This avocado caprese salad highlights the best of summer. It’s loaded with fresh off the vine tomatoes, avocado, and fragrant basil. It’s then topped in a simple basil vinaigrette. Vegan & gluten-free.
While driving back from Omaha, we stopped on our way through Des Moines for an early dinner at P.F. Chang’s.
We don’t visit a lot of chain restaurants, because they tend to have lackluster vegan options. However, P.F. Chang’s is a restaurant that I wish we had in our town.
We used to visit it pretty regularly when we lived in Burbank for a quick, inexpensive meal.
P.F. Chang’s can also be a handy choice when dining with a variety of eaters, especially with people who are hesitant to dine at an exclusively vegan restaurant.
The previous time that I’d visited, they had a terrific kale salad on special. I was hoping they’d have it again, but it was no longer offered.
However, in its place on the specials menu was an heirloom tomato salad.
The salad (shown in the mustard-colored bowl) was made with fresh tomatoes, avocado, Thai basil, and a ponzu dressing. I asked my server to verify with the chef that the salad was vegan.
While we waited for the answer, David did a quick search on his phone to find out more about ponzu sauce and saw that it’s a citrus seasoned soy sauce. The server came back and said that the dish was vegan.
(In preparation for writing this post, I did a bit more searching and saw that some bottled ponzu sauces, like the Kikkoman brand, have fish extract in them. However, I called P.F. Chang’s headquarters. They confirmed that the dish was vegetarian and fish-free.)
The ponzu dressing had a pesto flavor because of the fresh basil. The salad reminded me of a caprese salad but with avocado instead of mozzarella.
Avocado caprese salad (Vegan)
That got my wheels turning.
With tomatoes being extraordinarily delicious and flavorful right now, I couldn’t wait to recreate the salad when I got home.
There’s not much better than a ripe, summer tomato. Winter tomatoes can be mealy and a little bland. But summer tomatoes? Juicy, sweet, and inviting.
Like I said, caprese is typically made with mozzarella. And you could use Miyoko’s cashew-based mozzarella. Either the regular version or the smoked one would be delicious here.
(Read more about my preferred vegan cheeses in this post, The Best Vegan Cheese For Your Every Need.)
However, I used avocado instead. Full of buttery, fatty goodness, it makes this simple salad irresistible.
This isn’t the kind of salad that makes you poke around, looking for a good bite. Every single bite is exactly the one you want.
Instead of making a ponzu sauce like the PF Chang’s salad, I opted for a balsamic vinaigrette with fresh basil.
I simply put extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, chopped garlic, and basil into a blender. I blended until it was smooth and full bodied.
Be warned that the greenish brown color of the dressing is not the prettiest shade you’ve ever seen in your life. But the taste is oh, so good.
Put out the serving bowl. Let guests top their own individual salads with dressing.
It is such a satisfying summer meal, like eating a bowlful of tomato bruschetta.
If you’ve been looking for more ways to enjoy your fresh-off-the-vine summer tomatoes, look no further than this avocado caprese salad. Serve with a loaf of crusty bread, and dig in.