Love tomatoes and bread? Why not combine the two to make a fresh and delicious Panzanella Salad? This easy salad recipe is perfect for summer days when you're craving something light and delicious with plenty of summer flavors.
Updated: This post was originally published in August 2021 and has been updated with new photos and additional content.
This is one of the easiest salads to make and is always a big hit. There are many variations of Panzanella Salad, but this recipe is gluten-free! If you do not have any dietary restrictions, use whatever bread you like.
- 🤔 What is Panzanella Salad?
- 💚 Why You Will Love This Tomato Bread Salad
- 🛒 Ingredients You Need
- 🌿 Variations
- ✅ How to Make Panzanella Salad
- ❄️ How to Store and Use Leftovers
- 🍽️ How to Serve
- 🔪 Kitchen Tools & Gadgets
- 👩🏻🍳 Expert Tips and FAQs
- 🌎 Sustainability Suggestions
- ➕ More Salad Recipes
- 📖 Recipe
- Easy Panzanella Salad with Gluten-Free Bread
- 💬 Comments
🤔 What is Panzanella Salad?
Panzanella Salad originated in Italy "panmolle" and is a Tuscan chopped salad of soaked stale bread, onions, and tomatoes.
While recipes may differ slightly, it often includes cucumbers, sometimes basil, and is dressed with olive oil and vinegar.
It's a recipe best enjoyed in the summer with ripe, juicy tomatoes.
💚 Why You Will Love This Tomato Bread Salad
- Highlights the true delicious goodness of tomatoes.
- A simple preparation that works with just about any meal.
- A wide variety of ways to change it up to add flavors you enjoy.
- A simple side dish or salad that everyone will love!
🛒 Ingredients You Need
Here's a look at the main ingredients you will need to have to make this Italian tomato salad. It's mostly pantry staples and fresh produce.
- Tomatoes: Your Panzanella salad will taste best prepared with local, seasonal, organic red and yellow juicy tomatoes. I am using tomatoes from a Long Island, NY local CSA.
- Bread: Preferably, choose bread that's firm and crusty so it can still hold together when soaking up the juice of the tomatoes. I am using gluten-free bread but really you can use any bread.
- Cucumber and red onion: Add flavor, crunch, and a bit of color to the tomato salad.
- Fresh basil and garlic: Fresh is essential in this salad. Trying to make this with dried basil or garlic powder simply won't taste the same.
- Olive oil: Use quality extra virgin olive oil for the best flavor.
- Vinegar: A bit of acidity to really balance out the flavors of this dish. I prefer the light flavors of champagne vinegar but you can also use white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar which both contain a similar mildness.
There are many versions of Panzanella salad, so here's your chance to get creative. You can use any of the following adjustments and additions:
- Change up the vinegar: Try it with flavored vinegar such as fig vinegar or white balsamic vinegar.
- Experiment with different herbs: Swap the basil for dill, mint, or tarragon. You can even use a blend of herbs if you want. Just note that for any herbs you use, fresh is best!
- If you prefer a milder onion flavor, use shallots or scallions instead.
- Add more veggies: Red, yellow, or green bell peppers, avocado, chopped greens such as lettuce, spinach or arugula, or celery.
- For a bit of salty, briny flavor add some capers.
- Add cheese: Feta, mozzarella, asiago, parmigiano-reggiano all would go great!
✅ How to Make Panzanella Salad
This salad requires just a tiny bit of prep to make. The only cooking it involves is toasting the bread.
- Cut the bread into even-sized cubes.
- Place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Spray with olive oil and season with garlic, salt, and pepper. Bake in the oven until golden brown.
- Peel and halve the cucumber. Use a spoon to remove the seeds.
- Slice the cucumbers into smaller pieces.
- Cut the large tomatoes into bite-sized chunks and halve the cherry tomatoes.
- Thinly slice the red onions and then cut them in half.
