Main Course

Classic Nicoise Salad

June 26, 2019
nicoise salad with tuna, eggs, green beans, potatoes, olives, and cherry tomatoes

High in protein and low in carbs, a nicoise salad is one of my favorite summer lunches or dinners. This is a great dish to meal prep on the weekend—if you cook your eggs, potatoes, and green beans in advance, you can pull this together in minutes. I like to do a big batch of each component, and then use them to make salads for lunch during the week or use the leftover ingredients for dinner sides. And, a nicoise salad is fantastic as a buffet spread for brunch or a light dinner. Make all the components, lay them out on a platter, and have guests build their own. 

But more about my love of the nicoise salad. When I was 15, I had the extreme privilege of traveling on my own to a small town on the French Riviera to join a group of high school students from the U.S. and Canada to learn French. I stayed with a single mom whose daughter had left for college and stayed in her tiny room almost entirely decorated in orange. Every morning, my French mom would leave me a croissant and giant bowl of dark black coffee for breakfast along with a packed lunch. I remember my surprise the first day in finding a salade nicoise in my tupperware instead of an American sandwich! A budding foodie already, I delighted in the tuna, eggs, olives, ripe tomatoes, and potatoes in a sharp dijon dressing. 30 years later, I still think a tuna nicoise salad is the ultimate in packed lunches. 

What is a nicoise salad or salade nicoise?

Salade niçoise is a salad that originated in Nice, France. It is usually presented as a salade composé (composed salad), which means that the parts of the salad are laid out next to each other on the plate rather than being tossed together in a large bowl. Often they are placed on a bed of green salad leaves, though that’s not necessary in my opinion. Traditional ingredients include hard-boiled eggs, nicoise olives, tomatoes, and anchovies. Cooked ingredients such as green beans and potatoes are commonly added to nicoise salads, though not always—and are rejected by nicoise salad purists (of whom I am not one). The first nicoise salads appeared in the United States in the 1920s, and since then many American chefs have produced recipes, including Julia Child in 1961 in her book Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

Can you make nicoise salad in advance?

Yes! Prep all your ingredients separately, and they can each be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Since my version is a salade composé, you should wait until you’re ready to serve to put all the components together on the plate or platter, but that won’t take long at all. 

How to make nicoise salad

Start by preparing the ingredients that need to be cooked. (If you need to hard boil your eggs, see my instructions below.) Fill a large saucepan with water to cook your green beans and potatoes. Turn the heat to medium-high and when the water boils, add the green beans. Cook for 5-6 minutes until bright green and just tender. Use tongs to remove from the water and put in a strainer. Rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. Put your potatoes in the boiling water and cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Test them by spearing with a fork. You want the fork to be able to easily pierce through the potato, but not so tender that the fork breaks the potato into mushy pieces. Drain potatoes when they are done, rinse with cold water, and then quarter them or slice into thick slices. 

If this seams onerous, remember that you can do large batches of eggs, green beans, and potatoes, and use them for other meals during the week. They are great ingredients to have pre-prepped in your refrigerator! 

While green beans and potatoes are cooking, slice your cherry tomatoes in half and peel and cut your hard-boiled eggs into slices. Next, make the nicoise salad dressing. Whisk together champagne vinegar, dijon mustard, and herbes de provence, then slowly whisk in olive oil until dressing emulsifies. Whisk in salt and freshly ground black pepper, taste, and add more seasoning if necessary. 

Now you’re ready for assembly. Arrange the green beans, potatoes, eggs, oil-packed tuna, tomatoes, olives, and anchovies in a different section on a large platter, and have diners help themselves. Or, place a small amount of each ingredient onto each plate. Drizzle with dijon vinaigrette. Alternatively, you can toss the vinaigrette with your ingredients separately before placing them on the plate.  

How to hard boil eggs

My favorite technique for hard-boiling eggs comes from Cook’s Illustrated. Just place your eggs in a saucepan covered by 1 inch of water and heat the water on high. When water comes to a full boil, remove the pan from the heat and cover the pot. Let the eggs sit in the pot for 10 minutes, while you fill a large bowl with ice water. After 10 minutes, remove the eggs with a slotted spoon and place gently into the ice water. Let sit for 5 minutes. Then you can either dry them off and refrigerate them, or peel if you’re ready to use. 

Ingredient notes

  • If you can’t find nicoise olives, feel free to substitute other black olives such as kalamata. 
  • For the tuna, I prefer the jarred tuna in oil like this one because it is very high-quality and tastes less “fishy” than the typical canned tuna. Since you are eating it without blending it with mayonnaise in a tuna salad, the quality of the fish really does come through.
  • Anchovies are, of course, optional. I love them, but they are definitely not for everyone. Just leave them off if you’re not a fan!
  • For the vinaigrette, feel free to replace the champagne or white wine vinegar with red wine vinegar or lemon juice. You just need a bit of acid to work with the mustard to create a beautiful salad dressing. 
  • For a fancy upgrade to your nicoise salad, you can even grill some fresh tuna steaks or salmon fillets. 

I hope you enjoy this nicoise salad recipe—it is truly one of my favorite dishes of all time. If you’re looking for other France-inspired dishes, please check out my recipes for Nutella Crêpes and Creamy Dijon Chicken and Mushroom Crêpes. Or, if you are looking for salads, don’t miss my Spinach Beet Salad with Goat Cheese.

Nicoise Salad

Nicoise Salad

Yield: 4 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 40 minutes

This classic nicoise salad features green beans, potatoes, hard-boiled eggs, tomatoes, tuna, and olives in a dijon vinaigrette.

Ingredients

  • 8 oz green beans
  • 1 lb small red potatoes or fingerling potatoes
  • 4 hard-boiled eggs
  • 2 jars or cans tuna fillets packed in olive oil (5-7 oz)
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • 8 anchovy fillets (optional)
  • 1/2 cup niçoise olives
  • 2 T champagne or white wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 t. dijon mustard
  • 1/2 t. herbes de provence
  • 5 T olive oil
  • 1/4 t. salt
  • 1/4 t. pepper

Instructions

  1. Bring a medium-large saucepan of water to boil.
  2. Rinse and trim the stems of the green beans, and rinse potatoes, scrubbing off any dirt. Slice cherry tomatoes in half. Peel and slice or quarter the hard-boiled eggs.
  3. Boil green beans for 5-6 minutes, until crisp-tender, then remove with a slotted spoon and rinse in a colander under cold water.
  4. Add the potatoes to the boiling water. Cook until just tender, about 15 minutes. Drain potatoes and rinse with cold water, let cool slightly, and then slice or quarter.
  5. While the vegetables are cooking, make the vinaigrette. Whisk together vinegar, dijon mustard, and herbes de provence, then slowly whisk in olive oil until dressing emulsifies. Whisk in salt and pepper, taste, and add more seasoning if necessary.
  6. Arrange green beans, sliced potatoes, sliced eggs, tuna, cherry tomatoes, anchovies, and olives in a different section on a large platter, and have diners help themselves. Or, place a small amount of each ingredient onto each plate.
  7. Drizzle with dijon vinaigrette and serve.

Notes

Nicoise salad components can be cooked and refrigerated separately for up to 3 days.

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 481 Total Fat: 29g Saturated Fat: 5g Trans Fat: 0g Unsaturated Fat: 22g Cholesterol: 208mg Sodium: 608mg Carbohydrates: 36g Fiber: 5g Sugar: 7g Protein: 20g
Nutrition information isn't always accurate but is our best attempt based on the ingredients listed.

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