I’ve never met a tomato salad I did not love. And this tomato pomegranate salad is no exception. Use the best summer tomatoes you can find. They pair perfectly with the punchy black lime onions, crunchy pomegranate rubies and sweet-and-sour dressing.

Add a ball of burrata and a scattering of toasted pine nuts if you’re feeling lavish. Or simply serve it with a slice of good sourdough to mop up the tomatoey pomegranate juices.

Tomato and pomegranate salad in a shallow bowl.

Tomato Salad Love

The first tomato salad I ever made was Jamie Oliver’s “The mothership tomato salad” from Jamie at Home. The book was a gift from my then-boyfriend-now-husband back in 2007. It is my first grownup cookbook – the one to blame (or thank?) for my cookbook obsession.

When I was young, a salad referred to a chopped salad of tomato, cucumber and iceberg lettuce. Maybe you added feta, olives and Peppadew® sweet piquanté peppers if you were feeling fancy. The idea of a salad consisting of mostly tomatoes (my absolute favourite part of a salad growing up) and not having lettuce (my least favourite part of a salad growing up) was a revelation. So was the fact that not all tomatoes are red!

I’ve come a long way since that first cookbook – both in the size of my cookbook collection and my exposure to new veggies and culinary adventures. This tomato pomegranate salad with black lime onions is an amalgamation of the many different versions I’ve loved over the years – from Jamie’s Italian-inspired “The mothership tomato salad” to Ottolenghi’s Middle Eastern “Tomato and pomegranate salad”.

Sliced red onions in a glass bowl on a wooden serving board.
Tomato and basil salad ingredients.

Tomato and pomegranate – A celebration of summer

In Cape Town, when pomegranates appear on the shelves in February, summer tomatoes are available in abundance. This makes the combination ideal for a light meal on a summers day when no one feels like turning on the heat to cook – at best risking to toast a slice of sourdough. If your tomatoes are not at their peak, double the pomegranate molasses to amp up the sweetness.

You can buy pomegranate rubies in punnets. It cuts back on the effort significantly. But having purple-stained hands are completely worth being rewarded with the freshest, crunchiest pomegranate rubies. Just wear an apron. The purple stains are less appealing on a white shirt.

Aside from beautiful summer tomatoes and pomegranate rubies, this salad also features black lime onions.

First, what are black limes?

Black limes are also called dried limes. And they are just that. Dried Limes. The limes are blanched and dried for days until dark in colour and light in weight, but loaded with flavour.

If you can’t find black limes in the shop, you can make black limes at home. To make the black lime powder, smash black (dried) limes with a heavy object like a skillet, remove any seeds and blitz the limes in a spice grinder.

Or you can substitute sumac and make sumac onions by following the black lime onions instructions in the recipe.

Black lime (or sumac) onions

Making the black lime onions is simple. I prefer to use one baby red onion for this, but you can also use half a large red onion or even a shallot. Thinly slice your small onion into rounds – use a mandolin if you have one. Half large onions and slice thinly into half-moon shapes.

Place the onion slices in a small bowl with 1 teaspoon ground black lime (or 1½ teaspoons sumac), 2 teaspoons vinegar and a pinch of salt. Mix everything together and gently massage the black lime – or sumac – into the onions with your hands. Leave it for 20 minutes to macerate and soften before it is ready to use. The maceration makes the onions less sharp and imparts a wonderful acidic black lime flavour. After maceration, squeeze out the excess vinegar and your black lime (or sumac) onions are ready to use.

Tomato salad with ricotta on toast.

Tomato and pomegranate salad substitutes and serving suggestions

Some of the ingredients are less readily available, so I suggest alternatives.

  • Instead of ground black limes, you can use sumac or freshly squeezed lime juice. Or you can give making black limes at home a go. It is easy and requires no expensive equipment.
  • Pomegranate molasses is sweet and acidic, so you can substitute vino cotto or balsamic glaze.

However, black limes and pomegranate molasses are both worth keeping in your pantry. Do try to track them down at some point. Often when a dish feels flat or just-not-quite-right, it lacks acidity. And having interesting acidic ingredients to play with might be just what your pantry needs.

The salad generously serves four as a side or two as a lunch. Serve it alongside toasted sourdough rubbed with a peeled garlic clove. Add whipped ricotta or burrata if you’re looking for a more substantial meal.

Tomato and pomegranate salad with black lime onions.

Tomato Pomegranate Salad with Black Lime Onions

5 from 9 votes

This recipe layers acidic and sweet ingredients. It is an excellent side to higher fat dishes such as roasts. Or, if you are like me and can eat tomato salad every day of the week, serve the salad with a few slices of toasted sourdough for a light and fresh summer meal. Add whipped ricotta cheese or a ball of burrata if you want something more substantial.
Some of the ingredients, like pomegranate molasses and black limes, are less readily available – so I suggest alternatives. But you can also give making black limes at home a go. It is easy and requires no expensive equipment.
Prep Time 25 mins
Assembly Time 5 mins
Total Time 30 mins
Course Light Meal, Lunch, Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine Mediterranean
Servings 4 people as a side


  • You need a spice grinder, blender or pestle and mortar to make the black lime powder if you are using whole black limes. I use a mandolin to slice salad onions, but you can simply use a sharp knife.


  • 1 baby red onion (about 70 grams), or half a normal red onion
  • 1 ½ teaspoons ground black lime plus an extra pinch for serving , or 2 teaspoons sumac
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar, or red wine vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon pomegranate molasses, or vino cotto
  • 1 small pomegranate's seeds (about 100 grams)
  • 750 grams tomatoes, ideally a mix of different sizes and colours of ripe summer tomatoes
  • large handful basil (about 20 grams), leaves picked from the stem
  • flaked salt (optional)

To Serve (optional)

  • toasted slices of sourdough
  • whipped ricotta
  • burrata cheese


  • Thinly slice the onion into rounds using a mandolin. A sharp knife will also do the trick, just cut the onion in half first and slice into thin half moon shapes.
  • Place the onion slices in a small bowl with 1 teaspoon ground black lime (or 1½ teaspoons sumac), 2 teaspoons vinegar and a pinch of salt. Mix everything together and gently massage the black lime – or sumac – into the onions with your hands. Leave for 20 minutes to macerate and soften while you assemble the salad.
  • Next, make the dressing. In a small bowl, whisk together the pomegranate molasses and 1 teaspoon vinegar. Add the olive oil, remaining ½ teaspoon ground black lime (or sumac) and ½ teaspoon of ground sea salt.
  • Cut large tomatoes in slices and set aside. Cut smaller tomatoes in half (lengthways and/or widthways) and in quarters to create an interesting mix of shapes and colours. Place the small, cut tomatoes in a large mixing bowl.
  • Tear the basil leaves, reserving some for garnish, and add to the mixing bowl with the small tomatoes. Add half the pomegranate seeds.
  • Give the dressing a stir, taste and adjust acidity and salt as needed. Add the dressing to the bowl of tomatoes and pomegranate rubies and mix gently.
  • To serve, arrange the slices of large tomatoes along the edge of a shallow serving bowl. Sprinkle the tomato slices with flaky salt. Gently tip the small tomato mix into the centre of the bowl. Remove the black lime onions from the vinegar and scatter over the salad. Top with the remaining pomegranate jewels and basil leaves. If you are adding burrata, gently place the burrata ball(s) on top of the salad. Sprinkle flaky salt and another pinch of ground black lime over the salad and serve straight away.


  • For ground black limes, bash black limes with a heavy object and remove the seeds if there are any. Place the pieces in your spice grinder and blitz until fine. See how to make black limes at home for more information.


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