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Skip the Mozzarella This Summer – This Low-Effort Summer Tomato Salad Rivals Caprese!
While there’s certainly nothing wrong with classic Caprese salad, it’s really fun to change things up occasionally with a summer tomato salad that isn’t quite so…expected. Juicy summer tomatoes practically beg for cheese, but if you’re feeling a little mozzarella-ed out, something like a Burrata Tomato Salad or a Tomato Goat Cheese Salad is an extra delicious way to switch things up!
This summer tomato and goat cheese pairing is one I first experienced back in my restaurant days. One late-August evening, we served a gorgeous stacked salad with sliced heirloom tomato, crispy panko-crusted goat cheese medallions, & a drizzle of thyme-infused honey. The combination of flavors & textures truly blew my mind. Even now, more than ten years later, I still think of it!
This particular tomato salad with goat cheese is a riff on that restaurant dish, but lazy girl-style. 💁🏻♀️ It has all the same flavors & textures – juicy summer tomatoes, creamy fresh goat cheese, crispy garlicky breadcrumbs, & a drizzle of honeyed balsamic vinegar – but prep & assembly is a lot simpler. (After all, no one wants to be breading & frying goat cheese on a hot summer night! 🥵)
Best of all, this goat cheese tomato salad is so easy to make but feels so impressive to serve – just like it came from a restaurant! All the flavors and textures are spot on – crispy, creamy, juicy, tangy, sweet, & tart! 😋 Trust me, you’ll be making it until the summer tomatoes run out!
Tomato Goat Cheese Salad Recipe Highlights
This tomato salad with goat cheese is such a fun twist for your summer tomatoes! You’ll love it because it’s…
FANCY-FEELING. A simple-yet-special salad made with layers of juicy-sweet summer tomatoes & creamy goat cheese. A sprinkle of crispy garlic breadcrumbs & a drizzle of herb-infused honey balsamic takes this simple summer dish to restaurant-worthy levels!
STRAIGHT FROM YOUR GARDEN. This tomato and goat cheese salad is a fun way to use up any abundance of fresh off-the-vine summer tomatoes. A fun change of pace from classic Caprese salad!
READY IN 15 MINUTES. This no-cook tomato salad with goat cheese is fast, full of flavor, & easy enough to whip up as your guests arrive for dinner. 15 minutes tops!
Summertime at its finest! ♡ Read on to learn more about how to make this Tomato Goat Cheese Salad with Crispy Garlic Breadcrumbs, or jump straight to the recipe & get cooking!
Key Salad Ingredients
This recipe is all about using peak-season produce & pairing it with complementary flavors. You only need 6 simple ingredients to make it, but the result is completely restaurant-worthy. Using in-season, high-quality ingredients is always a recipe for success!
Note: Full ingredients list & measurements provided in the Recipe Card, below.
- Heirloom tomatoes – Late summer’s seasonal superstars! These gorgeous fresh tomatoes come in a variety of shapes & colors. I like to use a combination of larger heirloom tomatoes & bite-sized cherry heirloom tomatoes for a pretty presentation. I highly encourage you to make this salad in the summer when tomatoes are in peak flavor!
- Goat cheese – Use your fave! Plain goat cheese works great but you could also use an herbed goat cheese to take the flavors up a notch. Buy the goat cheese in logs & crumble it yourself for this tomato and goat cheese salad. More info on goat cheese in the Ingredient Spotlight, below!
- White balsamic vinegar – This balsamic is a little milder than traditional rich & sweet aged balsamic vinegars. I also like to use white balsamic to dress this tomato goat cheese salad because it’s light in color, which allows the beautiful red tomatoes to shine.
- Honey – A bit of sweetness offsets the tanginess in the goat cheese & balsamic, & also makes the tomatoes pop!
- Fresh thyme – The sneaky secret ingredient! Infusing the honey balsamic vinegar with fresh thyme’s floral & fragrant leaves adds a fun pop of flavor.
- Panko breadcrumbs – Toasted with garlic & butter until they’re golden to give each bite of this goat cheese and tomato salad perfectly crispy bits of texture.
