Heirloom Tomato Panzanella Salad

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Platter of vegan heirloom tomato panzanella salad

This recipe was originally inspired by caprese salad! We wanted the classic tomato, basil, cheese trio married together with balsamic vinegar. However, we also wanted croutons in the mix (because bread!), so we ended up with an EPIC summer panzanella! The results were pretty stellar and we kept going back for seconds (and thirds). Even tomato haters are likely to fall for the classic flavors in this dish! Plus, just 10 ingredients and 30 minutes required. Let’s do this! 

Olive oil, cashew ricotta, balsamic vinegar, tomato, basil, microgreens, black pepper, garlic powder, salt, garlic, and tomato juice

What is Panzanella?

Panzanella is a bread salad that’s believed to have originated in Tuscany, Italy. And it may have been invented by peasants as a way to use up stale bread.

The earliest written recipes date back to the 14th and 16th centuries. And while these early versions were heavier on the onions, tomatoes became a more central ingredient by the 1900s.

This version strays a bit from the traditional and draws inspiration from another Italian favorite: caprese salad! You can find a more traditional recipe for panzanella here.

How to Make Tomato Panzanella Salad

You can’t have panzanella without the bread! Well, you can (nobody’s stopping you), but you really must try it, friends. We’re in the bread on salad fan club and want you to join. It’s a great way to use up day-old bread and helps make this salad totally entrée worthy.

Drizzling olive oil over pieces of bread on a baking sheet

Chunks of torn bread are tossed with olive oil, garlic powder, salt, and pepper and baked into golden brown croutons. While they’re baking, tomatoes marinate in salt to release some of their juices and infuse with flavor.

Sprinkling salt over chopped heirloom tomatoes

Some of the reserved tomato juice goes in the dressing, along with balsamic, olive oil, salt, and pepper for caprese salad vibes.

Bowl of dressing made with olive oil, balsamic vinegar, tomato juice, salt, and minced garlic

Then the tomatoes are mixed with the dressing, sliced fresh basil leaves, and microgreens for an explosion of summer flavors.

Tossing fresh tomatoes and basil with dressing

And lastly, it’s topped with (optional but super delicious) vegan cashew ricotta (or another nut cheese like almond or macadamia).

Platter of tomato panzanella salad with basil, microgreens, and cashew ricotta

We hope you LOVE this panzanella salad! It’s:

Summery
Fresh
Balsamic-infused
Quick & easy
Shareable
& SO delicious!

It’s the perfect lighter entrée or side salad for summer and beyond! Pair it with your grilling favorites or with other Italian-inspired recipes. It would be especially nice with our Avocado Pesto Pasta Salad, Creamy Vegan White Pasta with Summer Vegetables, Gluten-Free Vegan Sausage Pizza, or Easy Vegan Zucchini Boats.

More Summer Salad Recipes

If you try this recipe, let us know! Leave a comment, rate it, and don’t forget to tag a photo #minimalistbaker on Instagram. Cheers, friends!

Fork in a bowl of heirloom tomato caprese panzanella salad

Heirloom Tomato Panzanella Salad

All of the flavors of classic caprese married into a summery panzanella salad featuring ripe heirloom tomatoes, fresh basil, and a balsamic vinaigrette! Just 10 ingredients and 30 minutes required.
Author Minimalist Baker
Print
Wooden spoon on a platter of our heirloom tomato panzanella recipe
5 from 5 votes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 4 (Servings)
Course Entree, Salad, Side
Cuisine Gluten-Free (optional), Italian-Inspired, Vegan
Freezer Friendly No
Does it keep? Best when fresh

Ingredients

CROUTONS

  • 2 cups day old sturdy bread, torn into 1/2-inch pieces (such as sourdough // if gluten-free, use gluten-free bread or omit)
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 healthy pinch each sea salt and pepper

SALAD

  • 4 large heirloom tomatoes, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup arugula microgreens (or other microgreens)
  • 1/2 cup cashew ricotta or almond ricotta or macadamia nut cheese (optional)

VINAIGRETTE

  • 1 large clove garlic, minced or pressed
  • 1 pinch sea salt
  • 2 Tbsp tomato juice (reserved from straining the tomatoes)
  • 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Instructions

