This panzanella salad is a Tuscan-style staple loaded with fresh ripe tomatoes, spicy arugula, crunchy cucumbers, sweet red onions, and zesty capers. Just use gluten-free or vegan bread to make this salad gluten-free / vegan.
It’s not a typical tomato salad, it’s a toasted bread salad drizzled in a light vinaigrette, and it’s so satisfying. It’s a creative way to use up those rustic loaves of bread and turn it into an amazing hearty salad that’s perfect for lunch or a light dinner.
Panzanella is made up of two words: “pane” meaning bread and “zanella” meaning soup bowl which is perfect for describing this dish.
This bread salad has all the fresh flavors of summer and is easy to make. While toasting the bread, you can easily whisk up the vinaigrette and once you’re ready, toss and serve.
It’s a super stand-alone light meal or a heartier side dish that’s great with grilled meats or pasta dishes. If you haven’t had a bread salad before, I highly recommend it.
For the Vinaigrette
- Dijon mustard
- Lemon, juiced
- Dried Italian seasoning
- Garlic clove, grated
- Kosher salt
- Good quality olive oil
For the Salad
- Loaf French or ciabatta bread
- Olive oil
- Arugula or watercress
- Cherry tomatoes
- Red onion
- Basil leaves
How to make the Vinaigrette
- Whisk together all of the ingredients except olive oil in a small bowl.
- Then slowly drizzle in the olive oil while whisking.
- Continue to whisk until smooth and fully incorporated.
How to make the Salad
- While toasting the bread, whisk together the vinaigrette.
- Assemble the salad ingredients in a large bowl.
- Drizzle on the vinaigrette.
- Toss, salt and serve.
Prepping this salad takes about 15 minutes with a total cook time of 10. It serves 8, so invite your friends because this salad needs to be served fresh.
Once you wash and cut the tomatoes, in the colander, salt the tomatoes and let the juices drain into a container. The juices that are pulled from the tomatoes can be added to the vinaigrette to get a tomato-forward, full-bodied flavor.
If you do this, you’ll want to add a touch more olive oil so that the vinaigrette won’t taste watered down. It takes about 15 minutes which is perfect timing because the bread should be toasted in that amount of time.
You can allow the Panzanella to sit up to half an hour before serving, but I don’t recommend making it any earlier than that or the bread may start to become soggy.
What kind of bread should I use?
Any artisan bread would work great. If you want to make your own, you can make this overnight sourdough bread and within the week, you should be enjoying this Panzanella salad.
I don’t recommend using sandwich bread or spongy bread because once the juices of the tomatoes and vinaigrette soak up, it will be mushier than you might like.
I recommend a hearty dense loaf. One that’s been at the house a bit. This salad is a great way to use up the remaining bread before you have to throw it out.
What kind of tomatoes should I use?
I used cherry tomatoes because they’re convenient and rich in flavor. They’re also easy to cut in half and are bite-sized.
Although bread is the star of this salad, tomatoes are an important component, so buy good, fresh, ripe ones. Heirloom or grape tomatoes that are ripe are also a great addition.
Do I have to make the vinaigrette?
No, you can use your favorite vinaigrette, but I find it’s easy enough to make my own. And if you salt the tomatoes and let them drain to add to the vinaigrette, you’re sure to extract even more tomato flavor.
Do I have to toast the bread?
No, lots of bread salads use dry bread and actually soak it in water, but that is not what I did here. I wholeheartedly believe that toasting the bread adds a crunchy texture that shines through this savory salad.
The bread absorbs the flavor while having a crunch. To me, it’s superb, and I think most will agree that toasting the bread makes it better.
What else can I put in the salad?
I like to keep it simple, but if you want to add some flare, you can add almost anything.
Try it with your favorite type of olives, diced shallots, artichoke hearts, or cubed avocado. Although it might not be classic, it will surely be good.
Also, cheese! I love cheese, and if you have mozzarella balls or shaved parmesan, you can certainly top it off however you like.
You can omit or add anything you want, but keeping with Italian cooking, simple is always best.
What to serve with Panzanella?
- Grilled meats like these chicken leg quarters and grilled vegetables would be great for a completely satisfying meal.
- These Greek-style roasted potatoes would pair nicely for a rounded and satisfying meatless dinner.
- Like soup and salad? Try this simple tomato soup for a winning combination.
- These chicken meatballs freeze great. It’s a perfect make-ahead dish that makes a balanced meal served with this panzanella salad.
- If you want to go all out Italian, try this eggplant parmesan recipe.
If you love this Panzanella salad recipe, try my Greek pasta salad, Italian tomato salad, Mozzarella bruschetta, sweet potato goat cheese salad, or Polish cucumber salad and tell me what you think.
If you try this panzanella salad or any recipe you find on the site, I would love to see pics and hear about your experience. Just tag 📸 and follow #fooddoodlesrecipes so that I can find them easily. You can find me on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
Panzanella (Tomato Bread Salad)
For the Vinaigrette:
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1/2 lemon juiced
- 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
- 1 garlic clove grated
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ cup good quality olive oil
For the Salad:
- 1 loaf of French or ciabatta bread cut into 1” cubes (if you're GF/vegan, use gluten-free/vegan bread)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cups arugula or watercress
- 1 English cucumber thinly sliced (but not peeled)
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes halved
- ½ small red onion sliced into very thin half moons
- 2 tablespoons basil leaves finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon capers drained, optional
- Make the Vinaigrette
- In a small bowl, mix together the mustard, lemon juice, Italian seasoning, grated garlic, and salt. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil, while continuing to whisk until the vinaigrette is smooth and the oil has incorporated. Set aside.
To make the salad:
- Preheat the oven to 425 °F (218 °C). Place the bread on a baking sheet and drizzle the bread with olive oil. Toss the bread in the moil to make sure it's well coated.
- Bake the bread for 10-12 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp, turning the pan after about 5 minutes, to ensure it browns evenly.
- Let the bread cool completely before putting together the salad.
- In a large bowl, mix together the arugula, cucumber, tomatoes, red onion, basil, and capers. Stir in the toasted bread.
- Drizzle the vinaigrette over the salad and toss to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve chilled or at room temperature.
Comments & Reviews
Amy B. says
That vinaigrette is delicious, and I love the addition of arugula and capers! Such a yummy combo.
Aditi Bahl says
Tried this salad . It came out wonderful. Thanks for the recipe
I love panzanella salad and yours looks delicious! So bright and bursting with the freshness of the season. I haven’t made on yet this summer but you’ve inspired me now!
This panzanella salad was the perfect summery dish. It was packed with so much flavor and so easy to make. I loved the bread in this as it added more carbs and made it more filling.
Wow, this Panzanella salad looks super nutritious and delicious! I am dying to try this out, thank you for sharing this recipe!
I love the idea of adding bread to this salad! Two of my favorite foods – bread & tomatoes!
Just made this salad and it’s so easy to make! Thank you so much for sharing this recipe!
The vinaigrette sounds so good, I am dying to try it! Thanks so much for sharing this recipe, bookmarked for the weekend 🙂
This looks really fresh. What a perfect way to use summer produce.