This BLT Panzanella salad is a delicious excuse to enjoy the flavors of a BLT sandwich while eating a salad! This bread and tomato salad gets its BLT vibes from the addition of bacon and arugula.
Easy summer salad
Panzanella is a favorite summer salad of mine. With plenty of fresh veggies, crunchy nuggets of bread, and a tangy vinaigrette, it's an explosion of flavors and textures. I most love this salad at room temperature which makes it ideal for summertime gatherings. For an easy dinner, serve this with grilled chicken.
This BLT Panzanella salad is a twist on a more traditional version. The addition of bacon and arugula - along with the bread and tomatoes - gives this salad all the vibes of a BLT sandwich.
What is panzanella?
Panzanella is a Tuscan salad consisting of bread, tomatoes, onions, and often cucumbers... all tossed in a simple vinaigrette. This salad is typically considered a good use of stale bread. However, I prefer the crunchy texture of oven-toasted bread cubes, so this recipe can be made with both fresh and stale bread.
- Bacon - the "B"
- Arugula - the "L"
- Tomatoes - the "T" - I love using small tomatoes such as grape or cherry varieties. Add extra color with a combination of red, yellow, and orange tomatoes.
- Bread - Sourdough is my favorite, but Ciabatta, French or Italian bread are all great options.
- Red onion - Red (or purple) onions provide a pop of color. Shallots can also be used.
- Cucumbers - I love adding cucumbers for their fresh, crisp bite.
- Basil - You can never go wrong with the aromatic flavor of fresh herbs.
- Vinaigrette - A simply vinaigrette of oil, vinegar, and Dijon mustard is all you need to enhance the flavors in this salad. Both apple cider and red wine vinegar are great options. I love the slight sweetness of apple cider vinegar paired with the bacon.
Tips for making
- Toast the bread cubes for the ultimate crusty, crisp texture. Since we're toasting the bread, both fresh and stale bread can be used.
- Toss the bread cubes with olive oil and season with salt and pepper before toasting. This adds tremendous flavor to the bread and ultimately to the salad.
- Soak the sliced onions in ice water (or vinegar) for approx. 10 minutes, then drain. This helps to remove the harsh bite of the onions before adding them to the salad.
- Use a little dressing at first, adding more as needed. Too much dressing can create a soggy salad. The tomatoes will naturally give off their juice as the salad sits, which adds to the moisture from the dressing.
- Add fresh basil for a wonderful punch of fresh, herby flavor. Fresh parsley or thyme are delicious options too!
- Enjoy this salad the same day. BLT Panzanella salad is best eaten the day it's made. If this salad is stored for more than one day, the texture of the ingredients will not be optimal.
- Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to one day.
Panzanella salad can easily be customized with lots of flavors and textures.
- Mozzarella - Small fresh mozzarella balls add a creamy component.
- Capers - These salty gems add a briny pop of flavor.
- Olives - Kalamata olives add a wonderful salty bite.
- Vegetarian - You can simply omit the bacon to keep this salad vegetarian.
- 1 loaf sourdough bread (or similar (approx. 1 pound))
- 2 ½ tablespoons olive oil
- salt and pepper (to taste)
- 16 slices bacon (cooked and chopped into 1-inch pieces)
- 1 large English cucumber (cut in half lengthwise, seeded, and sliced)
- 16 ounces grape tomatoes (halved)
- 1 cup sliced red onion (approx. ⅓ of a large onion ( Note 1))
- 2 cups arugula (packed loosely)
- ½ cup fresh basil
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- ½ teaspoon minced garlic
- 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon agave (or honey)
- salt and pepper (to taste)
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Cut the bread into 1-inch cubes and toss with oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread the bread cubes on a sheet pan and bake for 10-12 minutes until crisp and golden brown. Let cool and transfer to a large mixing bowl.
- Add the cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, bacon, and arugula. Toss to combine.
- In a small bowl, combine the dressing ingredients and whisk them together.
- Pour ⅓ of the dressing over the salad and toss to coat. Add the fresh basil leaves. Allow the salad to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Add remaining dressing as needed.
- Refrigerate leftovers for no more than one day. This salad is best served at room temperature the same day it is made.
- To help remove some of the harsh bite from the onions, soak the sliced onions in ice water (or vinegar) for 10 minutes. Drain before adding to the salad.
Nutritional information is an estimate and will vary depending upon the exact amounts and specific ingredients used.
Author's note: This post was originally published in July 2018 and has been updated.