What could be better than a fresh tuna Niçoise salad topped with all the usual fixings and a delightful fresh and zesty Niçoise vinaigrette? This classic French salad is 100% worth the prep time. 🙂
Also known as salade Niçoise, Niçoise salad is a classic French staple that originated in Nice, a city on the French Riviera (aka my dream trip.) It's traditionally composed of a variety of fresh ingredients including tomatoes, olives, green beans, potatoes, hard-boiled eggs, and tuna or anchovies. Personally, I love it with tuna--but feel free to use either or both!
And the Niçoise dressing? To die for. 😉 Sometimes I'll just make the dressing on it's own if I don't have time for the rest of the salad and pour it over some fresh greens or chopped veggies.
Feel free to customize with additional veggies or swap anything out based on your preferences! Some ideas for add-ons are bell peppers, capers, radishes, or artichoke hearts.
See recipe card below for exact quantities.
So with Niçoise salad, I like to start by making the dressing so that it can just sit a bit and let all of the fabulous flavors meld together and do their magic. The easiest way is to add all of the dressing ingredients into a covered Mason jar and shake to combine. Or you can whisk them altogether together in a bowl; either way works great.
And for the salad, it really a matter of just prepping each of the items below and multitasking here and there while you get everything ready.
How to boil the potatoes
First, wash the potatoes and cover them with water in a small pot. Season with a little salt and bring them to a boil over medium-high heat. I usually cook red potatoes for about 7-8 minutes until I can easily pierce them with a fork. Then, drain and cool them for a bit, and cut into bite-sized pieces once they've cooled.
Pro tip: Save the pot to boil the eggs in; one less thing to wash!
How to blanch the green beans
Ever wonder how great restaurants make the green beans look so perfectly vibrant green? It's the magic of blanching, and you'll definitely want to do that for the green beans in this salad.
First, fill a medium bowl halfway with ice water and set it aside. Then, fill a small saucepan less than halfway with water, add a little salt and bring to a boil.
Add the green beans and cook for 2-3 minutes just until they're starting to peak bright green. Immediately remove them from the heat (don't wait!), drain them and add them to the ice water to cool for a minute, then remove and dry them with a dish towel or paper towel.
Done! Perfect, blanched (and actually green) green beans.
How to soft boil the eggs
And last but not least, the soft boiled eggs--which some may also refer to as "jammy eggs". 🙂
Using your reserved pot (the same one you used to boil the potatoes), fill it about halfway with water and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat. Once it's boiling, turn the heat down to medium and carefully place the eggs in the pot one at a time using a slotted spoon to lower them slowly into the water. I normally cook soft boiled eggs for 7 minutes--but if you like them less "jammy" feel free to add another minute or two.
Next, remove the pot from the heat and carefully drain it while running cold water over the eggs to cool them off quickly. Once they're cool, peel and halve them lengthwise.
Putting everything together
And now the super fun part: assembling everything and making it look gorgeous! I like to use a simple or fancy serving platter depending on my mood; just make sure it's large enough to hold enough salad for four people. To make things look picture-perfect, place a few groups of the potatoes, green beans, eggs, tuna, tomatoes and olives in different sections on the greens and then drizzle everything well with the dressing and a little salt and pepper.
There are several substitutions you can make in this salad as outlined here.