What is Goat Cheese?
Goat cheese is made from – you guessed it! – goat’s milk. It’s actually one of the world’s oldest cheeses since goats were one of the first animals to be domesticated. Fresh goat cheese is traditionally softer than cow’s milk cheese, which makes it a great pairing with soft & juicy tomatoes.
For this goat cheese tomato salad recipe, you’ll want to use a fresh variety of soft goat cheese – whatever you love! Skip the pre-crumbled stuff if you can – it’s always best to buy softer cheeses whole & crumble as needed for the freshest-tasting results.
More goat cheese FAQs:
- What does goat cheese taste like? ⇢ Just like cow’s milk cheese, goat cheese’s flavor can range from mild & buttery to earthy & tangy, depending on how long it ages. You’ll also often find goat cheese coated in herbs for added flavor.
- Is chevre goat cheese? ⇢ Yes! Chevre is the French word for goat cheese. It sounds fancier but it refers to the same cheese.
How to Make Tomato Salad with Goat Cheese
With a big harvest of summer tomatoes & a few simple ingredients, you can whip up a beautiful tomato and goat cheese salad in a matter of 15 minutes or less! There’s no cooking involved – just a bit of slicing & assembly. Quick & easy enough everything from an at-home lunch to dinner parties!
Full Recipe Directions, including step-by-step photos, are included in the Recipe Card, below.
Season the tomatoes. Cut the tomatoes into thick slices or wedges, then arrange them on a paper towel-lined plate & season well with salt. Why? ⇢ Salt draws out any excess moisture from the tomatoes before drizzling them with honey balsamic dressing. This is an important quick step because it keeps the tomatoes juicy without loading the salad down with a lot of liquid – no one likes a watery tomato salad!
Prepare the honey balsamic dressing. Whisk together honey, white balsamic vinegar, & fresh thyme leaves. Why? ⇢ Balsamic is a classic pairing for tomatoes! White balsamic is a bit milder in flavor than traditional balsamic vinegar. As a bonus, its lighter color preserves the salad’s vibrant red hue!
Toast the breadcrumbs. Cook a bit of garlic in a little butter. Once it’s fragrant, add panko breadcrumbs & toast until golden brown, then transfer to a large bowl to cool. Tip! ⇢ Toasting breadcrumbs doesn’t take much time at all – just a few minutes! Keep your eye on the pan & stir often to prevent burning.
Salad assembly. Pat any extra moisture off the sliced tomatoes, then place them on a plate or large serving platter. Top with crumbled goat cheese. Pour the honey balsamic mixture over top & finish with a sprinkle of toasted breadcrumbs. Good to go! Finishing touches! ⇢ I love topping the tomato goat cheese salad with a little EVOO, delicate fresh thyme leaves, & a dusting of fresh ground pepper. If you have some extra fresh herbs on hand, feel free to toss them on – fresh basil leaves, oregano, & chives are all delicious additions.
Every summer dinner needs a stunning seasonal starter/snack or side dish! This tomato salad with goat cheese is the perfect addition to any meal, pairing beautifully with other summery mains like…
- Super Simple Lemon Herb Chicken – my favorite!
- Tuscan-Inspired Grilled Spatchcock Chicken
- Stuffed Pork Chops with Prosciutto & Asiago
- Grilled Italian Sausage
- Seriously Perfect Grilled Steak
- Best-Ever, Always-Juicy Turkey Burgers
That being said, on a super hot summer evening, this simple salad is seriously all we need. Chris & I will split one by ourselves with a side of grilled bread & call it dinner! It’s the perfect low-effort meal for those warm nights when you don’t want to turn on the stove.
I can’t wait for you to try this Tomato Goat Cheese Salad recipe! It’s such a fun way to mix up summer tomato season in a simple, seriously impressive way. Nothing against Caprese, but we think this tomato salad might just steal the show this summer!
