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Salade Nicoise

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With its blend of healthy Mediterranean ingredients, Salade Nicoise checks all the ‘salad boxes’. We show you how to make a great version at home and reveal how the authentic version is different from the classic version that we all know and love.

Birds eye shot of Nicoise Salad

Well into our Niçoise Salad research, we discovered that our favorite version of the French Riviera salad was not the original version. Apparently, the familiar preparation with green beans and boiled potatoes, is inauthentic.

We found this revelation to be kind of shocking considering that Salade Niçoise has achieved fame all over the world for having two key ingredients that, as it turns out, weren’t originally served in Nice. Those ingredients are potatoes and green beans.

Also, while it may be common to find tuna and anchovies in an authentic Salade Niçoise, it’s considered incorrect to serve the two on the same plate.

Mixed up Nicoise Salad
The original Salade Nicoise omitted green beans and potatoes. We add them anyway.

How could a salad achieve such fame and permanence and yet be essentially incorrect?

We’ve eaten a number of niçoise salads in destinations around the world. They all tasted great and were relatively healthy. Call us heretics but we like the additional flavors and textures of both the potatoes and green beans.

To us, this is what Salade Niçoise is all about. And that’s how we make the not-so-classic French salad at home.

→ Discover more of the world’s best salads.

What Is Salade Nicoise?

Salade Nicoise 45 degree view
We also add red onions to our Nicoise salad. The end result is hearty enough to be a main course for lunch or dinner.

While the original Salade Nicoise was a simple salad, our favorite version is the one that gained fame in the late 19th century. That version, with its beautiful combination of greens (usually romaine), hard boiled egg, jarred tuna, boiled potatoes, haricots verts (string beans), anchovies and tomatoes, pleases the eye as well as the palette.

It’s also a healthy dish with ingredients ideal for a healthy Mediterranean diet. Tuna, anchovy and eggs provide a serious protein hit while bite-sized boiled potatoes bring enough carbs to the table to create a more than satisfying lunch or dinner.

Adding quality green beans, tomatoes and sometimes cucumbers will make you feel like you’re dining in a gorgeous seaside garden in the French Riviera. Piled high on a plate, this salad will wow your guests before it quickly disappears.

History of the Salade Nicoise

Nice France Stock Photo
While in Nice you can enjoy the city’s famous salad. You can also enjoy a day at the beach.

European history is littered with over-confident chefs who stick to a certain culinary orthodoxy which they believe should never change. Local people cooked dishes, sticking to those traditions, passed down from generation to generation for thousands of years. Dating back to the late 19th century, the Salade Niçoise is not one of these dishes. By European standards, the Salade Niçoise history really isn’t that old.

In many accounts, Jacques Medecin, a cookbook author as well as a former disgraced mayor of Nice, set strict rules that, with the exception of hard boiled eggs, allowed for no cooked ingredients. Medecin’s version included anchovies and a simple olive oil preparation in addition to fresh vegetables and olives.

Potatoes and Haricots Verts in Salade Nicoise
It’s difficult for us to imagine a Salade Nicoise without green beans and potatoes. We include both in our recipe.

Legendary French chef Auguste Escoffier strayed from Medecin’s rules by adding cooked haricots and potatoes to his Salade Niçoise recipe. It was a good call that transformed the salad into an elegant, satisfying dish and one that many have emulated. Can you blame them to choose Escoffier over a disgraced mayor?!

All kidding aside, many dishes are more of a product of where they gained their fame rather than their place of origin – think about dishes like beouf bourguignon and hamburgers. Food evolves and, to us, the dish that everyone knows as Nicoise Salad – the dish with the green beans and boiled potatoes – is the dish we love and the dish we’ll show you how to make.

Salade Nicoise Ingredients

Nicoise Salad Mis en Place
The ingredients in our Salade Nicoise recipe are all familiar salad staples. Pictured here are tuna, tomatoes, olive oil, boiled potatoes, lettuce, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, olives, red onion, green beans, eggs, shallot and anchovies. Not pictured are the the herbs and lemon juice.

These are all of the required ingredients in our recipe:

  • Romaine Lettuce
  • 2 Hard Boiled Eggs
  • Tuna
  • Haricot Vert (Green Beans)
  • Anchovies
  • Olives
  • Red Onion
  • Tomatoes
  • Boiled Potatoes
  • Olive Oil
  • Red Wine Vinegar
  • Dijon Mustard
  • Lemon Juice
  • Shallot
  • Tarragon
  • Thyme
  • Salt to taste
  • Freshly Ground Pepper to taste
  • Flat Leaf Parsley (garnish)

Depending on your preference and what you have on hand, you can also add the following items:

  • Capers
  • Cucumbers
  • Peppers
Nicoise Salad on Yellow Background
Each ingredient plays an important role in our Nicoise Salade recipe.

You can prepare all of the cooked ingredients (i.e. hard boiled eggs, boiled potatoes and green beans) ahead of time or just before serving the dish. The New York Times’ Melissa Clark likes to cook her ingredients ahead saying that the warm ingredients will absorb all the good flavors more deeply. This may be true and you may want to follow her method.

