Simple Heirloom Tomato Salad (Marinated)

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What could possibly beat a perfectly ripe heirloom tomato from the farmers’ market? Nothing…EXCEPT that tomato parlayed into a simple heirloom tomato salad, after marinating in a few basic ingredients.

Bowl of simple heirloom tomato salad.

Inspiration for this Recipe

One of my foodie friends, Viviane, inspired this salad almost a decade ago. That is, when she hosted a few couples for a delectably memorable backyard brunch in San Francisco. I still remember our impressive spread! It included a mushroom frittata, fresh olive bread, warm blueberry cake, and THE MOST DELICIOUS TOMATOES I HAVE EVER EATEN.

I could hardly believe Viviane when she explained her simple method for her delicious tomato salad. It was just a few ingredients thrown together and left to sit…essentially the tomatoes marinating in their own juices. The key was picking the best tomatoes, a mix of heirlooms fresh from the farmers’ market.

Unfortunately Viviane didn’t recall her recipe by the following summer. It was tomato season again and I couldn’t wait to recreate her masterpiece. But I remembered that basil and a touch of balsamic were two of the few ingredients. So I began experimenting…

Years later, I have finally written down my favorite tomato marinade. I hope you enjoy my Simple Heirloom Tomato Salad recipe!

Heirloom Tomatoes

So what are heirloom tomatoes exactly? And why are they often so much sweeter and more flavorful than regular (hybrid) tomatoes?

The difference is in the seeds. Farmers pass down heirloom tomato seeds each season by taking seeds from the plants that produce the best fruit with regards to juiciness, color, size, and shape.

Heirloom tomatoes are open-pollinated, which means they are pollinated naturally from insects, birds, wind, human hands, or other natural mechanisms without genetic modification.

Turns out that most of the typical mass-market tomatoes, called hybrid tomatoes, are “bred” to look good so that we buy them. Not necessarily to taste good. Hybrid tomatoes must be pollinated by hand to ensure the right combination of traits.

Shopping for Tomatoes

When shopping for tomatoes, especially when they are the star ingredient, we try to buy them at the farmers’ market. This way we can ask the farmers which of their tomato varietals are the best: the most balanced, flavorful ones (not to acidic, not only sweet) with perfect texture (not too firm, not too squishy).

And pre-COVID, we could often taste them too (fingers crossed for tasting to resume one day!).

From Brandywine and Cherokee Purple to Black Krim and Marvel Stripe, we have many heirloom varieties available at our local farmers’ markets here in NorCal. I encourage you to ask your farmer at your local market which is her/his favorite!

Oh, and don’t get me wrong…hybrid tomatoes are sometimes just as delicious as heirlooms. I recently made this salad with dry-farmed Early Girl tomatoes after the farmer at my local farmers’ market directed me to them, and it was JUST AS TASTY as the heirloom version. Early Girl tomatoes are common in the Bay Area of California, as the microclimates here make dry farming possible.

Bottom line, use the freshest, tastiest tomatoes available where you live and you can’t go wrong.

Simple Heirloom Tomato Salad

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5 from 3 votes

Simple Heirloom Tomato Salad (Marinated)

This easy marinated tomato salad is BURSTING with flavor. Simply combine ingredients and let it sit for an hour + to let the magic happen.
Prep Time10 mins
1 hr
Total Time1 hr 10 mins
Course: Salad, Side Dish, Snack
Cuisine: American, Italian, Mediterranean
Keyword: heirloom tomato salad, marinated tomato salad, summer, tomato basil salad, tomato salad
Servings: 5 people
Calories: 83kcal
Author: Jennifer Freedman


  • 2 pounds heirloom tomatoes, cut into wedges any variety or mixed
  • 1/3 cup fresh basil, torn or chopped
  • 2 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • ground pepper to taste


  • Cut the tomatoes in wedges with a serrated knife.
  • Cut the basil and mince garlic.
  • Combine all ingredients into bowl and gently mix to combine.
  • Cover and let sit on counter for at least 1 hour (up to 4 hours) to marinate. Gently mix once or twice during marination.



Note: For maximum flavor, do not refrigerate tomatoes. If necessary to refrigerate (during marination or with the leftovers), take tomatoes out of fridge and let them return to room temperate before enjoying.
recipe and nutritional facts for Simple Heirloom Tomato Salad

Oh, and people are always asking about my adorable silicon lilypad covers from the video so here they are. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases at no additional cost to you.

I hope you enjoy this simple heirloom tomato salad recipe! And please, leave a comment below!



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