Salmon Nicoise Salad is full of fresh and healthy ingredients including salmon, juicy cherry tomatoes, cucumber, hard-boiled eggs, Niçoise olives, and more. All with a fabulous vinaigrette dressing drizzled on top.
A classic Nicoise Salad is often called a salad composée, because it’s not tossed, but rather “composed” on a serving platter or plate.
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.)
The History of Nicoise Salad
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 mean? It’s simply “a native or inhabitant of the French city of Nice.”
Many of the ingredients found in a classic Nicoise salad recipe traditionally would have been available around that region.
As I was carefully preparing the composed 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?” “Throw them in tonight’s salad!”
The Nicoise salad pronunciation (French pronunciation) is [sa’lad ni’swaz].
Tuna or Salmon Nicoise Salad?
Fresh tuna would usually have been the main ingredient in a classic Niçoise 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 salmon, grilled tuna or canned salmon.
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?
The small Niçoise olives are traditional, but feel free to substitute Kalamata or Greek olives.
Boiled potatoes are also a key ingredient. No surprise since the potato is an important part of most European diets. I think you can decide which type of potato you prefer as you customize this salad. I usually opt for red or small yellow fingerling.
Cucumbers, haricots verts, (green beans), and bell peppers would have been growing in the garden behind the French farmhouse, and most likely a few chickens would have been part of the family, providing fresh eggs on a daily basis.
Tuna or salmon, 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.
You’ll never notice them in the dressing, however, and 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!
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 butter lettuce or romaine.
For a classic composed look, place the ingredients in thirds around the platter. I start with the most important ingredient; the salmon.
Continue layering in the vegetables, alternating colors and textures. Finish with sprinkle of capers and olives.
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 and green beans can be made the day before you plan to use them. The green beans should be crisp tender.
Boil them briefly in salted water and then plunge into a bowl of ice water. Once they are cool, pat dry and store wrapped in a damp paper towel in the fridge.
Here’s my recipe for perfect hard boiled eggs.
This recipe is Whole30 compliant, gluten-free, and Paleo!
Nicoise Salad with Vinaigrette Dressing
- 1 head Bibb or butter lettuce
- 1/2 pound about 6, cooked potatoes, red, yellow, or fingerling
- 1 bell pepper sliced
- 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
- 1/2 cup Cherry tomatoes
- 2 Tablespoons Capers
- 2 cans Wild Alaskan Salmon or Tuna, drained
- Layer the lettuce around a platter. Add layers of veggies.
- Fill in with tuna or salmon. Add capers and olives
- In a bowl, whisk Dijon, lemon juice, vinegar, olive oil, garlic, thyme, salt, pepper and anchovy paste or filet if using, until blending. Can be made ahead and stored in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
- Drizzle dressing over the salad just before serving.