Salad Nicoise is a quintessential French salad recipe that showcases everything you would want in a salad. Combining canned tuna, fresh tomatoes, green beans, eggs, potatoes and olives the flavours are delicious and satisfying. Big enough to be a meal but easily shared between friends.
- Why You’ll Love This Salad
- What is Salad Niçoise?
- Where Did Salad Niçoise Originate?
- What Goes In Salad Niçoise Traditional Recipe
- Recipe Overview
- Variations and Substitutions
- How to Make the Niçoise Salad Dressing
- How to Assemble the Salad
- What To Eat With Salad Niçoise?
- Frequently Asked Questions
Why You’ll Love This Salad
I’ve always wanted to recreate my own salad niçoise. I see these glorious images on Pinterest where everything is laid out so beautifully; they all make me want to dig in.
So here I am. Digging in. My own version of salad niçoise.
Salad nicoise is a great salad platter that you can bring to parties or potluck gatherings because, with all the ingredients all composed on the plate, guests can choose and make their own mini niçoise salad plate!
Possibly one of the few recipes where I would say canned tuna actually makes it work. Together with the fresh tomatoes, green beans, eggs, potatoes and salty pops of olives, the flavours are delicious. Plus, the light lemon vinaigrette is enough to add extra zing but not too heavy that it is overwhelming.
When I am eating a salad niçoise, it feels comforting and healthy all at the same, if that is possible!
Of course, there is much debate on what should go in a salad niçoise. So let me just say my version is not a replica of the traditional recipe, nor have I changed it up so much you don’t recognise it.
What is Salad Niçoise?
Ok, you see this salad around the internet, in magazines, cookbooks etc. You might see it as salade niçoise, niçoise salade, nicoise salad or even tuna niçoise. There are plenty of variations of this classic French salad, and many will argue what should go in it. Similar to the classic Caesar Salad with Homemade Caeser Dressing, there are so many variations.
Typically when you see current recipes of salad niçoise, you will find a combination of canned tuna, tomatoes, hard boiled egg, olives, haricot vert (French beans) and potatoes. The salad is tied together with a simple vinaigrette.
Salad niçoise is typically not served as a side salad. When the ingredients are composed together, this main meal salad recipe will be substantial enough as a main meal.
Where Did Salad Niçoise Originate?
One fact related to salad niçoise history that everyone agrees upon is where the salad originated. Salade niçoise, pronounced in French saˈlad neeˈswaz, started from Nice, south of France. The name literally translates to Nice-style salad.
What Goes In Salad Niçoise Traditional Recipe
From what I have gathered, salad niçoise was a simple salad for the poor. It originally started with just tomatoes, anchovies and olive oil. It then evolved to adding hard boiled eggs, replacing anchovies with tuna, olives and other raw vegetables like cucumber and lettuce.
The traditionalist would say no cooked vegetables at all. I was so surprised when I discovered this. I’ve always known salad niçoise with cooked beans and potatoes! So, of course, I have included cooked beans and potatoes and a light lemon garlicky vinaigrette for niçoise salad dressing.
Flavour/Texture: With all the ingredients in salad niçoise, there is an explosion of flavours and textures.
The canned tuna mixed with sweet tomatoes, crunchy beans, salty olives, creamy eggs and soft-cooked potatoes creates a hearty salad texture.
There is a comforting feeling when eating salad niçoise but it also feels like summer on a plate!
Ease: There are a few components to this tuna salad recipe but nothing that is technically too hard. Definitely adding to the collection of easy salad recipes. Just need to plan out the steps to make sure you have all the elements ready for assembling.
Time: I would say 30 minutes at most is needed to make this French salad. You can cook the beans, eggs and potatoes concurrently to save time.
These are the ingredients you need for salad niçoise:
Canned tuna: Most recipes call for canned tuna in oil. I find most of the brands I have used in the past too oily for my taste. Therefore, I have used canned tuna in springwater for this recipe.
With the added niçoise salad dressing, I feel there is enough oil. However, it is a personal choice, so you can choose to have canned tuna in oil.
Eggs: You can choose to have hard boiled eggs or semi soft boiled eggs in the recipe. I wouldn’t serve it with runny eggs as it is harder to compose on a platter. But, again, it is a personal choice.
Potatoes: I used baby chat potatoes in this recipe and cut them into quarters. I didn’t bother to peel, but if I was using larger potatoes, I might peel them.
Green beans: Traditionally, this recipe will use haricot vert, AKA french beans, but I only had green beans available, so I pop those in!
Tomatoes: Sweet tomatoes help balance all the heavier components in the salad like tuna, eggs and potatoes. Choose ripe tomatoes for extra sweetness.
Lettuce: I chose to use green oak lettuce in this recipe, similar to green mignonette lettuce. They have soft leafy green leaves and work well with the other ingredients.
Black olives: I used small pitted kalamata olives for the recipe, but of course, you can choose your favourite variety. I prefer pitted olives myself because I don’t like to remove the olive pit when eating my salad.
Lemon juice: I preferred lemon juice in this niçoise salad dressing because it is a natural pairing with tuna and seafood. However, you can use apple cider vinegar if you don’t have lemon juice available.
Variations and Substitutions
Serve as a tossed salad: Rather than serving as a composed salad, you can place all the ingredients and dressing in a large bowl and mix together.
Alternatives to canned tuna: You can replace the canned tuna with seared tuna or tuna tataki. Another option is to use salmon, either canned or pan fried salmon fillet. Or revert to a more traditional ingredient, anchovies.