  • CROUTONS: Preheat the oven to 400 F (204 C) and set out a bare baking sheet.
  • On the baking sheet, toss the bread pieces with 2 tsp olive oil (adjust amount if altering number of servings), garlic powder, and salt and pepper to coat. Roast for 10-15 minutes, until golden, then remove from the oven and let cool.
  • TOMATOES: Place the tomatoes in the basket of a salad spinner or in a large fine mesh strainer set over a mixing bowl. Add 1 tsp salt (adjust amount if altering number of servings) and toss to coat the tomatoes in the salt. Let the tomatoes drain for 10 minutes and save the liquid.
  • VINAIGRETTE: To a small bowl, add minced or pressed garlic, pinch of salt, reserved tomato juice, balsamic vinegar, and olive oil and whisk until smooth. Taste and adjust as needed, adding a pinch of salt for balance, more garlic for bite, or more olive oil to mellow the flavors. Any leftover tomato juice can be reserved for adding to tomato soup or Bloody Marys (there shouldn’t be much).
  • SALAD: Add the strained tomatoes, chopped basil, and vinaigrette to a large serving bowl and toss to combine. When ready to serve, add croutons, microgreens, and vegan ricotta (optional) and toss lightly to incorporate.
  • Best enjoyed right away to maintain the croutons’ crunch, but will keep for 3 days in the refrigerator stored separately. Not freezer friendly.

Video

Notes

*Nutrition information is a rough estimate calculated with sourdough bread and without optional vegan ricotta.

Nutrition (1 of 4 servings)

Serving: 4 servings Calories: 227 Carbohydrates: 23.4 g Protein: 5 g Fat: 13.6 g Saturated Fat: 2 g Polyunsaturated Fat: 1.7 g Monounsaturated Fat: 9.2 g Trans Fat: 0 g Cholesterol: 0 mg Sodium: 796 mg Potassium: 532 mg Fiber: 3.1 g Sugar: 7.6 g Vitamin A: 1855 IU Vitamin C: 32.4 mg Calcium: 57.5 mg Iron: 1.9 mg

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My Rating:




  1. Heather says

    Omg. This was so amazing. I needed to use the last of the tomatoes from our summer garden. This was perfect. I used Ezekiel sprouted grain sandwich bread, cut into cubes for the croutons. I love the hearty taste of the sprouted grains. The cashew ricotta added just the right creaminess to mellow out the vinegar. Delicious. My 12 year old said 10/10 and my 7 year old had seconds!

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Woohoo! Love to hear this. Thanks so much for the lovely review and for sharing your modifications, Heather! So glad you all enjoyed!

  2. Alexandra says

    I’ve made this three times now as the heirloom tomatoes keep filling my CSA box. I agree that the tomato juice in the dressing is perfect. When it was too hot to bake I just bought crostini from the grocery store and broke them up into the salad–not quite as good as baking our own croutons, which were fabulous the first time, but it worked in a pinch and saved us during the most recent heatwave in the PNW. The third time I made it I added a can of cannellini beans to the recipe and that made it even more substantial.

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      We’re so glad you enjoy it, Alexandra! Love your creative modifications, too! Thank you for the sharing! Next time, would you mind leaving a star rating with your review? It’s super helpful for us and other readers. Thanks so much! Xo

  3. Kristen says

    Made this with the cashew ricotta and it was delicious! A great use of heirloom tomatoes. Highly recommend!

      • Kathryn Anderton says

        I normally don’t leave reviews mainly because I’m a little lazy and just in it for the food.

        You guys, I am on day 7 of making this salad and eating it for lunch. SO good! The tomato juice in the balsamic dressing is such a game changer. Also, surely by now in this pandemic you too are making sourdough. I save all the bread butts to make these croutons. I make this and put it over a bed of spring mix because everyone needs leafy greens in their life. Cannot get enough of it. Make this and make it immediately!

        • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

          Amazing! We’re so glad you’re enjoying it so much, Kathryn! We really appreciate you taking the time to write a review! xoxo

  4. Anna says

    Though I had never heard of this salad before, I was pleasantly surprised at how good it was. I loved the vinaigrette and how it matched with the greens, heirloom tomatoes (yum), and croutons. The ricotta was delicious, too. All around a wonderful and colorful dish, especially for summer. Thank you!

    • Support @ Minimalist Baker says

      Hi Liz, thanks for letting us know about that. We don’t control which ads you see. But we’ll see if we can find a way to remove it.

      • Mj says

        We just made this and it was so tasty. We used some gluten free bread that was really dense and I think from Germany? The croutons turned out yummy. We also used kite hill ricotta. Thanks so much for nightly dinner inspiration.