Panzanella Salad

This super simple Panzanella salad is sure to become a family favorite.  With crunchy, homemade croutons, fresh vegetables, and a delicious Italian dressing, this healthy salad makes a great start to a meal or a light lunch.

Bowl of panzanella salad - Italian bread, onions, tomatoes, black olives, and basil in a homemade Italian dressing

I love serving this salad as part of a healthy summer meal with a Perfectly Moist Chicken Breast, Italian Butter Beans, and an Italian Amaretti Peach for dessert.


Panzanella, also called ‘panmolle’ is a chopped salad that originated in Tuscany to use up the day’s stale bread.  It consists of toasted Italian bread chunks, chopped vegetables such as tomatoes, onion, cucumber, black olives, and basil and tossed in a simple vinaigrette.  It’s fresh, satisfying, and so delicious.

The original recipe called for the stale bread to be soaked in water or milk and wrung out, then added to the vegetable mixture.

By toasting the torn bread chunks, it absorbs the flavors of the vegetables and the dressing for the most flavorful and different salad.


  • Bread – crusty bread that can get crunchy and golden in the oven.  Ciabatta, Italian, or a crusty French loaf all work wonderfully.
  • Olive oil – I used extra virgin for the dressing and plain, everyday olive oil for toasting the bread.
  • Salt and pepper
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Dijon mustard
  • Lemon juice
  • Fresh herbs such as basil, oregano, and thyme
  • Honey
  • Vegetables – I used red onion, cucumber, tomatoes, bell peppers.

Bowl of panzanella salad - Italian bread, onions, tomatoes, black olives, and basil in a homemade Italian dressing


First, tear the bread into cubes, toss it with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and toast it in the oven until golden and crunchy.

Next, toss the bread with the vegetables and allow it to sit while you whisk up the dressing.

Whisk together the dressing ingredients, pour over the bread and vegetables, and toss to coat.

Sprinkle with parmesan cheese, chill, and enjoy.


  • Cubed mozzarella, provolone, or any other cheese that you enjoy is delicious in this salad.
  • Make it a complete meal by adding grilled chicken, shrimp, or sliced beef.
  • Try different vinegars in the dressing – balsamic, white wine vinegar, herbed vinegar-like tarragon or thyme would all change the flavor profile a bit.
  • Let your imagination run wild with the vegetables.  Raw, grilled, steamed all work.  Think about the taste, texture, and color that the veggie would add.

Bowl of panzanella salad - Italian bread, onions, tomatoes, black olives, and basil in a homemade Italian dressing

More salad recipes to try:



Panzanella salad is a healthy, delicious way to enjoy summer’s bounty. Homemade croutons, vegetables, and a homemade dressing make this salad a dish your family will love.

  • Author: Millie Brinkley
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 22 minutes
  • Total Time: 43 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 6
  • Category: Starters - Salads
  • Method: Toss
  • Cuisine: Italian



For the salad:

  • 12-ounce ciabatta bread or crusty Italian bread, torn into 1-inch pieces
  • ¾ cup olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup sliced black olives
  • 1 cup seeded and diced plum tomatoes
  • 1 cup diced English cucumber
  • 1 bell pepper, diced (I used red bell pepper)
  • ½ cup fresh basil leaves, chopped

For the dressing:

  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • ¼ cup red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 ½ tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
  • 1 heaping tablespoon honey
  • ½ cup extra virgin olive oil


To make the croutons:

Preheat the oven to 400-degrees.

On a baking sheet, toss the bread cubes with ¼ cup olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper.

Spread out into an even layer and bake until crisp and golden – 12-15 minutes.  Use a spatula to turn the croutons midway through baking.

Transfer to a salad bowl and set aside to cool.

Add the red onion, sliced olives, tomatoes, cucumber, bell pepper, and basil to the bowl.  Toss gently to combine.

Make the dressing.

On a small cutting board, crush the garlic with the back of a knife.  Pour the salt over the garlic.  Use the knife to work the salt into the garlic, making a paste.

Scrape the garlic/salt paste into a mason jar or large glass measuring glass.

Pour in the vinegar, mustard, lemon juice, black pepper, oregano, thyme, and honey.

Use an immersion blender or whisk to combine the ingredients fully.

While whisking constantly, slowly drizzle in the olive oil and whisk until thick and creamy.

Drizzle the dressing over the bread and vegetables in the salad bowl.

Toss to combine.

Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and toss to combine.

Chill for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Keywords: panzanella salad, salad recipes, Italian food, Italian recipes, healthy recipes, bread salad, homemade dressing, Italian dressing