This heirloom tomato panzanella with feta is what summer dreams are made of. Deliciously ripe tomatoes are paired with a Lebanese-inspired dressing, creamy feta, and crunchy bread for the ultimate bread salad. It's so refreshing and comforting at the same time. You'll want to make this on repeat all summer long while tomatoes are in season!
This tomato feta panzanella is really a hybrid of fattoush and panzanella. Fattoush is a Lebanese bread salad with seasonal summer produce, fresh herbs, and fried pita bread. Panzanella is an Italian bread salad with tomatoes, basil, and stale crusty bread.
I have been on a feta kick recently and had a bunch of heirloom tomatoes and fresh thyme in the fridge plus leftover sourdough, so naturally I decided to combine them all and create this recipe. The hubby loved it, which is saying a lot for a salad!
- Tomatoes: Since they are the star of the show, this is the time to splurge on good tomatoes. I highly recommend buying organic, heirloom tomatoes or organic cherry tomatoes at peak ripeness.
- Feta cheese: For best flavor and texture, buy a block instead of pre-crumbled feta cheese. Greek, Bulgarian, or French feta are all excellent options.
- Crusty bread: Choose any loaf of crusty bread that you enjoy.
- Dressing: A combination of olive oil, lemon juice, shallot, garlic, fresh thyme, and sumac make a bright and flavorful dressing.
The secret to delicious tomatoes (aside from buying the best tomatoes you can get your hands on) is salting them in advance. This draws out the excess liquid and enhances the tomato flavor.
Dice the tomatoes and place them in a strainer over a bowl and sprinkle with salt. Set them aside for 15 minutes while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
In the meantime, cut the bread into 1 inch cubes and toss with olive oil and salt. Place them on a baking sheet and into a preheated oven at 400°F for about 10 minutes, tossing them halfway through.
Once the bread is golden and crispy on the edges, remove from the oven and set aside.
Thinly slice the shallot, mince the garlic, then place them in a small bowl. Add the olive oil, lemon juice, sumac, fresh thyme leaves, salt, and pepper.
Collect some of the liquid released from the tomatoes, and add it to the dressing and mix until fully combined.
Place the strained tomatoes in a large bowl. Add in the toasted bread and dressing. Break up the feta into chunks and place in the bowl. Use your hands to toss everything together until fully combined.
Garnish the tomato panzanella with a drizzle of olive oil, a generous sprinkle of sumac, and some fresh thyme leaves.
You may enjoy the salad immediately if you prefer the bread to stay crunchy. Traditionally, panzanella is left to marinate for some time, up to a few hours.
I don't prefer soggy bread, so I think it is best served within 30 minutes. That way the flavors have time to meld together and infuse the bread without getting soggy.
Substitutions and Variations
This tomato panzanella with feta is a healthy, vegetarian salad but can easily be adapted to your liking.
- Cheese - You could substitute the feta cheese for goat cheese, mozzarella cheese, or a plant-based cheese to make this a vegan panzanella.
- Bread - A crusty loaf of bread is best for this salad, but you could use toasted pita bread which will make it resemble fattoush more. Toasted gluten-free bread works great as well.
Tips on Making the Best Tomato Panzanella with Feta
Don't skip salting and straining the tomatoes. It may seem like one extra step that you could do without, but trust me - it makes a huge difference! I recommend it any time you are using fresh tomatoes in a recipe, but it is essential here.
Make the dressing in advance. This is totally optional, but I noticed that when I made the dressing about an hour or so before tossing it with the salad, the flavors really melded together and the flavor and texture of the shallots resembled pickled shallots.
Source the best ingredients possible. This is my advice in general if you really want your food to taste as best as possible for the same amount of time and effort you put in. But in this case, it is so important because the main ingredients need to shine. If tomatoes are not in season, I would recommend you make this another time.
Frequently Asked Questions
Panzanella is actually best made a little bit ahead of time, about half an hour or up to a few hours. If you don't like soggy bread, you can make the panzanella ahead of time but leave the bread out until 30 minutes before serving.
You can definitely use store-bought croutons, but making your own croutons at home with a good loaf of bread and olive oil will be much tastier.
This tomato panzanella with feta would go great with grilled steak, chicken, or fish. It can definitely stand on its own as a light, refreshing meal in the summer. You can also serve it with my one pan Mediterranean baked chicken and potatoes for a healthy, complete meal.
This bread salad is best enjoyed the day of, but if you have any leftovers, store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator for one day.
See My Latest Recipes For More Delicious Ideas
- Lebanese 7 Spice
- Chickpea Fatteh (Fattet Hummus)
- Balila (Lebanese Chickpeas)
- Hummus with Spiced Meat and Pine Nuts
- Authentic Homemade Hummus
If you’ve tried making this Tomato Panzanella with Feta or any other recipe on Forks & Foliage, then please don't forget to rate the recipe and leave a comment below! I would be so happy to hear how it turned out for you. And if you took any photos or videos, please share them with me on Instagram @forksandfoliage so I can see the deliciousness you made!
Tomato Panzanella with Feta
- 1.5 pounds ripe tomatoes, chopped into 1 inch pieces
- 5 ounces crusty bread, cut into 1 inch cubes
- 4 ounces feta cheese, block
- 1 shallot, thinly sliced
- 1 garlic clove, minced or pressed
- ¼ cup fresh thyme leaves
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon sumac, plus more for garnish
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, divided
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
- Fresh cracked black pepper
- Preheat oven to 400°F. Toss the bread cubes with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Spread them out on a baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes, or until golden and crispy on the outside while still slightly soft in the center.
- While the bread is in the oven, place the chopped tomatoes in a strainer on top of a bowl, and sprinkle about ¼ teaspoon salt and toss to combine. Set it aside for 15 minutes.
- In a small bowl, combine the shallots, garlic, fresh thyme leaves, lemon juice, sumac, and the remaining olive oil, salt, and black pepper. Add two tablespoons of the liquid released from the tomatoes. Mix well to combine. Taste and adjust salt as needed.
- In a large bowl, add the strained tomatoes, toasted bread, dressing, and freshly crumbled feta chunks. Use your hands to gently toss until evenly combined.
- For best flavor, let the salad sit for about 30 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter and garnish with an extra drizzle of olive oil, a generous sprinkle of sumac, and some fresh thyme leaves.
Nutrition information provided is an estimate and may vary.