This homemade balsamic bruschetta recipe is so fresh! Add high-quality balsamic vinegar to ripe cherry tomatoes, garlic, shallot, fresh basil, and top onto crispy crostini for a quick and easy appetizer. Ready in just 15 minutes!
Hello, and welcome to the land of super easy, quick, flavorful crostini recipes. I know I’m not alone when I say that easy finger-food appetizers are a game (or party) changer. So I’m very excited to share one of my all-time favorite vegetarian appetizers with you today: tomato bruschetta.
It’s so fresh thanks to ripe tomatoes and basil, and super-duper flavorful thanks to garlic and shallot. And the kicker that takes it over the top? Aged Balsamic Vinegar. More on that in a minute.
It’s perfect to serve at parties as it is dietary-friendly. It’s naturally vegan, vegetarian, and dairy-free! You can even make it gluten-free by using a gluten-free baguette or bread. This means less stress for allergies or dietary preferences on your end, and more enjoyment for your friends and family. Win-win!
This version is more of an Americanized bruschetta because, in Italy, bruschetta refers to only part of what we have here in this recipe. Do you know what it is? Let’s find out!
What is Bruschetta?
Ok, so yes it’s perfect as a snack, or a meal, or a meal-snack…but what is it exactly?
In Italy, bruschetta means is a thick piece of bread that is grilled, then rubbed with garlic and topped with olive oil and salt. That’s technically the bruschetta part. It is then topped with a variety of toppings from tomatoes, vegetables, meat, or cheeses.
Fun fact: did you know the ‘ch’ is actually pronounced like a ‘k’ in Italian? So it’s not really pronounced bru-sh-etta, it’s really bru-ske-ta.
As a teen, I never understood why my mom would say it like that. Luckily, now I do!
In the United States, bruschetta has come to be known as the appetizer of pieces of bread topped with a tomato and basil mixture, not the bread itself, as it is in Italy. Wild, right?! It’s incredible how food morphs by region and time, yet it’s all so absolutely delicious.
That being said, this easy bruschetta recipe is the Americanized version of what bruschetta means in Italy. This version consists of crostini – the little crispy toasts – topped with a flavorful, bright, fresh mixture of tomatoes and basil. And aged balsamic. That’s a game-changer.
After you make this bruschetta recipe, you might want to try my Mushroom Bruschetta with Gruyere and Thyme, it’s warm, savory, and comforting!
What You’ll Need
There are a few simple ingredients needed to make bruschetta. Because there are so few, it’s important you try to get high-quality ingredients and take note of the suggestions because each flavor will shine through and play off of one another.
- Baguette – baguette slices are used to make the crostini. They’re the perfect size to hold and are one-to-two-bites worth of goodness. Because they’re smaller, that means loading up on the flavorful topping and using it as a vehicle, right? You could also use slices of French bread for bigger pieces, too.
- Tomatoes – it’s so, so, so important to use the freshest tomatoes you can find to make bruschetta! They are the star here. There’s nothing better than fresh tomatoes in bruschetta. I generally stick with cherry for my year-round go-to, however, in the summertime, you can use a variety of fresh tomatoes (more notes on that below).
- Basil – ah, tomatoes BFF, basil. Fresh, fresh basil. Aromatic basil adds a hint of sweet and pepper flavor to the bruschetta. It’s a must-have.
- Garlic – fresh garlic is a must, don’t use minced garlic out of a jar for this recipe, mince that garlic yourself. My favorite garlic press makes this a breeze if you don’t have one already.
- Shallot – sometimes you’ll find onion in bruschetta recipes, and sometimes you won’t. I add finely chopped shallot to my bruschetta mixture because it’s slightly sweeter, and not as pungent as a white or red onion would be, and it brings a whole lot of flavor!
- Olive Oil – used to make both the crostini and the bruschetta topping, I recommend using a higher-quality olive oil since it will be in the bruschetta.
- Aged Balsamic Vinegar – use the highest quality aged balsamic that you can get your hands on. If it’s on the pricy side, you know it’s legit. I wouldn’t recommend spending more money than needed on ingredients, but this one is worth it. Aged balsamic is thick and syrupy and has a rich, complex sweetness that’s unlike any other. As Serious Eats says, it offers a mellow tartness rather than a strong acidity. Keep reading to find out more about where to buy some high-quality traditional aged balsamic.
How to Make Bruschetta
First things first: make the crostini. Similar to grilled bread, crostini is a toasted baguette slice and it’s just the crunchy base that this easy appetizer needs!
To make crostini, drizzle olive oil on the baguette slices, sprinkle a little salt and pepper, and you’re ready to bake!
Toast the slices for a few minutes on each side for the perfect crostini that has a crunch when you bite into it. Bada-bing, bada-boom. It’s that easy and in no time you’ll have golden brown baguette slices.
Next up is making the topping. But before we dive into mixing it all together, it’s important to dice your tomatoes and determine how juicy they are. If you are using fresh aroma tomatoes or another variety, it is highly likely they’re extra juicy.
If your tomatoes are extra juicy, I recommend putting them in a strainer and tossing with a pinch of salt, letting the juices drain out for about 10 minutes or so.
Draining the tomatoes will prevent your bruschetta topping from becoming too watered down (which can result in soggy crostini, which no one wants!).
Now that the tomatoes are taken care of, toss them with the minced garlic, shallot, and fresh, fragrant basil together. Drizzle in some olive oil, a sprinkle of salt, and then, the grand finale.
And for the creme de la creme, the bee’s knees, the game-changer: aged balsamic vinegar.
You can either add it directly to the tomato mixture before you put it on the crostini, or you can drizzle the balsamic over each bruschetta piece individually. It’s up to you! I find adding it to the mixture is easier, but drizzle it on top keeps the tomatoes looking vibrant and is a little prettier.