- Champagne vinegar - ideally substitute white wine vinegar, or use white vinegar
- Olive oil - use avocado oil or another mild vegetable oil like canola oil
- Shallot - used finely chopped red onion instead
- Fresh thyme and basil - substitute half the amount of the dried herb for either or both
- Dijon mustard - use stone ground mustard or yellow mustard instead
- Honey - substitute agave syrup
- Red potatoes - use Yukon gold or yellow potatoes
- Green beans - feel free to substitute the thinner version called haricots verts if you can find them
- Tuna - substitute anchovies, grilled salmon, chicken or steak
- Eggs - feel free to leave out in the case of an allergy or preference
- Mixed greens - use chopped Romaine or your other favorite lettuce
- Campari tomatoes - use cherry tomatoes or other small, ripe tomatoes
- Kalamata olives - use black or green olives, or leave them out altogether
There are SO many variations of Niçoise salad! Here are some of my faves:
- Salmon Niçoise salad - instead of canned tuna or anchovies, use grilled salmon; just grill and slice it before adding it to the salad (you could also use smoked salmon)
- Chicken or steak Niçoise salad - grill and slice your preferred choice of protein and add it to the salad instead of tuna
- Fresh tuna Niçoise salad - freshly seared ahi tuna can't be beat over Niçoise salad; feel free to substitute it for the canned tuna (slice before adding to the salad)
- More veggies - add or swap out any of the vegetables for artichoke hearts, capers, red bell pepper, steamed asparagus, cucumbers, or radishes
- Cheese - add crumbled feta or shaved Parmesan for extra flavor and zing
- Quinoa - for a heartier salad or to turn this salad into a main course, try adding cooked quinoa
- Legumes - add cooked chickpeas, white beans, or lentils for added protein and texture
- Alternative dressings - experiment with other dressings such as a lemon vinaigrette, balsamic vinaigrette, or a creamy yogurt dressing
Remember that you can totally mix and match these variations based on your own unique preferences and the ingredients you have on hand. One of the keys to a great Niçoise salad is to start with fresh, high-quality ingredients.
I used the following equipment for this recipe:
- mixing bowls
- small pot
- chef's knife
- slotted spoon
This salad is best consumed immediately or within 24 hours if kept refrigerated. If you'd like to prepare the ingredients for meal prep, simply store the dressing separately and everything will stay fresh for up to four days in the fridge.
🎉 Top tip
The first time you make Niçoise salad it might seem like a lot of steps to get each of the individual ingredients ready, but the more you make it, you'll find your timing groove and the prep will become second nature. And trust me; it is so worth it. 😉
Classic French Niçoise Salad
For the dressing:
- ⅛ cup champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar
- ⅓ cup olive oil
- 1 small shallot finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh thyme finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh basil finely chopped, plus more to garnish
- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1 teaspoon honey
- sea salt to taste
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
For the salad:
- 1 pound red potatoes or fingerling potatoes, washed
- 6 ounces green beans or haricots verts, washed and trimmed
- 2 5-ounce cans tuna drained and flaked with a fork
- 4 eggs
- 5 ounces mixed greens
- 4 Campari tomatoes or 1 pint cherry tomatoes, quartered or halved
- ½ cup pitted Kalamata olives
- sea salt to taste
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Make the dressing: Place all of the dressing ingredients into a covered Mason jar and shake to combine, or whisk together in a bowl.
- Boil the potatoes: Wash the potatoes and cover with water in a small pot. Season with a little salt and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook for about 7-8 minutes until you can easily pierce them with a fork, then drain, cool the potatoes, and cut into bite-sized pieces once cool. Save the pot to boil the eggs in.
- Blanch the green beans: Fill a medium bowl halfway with ice water and set aside. Then, fill a small saucepan less than halfway with water, add a little salt and bring to a boil. Add the green beans and cook for 2-3 minutes just until bright green. Immediately remove from the heat, drain and add the beans to the ice water to cool for a minute, then remove and dry with a dish towel or paper towel.
- Soft boil the eggs: In your reserved pot, fill about halfway with water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Once boiling, turn the heat down to medium, carefully place the eggs in the pot one at a time using a slotted spoon and cook for 7 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and drain while running cold water over the eggs to cool. Once cool, peel and halve the eggs lengthwise.
- Prepare the salad: Arrange the salad greens on a large serving platter. Place the potatoes, green beans, eggs, tuna, tomatoes and olives in different sections on the greens and drizzle everything well with the dressing. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve immediately. Enjoy!