- Clean the basil leaves using a salad spinner. You will want to chiffonade the basil. Take a few leaves and stack them on top of each other. Roll into a tight cylinder and slice the basil leaves as thinly as possible.
- Whisk together the chopped fresh garlic, vinegar, olive oil, sea salt, and pepper to make the dressing.
- Combine all the salad ingredients, except the bread in a bowl and add the dressing.
- Add the toasted bread to the serving bowl before serving and gently stir into the tomato salad mixture.
❄️ How to Store and Use Leftovers
Panzanella salad is best enjoyed freshly made. However, if you have leftovers, store them in the fridge. The next day you can blend them up and use them to make a soup.
Can I make Panzanella salad ahead of time?
Yes, with just a few modifications. Prepare and mix all of the ingredients except for the bread.
Personally, I like to eat it within a half hour of adding the bread. For me this amount of time allows the bread to soak up the right amount of the juices without becoming too mushy but some people enjoy it even hours later.
🍽️ How to Serve
Serve it as a main dish. Panzanella Salad can easily be a meal just by adding your favorite protein. It's great with garbanzo beans, which is my favorite!
🔪 Kitchen Tools & Gadgets
Making this easy tomato salad is pretty easy and doesn't require much other than a few basic kitchen tools.
👩🏻🍳 Expert Tips and FAQs
- Panzanella bread salad is best served within a half hour of mixing. After that point, the bread soaks up too much juice and will be a bit mushy.
- Use fresh, ripe tomatoes for the best flavor. If possible look for tomatoes in different colors to add more color to the salad.
- Feel free to try out some of the recommendations for using different ingredients to change up the flavors of your tomato and bread salad.
While Panzanella tomato salad traditionally uses stale bread, you do not have to use stale bread! In this recipe, I use fresh bread and toast it in the oven to give it a texture similar to stale bread. It makes the bread soft on the inside but crispy on the outside and tastes so much better!
🌎 Sustainability Suggestions
One easy way to reduce your carbon footprint is to grow your own tomatoes, herbs, and other easy ingredients in the summertime. You can even do this in the city by experimenting with an urban garden. It's amazing what you can do even with limited space.
If that's not possible, I highly recommend looking into a CSA in your area. It's a great way to support local farmers, experiment with new ingredients, and do good things for the planet.
➕ More Salad Recipes
If you made this recipe, please leave a star 🌟 rating on the recipe card right below! You can also drop a review in the comment section. Your feedback is appreciated! And don’t forget to tag @themindfulfork so we can see your creations.
Easy Panzanella Salad with Gluten-Free Bread
- 1 loaf gluten-free bread about 4 cups
- olive oil spray
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 1 english cucumber
- 4 large ripe red tomatoes
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes yellow
- ½ red onion sliced thin
- 20 leaves fresh basil chopped
- 1 teaspoon fresh garlic chopped
- 3 tablespoon champagne vinegar
- ½ cup olive oil
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground pepper
- Preheat the oven to 325°.
- Cut the bread into cubes. Place on a parchment lined baking sheet.
- Spray with olive oil and season with garlic, salt & pepper. Bake for 15 minutes until golden brown.
- While the bread is toasting, prep the salad ingredients and set aside in a large bowl. Starting with the cucumber - peel and halve the cucumber. Use a spoon to remove the seeds, then slice.
- Clean the tomatoes and cut them into large bite-sized chunks. Halve the cherry tomatoes.
- Remove the outer skin of the red onion and thinly slice the red onions. Halve the slices.
- Clean the basil leaves using a salad spinner. Chiffonade: Take a few leaves and stack them on top of each other. Roll into a tight cylinder and slice the basil leaves as thinly as possible.
- Prepare the dressing: in a small measure cup, whisk together chopped fresh garlic, vinegar, olive oil, sea salt, and pepper.
- Gently blend all the salad ingredients (except the bread). Stir in the dressing.
- When ready to serve, add toasted bread to the serving bowl and gently stir into the tomato salad mixture. It is best to serve within a half hour of mixing.