The rest is as follows:
- Scoop out the flavorful tomato mixture and pile it on the crostini. You can use a slotted spoon if there is more liquid than you’d like in the bowl.
- Garnish with a pinch of flaky sea salt (as desired).
- Pour yourself Refill your glass of wine.
- Enjoy immediately!
Recipe Tips & Tricks
Let’s reiterate, just for good measure, so you can have the best bruschetta around.
USE RIPE TOMATOES
Ripe tomatoes are your best friend when making bruschetta. Depending on where you live, this might be easy to do year-round. If it’s winter and you’re in Minnesota like, ahem, me, I’ve found that cherry tomatoes are the best option.
DRAIN THE TOMATOES (if they’re juicy)
This is super important if you use a fresh tomato that is juicy, as any excess juice can risk turning the crostini into soggy messes. If you need to drain your tomatoes, dice them then set in a colander and toss with a pinch of salt. The salt will help to release the water in the tomatoes. Set the colander over a bowl or sink to catch the juices, and while it does so, prepare the remaining ingredients.
I often use cherry or grape tomatoes when making bruschetta, and don’t drain them, as there’s usually juicy enough to create issues. That being said, if it does get a little extra juicy, I simply use a slotted spoon to catch the tomatoes and release the excess liquid.
Or at least wait to top the crostini with the tomato mixture until you’re ready to eat.
Once the crostini are topped with the tomato mixture, they’re ready to serve. If you let them sit out for a while, the bread will likely become soggy. If you’re serving them at a party and want guests to enjoy at their own pace, make it an assembly line. Place the tomatoes in a bowl with a slotted spoon next to the crostini and let them build their own.
USE HIGH QUALITY BALSAMIC VINEGAR
I do think I’ve said this enough by now, but I wanted to just leave one last reminder.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, you can, with a few notes. You can easily mix up the tomatoes 1 day in advance. I would recommend draining them as described above to ensure they don’t release too much liquid as they sit overnight. The flavors will intensify as it sits. Store in the fridge until ready to serve. I wouldn’t recommend making the crostini ahead of time unless you plan to reheat it in the oven; it’s best served fresh as it can get chewy and lose its crunch overnight.
You can find aged balsamic at stores that specialize in olive oil and vinegar, they often have them on tap and let you sample to see which you like best. Check your area to see what is local to your area. Williams Sonoma also sells aged balsamic, as do other more specialized kitchen stores. It’s difficult to find aged balsamic in a regular grocery store. I like 18 or 25-year balsamic vinegar. Note, this kind of vinegar shouldn’t be used as a cooking ingredient, but where it can shine, like as a finishing touch to a dish, served fresh with cheese or berries, or creamy desserts.
You can use regular grocery store balsamic vinegar, but I would highly recommend reducing regular balsamic so it becomes thicker and more syrupy, similar to an aged balsamic. This will help with the acidity, too. Take 1/2 cup and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 10-15 minutes until reduced to half. Allow to cool (it will thicken more as it cools, too), then store in an airtight container.
While I haven’t tried this myself, I’ve heard from others that they have and still enjoyed the flavors. If you choose to go this route, be sure to drain the tomatoes well before mixing them with the other ingredients.
I really don’t recommend it, as fresh basil gives bruschetta the bright, slightly sweet, and super flavorful component.
Yes, you can! See the recipe card below for notes on grilling.
If you anticipate leftovers, be sure to not top all of the crostini with the bruschetta tomato mixture, or the bread will become soggy. Store the tomato mixture in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 days. Store the crostini in an airtight container at room temperature, and reheat in the oven to make it crispy again.
I’ll never say no to cheese! Ricotta or mozzarella would work best. Place it on top of the crostini then top with tomatoes.
Did you make this recipe? Please leave a star rating and review in the form below. I appreciate your feedback, and it helps others, too!
Balsamic Bruschetta on Crostini
- 1 baguette sliced on the bias (~16 slices)
- 2 cups cherry or Roma tomatoes diced, 1/4 inch
- ½ cup basil chiffonade, or roughly chopped, + additional for garnish
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 1 Tablespoon shallot finely chopped
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil plus more for drizzling on crostini
- 2 Tablespoon high-quality balsamic vinegar
- Salt and Pepper to taste
- Preheat the oven to 375°F. Slice the baguette into 1/4 to 1/2 inch slices, either on the bias (diagonal for more surface area) or perpendicular to the loaf of bread (straight across). Spread baguette slices on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil (don’t drench them, dry areas are ok) and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Flip slices over and repeat.
- Bake the slices for 5-7 minutes on each side until golden brown and crispy. Keep an eye on them so they don't burn, the thinner they are, the less time they will need.
- If needed, place the diced tomatoes in a strainer and toss with a pinch of salt to allow the excess water to release. See notes above.
- In a bowl, add the tomatoes, basil, garlic, shallot, and olive oil. Add salt and pepper to taste. You can also mix the balsamic vinegar in now, or drizzle it on each piece of bruschetta when serving.
- Top each crostini slice with the tomato bruschetta mixture. I use about 2 tablespoons per toast, just enough so it's covered and piled high, but not enough that it all falls over. Serve immediately with additional basil garnish or flaky salt as desired.
- Grilling the Bread – brush each side of the baguette slices with olive oil, then place on the grill over medium-high heat for about 2 minutes on each side, until toasted.
- Store any leftover tomato mixture in an airtight container in the fridge.
- If your tomatoes are extra juicy, either drain them in a strainer as described in the blog post or remove the seeds to prevent the mixture from becoming overly wet.
By the Way…
This recipe is part of our collection of crostini topping recipes. Check it out!
This post was originally published in August 2015. The photos and video were updated in April 2018. The text and recipe were updated in May 2021 for clarity.