Nicoise Salad is really 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 classic, and does make a lovely presentation.
(This post was originally published on June 14, 2012 and contains affiliate links to help offset the cost of maintaining my website. Thank you.)
What does Nicoise mean?
Nicoise means, from Nice, France, which means that many of the ingredients found in a Nicoise Salad traditionally would have been available around that region. As I was carefully preparing it, I noticed that a lot of the ingredients might already be in your fridge. I’m sure the original Nicoise Salad was created by a clever French housewife using up left-overs; “Hey, what can we do with last night’s leftover green beans?” “Throw them in tonight’s salad!”
Canned or fresh tuna in a Nicoise salad?
While fresh tuna would have been the main ingredient, Nice was originally a fishing port, after all, using fresh tuna is generally pretty pricey. I’m not a huge fan of canned tuna, so I substitute canned wild Alaskan salmon instead. Whichever you choose, try to buy the best canned 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, (more flavor!)
What ingredients are in a Nicoise Salad?
The small Nicoise 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 yellow. Cucumbers, haricots verts, (green beens), 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. Capers and tomatoes round out the ingredient list, and of course give it the Mediterranean flavors from the South of France.
What kind of dressing goes on a Nicoise Salad?
The homemade vinaigrette is classic and simple. 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, 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 do keep a tube of anchovy paste in my fridge just for Caesar Salad or a vinaigrette like this one. It’s much easier than opening a can!
So, although I give you the “Classic” recipe for a Nicoise Salad, I would hope that you might make changes to it as you adapt it to your family’s tastes. Substitute asparagus instead for the green beans, add artichoke hearts, or Marinated Mushrooms or add those anchovies! I hope you’ll make your own version of a salad composée. On a side note, this recipe is Whole30 compliant, gluten free and Paleo!
Heres’ how to make the perfect hard boiled egg for the Nicoise Salad.
Some of the items used in this post are available at my Amazon store for your convenience.
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.