Other vegetables you can add: It is very much up to you on what you like, but you can also add artichoke, radish, cucumber, capers, beetroot, corn or red/white salad onion in the mix.
You can also replace potatoes with homemade croutons, or I have seen smashed potatoes as well.
Vegan option: Vegan niçoise salads will replace tuna with other vegetables or, more commonly, with beans and lentils. Cannellini beans and chickpeas are popular choices in vegan niçoise salads.
Niçoise salad dressing variation: If you prefer something light or no garlic, a good drizzle of olive oil and lemon juice would also work with the salad.
Step by step instructions for how to make salad niçoise.
Cut baby potatoes in half or quarters depending on size.
Bring a medium size pot of water to boil and cook potatoes until tender. Drain potatoes and let them cool.
In another pot, add cold water and then lower your eggs into the water. Bring the water to a simmer and boil your eggs to your liking. I prefer mine not 100% hard boiled, so I normally simmer for about 7-8 minutes.
Once done, remove eggs from water and peel them.
Cut the eggs in half.
Trim beans and blanch in boiling water for approximately 3 minutes or until al dente.
Place in cold water or ice bath to stop beans from cooking. Drain and pat dry for salad.
Cut tomatoes in half or quarters depending on size.
Wash lettuce leaves and pat dry.
Remove tuna from can and drain any excess liquids. Try to keep the tuna in large chunks if possible.
How to Make the Niçoise Salad Dressing
Peel and grate garlic.
Add grated garlic, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper to mason jar.
Shake well until niçoise salad dressing is fully combined.
How to Assemble the Salad
I prefer to serve my salad niçoise as a composed salad so friends can choose what they like.
Choose a large serving platter.
Add oak lettuce leaves on the bottom.
Then place ⅔ of the green beans over the lettuce.
Add potatoes in two sections next to the green beans.
Add tomatoes and any remaining green beans.
Next, scoop in canned tuna in one corner of the plate. You can scatter some extra around as well.
Then arrange cut eggs on the platter.
Scatter olives on top of salad.
Season generously with salt and pepper.
Finally, drizzle niçoise salad dressing over the salad to serve.
What To Eat With Salad Niçoise?
What to serve with salad niçoise? Try these delicious recipes.
There are so many dishes you can serve up with this salad. Smokey mesquite BBQ beer ribs done in a slow cooker with soaked mesquite wood chips and butterflied roast chicken with herbs comes to mind. For all the pasta lovers, this orecchiette with sausage and spinach is a simple and fast recipe to make on a busy weeknight.
Frequently Asked Questions
Overall the balance of salad niçoise would be considered a healthy salad. There is a great mix of vegetables, carbs and protein. Fresh, quality ingredients with a light vinaigrette would make this a delicious and healthy meal. However, as I am not a dietitian, it is always best to consume everything in moderation.
Generally speaking, I often see salad niçoise as a composed salad (i.e. salad composée) where everything is arranged on a plate, but you can also serve it as a tossed salad where the ingredients are thrown together and mixed well.
Another delicious composed salad example would be our Kingfish Sashimi Salad, whilst one of our more popular tossed salads is Avocado and Tomato Salad.
Yes, you can prepare salad niçoise ahead of time. I would add niçoise salad dressing when ready to serve.
Yes, you can easily transport this tuna niçoise salad to another destination. Prepare and assemble ingredients to transport. Dress when ready to serve.
What I love the most about serving this delicious, easy tuna salad on the platter is everyone can see the ingredients and compose their own plate! A fantastic summer salad to bring at a potluck gathering or a light lunch at home.
I hope you enjoy my version of salad niçoise, but please adjust and make it your own as well! If you prefer salmon, use that or replace the potatoes with white beans or even add extra olives. Whatever you please, this is a delicious and hearty salad that will satisfy many.
Salad Niçoise (French Salad Recipe with Tuna)
Click on the toggle below for conversion to US Cooking Units.
- Boil cut potatoes until tender. Drain and let potatoes cool down.
- Boil your eggs to your liking. Once done, remove eggs from water and peel them. Cut the eggs in half.
- Trim beans and blanch in boiling water for approximately 3 minutes or until al dente. Place in cold water or ice bath to stop beans from cooking. Drain and pat dry for salad.
- Cut tomatoes in half or quarters depending on size.
- Wash lettuce leaves and pat dry.
- Remove tuna from can and drain any excess liquids. Try to keep the tuna in large chunks if possible.
- Add grated garlic, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper to mason jar.
- Shake well until fully combined.
- Use large platter and place oak lettuce leaves on the bottom.
- Then arrange other ingredients, including green beans, potatoes, tomatoes, canned tuna and hard boiled eggs, evenly on top.
- Scatter olives on top of salad.
- Season with salt and pepper.
- Drizzle niçoise salad dressing to serve.
- Rather than serving as a composed salad, you can place all the ingredients and dressing in a large bowl and mix together.
- Replace canned tuna with seared tuna or tuna tataki. Another option is to use salmon or anchovies.
- Other vegetables you can add include artichoke, radish, cucumber, capers, beetroot, corn or red/white salad onion in the mix.
- You can also replace potatoes with homemade croutons, or I have seen smashed potatoes as well.
- Vegan option: Vegan niçoise salads will replace tuna with other vegetables or, more commonly, with beans and lentils. Cannellini beans and chickpeas are popular choices in vegan niçoise salads.
- If you prefer something light or no garlic, a good drizzle of olive oil and lemon juice would also work with the salad.
*Disclaimer: Nutritional information provided is an estimate only and generated by an online calculator.
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