However, we’ve found that pre-cooking these components for final assembly makes for less chaos and stress. The beauty of this salad, as opposed to a dish like the Cobb Salad, is that you only have to follow strict timing and instructions to cook the components excellently. After that, almost anything goes.

Hard Boiled Eggs

Hard Boiled Eggs for Nicoise Salad
Eggs add both protein and color to Salade Nicoise.

We like to cook our eggs by fully covering them in cold water in a large (3-4 quart) saucepan, bringing them to a boil. Once the water is boiling, we immediately move them off the heat and cover the pot, letting the eggs sit covered for 10 minutes before immediately removing them to an ice bath to cool.

Hard boiled eggs typically stay fresh when stored in the refrigerator for up to a week. We recommend large eggs for this recipe, but you can use any size you like.

Pro Tip
If you live in a European country like Italy, France, Spain or our home base of Portugal which doesn’t refrigerate its eggs, you’ll want to chill your eggs before boiling them. When we figure out how long to cook unrefrigerated eggs, we’ll let you know.

Haricot Vert (Green Beans)

Galega Olives for Salad Nicoise
A handful of haricot vert goes a long way in Salad Nicoise.

Haricot vert add a burst of color and provide crunch. We like to trim the brown or woody ends of the green beans before we blanch them for 3 minutes in boiling, well-salted water.

Pro Tip
You can blanch the green beans in advance and refrigerate them for 3 to 4 days unless you prefer to prepare them as you’re preparing the salad.

Boiled Potatoes

Slicing Red Potatoes
We like to cut each little potatoes into 3 to 4 bite-sized pieces.

Not all potatoes are the same. We recommend using small waxy boiling potatoes like red bliss (red skin) or all purpose potatoes like Yukon gold.

Cook your potatoes by covering them with cold well-salted water in a large pot and bring them to a boil. The potatoes should be done after about 25-30 minutes when they can be easily pierced with a paring knife.

Tuna

Bonito del Norte Tuna in Glass Jar
We bought this jar of Bonita del Norte tuna at a Spanish supermarket in Portugal.

We recommend using the expensive tuna – the kind that’s packed in glass jars with labels like ‘Filetti di Tonno’ from Italy or ‘Bonito del Norte’ tuna from Spain. This kind of tuna is expensive, even here in Portugal. A name brand glass jar of tuna here costs €10 while the generic brand we bought cost us €5 compared to the euro we usually spend for a can of tuna. Ouch!

The extra cost is justified since there’s something special about the large, pure chunks of tuna that become part of this salad. Sure, you can also use everyday cans of ‘tuna in olive oil’ instead. That being said, the glass-jarred tuna is more special.

Click here to buy a jar of Bonito del Norte tuna if you want to splurge on this key Salade Nicoise ingredient.

Anchovies

Anchovy Fillets in Glass Bowl
Some people hate anchovies. We love them.

We like to mince anchovies fillets and mix them into our dressing.

If you can find high-quality Spanish anchovies like we can buy in Portugal, we highly recommend buying them. Otherwise, regular anchovies canned in olive oil will suffice

Pro Tip
You can add whole anchovies to your Salade Niçoise if that’s your thing. We may try them that way ourselves.

Olives

Nicoise Olives
We had to pit these olives. It was worth the effort.

We typically use small olives like Niçoise (France), Arbequiña (Spain) and Galega (Portugal) olives to make Salade Nicoise. We recommend using any of those olive types when you make it as well.

In an ideal world, we prefer pitted olives. If you can buy them pitted, go for it. Otherwise, you can pit olives yourself by smashing them with a meat pounder of the flat side of a large knife.

Click here to buy a chef’s knife if you need one or want to upgrade.

Lettuce (Salad Greens)

Head of Romaine Lettuce for Nicoise Salad
Lettuce is the heart of the Salade Nicoise – pun intended.

You may be wondering what’s the best lettuce for Salade Nicoise

We recommend romaine lettuce but you can use Boston bibb (butterhead) or any other greens that suit your fancy. Some people like to serve their Salade Niçoise over whole leaves of romaine but that’s up to you.

Pro Tip
Wash your greens and dry them by either letting them sit for a while in a colander or by using a salad spinner.

Tomatoes

Bowl of Cherry Tomatoes for Nicoise salad
Tomatoes were included in the original Salade Nicoise recipe and we include them too.

We like to use cherry tomatoes though you could use grape tomatoes or a whole tomato instead. We chop them in half for this recipe.

Red Onions (Optional)

Raw Unpeeled Red Onion
A little bit of red onion goes a long way.

We add chopped red onion to our Salade Nicoise. It’s an optional ingredient that you can add or omit based on your affinity to onions.

Red onion imparts a decidedly acidic punch. Plus, its purple color looks great on the plate.

Salade Nicoise Dressing

Drizzling olive oil into Red Wine Vinegar for Vinaigrette
We make our vinaigrette by slowly emulsifying vinegar and olive oil.

Some people prefer a simple olive oil dressing for their Niçoise salad. We prefer the full flavor that vinaigrette brings to this salad.

