Salad Nicoise is a classic Mediterranean salad that I make in September. It is composed of the best vegetables from a late summer harvest. That includes plump, juicy tomatoes, freshly dug potatoes and the freshest beans all from a nearby garden or farmers market.
Salade Niçoise in French, correctly pronounced [niˈswaz], comes from Nice in Provence, France. This salad can be beautifully composed and makes it worthy of a summer dinner party. The dressing is a Julia Child recipe that showcases how delicious a homemade vinaigrette can be when made with the highest quality ingredients available.
Classic Salad Nicoise by Ingredient
Even a ‘classic’ recipe has variations from the region it originates. I think it’s helpful to know the original version or most popular variation since there was some magic to the combination that made it a classic. With this understanding you, the cook, can then create the version that suits your own taste.
In this blog post I wanted to share a Salad Nicoise that was as close to the classic recipe as I could make. I’ve added comments on each individual ingredient with possible variations.
BEANS – A haricot vert is said to be the finest French green bean. I know that but I want fresh local produce so I use the freshest beans I can find. Yellow and green beans together add more colour to this salad. In France some cooks prefer to use broad beans.
POTATOES – The fresher the better. Skin on or off, cut the potatoes any way you like.
LETTUCE – I serve my salad nicoise on a bed of soft lettuce but this is optional. Use whole leaves to make a gourmet presentation or cut lettuce and toss it with a bit of dressing if you prefer your greens already dressed.
TOMATOES – Use the juiciest fresh tomatoes you can find, any colour or variety will be perfect.
TUNA –Canned tuna is part of the classic French recipe. Substitute grilled tuna steaks, salmon or any fish you like. My favourite grilled version includes grilled shrimp and scallops.
ANCHOVIES – I like anchovies in my Caesar salad dressing but I don’t add them to my nicoise. The classic recipe would include little anchovies rolled up and artfully arranged on the plate.
The Salad Dressing
VINAIGRETTE – This simple vinaigrette shines with the best quality extra virgin olive oil you have. I keep a separate bottle of the good stuff specifically for homemade salad dressing.
SHALLOTS – Substitute an ordinary yellow cooking onion or white onion if you cannot find shallots. The taste of shallots is more subtle than cooking onions so they are ideal in salad dressing.
EGGS – Whether you slice or quarter the eggs they are always included in a salad nicoise.
CAPERS – Sold in jars salty capers add a nice bite to tuna and salmon sandwiches. Here they are sprinkled over the salad to add contrast.
OLIVES – The obvious choice are the smooth black Niçoise olives. Kalamata olives happen to be my favourite, are easy to find and I always have them in my fridge.
Leftover Salad Nicoise
Make a quasi salad nicoise with the remaining ingredients in the days after you made the real salad. Mix the canned tuna with mayonnaise, lemon juice and capers for a lunchbox version of salad nicoise.
So there you have it. A long list of ingredients with some flexibility so you can create a version you will enjoy. Take advantage of all the fresh produce at the end of summer, make Salad Nicoise and dream of visiting the south of France.
In the comments below let me know how your salad turned out.
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More Salad Recipes
Mediterranean Salad Nicoise
- 1 lb green beans
- 1 lb new potatoes
DRESSING FOR POTATOES
- ¼ cup white wine
- 2 Tbsp cold water
- 1 Tbsp minced shallots
- 2-3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp freshly ground pepper
- grated zest of ½ lemon
- ½ tsp salt
- ¼ tsp freshly ground pepper
- ½ Tbsp Dijon mustard
- ½ Tbsp finely minced shallots, green onions or chives
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
REMAINING SALAD INGREDIENTS
- 1 head living lettuce or other soft lettuce, washed and dried
- 6 hard-boiled eggs, quartered
- 3-4 ripe red tomatoes or 2 cups cherry tomatoes
- 8 oz chunk white tuna, drained and flaked (2 small cans)
- 2 Tbsp capers, drained
- 12 Nicoise or Kalamata olives
- 1 tin anchovy fillets packed in oil (2 oz)
- oil, lemon, salt and pepper
- chopped fresh parsley
- lemon slices
- Cook beans in boiling salted water 4-6 minutes depending on freshness. Drain and immediately put into ice cold water to stop the cooking process. When cool lay on a towel and pat dry. Set aside or refrigerate until ready to assemble salad.
- Place potatoes in a steamer basket in a pot with 2 inches of water. Put the lid on and bring to a boil. Steam potatoes for 20 minutes or until cooked through. Drain.
- While potatoes are cooking combine white wine, water, shallots, oil, salt and pepper in a medium bowl. When potatoes are cool enough to handle cut into halves, quarters or slices. Place in bowl with dressing and gently spoon over potatoes being careful not to break them. Allow to cool in the dressing.
- In a jar combine lemon zest, salt, pepper, mustard, shallots, lemon juice and oil. Put the lid on and shake vigorously. Set aside until ready to serve.
- Toss green beans with a spoonful of dressing.
- Sprinkle tomatoes with salt and drizzle with dressing.
- Arrange lettuce leaves on a plate or platter.
- Arrange green beans, tomatoes, potatoes, eggs and tuna on top.
- Sprinkle tuna with lemon juice and pepper.
- Sprinkle salad with capers and olives. Add anchovies if using.
- Drizzle dressing over salad and sprinkle with chopped parsley. Serve.