My spinach Caprese salad offers up some unique twists that moves this starter to the main dish category. I'm serving up this tomato and mozzarella salad on a bed of baby spinach greens. In addition, I've added grilled chicken for lean protein, plus ripe peaches and roasted corn for flavor. Sprinkle the top with some fresh basil or skip it; either way, you're going to love this easy weeknight meal!
We don't all like the same foods, and it's ok! This spinach Caprese salad is an excellent way to enjoy the traditional red, white, and green of a Caprese without the basil.
I happen to love fresh basil. I have some basil plants growing on my balcony at this very moment. Some of their leaves are used as a garnish on this salad.
What can I say? It just doesn't feel like a Caprese salad to me without the basil.
On the other hand, my son thought the salad is best without the basil. The spinach provided all the green he needed in this one. With the abundance of fresh produce we have going on here, you may find that you don't miss the basil.
Fresh basil or arugula are the most common greens in Caprese salads. However, spinach works well when you want a milder green. My version of Caprese with the spinach, as well as sweet peaches and corn, may be a more kid-friendly option.
Why You Should Make Spinach Caprese Salad
- It's an all-in-one meal. I don't know about you, but I don't have time to make a meal with a bunch of different courses every night! I morphed this common starter salad into a full meal by adding more protein, fruits, and veggies.
- It celebrates seasonal produce. Fresh garden basil, ripe tomatoes, and juicy peaches? Yes, yes, YES.
- Health-promoting AND delicious. We've hit that sweet spot here where we're getting a nutrient-dense dish, and it's super tasty. I'm not lying when I say I would prefer this spinach Caprese salad over a cupcake or cookies. It's just that good.
- It's packed with protein. You're getting over 40 grams of protein in this 500-ish calorie salad. When combined with all the low-calorie, high-volume fruits and veggies, this is a salad with serious staying power!
- It's as tempting to the eyes as it is to the taste buds. I made a recipe video below where you can check out all of the gorgeous layers of color in this salad. Every bite gives you a beautiful rainbow of phytonutrients!
- No cooking! I used grilled chicken, but if you have leftover cooked chicken breast, no cooking is required for this meal. Hello, healthy and easy weeknight dinner!
Caprese Salad Ingredients
This spinach Caprese salad recipe truly celebrates the fresh seasonal bounty. Here's the rundown of what you need to make it:
- Baby spinach
- Cherry or grape tomatoes
- Corn (I used thawed from frozen roasted corn. Feel free to go the extra mile here and use fresh corn!)
- Red onion
- Fresh buffalo mozzarella or another fresh mozzarella (I used ciliegine, the cherry tomato-sized mozzarella balls)
- Grilled chicken breast
- Fresh basil leaves
- Dressing for Caprese salad (extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic powder)
- Lemon zest
- Salt and pepper (if desired)
- Cooking oil spray
The first time I ever had buffalo milk mozzarella was on a trip to Italy several years ago. I've since come to strongly associate this rich and creamy cheese with Italian dishes. You might be able to imagine my excitement when I found some buffalo mozzarella right here in the United States.
I picked up this fresh Buf ciliegine buffalo mozzarella at Whole Foods. Availability seems to be hit-or-miss, as the next week I checked it was unavailable.
Luckily, you can make this recipe with the fresh mozzarella that is available to you. That said, I felt the water buffalo mozzarella adds a little something special.
One more tip! When I slice peaches for a recipe, like we're doing for this spinach Caprese, I prefer freestone peaches. That is because the pit can be easily removed from freestone peaches, unlike clingstone peaches, where fruit often sticks to the pit.
Either type of peach can be used here, but you'll likely waste less fruit with a freestone peach.
How to Make Spinach Caprese Salad with Peaches
The first thing that you want to do to make this spinach Caprese salad is to prepare all of the ingredients. If you are not using leftover chicken, you will need to grill your chicken breasts. I used a stovetop grill pan that was misted with cooking oil spray and grilled the chicken for 10-12 minutes per side.
You will also need to ready all of the fruits and veggies. Your baby spinach will likely be prewashed and ready to put into the bowls. However, you need to halve your grape tomatoes, slice the red onion and peaches, and zest a lemon.
I used small balls of fresh mozzarella called ciliegine for this recipe and cut them in half. If you start with larger pieces of fresh mozzarella, you may need to do more cutting.