If you do give it a try, be sure to let us know! Leave a comment with a star rating below. You can also snap a photo & tag @playswellwithbutter on Instagram. We LOVE seeing your PWWB creations! ♡ Happy cooking!
More Recipes Like This:
Summer Tomato Recipes
It’s pretty safe to say that we all love a classic Caprese salad, but it’s fun to change things up once in a while with a summer salad that doesn’t feel quite so…expected. This Tomato Goat Cheese Salad is an extra-delicious way to switch things!
I first fell for this combination of summer tomatoes and goat cheese back in my restaurant days. One late-August evening, we served a gorgeous stacked salad with sliced heirloom tomato, panko-crusted & pan-fried goat cheese medallions, & a drizzle of thyme-infused honey – the combination of flavors & textures truly blew my mind!
This recipe is a riff on that restaurant dish, but lazy girl-style! Since I don’t have the patience for breading & frying anything on a hot summer night, I’ve deconstructed the components so they’re much easier to prepare – simply slice up juicy summer tomatoes, top them off with fresh goat cheese, & finish it all off with a drizzle of honey baslamic vinegar & crispy garlicky breadcrumbs.
It’s crispy, creamy, juicy, tangy, sweet, & tart all at once, plus it’s a straight-up stunner. I hope you love it as much as we do! ♡
- 2 pounds heirloom tomatoes, sliced (see Recipe Notes)
- kosher salt
- 2 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
- balsamic honey (below)
- crispy garlic breadcrumbs (below)
- for serving, as desired: extra virgin olive oil, fresh thyme, ground black pepper, etc.
for the honey balsamic:
- 3 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar (see Recipe Notes)
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (about 8–10 sprigs)
for the crispy garlic breadcrumbs:
- 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
- 1 clove garlic, finely chopped or grated
- ½ cup panko breadcrumbs
- kosher salt & ground black pepper, to season
- Season the tomatoes: Arrange the heirloom tomatoes in a single layer on a paper towel-lined plate or small baking sheet. Season well with ½ teaspoon kosher salt. Cover with paper towel, patting down so the paper towel comes into contact with the tomatoes, then set aside while you prepare the honey balsamic & crispy garlic breadcrumbs.
- Prepare the honey balsamic: In a small bowl, combine the white balsamic vinegar, honey, & fresh thyme leaves. Whisk to combine well. Set aside.
- Prepare the crispy garlic breadrumbs: Melt the butter in a small skillet over medium heat. Once melted, stir in the garlic. Cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds – 1 minute. As soon as the garlic becomes fragrant, stir in the panko breadcrumbs. Cook, stirring often, until toasted & golden, 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat & transfer to a small bowl for serving.
- Assemble the tomato goat cheese salad: Pat any excess moisture off of the tomatoes, then arrange them on a large plate or serving platter. Sprinkle the crumbled goat cheese over top. Drizzle the honey balsamic all over the tomatoes & goat cheese, followed by a generous sprinkling of toasted breadcrumbs. Finish the salad with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, fresh thyme leaves, & ground black pepper as desired. Serve immediately alongside any of your favorite summer main dishes. Enjoy!
- Ingredient Notes:
- Heirloom tomatoes: I like to use a combination of larger heirloom tomatoes & bite-sized cherry heirloom tomatoes for a particularly pretty presentation. Slice the larger tomatoes into planks or wedges & halve or quarter the bite-sized tomatoes as desired.
- White balsamic vinegar is a variety of balsamic vinegar that’s a little less caramelly & syrupy than traditional balsamic vinegar – its flavor is a little milder & its color is significantly lighter. I use it here to avoid giving the tomato goat cheese salad a murky appearance, but you can certainly use whatever balsamic vinegar you already have on hand.
- Serving: As written, this recipe yields a large tomato goat cheese salad, suitable for feeding a crowd of 4-6 as an appetizer/side dish or 2-3 as a light lunch or dinner. You can easily halve or double the recipe to feed a smaller or larger crowd, as needed.
Recipe and Food Styling by Jess Larson, Plays Well With Butter | Photography by Rachel Cook, Half Acre House.