Caprese Sandwich

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If you’re a Caprese salad fan, you’ll love this Caprese Sandwich recipe! Juicy tomatoes, fresh basil, peppery arugula, and rich mozzarella are sandwiched between two soft focaccia layers. It’s the perfect vegetarian sandwich to enjoy at summer brunches, lunches, picnics, and more.

No-cook meatless sandwiches are my meal of choice during the summer, so this classic Caprese sandwich is a regular on my lunch menu. It’s full of flavor and takes minutes to make with a shortlist of fresh, vegetarian ingredients.

For this take on a classic Italian hand-held sub, slices of fresh mozzarella cheese, vine-ripened tomatoes, arugula, and sweet basil are arranged on loaves of focaccia.

But this sandwich is fantastic served on any freshly baked crusty bread or baguette.

As an optional sandwich spread, basil pesto elevates this simple sandwich to gourmet status.

This sandwich is the perfect way to use up an abundance of homegrown tomatoes, and there’s no heat needed – unless you prefer it hot!

More Mouthwatering Sandwich Recipes here!

Ingredients You’ll Need

See the recipe card below for the full recipe.

  • Bread: I used freshly baked focaccia. Feel free to use round or square-shaped pieces for your sandwiches. Or any other type of bread you love.
  • Arugula: For a layer of fresh, peppery leafy greens. You can also use a leafy spring mix.
  • Buffalo mozzarella balls: You can use regular mozzarella as well. But buffalo mozzarella is the real deal for a true Caprese sandwich (or original Caprese salad). Made with buffalo milk, it’s creamier, richer, and more flavorful. 
  • Fresh tomatoes: Use firm, red, and ripened juicy tomatoes like beefsteak or Roma.
  • Fresh basil leaves: Fresh sweet basil gives these sandwiches a classic Caprese salad flavor.
  • Extra-virgin olive oil: Drizzle over the sandwich fillings to freshen the flavor and add moisture.
  • Salt & pepper: If you have it, use a sprinkle of kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper. To enhance and add flavor.
  • Optional basil pesto: To spread over half of the bread as the first layer of flavor. You can use store-bought or homemade pesto. It’s optional but recommended! 

You can also check my asparagus parsley pesto or black kale pesto for more pesto ideas.

Ingredients to make a caprese sandwich on the table.

How To Make

  1. Prep the ingredients for the sandwich: Slice the tomatoes and mozzarella cheese into 1/4″ thick rounds, and cut the pieces of focaccia in half.
  2. Assemble sandwich: First, spread a layer of fresh pesto over the bottom slice of bread (if using). Then, add a layer of arugula, creamy mozzarella cheese, and juicy tomato slices. Top with basil leaves, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, and season with salt and cracked black pepper. Set the other piece of bread on top and serve cold or lightly toasted (although in the heat of summer, I prefer it cold).
Hands holding onto a caprese sandwich to eat.

Tips and Flavor Variations

Use the best quality ingredients! Anything from the quality of your extra virgin olive oil, mozzarella, tomatoes, and even basil will make a huge difference to your Caprese panini. 

Here are my best Italian tips:

  • Mozzarella: Whatever you do, please don’t use vacuum-sealed mozzarella. As mentioned above, a true Caprese uses buffalo mozzarella. If you can’t find it, using fresh mozzarella packed in water is your second-best option. 
  • Tomatoes: Beefsteak tomatoes are best. They almost have no seeds, and they are really flavorful and aromatic. If you can’t find them opt for sun-riped local or homegrown summer tomatoes.
  • Basil: You would think basil is just basil. But did you know there are over 20 types of basil? If you can find it, use Genove basil: it has small, tender, bright green leaves. It’s sweet and slightly spicy, and that’s what’s used in most Italian dishes.
  • Extra virgin olive oil: For the best Caprese sandwich, use cold-pressed Italian extra-virgin olive oil like this one.
Close up of caprese sandwich

Swap the bread: You can use any Italian bread. Ciabatta rolls, Tuscan bread, or sourdough also make a good sandwich.

Toast the bread: If you like your sandwich bread more crunchy, drizzle the cut side with extra virgin olive oil and lightly toast in a hot grill pan, toaster oven, or oven. Or use a panini press!

Add balsamic: Add a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, balsamic vinaigrette, sweet balsamic reduction, or tangy balsamic glaze.

Go vegan: Use dairy-free mozzarella or avocado slices, and opt for vegan basil pesto.

Two Caprese Sandwiches stacked on top of each other

Can You Make Caprese Sandwich Ahead?

The best Caprese sandwich is eaten as soon as prepared. Since the tomatoes are oh so juicy, if you assemble the sandwich too far in advance, the bread will inevitably become soggy, so I wouldn’t recommend making it more than 2-3 hours ahead. To pack for on the go, wrap it in foil to hold everything in place while you enjoy your sandwich.

F.A.Q.

Why is it called Caprese?

Caprese dishes are said to have originated on the beautiful island of Capri as a tribute to the colors of the Italian flag. In addition to serving as a salad or sandwich, you can also serve sliced fresh mozzarella, tomatoes, basil, and EVOO on pizza or with pasta.

Are Caprese sandwiches healthy?

Caprese sandwiches are healthy, taking your dietary goals into account. The sandwich contains nutrient-rich ingredients, including protein-packed mozzarella, extra virgin olive oil, sweet tomatoes, and leafy greens.

What’s the best bread for a Caprese Sandwich?

I recommend focaccia, but any sturdy, crusty bread will pair nicely with Caprese fillings. Ciabatta, French baguette, and sourdough are good options. You can use softer sandwich bread, but they won’t hold up as well to the weight of the fillings. You can toast the bread to avoid a soggy sandwich.

Caprese Sandwich Serving Suggestions

Wondering what to serve on the side of your Caprese sandwiches? Keep it fresh and simple with a side of fruit or veggies, or make it a meal with any of these healthy premium sides:

Close up of two halves of caprese sandwich stacked on top of each other.

Why I Love This Caprese Sandwich

  • It’s the BEST vegetarian sandwich for picnics.
  • Delicious as a salty, healthy breakfast too!
  • Such a simple recipe to make, yet delicious.
  • It can be made gluten-free (with gluten-free bread).

More Sandwich Recipes You’ll Love

If you try this Caprese sandwich recipe, please leave a comment and a rating and let me know how much you liked it!

Caprese sandwich with tomato, fresh mozzarella and basil.
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Caprese Sandwich

If you're a Caprese salad fan, you'll love this Caprese Sandwich recipe! Juicy tomatoes, fresh basil, peppery arugula, and rich mozzarella are sandwiched between two soft focaccia layers. It's the perfect vegetarian sandwich to enjoy at summer brunches, lunches, picnics, and more.
Prep Time10 minutes
Total Time10 minutes
Course: Lunch, Snack
Cuisine: Italian, Vegetarian
Servings: 4 servings
Calories: 358kcal
Author: Sara Trezzi

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Slice the tomatoes and mozzarella. Cut the focaccia pieces in half (see note 1).
  • Assemble the sandwich: spread the basil pesto (if used) on the focaccia’s bottom layer. Add the arugula, mozzarella, and tomato slices. Top with basil leaves, season with salt and pepper, and finish with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
  • You can eat it cold or toast the focaccia in a hot pan for 3 minutes on each side (although I prefer it cold).

Notes

Note 1: You can also use any other Italian bread like ciabatta or Tuscan bread.
Note 2: If you can find it, use Italian Genovese Basil. It’s sweet and slightly spicy, perfect for this sandwich.
Note 3: Whatever you do, please don’t use vacuum-sealed mozzarella. Try to find original buffalo mozzarella, made with buffalo’s milk, it’s creamier, richer, and more flavorful.
Note 4: Beefsteak tomatoes are best. If you can’t find them opt for sun-riped local tomatoes or the best red juicy tomatoes you can find.
*Nutrition information is a rough estimate per serving.

Nutrition

Calories: 358kcal | Carbohydrates: 31g | Protein: 18g | Fat: 18g | Sugar: 2g

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