Vegan Panzanella Salad
Panzanella is a classic Italian Salad that looks like a rainbow and tastes like the sun. Find out how to make my vegan version below.
A recipe for summer
My Vegan Panzanella Salad is a real celebration of summer. From sweet, heritage tomatoes to earthy basil, this recipe is one where you really want to make sure you are using the best of the season’s produce.
A classic panzanella salad is made from just a few simple ingredients: tomatoes, kalamata olives, red onion, basil and capers. These are scattered with stale bread (or croutons) and dressed with a vinegar and oil dressing. Traditionally the stale bread would be soaked in water to re-hydrate it but I prefer to keep my croutons crispy so they can soak up the dressing.
I’ll let you decide what to do with yours!
How to prepare a panzanella salad
There’s some disagreement around whether the original recipe focused on onions or tomatoes. But these days it’s tomatoes that are the star. I like to use a range of different varieties, from cherry tomatoes still on the vine, to plum tomatoes, beefsteaks and more! That way you get a range of different colours, shapes and sizes which make the salad look all the more appetising.
I try to grow my own tomatoes over the summer months because they taste so much better from the bland things you find in the supermarkets. If you don’t grow your own but still want to buy the best tomatoes you can then I recommend Isle of Wight Tomatoes which are sold at The Tomato Stall. I’ve been buying them for 3 years now and they never disappoint. If you place an order using that link then I should let you know we will both get 10% off!
Another great place to buy heritage tomatoes is Farmdrop. They sell tomatoes from a range of stockists including Westlands who also do fabulous punnets of mixed heritage tomatoes. Again, this is a refer a friend link and I will get £10 credit if you make a purchase.
Raw onion in a salad is sometimes a little off-putting. But, I’ve got a trick to make sure you get all the flavour of the onion without the harshness (or the onion breath).
Thinly slice the onion into rings then, while you’re preparing the rest of the salad, soak the onion in boiling water. It only needs to be in there for a few minutes to take away the sharpness. Drain it and leave it to cool or run it under some cold water before adding it to the salad.
I’ve never met an olive I didn’t like. You could make this recipe with green or black olives but I much prefer the flavour of Kalamata olives in a panzanella salad.
They might not be the most authentic choice (kalamata olives actually originate from Greece) but I think they pair best with the tomatoes, red onion and basil.
A simple salad dressing
A panzanella salad doesn’t require a complicated dressing. The simple salad dressing should simple enhance the other flavours in the salad rather than trying to compete with them.
The dressing for this salad is made with just olive oil, white balsamic vinegar, garlic and salt. You may not have come across white balsamic vinegar before. It is lighter and brighter than regular balsamic vinegar. It has a floral and fruity flavour with a sweet finish. It’s made in a similar way to regular balsamic vinegar but not cooked for as long (so doesn’t become as thick or dark) and it isn’t aged for as long either.
If you can’t get your hand on white balsamic vinegar then you could use regular balsamic vinegar, sherry vinegar or white wine vinegar.
Vegan Panzanella Salad
For the croutons
- 150 g ciabatta bread
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- salt and pepper
For the salad
- 500 g heritage tomatoes
- 50 g kalamata olives pitted
- 0.5 red onion
- 1 tbsp capers
- fresh basil leaves
For the salad dressing
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
- 1 clove garlic
- 0.5 tsp salt
- Begin by cutting the ciabatta into 1cm cubes. Drizzle over the olive oil and then place under the grill for 5 minutes, toss and place back under the grill for another 5 minutes or until they are golden and crispy all over.
- While the croutons are getting crispy, thinly slice the red onion. Place it into a bowl and pour over boiling water. Let it sit for 1 – 2 minutes to take the harshness out of the onion before draining on kitchen towel.
- Next, cut the tomatoes into a range of shapes and sizes and add to your dish or salad bowl.
- Scatter over the red onion slices, kalamata olives, capers and croutons.
- Combine the dressing ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together before drizzling over the salad.
- Finish by topping with basil leaves.
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