The tuna nicoise salad is a classic dish that at its core is all about simplicity. Loaded with all kinds of veggies then dressed with a simple vinaigrette, it is truly the best entree salad you can make.
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Why This Nicoise Salad Recipe Works
This entree salad is a classic for a reason—it’s got tons of textures and flavors without loads of work. The only thing you really need is a pot of boiling water and a platter to pile everything onto. The beautiful thing about the nicoise salad is that it’s versatile and very forgiving—play around with the veggies you add, toss in a few extra herbs, and swap out the tuna for whatever fish or protein sounds good.
What is Salad Nicoise?
Literally meaning “as prepared in Nice,” the niçoise salad exemplifies the type of cuisine found in and around the city of Nice. That type of cuisine is one that values both hot and cold dishes and relies heavily on tomatoes, black olives and anchovies.
French green beans, onions, tuna, hard-cooked eggs, and herbs are the basic components of the niçoise salad. Our version includes most of those things, but also adds a few additional components to round out the meal.
Baby gold potatoes are best for this delicious salad. They’re quick-cooking and have a silky-smooth texture once cooked.
Traditionally, haricot verts are used in nicoise salad. And if you can find them, use ‘em! They’re delicious. You can also use regular green beans—either variety works fine.
For the perfect 6-minute egg, use large eggs. If you’re using medium egg cook them a bit less and if you’re using extra-large give them a few more seconds in the boiling water.
Oil-packed tuna is leaps and bounds better than tuna canned in water. Look for tuna packed in olive oil—we find it tasted better and quite frankly it’s healthier than tuna packed in canola oil. Look for oil-packed tuna in glass jars next to the regular-packed tuna and tinned fish.
You can use whatever olives you like best, but we prefer a combo of castelvetrano and kalamata. Opt for pitted and give them a light smash before tossing them onto the salad. Smashing them forms crevices for holding onto the vinaigrette and makes them easier to grab with a fork. We use smashed olives in our Marinated Olives appetizer.
Cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes are great in this salad. Regular tomatoes cut into chunks just don’t work as well.
Small persian cucumbers have a great texture and flavor. Plus their size is ideal for a salad. You can use an English cucumber instead if that’s easier to find.
We love to use little gem lettuce here, but feel free to use any kind of green. Spring greens, arugul, romaine, red leaf, green leaf, are all great options.
You can use whatever fresh herb(s) you like best. Feel free to use parsley, basil, or chives. We prefer dill because it pairs so well with olives, olive oil and lemon.
Nicoise Salad Dressing
We use our Dill Vinaigrette for this salad because it’s outrageous. So fresh and bright, it’s perfect for drizzling over a load of veggies.
- Try our Salmon Nicoise Salad that features easy salmon cakes instead of tuna.
- Swap out the cucumber for fresh spring radish or even thinly sliced fennel bulb.
- Instead of our Dill Vinaigrette, try our Dill Ranch, Green Goddess, Lemon Vinaigrette or Classic Vinaigrette.
- Add some thinly sliced red onion.
- Use seared tuna instead of canned tuna.
Simple Tuna Nicoise Salad
- 1 pound baby gold potatoes
- 12 ounces green beans
- 4 large eggs
- 4 cups mixed lettuce greens
- 12 ounces oil-packed tuna, drained and flaked into chunks
- 4 small persian cucumbers or ½ english cucumber roll-cut
- 1 cup cherry toms, halved (5 ounces)
- 1 cup pitted olives, castelvetrano or kalamata, crushed
- Fresh dill, for serving
- Add potatoes to a large sauté pan and cover with 2 inches of cold water. Place pan over high heat and bring to a boil; season with 1 teaspoon salt, reduce heat to medium and simmer until potatoes are fork-tender, about 20 minutes. Using a spider to slotted spoon, transfer potatoes to a plate to cool.
- Refill saute pan with water and bring back to a boil. Reduce heat to low, and using a spider or slotted spoon, gently lower eggs into water. Bring water back up to a boil and cook eggs 6 minutes.
- Meanwhile, prepare an ice water bath. Using a spider or slotted spoon transfer eggs to ice water bath.
- Add green beans to simmering water and cook until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Using a spider or slotted spoon, transfer green beans to ice water bath with eggs and cool completely.
- Meanwhile, for the vinaigrette, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, shallot, dill, Dijon, honey and salt; season with pepper to taste.
- Cut cooled potatoes in half. Drain green beans and eggs. Peel eggs then cut in half.
- Arrange lettuce greens on a large platter then arrange potatoes, green beans, eggs, tuna, cucumbers, tomatoes, and olives over top.
- Drizzle vinaigrette over salad and sprinkle with fresh dill over top. Season potatoes with salt and pepper.