Salmon Nicoise Salad is full of fresh and healthy ingredients including juicy cherry tomatoes, crisp-tender green beans, cucumber, hard-boiled eggs, Niçoise olives, and of course tuna, or in this case, salmon. Everything is dressed with a simple vinaigrette dressing.
While you don’t have to “compose” a Nicoise salad, it is the traditional way to serve it, and makes for a lovely presentation. (This post was originally published on June 14th, 2012. As an Amazon Affiliate, I earn commission on qualifying purchases.)
What does “Niçoise” mean?
The Niçoise salad originated in the French city of Nice, and has been a popular salad worldwide since the early 20th century. What does the term Niçoise in cuisine means that the dish will be composed of certain elements.
Just as a “Florentine” dish contains spinach, and an “al la Normande” dish will always have apples, a dish labeled Niçoise contains items traditional found in that region, such as fish like anchovies, tomatoes, and briny olives.
Many of the ingredients found in a classic Nicoise salad recipe traditionally would have been available around that region.
How do you pronounce Niçoise
The French pronunciation is [sa’lad ni’swaz] or “sall-odd knee-swaz”.
Tuna or Salmon Nicoise Salad?
The city of Nice was originally a fishing port, after all, but using fresh tuna is generally pretty pricey. I’m not a huge fan of canned tuna, so I substitute canned wild Alaskan salmon instead to create a salmon Nicoise salad. You could also use fresh leftover grilled or poached tuna, or salmon fillets as well.
Whichever you choose, try to buy the best tuna or salmon you can afford. I generally look for wild-caught, and I don’t shy away from canned fish packed in olive oil, because that means more flavor!
What Ingredients Are in a Niçoise Salad?
What ingredients are in a classic Niçoise Salad?
As I was carefully preparing the salad, I noticed that a lot of the ingredients might already be in your fridge. I’m sure the original salad was created by a clever French housewife using up leftovers; “Hey, what can we do with last night’s leftover green beans? I know, I’ll throw them in tonight’s salad!”
- Poached, grilled or canned wild salmon, or use the traditional tuna for the main protein.
- Blanched and chilled green beans or haricots verts (these are usually available pre-trimmed and packaged in the produce section of your grocery store).
- Cooked baby potatoes; usually they are boiled, but you could substitute roasted or grilled potatoes as an alternative. I like small red bliss potatoes but baby Yukon gold or fingerling potatoes would be delicious too.
- Niçoise olives are traditional, but feel free to substitute Greek or Kalamata olives.
- Haricots verts, (fresh green beans)
- Peppers would have been growing in the garden behind the French farmhouse. I like the smaller sweeter peppers
- Most likely a few chickens would have been part of the family, providing fresh eggs on a daily basis for the hard boiled eggs.
- Capers, and tomatoes round out the ingredient list, and of course, give it the Mediterranean flavors from the South of France
What Dressing Goes on a Salmon Nicoise Salad?
The homemade vinaigrette is a classic and simple dressing for Nicoise salad. Once you taste a homemade vinaigrette, you’ll never settle for bottled dressing again. Anchovies would also be an ingredient found in a Nicoise salad recipe, but I’ve opted to put them in my dressing only, as they seem to be an acquired taste for some.
- Dijon mustard
- fresh lemon juice
- red wine vinegar
- Extra virgin olive oil
- fresh thyme
- anchovy paste
- kosher salt
- black pepper
Anchovies are an important ingredient, so even if you think you you won’t like them, you’ll never notice them in the dressing. They do give a lovely “umami” flavor to the dressing. I keep a tube of anchovy paste in my fridge just for Caesar Salads or a vinaigrette like this one. It’s much easier than opening a can. Store remaining dressing in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Although I give you the “classic” recipe for an easy Nicoise Salad, I hope that you might make changes to it as you adapt it to your family’s tastes.
Substitute asparagus instead of the green beans, add artichoke hearts, Marinated Mushrooms, or add those anchovies!
Finally, if you aren’t quite sure how to make the hard boiled eggs, find out how to make the perfect hard-boiled egg for the Niçoise salad.
How to make a Niçoise Salad.
Start with a bed of lettuce. I like bibb or butter lettuce, but use your favorite salad greens. For the classic composed look, place the ingredients in thirds around the platter. Start with the most important ingredient; the salmon.
Continue layering in the vegetables and sliced potatoes, alternating colors and textures. Finish with a generous sprinkle of capers and olives.
Serve the dressing on the side, allowing guests to add as much or as little dressing as they choose. Or drizzle the dressing over the salad just before serving.
Serve the dressing on the side, allowing guests to add as much or as little dressing as they choose.
Tips for a Nicoise Salad.
While there are a lot of components in a Nicoise salad, once everything is prepared, it takes just minutes to assemble.
- The hard boiled eggs, potatoes, and green beans can be made the day before you plan to use them. Don’t slice the potatoes until ready to assemble the salad.
- Prepare the vinaigrette ahead of time and store in the refrigerator until ready to dress the salad.
The green beans should be crisp-tender:
- Wash and trim green beans.
- Blanch them briefly in salted boiling water for 2 minutes, remove them with a slotted spoon, then plunge the green beans into a large bowl of ice cold water.
- Once they are cool, pat dry and store wrapped in a damp paper towel in the fridge until ready to use.
Although I give you the classic recipe for a Nicoise Salad, I hope that you might make changes to it as you adapt it to your family’s tastes.
Nicoise Salad with Vinaigrette Dressing
- 1 head Bibb or butter lettuce
- 1/2 pound about 6, cooked potatoes, red, yellow, or fingerling, sliced
- 1 bell pepper sliced (or 3 baby bell peppers)
- 1/2 pound green beans cooked to crisp tender
- 3 hard boiled eggs sliced
- 1 cucumber sliced
- 1/4 cup black olives Nicoise, Greek or Kalamata (pitted)
- 1/2 cup Cherry tomatoes
- 2 Tablespoons Capers
- 2 cans Wild Alaskan Salmon or Tuna, drained
Prepping the ingredients
- Hard boil the eggs. Blanch the green beans and boil the potatoes.
- Slice the potatoes about 1/4" thick. Slice the hard boiled eggs.
- Layer the lettuce around a platter. Add the vegetables and potatoes, alternating colors.
- Fill in gaps with tuna or salmon and hard boiled egg slices. Add olives, then sprinkle with capers.
- In a bowl, whisk Dijon, lemon juice, vinegar, olive oil, garlic, thyme, salt, pepper and anchovy paste or filet if using, until blended.
- Drizzle dressing over the salad just before serving.
- Dressing can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator until ready to serve.