This beautiful salad, featuring tuna, olives, potatoes, roasted peppers, green beans, and perfectly hard-boiled eggs is a stylish classic. And the Mediterranean-inspired dressing makes the whole thing sing. This Nicoise Salad recipe makes a perfect lunch or light dinner any time of year.
At the beginning of last summer, I was invited to an alfresco lunch on my friend’s little Brooklyn deck, and there it was: the perfect Salade Nicoise. We started the meal with homemade bread and homemade black olive tapenade, and frankly, I would have just sipped iced tea and worked my way through the loaf and tapenade for the next hour. But the Nicoise Salad was transportive. Overlooking her pretty garden, it felt a whole lot more like a lunch in Provence than New York City.
What Is Salade Nicoise?
Nicoise means “of Nice,” meaning the town in Provence, France where this salad was invented. Interestingly, this was once a type of dish eaten by poor folks, with tomatoes, potatoes, and olive oil — very simple and filling. Over time, other ingredients were added, and now this composed salad is usually more ornate than that original ingredient combo.
My version includes lettuce, potatoes, green beans (or haricot verts), roasted peppers, hard-cooked eggs, tuna, red onion, black olives (preferably Nicoise olives!), and finishes with optional capers and anchovies. The vinaigrette is made with olive oil, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, anchovies, and garlic.
Fresh vs. Canned Tuna
The short answer is you can use either. If you have access to a fresh piece of tuna, please buy it! Season with salt and pepper, sear it well on both sides in a bit of olive oil, and then slice it and give it a quick sprinkle with red wine vinegar. Distribute it over the salad.
Otherwise, you can absolutely use canned tuna, which is what I call for here. You really can use whatever canned tuna you have. Here are tips for choosing the best canned tuna:
- Pick an imported canned or tinned or jarred tuna, such as one from Italy.
- Choose tuna packed in oil, not water.
- Skip the white tuna in favor of dark tuna here, as it has more flavor.
- Leave the tuna in sizeable chunks on the salad.
Salade Nicoise Tips
- I took a technique from making classic French potato salad, which includes tossing the hot cooked potatoes with white wine before dressing the salad. This just added a simple but notable layer of sophisticated Provencal flavor to the salad recipe, and it’s not strictly necessary, but it just adds that special something.
- Also, please don’t skip the anchovies unless you are making a vegetarian version of this salad with no fish at all. You won’t taste the strong fish salty flavor of anchovies, but they add an important level of umami salinity to the dressing which is amazing. You can also add some additional anchovies to the salad, which some people love, and others not so much. I love them.
- Serve the salad in a large shallow bowl. Distribute the ingredients attractively over the lettuce base, and drizzle the dressing over top. Don’t toss it before serving to maximize the eye appeal of this composed salad. Or, you can plate it up on individual plates instead of a communal serving bowl, dividing the ingredients evenly between the portions.
- Feel free to play around with the components. The following combo is very classic, but many Salade Nicoises also include tomatoes, which you should feel free to add or to sub in for the peppers, for instance. You want a lot of color in this salad, which is easy to get with an assort of vegetables.
Salade Nicoise: This Mediterranean inspired salad is beautiful to look at and eating it will seriously make you want to do a happy dance.Tweet This
How to Make Salad Nicoise With Canned Tuna
Make the vinaigrette; in a small bowl or container combine the olive oil, vinegar, parsley, anchovies, Dijon mustard, garlic, salt, and pepper.
Meanwhile, cook the potatoes in a pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. When the potatoes are almost tender, add the green beans and continue to cook both for another 3 minutes until all of the vegetables are tender. Drain and submerge the potatoes and beans in an ice water bath for a couple of minutes. Drain and return the vegetables to the bowl. Drizzle the white wine on top and toss.
Place the lettuce in a large shallow serving bowl, or divide it between 6 individual plates or shallow bowls. Arrange the toppings attractively over the lettuce; the potatoes, green beans, onions, tuna, hard-cooked eggs, olives, and red peppers. Distribute the capers and/or anchovies over the top of the salad.
Stir or shake the dressing to recombine, and drizzle it over the salad. Garnish with a few fresh thyme sprigs if desired.
Other Salad Recipes
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For the Vinaigrette:
For the Salad:
- 3 waxy potatoes (about ¾ pound, scrubbed and cut into 1-inch cubes)
- ½ pound haricot verts or thin green beans (trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces)
- ¼ cup dry white wine
- 2 large heads butter or bibb lettuce (torn into bite-sized pieces, about 8 cups)
- ½ red onion (thinly sliced)
- 2 (6 ounce) cans or jars dark tuna in oil (drained and flaked into chunks)
- 4 hard cooked eggs (quartered)
- ¾ cup pitted Nicoise olives (or other oil-packed black olives)
- 1 roasted bell pepper (jarred or homemade, thinly sliced)
- 2 tablespoons drained capers (optional)
- 4 to 6 drained and rinsed anchovies (optional)
- Make the vinaigrette: In a small bowl or container, combine the olive oil, vinegar, parsley, anchovies, Dijon mustard, garlic, salt and pepper.
- Meanwhile, bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Fill a large bowl with ice water and keep on the side. Add the potatoes and allow the water to return to a simmer, then adjust the heat and simmer the potatoes for about 7 minutes until they are close to tender, but still firm. Add the green beans and continue to cook both for another 3 mintues until all of the vegetables are tender. Drain and submerge the potatoes and beans in the ice water. Allow the vegetables to cool in the water for a minute, then drain, dump out the ice water, and return the vegetables to the bowl. Drizzle white wine over top and toss.
- Place the lettuce in a large shallow serving bowl, or divide it between 6 individual plates or shallow bowls. Arrange the toppings attractively over the lettuce; the potatoes, green beans, onions, tuna, hard cooked eggs, olives and red peppers. Distribute the capers and/or anchovies over the top of the salad.
- Stir or shake the dressing to recombine, and drizzle over the salad.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.