Something magical happens when sweet cherry tomatoes are sliced and combined with salty, briny olives, then submerged in a garlicky citrus and olive oil bath: flavor heaven!
Leave this simple tomato salad in the bowl for just 10 minutes so that the tomatoes release their juices, allowing the unique characteristics of each ingredient to meld in the most delicious way! (Trust me, this marinated tomato salad should totally be on your list of things to make with fresh tomatoes ASAP.)
The olive oil fried sourdough triangles — a nod to my favorite panzanella — are totally optional, but they are perfect to dunk in the juices at the bottom of the bowl.
Unlike a hefty potato salad or a bean salad that can withstand sitting out on a potluck table, this cherry tomato salad is best enjoyed shortly after you prepare it. But if you do have leftovers, it will keep in the fridge for another day or maybe two. At that point, the cherry tomatoes will have marinated long enough to make a topping for a sandwich or to mix into orzo for a quick pasta salad. Just use a slotted spoon to pull them out of the juice.
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Ingredients you need to make it
This simple cherry tomato recipe is full of fresh, simple ingredients. Here’s what you’ll need to make it:
- Cherry tomatoes: Halve them to expose the flesh, so that the tomatoes can release some juices.
- Pitted olives: I used Kalamata and green olives, but you can use any kind you prefer.
- Parsley: Fresh flat-leaf parsley adds a herbal element and a peppery bite to the salad.
- Garlic: Mince a couple of cloves and toss them in for a subtle spiciness.
- Aleppo pepper: I like the tang and very mild heat I get from Aleppo-style pepper, but if you want more of a kick, use red pepper flakes instead.
- Lime: The acidic element in the “marinade” for the cherry tomato salad recipe, lime juice adds brightness to complement the sweetness of the tomatoes. Use the zest, too, for extra citrus flavor.
- Extra virgin olive oil: I like a robust, flavorful olive oil, like our Early Harvest Greek EVOO or Hojiblanca Spanish EVOO.
- Sourdough bread (Optional): Cut a few slices into triangles to lightly pan fry in olive oil.
How to make cherry tomato salad
I love whipping up this tomato and olive salad when I need a quick snack or side dish. Here’s how to make it:
- Make the salad. Combine 4 cups halved cherry tomatoes, 1 cup pitted olives, ¼ cup chopped Italian parsley, and 2 cloves minced garlic in a large bowl. Season generously with kosher salt and black pepper, and a teaspoon of Aleppo-style pepper. Add the juice and zest of 1 lime and a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Toss well.
- Let the salad rest. Set the salad aside for 10 to 15 minutes so the tomatoes can marinate and release some juices.
- Fry the sourdough bread (optional). While the salad sits, prepare your bread (if using). Cut 2 to 3 slices of sourdough bread into triangles. Warm 2 or so tablespoons EVOO in a skillet over medium heat. Add the bread to the skillet and fry for a minute or two until golden and crispy on both sides. Remove the bread from the heat and place on a plate lined with paper towels to remove excess oil.
- Serve. Place some fried sourdough on a plate along with the marinated cherry tomato salad.
Cherry vs grape tomatoes: What’s the difference?
Cherry and grape tomatoes can be used interchangeably in most recipes, including this one. Both varieties come in colors like red, orange, purple or yellow and they are similar in size and taste, but not identical. In the big scheme of things it doesn't really matter which one you use in a recipe, but here are few facts about these tiny summertime flavor bombs just in case you wanted to know.
- Cherry Tomatoes tend to be round, like cherries, but the size can range between that of a small marble (smaller than a dime) and that of a shooter marble (about the size of a quarter). Cherry tomatoes have thin skins, and are sweet and juicy.
- Grape Tomatoes are bite-sized oblong fruits (yes, tomatoes are a fruit!) similar to grapes. They have thicker skins, aren’t as sweet, and are meaty as opposed to juicy.
Make it your own
If you're in the heat of the moment and realize you're missing an ingredient, don't worry. This recipe is endlessly adaptable to what you have on hand. Here are a few ideas:
- Grape tomatoes would work in place of cherry tomatoes. If you can’t find either, you could also dice up a larger tomato. Just be aware that the salad will be a bit more watery.
- Feel free to swap out the lime juice and zest with lemon. You will get a slightly different flavor profile, but won’t miss out on any of the citrusy brightness.
- If you don’t have or don’t like olives, why not try capers or marinated artichokes in the brine? Note that these will change the flavor of the tomato salad, but you will still get some of the saltiness that you would usually get from olives.
- You don’t have to use sourdough bread. If you like, you can use focaccia or any hearty crusty bread. Or leave the bread out all together for a low carb option.
Serve it with
Enjoy this salad as an end of summer side dish for your Labor Day barbecue, as a healthy side for weeknight dinner, lunch or brunch. Pair it with your favorite protein to make it meal. Here's some tasty ideas to get you started:
How to store leftovers
This tomato salad is best eaten and finished soon after you make it, but if you have leftovers, store them in an airtight container in the fridge for a day (or 2 days at most). The tomatoes will be very soft, and will make a nice topping for a sandwich, spooned over pasta, tossed into a grain salad or stirred into soup.
More colorful tomato salad recipes
Simple Cherry Tomato Salad
- 2 to 3 slices sourdough bread, cut into triangles (optional)
- In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, olives, chopped parsley, and garlic. Season with a big pinch of kosher salt, black pepper and Aleppo pepper.
- Add the lime juice and zest and a good drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. Toss to combine.
- Set the salad aside for 10 to 15 minutes to allow the tomatoes to release some juices.
- Meanwhile, if serving with the bread, quickly fry the sourdough triangles in a bit of olive oil (this is optional). To do this, warm about 2 to 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a large pan over medium heat until slightly bubbling. Add the bread triangles and fry for for a minute or two until crispy and golden brown or both sides. Transfer the bread to a large plate lined with paper towel to get rid of excess oil. Serve with the cherry tomato salad.
- Can you use grape tomatoes instead? Yes, if you can't find cherry tomatoes, grape tomatoes will yield an almost identical salad here.
- Serve it with: I like to fry a few sourdough triangles to crunchy perfection so I can sop up all the juices. Or, serve this marinated cherry tomato salad as a side alongside Green Goddess Chicken, Citrus Salmon, Roast Rack of Lamb, or Shish Kebabs.
- How to store leftovers: This tomato salad is best finished soon after you make it. But leftovers will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days.
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