You also need to prepare your corn. If you are using fresh corn, you can roast it on a stovetop grill and then cut it off the cob. I went the easier route and simply thawed some frozen roasted corn.
After that, it's simply a matter of making the Caprese salad dressing and layering the ingredients. Whisk or shake the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and garlic powder to make the dressing. I layered the dish in this order:
- Grilled chicken breast
- Sliced peaches
- Sliced red onion
- Roasted corn
- Halved grape tomatoes
- Buffalo mozzarella balls
- Fresh basil leaves
- Homemade dressing for Caprese salad
- Lemon zest
That's all you need to do for this beautiful meal that is a genuine feast for the senses!
Expert Tips from a Dietitian
This is a level 2 recipe (transition or weight maintenance). Falling in the 500-600 calorie range, this salad is on the low calorie end for level 2. Additionally, you get over 40 grams of protein and an abundance of fresh fruits and veggies.
I'd definitely consider this meal a good option for weight loss or healthy weight maintenance. This is what it's about here, folks- beautiful, nutrient-dense food that will fill you up, and that is DELICIOUS. Woohoo!
Though this meal would not fit most keto diet plans, it's a lower carb option. The corn and peaches here are typically considered too high in carbohydrates for very low carb diets.
But what if you want to add more energy to your meal and are not following a low carb plan? Some whole grain bread or crackers on the side would be a good choice. With the cheese (dairy), chicken (protein), peaches (fruit), and spinach (vegetables), all of your food groups will be covered!
What should you serve with a Caprese salad?
In Italy, Caprese salad is often served as a starter, not a side dish, as you may find in the United States. This spinach Caprese salad has chicken and additional fruits and veggies added so it would work well as a complete meal. However, if you wanted to add more to this dish, here are some options:
- The only food group missing in this meal is grains. If you want to go all out with a bread side dish, check out How to Make Sourdough Bread Starter and Bread. (Note: start this one ahead; this is a slow food recipe that takes a full week!)
- Cloud Bread with Greek Yogurt is an easy recipe that gives you something "bready" for fewer calories and carbs. Use Italian seasoning instead of the Chinese five-spice in the recipe to make a "bread" that goes better with Caprese salad.
- Keto Lemonade would be a refreshing beverage to enjoy with this dish.
Also, if you happen to make the Air Fryer Rotisserie Chicken and have leftovers, use them to make this salad. It's (almost) like getting two dinners in one!
Frequently Asked Questions
Why is it called Caprese salad? Where does Caprese salad come from?
Caprese salad gets its name from its place of origin, the island of Capri (located off the coast of mainland Italy). According to Epicurious, the original insalata Caprese (salad of Capri) contained the following:
- Ripe tomato
- Cow's milk mozzarella
- Wild arugula
- A pinch of dried wild oregano
- Extra-virgin olive oil
Buffalo mozzarella was not used because this food is not local to Capri. Later, the rest of Italy began referring to insalata Caprese as the tomato, mozzarella, basil combination that many are familiar with. The green, white, and red in this salad are the colors of the Italian flag, another reminder of the salad's origins.
Balsamic vinegar is often drizzled on Caprese salads in the United States and is my preferred topping for this salad. However, putting vinegar on this salad is a less common practice in Italy. The vinegar is thought to impede the delicate flavor of the mozzarella.
What does Caprese mean?
Merriam-Webster defines Caprese as "a salad consisting of slices of mozzarella and tomatoes, basil, and olive oil or Italian dressing." Caprese is also Italian for "of or from Capri."
Can I make Caprese salad ahead of time?
Caprese salad is best assembled right before serving, so I don't recommend it for a meal prep. The wet ingredients (tomatoes, peaches, mozzarella) will make the spinach soggy if it sits for too long. At the very least, don't dress the salads with the balsamic vinegar and olive oil until you are ready to eat.
If you need to do some prep ahead, you could wash and chop all ingredients needed for the salads but keep them separate. Then all you'll have to do is arrange the foods on the plates when it is time to serve.
Is Caprese salad healthy?
In general, I would say Caprese salad is a healthy option. This spinach Caprese salad may be a better option than most because I added lean protein (chicken) and even more fruits and veggies.
Of course, there are exceptions to every rule in the field of nutrition. If you are watching your saturated fat intake, the generous amount of cheese in many Caprese salads may not be a good fit. That said, insalata Caprese can definitely be considered a part of the heart-healthy Mediterranean diet.
