Marinated Mozzarella Balls are the simple yet impressive heart of this recipe, which makes a terrific salad or appetizer. You can’t help but love a dish that’s fresh and beautiful yet takes about 10 minutes of your time!

Bowl of marinated mozzarella balls served with cherry tomatoes and sliced avocado.

Marinated mozzarella is a crowd-pleasing treat that is guaranteed to disappear from any party spread! The little balls make an outrageously popular appetizer by themselves — creamy mozzarella swimming in rich olive oil and a literal infusion of garlic and fresh herbs will do that — or pair them with a sunny array of tomatoes, more herbs, and sliced avocado for a simple dish that will wow everyone.

Why You’ll Love It

  • Quick. It takes about 5 minutes to get the mozzarella started, and then another 5 minutes to mix everything together at the end.
  • Easy. No cooking or gadgets required!
  • Versatile. This makes a great appetizer, salad, or side. I love bringing it along to a picnic or outdoor concerts!

Ingredients & Common Substitutions

Another benefit of this dish is the simple ingredient list. You will need:

  • Mozzarella. You can use just about any form of fresh mozzarella. Pictured here are Ciliegine, small mozzarella balls about the size of cherries. You can also use mozzarella labeled Bocconcini or Perlini, or even grab a package of larger pieces and cut them into bite-sized pieces yourself.

Fun fact: the word “Ciliegine” actually stems from the Italian word for cherry: “la ciliegia.”

  • Olive oil. Use a high-quality extra-virgin olive oil if possible. The flavor will shine!
  • Garlic. A few fresh cloves, finely minced. Sub roughly 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder only if desperate!
  • Herbs. Fresh herbs make this sing. Try a mix of basil, thyme, and oregano — all the Italian classics. Add rosemary or marjoram if you’re feeling fancy.
  • Balsamic Glaze. Usually sold alongside oils and vinegars, and well worth keeping in your pantry. Or make your own!
  • Tomatoes. Cherry, grape, or quartered heirloom tomatoes all work beautifully.
  • Avocado. This is optional; I usually add avocado if I’m serving this as more of a side or salad, but omit if serving as an appetizer.
  • Kosher salt and red pepper flakes. If you want to avoid all heat, sub black pepper for the red pepper flakes.

About Fresh vs. Low-Moisture Mozzarella

For this recipe, you will definitely want to use fresh mozzarella, which is typically sold in a small tub or other container with the cheese soaking in liquid. This is opposed to low-moisture mozzarella, which has a longer shelf-life and is great for shredding, but does not have the same creamy texture and will not absorb other flavors as well.

Extra curious? Read all about the differences between fresh and low-moisture mozzarella here.

How To Make Mozzarella Balls

This could not be simpler, or faster!

First, combine your olive oil with the minced garlic, red pepper, and herbs. Drain the excess liquid from your mozzarella, then add it to the olive oil mixture.

Give everything a good toss, then set it aside to marinate. You can really leave this as long as you like and have time for. One hour or more will give it the most flavor, but if you’re in a pinch, just set it aside for 30 or even 20 minutes before moving ahead.

Pro Tip: If marinating this for 2-3 hours or more, you may want to place it in the refrigerator. However, olive oil will solidify in the refrigerator, so in this case, be sure to stir it periodically, and be prepared to let the marinated mozzarella rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes prior to serving. This will allow the olive oil to return to its liquid state.

After the mozzarella has soaked up the olive oil-garlic-herb goodness, toss it with the tomatoes, add a drizzle of balsamic glaze, and sprinkle on some fresh herbs for good measure.

Bowl of marinated mozzarella balls served with cherry tomatoes and herbs as a salad.

The dish can rest this way for awhile, if you need to transport it elsewhere or make it ahead. If adding avocado, do that as soon as possible prior to serving, so it doesn’t brown.

What To Serve with Marinated Mozzarella Balls

Serve this as a side or salad, or as an appetizer alongside:

As a side, it pairs perfectly with Italian-inspired dishes such as pesto Cavatappi, Tuscan chicken, or chicken Florentine.

More Frequently Asked Questions

How long is it safe to keep marinated mozzarella in the fridge?

Once a package of fresh mozzarella is opened and exposed to air, it can be kept in the refrigerator for about five additional days. So plan to use your marinated mozzarella within that time frame.

Does marinating fresh mozzarella infuse it with the flavor of the marinade?

Yes! This is the magic of this simple recipe. Fresh mozzarella has a creamy texture and light flavor which easily picks up other aromas and flavors. This is why you’ll even find smoked mozzarella at some specialty cheese shops! In the case of a simple marinade such as this recipe, your mozzarella will take on zippy notes from the fresh herbs, tang from the garlic, and a richness from a high-quality extra-virgin olive oil.

Side view of the bowl of marinated mozzarella with tomatoes.

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Marinated Mozzarella Balls with Tomato and Avocado

Delicious Marinated Mozzarella Balls are the heart of this delicious recipe, which makes a terrific salad or appetizer. It’s quick, easy, fresh, and beautiful!

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1/4 cup fresh herbs such as basil, thyme, or oregano, chopped, see note
  • 3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 16 ounces small mozzarella balls such as ciliegine, drained
  • 2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes halved
  • 1/2 avocado sliced or chopped
  • balsamic glaze
  • extra fresh herbs optional garnish

Instructions

  • First, marinate the mozzarella. Stir together the olive oil, garlic, herbs, red pepper, and salt. Add mozzarella and stir well.
  • Allow to marinate for one hour or more, stirring occasionally. If marinating for longer than 2-3 hours, transfer to the refrigerator, but still stir from time to time.
  • To serve, place tomatoes in a large bowl. Spoon mozzarella on top along with as much of the olive oil mixture as you desire, and stir gently to combine.
  • Top with avocado and additional herbs, if using, and drizzle with balsamic glaze. (I like to reserve a little bit of the olive oil to spoon over everything immediately before serving.) Enjoy!

Notes

  • Herbs: You can use a mix of fresh and dried herbs, or even all dried herbs in a pinch. Generally speaking, you’ll want to use about 1/3 as much of a dried herb as you would fresh, because the flavor is more concentrated.
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