese sandwich is a satisfying meal on its own, but it goes well with all sorts of sides, too. Keep things simple, and serve it with your favorite chips and fresh fruit, or pair it with chopped fresh veggies and a flavorful dip like hummus, baba ganoush, or white bean dip. It’s also delicious with a cool cup of gazpacho or any of these salad recipes: