Is there anything more summer than a tomato salad? We think not. This is why we wanted to share our favorite cherry tomato salad recipe. Marinated with the usual suspects, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar, but also topped with crispy garlic and fresh oregano. Oregano makes a nice change from the classic tomato and fresh basil combo associated with fresh in-season sliced tomatoes.
This simple salad is easy to make and one of my favorite summer side dishes. It can easily be turned into a Caprese salad or a tomato pasta salad. I use this simple tomato salad recipe as a base for many other dishes.
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Every year we plant a garden and the first tomatoes off of the vines of the tomato plants are always our cherry and grape tomatoes. Delicious and sweet, ripe cherry tomatoes are like candy. I find them too sweet for a traditional Caprese salad with a balsamic reduction so I like to make my cherry tomato salads with a balance of savory flavors.
This side dish makes for a great addition to picnics and BBQs. And it pairs well with our bacon and blue cheese potato salad recipe.
📖 Why This Recipe Works
Juicy cherry tomatoes are the star of this marinated cherry tomato salad. It is the perfect simple side dish with tons of potential. Quickly crisping the garlic in olive oil tones down the sharpness of the garlic so it plays nicely with the tomatoes. And we used fresh oregano rather than basil. As I mentioned in our Turkey Kale Soup recipe, we always have loads of fresh oregano. It has a peppery flavor that pairs perfectly with this fresh tomato salad.
Basil gets all the attention in summer salads. But I think oregano is better. It lasts longer, is easier to grow at home, and is less expensive at the grocery store and farmer's market.
- Fresh Cherry Tomatoes- Any small ripe cherry, grape, or pear tomato will do. They are best when fresh-picked and fully ripe. Choose wisely, they are the star of the show. Use any color combination you like. Personally, I love the way yellow grape tomatoes and red cherry tomatoes look together in the bowl. You can also substitute sliced whole tomatoes. To use whole tomatoes layout on a serving platter and drizzle with toppings.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil- You are going to infuse the oil with garlic and pour it over the salad. Use good quality oil.
- Garlic- Very thin slices of fresh whole clove garlic. If you are not a fan of heavy garlic flavors you can substitute red onion or sweet onion. When using raw onion be sure to soak it in water and dry it before using.
- Fresh Oregano- One of the great things about oregano is it is a hardy herb. Meaning it won't brown after being added to the salad as basil leaves will. Of course, basil, chives, or fresh parsley make great substitutes.
- Balsamic Vinegar- Use good quality vinegar. Out of balsamic? Substitute red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, or apple cider vinegar. Or even a drizzle of lemon juice!
- Kosher Salt and Fresh Cracked Black Pepper
⏲️How to Make Cherry Tomato Salad
We love that this recipe takes only a few minutes, just long enough for the oil to infuse. The simplicity is what makes this the best tomato salad side dish!
Step 1- Make the Garlic Oil
You will start by slicing the garlic into VERY THIN slices, arguably the hardest part of this recipe. This is easier to do if your garlic cloves are on the larger side.
Heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Be patient and make sure the oil is very hot but not smoking before adding the garlic. Add the garlic, it should lay in a single layer and cook each side until lightly golden and crispy. It should only take 1 to 2 minutes per side. Use tongs to turn the pieces, watch out for splattering oil.
Remove from the pan from the heat and add the oregano, leaves only. Allow to the oil cool while you prep the fresh tomatoes.
Step 2- Prep the Cherry Tomatoes
While the oregano-garlic oil is cooling prep your tomatoes. First, cut the cherry tomatoes in half. A small serrated knife works best for this task.
Place the tomatoes in a large bowl. Lightly season with the salt and pepper and toss them with a light drizzle of balsamic vinegar. Then pour the garlic-oregano oil over the tomatoes and give them a gentle toss.
You will want to serve them immediately.
🥗What to Serve with Tomato Salad
- If you find your tomatoes are a little under-ripe give them a light squeeze after adding the balsamic vinegar to help them juice out a bit.
- It can be tempting to make a balsamic glaze but I find it too sweet for this simple cherry tomato salad.
- You might think you skip cutting the cherry tomatoes in half but this tomato salad is dependent on all that great fresh tomato juice oozing out.
- For a salty crunchy add prosciutto that has been crisped.
- Making this dish in advance is not recommended. To save time, prep the tomatoes and garlic oil beforehand. Rewarm the oil and make the salad.
- Turn this from a salad into an appetizer by quartering the tomatoes and serving over crispy polenta cakes or toasted french bread. We like the Schar brand gluten-free bread.
Turn this recipe into a cherry tomato Caprese salad by adding fresh mozzarella balls. Or give a Greek spin by adding feta cheese and English cucumber cut into quarter moons.
While we typically serve this as a side salad you can turn it into a main meal by adding white beans and cooked pasta. Or leftover grilled chicken and pasta.
This tomato salad recipe is best served immediately and at room temperature. But you can keep the leftover cherry tomato salad in the fridge for up to 2 days if stored in an airtight container. You may have to toss up the tomato salad leftovers to redistribute the dressing and the juices before you serve.
🥗More Tomato Recipes
💬Frequently Asked Questions
Cutting your cherry and grape tomatoes in half makes them easier to eat. For marinated and Caprese salads cutting them in half allows the tomato juices to meld with the dressing.
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Cherry Tomato Salad
- Heat olive oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and cook each side until lightly golden and crispy. About 3 to 4 minutes total. Remove from heat and add oregano.2 tablespoon olive oil, 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced, 6 sprigs fresh oregano, leaves picked from stems
- While the oregano oil is cooling place tomatoes in a small mixing bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Add the balsamic vinegar and toss to combine. Start with ¼ teaspoon of kosher salt and salt to taste from there.1 lb cherry tomatoes, cut in half, kosher salt and pepper, 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- Pour the oregano and garlic oil over the tomatoes and toss to combine. Serve immediately.
- This summer tomato salad is best served immediately so the garlic stays crispy.
- See Variations section of post on how to make this a Caprese-style salad with mozzarella