I can't find buffalo mozzarella locally. Can I substitute with regular fresh mozzarella instead?
Absolutely! I often make Caprese salads with easier-to-find cow's milk mozzarella. As mentioned above, the original Caprese salads were made with cow's milk mozzarella, not buffalo milk mozzarella.
That said, at the very least, I would make an effort to obtain fresh mozzarella cheese. It is different than the shredded mozzarella you may put on a pizza, and a necessity for this spinach Caprese salad.
Can I make Caprese salad with avocado?
If you have a dairy allergy, avocado is a great way to get that fatty mouthfeel in a Caprese salad that is typically provided by dairy. Keep in mind, though, that avocado is not a good substitute in terms of nutrients for dairy. You'll need to ensure you are getting the dairy group nutrients (particularly calcium) from other foods in your diet.
If you need a higher energy meal than I've suggested here, dividing an avocado among the salad plates might help. Avocado typically provides 250-350 calories per fruit. The healthy fats in avocado will help you to create higher calorie meals.
Other Recipes You May Enjoy
If this spinach Caprese salad sounds like something you might like, I have some other recipes for you! Here are some salad recipes and a chicken Caprese recipe that you should definitely check out:
- Insalata di Arance e Finocchi (Orange and Fennel Salad)
- Berry Salad with Raspberry Vinaigrette (Five Types of Berries!)
- Chicken Salad with Lemon-Ginger Dressing
- Caprese Chicken Recipe – So Easy!
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And now for the disclaimer…
All recipes on this website may or may not be appropriate for you, depending on your medical needs and personal preferences. Consult with a registered dietitian or your physician if you need help determining the dietary pattern that may be best for you.
The nutrition information is an estimate provided as a courtesy. It will differ depending on the specific brands and ingredients that you use. Calorie information on food labels may be wildly inaccurate, so please don't sweat the numbers too much.
For more information on how the three recipe levels may help with a weight management goal, refer to my overnight oats with yogurt post. Let's get cooking!
Spinach Caprese Salad with Peaches
- 1 lb. chicken breast (454 grams)
- cooking oil spray of choice
- salt and pepper, to taste
- 5 ounces baby spinach (142 grams)
- 2 medium peaches, thinly sliced (preferrably freestone peaches)
- 12 ounces grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise (340 grams; can use quartered cherry tomatoes instead)
- ½ cup roasted corn (fresh or thawed from frozen)
- ¼ cup red onion, thinly sliced
- 7 ounces fresh mozzarella ciliegine (198 grams; cow's milk or buffalo milk mozzarella)
- ½ cup fresh basil leaves (optional if you dislike basil)
- 1 tablespoon lemon zest
For the Caprese dressing:
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- Mist your stovetop grill with cooking spray and heat it on medium heat. Sprinkle your chicken breasts with the salt and pepper and grill for 10-12 minutes per side. Slice the chicken into thin pieces.
- Prep your fruits, veggies, and cheese. Slice the mozzarella balls and the grape tomatoes in half. Slice the peaches and thinly slice the red onion. Roast your fresh corn or thaw your frozen corn.
- Divide the ingredients equally between three bowls in this order: spinach, chicken, peaches, onion, corn, tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil.
- To make the Caprese dressing, whisk the extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and garlic powder together. Add salt and pepper, if desired.
- Drizzle your spinach Caprese salad bowls with the dressing. Sprinkle the lemon zest on top. Savor it!
This is a level 2 recipe (transition or weight maintenance). Falling in the 500-600 calorie range, this salad is on the low calorie end for level 2. Additionally, you get over 40 grams of protein and an abundance of fresh fruits and veggies. I'd definitely consider this meal a good option for weight loss or healthy weight maintenance. This is what it is about here, folks- beautiful, nutrient-dense food that will fill you up, and that is DELICIOUS. Woohoo! Though this meal would not fit most keto diet plans, it's a lower carb option. The corn and peaches here are typically considered too high in carbohydrates for very low carb diets. But what if you want to add more energy to your meal and are not following a low carb plan? Some whole grain bread or crackers on the side would be a good choice. With the cheese (dairy), chicken (protein), peaches (fruit), and spinach (vegetables), all of your food groups will be covered! Nutrition information is for one serving of the recipe.