25-Minute Classic Nicoise Salad with Dressing
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Indulge in the ultimate taste of the Mediterranean with this Nicoise salad recipe. Crisp green beans and chunks of tuna are combined with tender cooked potatoes, boiled eggs and a rainbow of other vibrant herbs and vegetables, all bathed in a bright-tasting tangy vinaigrette dressing. Most of the components for the salad can be prepped a few days ahead. Assemble the salad in minutes and serve for lunch, brunch or dinner.
This colorful assemblage of vegetables, tuna and boiled eggs on a bed of lettuce is one of my favorite salad recipes that are perfect to eat for dinner.
If you’re not starting from scratch, it’s so easy to make with odds and ends from your pantry. Ingredients such as leftover cooked potatoes, vegetables, handfuls of salad greens and canned tuna can all be used in this hearty salad.
- Salad Nicoise, or “Salade a la Nicoise” is named for the city of Nice, located in southern France on the French Riviera.
- Abundant fresh produce such as tomatoes, artichokes, peppers and olives thrive in the beautiful Mediterranean climate of Nice, which are all typical ingredients in a traditional Nicoise salad.
Ingredients for Nicoise salad
- Lettuce: Butter lettuce — also named Bibb or Boston lettuce — is my pick for this salad. The leaves of this type of lettuce are delicate and nutty-tasting, and have a pale green color. The frilly edges of the leaves also look beautiful on the plate.
- Green beans: Classic green beans (haricot vert in French) are a type of elongated bush bean. I think they’re best in a salad when quickly cooked in boiling water (blanched) until they’re crisp-tender and turn bright green.
- Tuna: I absolutely recommend that you splurge and use an excellent jarred tuna, packed in olive oil. The difference between canned tuna and tuna preserved in glass jars is that the latter retains a firm, flaky texture. Its meaty texture flakes into satisfying, large pieces. If you opt to use canned tuna or tuna packaged in pouches, look for yellowfin tuna packed in olive oil. This type of tuna will give you the best flavor and quality.
- Potatoes: Along with tuna, cooked potatoes make this an all-around hearty salad. The best potatoes to use in a salad are low-starch types. Try to find baby yellow or small red potatoes that are about 1-inch in diameter. You can also use larger Yukon potatoes, sliced into 1-inch bite-size chunks.
- Tomatoes: Cherry tomatoes and grape tomatoes are available in grocery stores year-round, which makes them convenient to use. Slice larger garden-style tomatoes into wedges so they’re easy to eat in one bite.
- Eggs: Hard-boiled eggs can be cooked to your preferred doneness. See the recipe notes below for timing.
- White beans: While not a typical ingredient in Nicoise, creamy-textured white beans add a textural component as well as a little extra protein. Substitute with chickpeas if you prefer.
- Olives: Traditionally, olives in Nicoise salad are Cailletier, a type of cured black olive. You can use your favorite olive (or leave them out if you aren’t an olive fan) in this salad. I love green Castelvetrano or oil-cured kalamata olives, which have a buttery flavor and meaty texture.
- Vinaigrette: A simple tangy vinaigrette brings all the elements of this salad together. Whisk it up with red wine vinegar, shallots, Dijon mustard and olive oil or just shake everything together in a jar. To save time, make the dressing up to 3 days ahead.
Make the vinaigrette dressing
How to assemble a Nicoise salad, step by step
The beauty of this classic composed salad is that all the elements can be prepped ahead of time or in steps. When you’re ready to eat, it’s time to build the salad!
- Tip: Lightly dressing each salad component as it’s layered onto the platter is key to perfectly seasoning every bite, and to avoid a soggy salad drenched in vinaigrette.
- Salad Nicoise isn’t just for summer. Serve it for a festive lunch, brunch or light supper, any time of year.
- The ingredients in a Nicoise salad are totally flexible. Swap out the components and make your own creation!
- Red bell peppers: Try sliced raw or jarred roasted red peppers.
- Artichoke hearts
- Anchovies: Anchovy fillets packed in oil are an authentic ingredient in Nicoise salad. You can add chopped anchovies to the dressing, or arrange whole ones over the salad.
- Seafood: Instead of using canned tuna, make the salad into a seafood dinner, topped with grilled salmon or tuna fillets.
25-Minute Classic Nicoise Salad with Dressing
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
- 1 small garlic clove, grated or finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ½ pound baby yellow or red new potatoes
- ½ pound green beans, trimmed
- 3 cups butterhead lettuce leaves (about 1 head)
- ½ cup cannellini beans
- 1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced in half
- 1 6.7-ounce jar oil-packed tuna, drained
- 2 hardboiled eggs, *see note for cooking times; peeled and sliced into halves or quarters
- ¼ cup green or black olives, drained and pitted
- ½ cup mixed fresh herbs, such as tarragon, chives, basil and/or parsley
Make the vinaigrette dressing
- Put the shallot, garlic, wine vinegar, ½ teaspoon salt in a bowl or jar. Let the mixture sit 5 minutes — this step dissolves the salt and helps soften the shallots, which infuses flavor into the vinegar.
- Add the Dijon and black pepper to taste. Stir until emulsified, or fasten a lid onto the jar and shake to blend. Slowly stream in the olive oil while whisking, until the dressing looks thick and creamy, or shake the jar again until blended. *The dressing can be prepared and stored refrigerated up to 3 days.
Cook the green beans and potatoes
- Bring a large sauce pan of water to a boil and salt generously (about 1 tablespoon salt per quart of water) — this will season the potatoes while they cook so they taste delicious! Add the potatoes to the pan and cook until they can easily be pierced with the tip of a knife, about 12 minutes. Scoop the beans out with a slotted spoon. Set aside until cool, then slice in half.
- Add the green beans and cook 3 minutes, until they're bright green. Drain in a colander and immediately run them under cold water. Shake to drain any excess water.
Assemble the salad
- Arrange the lettuce on a large serving platter. Drizzle about a teaspoon of dressing over the leaves.
- Add the potatoes in a cluster on the edge of the platter on top of the lettuce and drizzle lightly with dressing.
- Pile the green beans down the center of the platte. Drizzle lightly with dressing.
- Add clusters of the cannellini beans and tomatoes around the platter, drizzling each with dressing.
- Crumble the tuna over the green beans. Tuck the boiled eggs here and there around the platter. Tear the olives in half if they're large and sprinkle randomly over the platter. Scatter the herbs over the platter.
- Serve the salad with additional dressing on the side.
Karen’s Notes and Tips
- To make boiled eggs: Bring a saucepan of water to a boil. Lower the eggs into the pan with a slotted spoon. Cook 7 minutes for a soft-boiled egg with a creamy yolk, 8 minutes for a medium yolk, or 9 minutes for hard boiled. Cool the eggs under cold running water. The eggs can be cooked up 1-3 days ahead.
- The best salad potatoes are low-starch types. Try to find very small yellow or red potatoes (about 1-inch in diameter). You can also use larger Yukon potatoes, sliced into 1-inch chunks.
- The potatoes and green beans can be cooked up 1-3 days ahead. Store them refrigerated in airtight containers.
- Tip: Lightly dressing each salad component as it’s layered onto the platter is the key — you want to avoid drenching it in the vinaigrette.
- Seafood: Instead of using canned tuna, make the salad into a seafood dinner with grilled salmon or fresh tuna fillets.
Hey, I’m Karen
Creator of Familystyle Food
I’m a food obsessed super-taster and professionally trained cook ALL about creating elevated dinners with everyday ingredients. Find simplified recipes made from scratch and enjoy incredibly tasty food! Read more about me here.