We’ve created a balanced dressing with olive oil, red wine vinegar, Dijon mustard, diced shallot, fresh herbs (thyme and tarragon) and a little lemon juice. We pour the vinegar into a large bowl first and then slowly drizzle in extra virgin olive oil to make an emulsion. We then whisk in the mustard, minced anchovy, shallot and fresh lemon juice. The whole process takes 10 minutes or less.

Pro Tip
Dress the lettuce greens with about half of the dressing and spoon the rest over the composed salad.

Fresh Herbs

Fresh Thyme and Tarragon
Tarragon and thyme are our favorite herbs when it comes to Salade Nicoise.

Aside from the tarragon and thyme in the dressing, we like to garnish our salad with fresh parsley. These are the only herbs we use in our Salade Nicoise recipe.

How to Make Salade Nicoise at Home

Tomatoes in Nicoise Salad
Plating Salade Nicoise is the most fun part of this recipe.

Once you’ve assembled the ingredients, preparing this salad is super easy. You’ll want to use your best large platter or a charger plate. You could even use a large wooden dish to create a generous, abundant presentation.

Bed of Lettuce for Nicoise Salad
In this recipe, we lay down a bed of lettuce first before adding the other ingredients.

Start by dressing your lettuce separately in a large bowl, using half of the vinaigrette. Then lay the dressed lettuce in a bed on the large platter or charger plate.

Assembling Cobb Salad on White Plate
We assemble our Salade Niçoise one ingredient at a time.

Lay down all of the ingredients on the plate in strips in a sunburst pattern. Once you’ve laid down the ingredients, generously spoon the remaining dressing on the top of the plated salad.

You can then garnish your salad with Italian flat leaf parsley. Yes. It’s that easy.

Salade Nicoise Recipe

Dressing a Nicoise Salad
Once you’ve positioned all of the ingredients on the plate, they’re easy to dress.
Top View of Salade Nicoise

Salade Nicoise

Yield: 4 Servings
Prep Time: 1 hour
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Salade Nicoise is a true Mediterranean classic. Make one at home this weekend.

Ingredients

Salad

  • 1/2 large head of romaine lettuce, cut or torn into bite sized pieces.
  • 3/4 pound small boiling potatoes (red bliss or Yukon gold) cut into 1/2 inch discs
  • 1/2 medium red onion, sliced thin
  • 2.5 ounces of Nicoise olives pitted (approximately 20 olives)
  • 1/2 pound haricot vert or green beans
  • 2 hard boiled eggs, sliced 1/4 inches thick
  • 1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes halved
  • 1/4 cup of parsley, chopped coarse (optional garnish)
  • 8 ounce jar of white tuna in olive oil

Dressing

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup shallot, diced fine (brunoise)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

Salad Preparation

  1. Place potatoes in a pot of well-salted cold water, covering them with 2 inches of water, and place over high heat.
  2. Bring water to a boil and cook potatoes until you can easily pierce them with a paring knife (about 25-30 minutes).
  3. Bring another 3 to 4 quart pot of well-salted water to a boil. Once boiling, place green beans into the pot.
  4. Cook green beans for 3 minutes and then strain in a colander.
  5. Wash the lettuce and drain or dry with a salad spinner.
  6. Place ingredients in prep bowls prior to assembly

Dressing Preparation

  1. Pour vinegar into a large mixing bowl.
  2. Slowly drizzle olive oil into the bowl while whisking to make an emulsion.
  3. Add Dijon mustard, Shallot, Thyme, Tarragon and Lemon Juice and whisk thoroughly.

Assembly

  1. Pour half of the dressing into a large mixing bowl
  2. Add the lettuce to the bowl and toss to thoroughly dress the greens.
  3. Place the dressed lettuce in a bed on a large serving plate.
  4. Assemble the ingredients in a sunburst pattern from the center of the plate.
  5. Spoon the remaining dressing on top of the composed salad.
  6. Optionally garnish with parsley.
  7. Enjoy

Notes

  • You can cook the hard boiled eggs up to one week ahead.
  • You can cook the green beans and potatoes up to 3 days ahead. However, you may prefer to serve them warm.
  • Generously salt the water for cooking the potatoes and green beans. It should taste like sea water.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 4 Serving Size: 4
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 362Total Fat: 23gSaturated Fat: 4gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 18gCholesterol: 128mgSodium: 214mgCarbohydrates: 17gFiber: 6gSugar: 8gProtein: 24g

Nutrition Disclosure: We used an online calculator to calculate this information. Though 2foodtrippers.com has attempted to secure accurate data, these nutritional figures are estimates.

Hungry for More Salad?

Check out our Caesar Salad and Cobb Salad recipes.

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About the Authors

Daryl & Mindi Hirsch

Saveur Magazine’s BEST TRAVEL BLOG award winners Daryl and Mindi Hirsch share their culinary travel experiences and recipes on the 2foodtrippers website and YouTube. The married Food and Travel content creators live in Lisbon, Portugal.

Disclosure

We update our articles regularly. Some updates are major while others are minor link changes and spelling corrections. Let us know if you see anything that needs to be updated in this article.

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