Salmon Niçoise Salad, A Classic Composed Salad

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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.)

Nicoise Salad or composed salad on a plate.

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.

Nicoise salad.

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?

Nicoise salad ingredients.

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.
  • Cucumbers
  •  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

Nicoise salad.

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.

Salad dressing ingredients.

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.

Vinaigrette for a nicoise salad in a bowl with a whisk.

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.

assembling a nicoise salad

Continue layering in the vegetables and sliced potatoes, alternating colors and textures. Finish with a generous sprinkle of capers and olives.

layering peppers

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.

closeup nicoise salad.

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.
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.
chilled green beans.

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.

Substitute asparagus for the green beans, add artichoke hearts, Marinated Mushrooms, or extra anchovies! Switch out grilled chicken or shrimp for the salmon or tuna.

closeup nicoise salad.

Nicoise Salad with Vinaigrette Dressing

This version of a classic Salade Nicoise, substitutes wild Alaskan salmon for the tuna. Serves 4 as a main course or 6 as a starter.
5 from 47 votes
Prep Time 35 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Course Salad
Cuisine Mediterranean
Servings 6 people
Calories 318 kcal



  • 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. 


Serving: 1servingCalories: 318kcalCarbohydrates: 7gProtein: 18gFat: 25gSaturated Fat: 4gPolyunsaturated Fat: 3gMonounsaturated Fat: 16gTrans Fat: 0.01gCholesterol: 141mgSodium: 624mgPotassium: 520mgFiber: 3gSugar: 4gVitamin A: 2089IUVitamin C: 37mgCalcium: 215mgIron: 2mg
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!

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      1. This Niçoise looks delectable!
        I was wondering if you happened to know the nutrional content to the recipe? I guiltily succumb to calorie counting 😉

        1. I had it and it miscalculated and I couldn’t figure out how to re-boot it. It’s on my list to redo. Since I started doing keto and low-carb I’ve stopped counting calories too.

  1. 5 stars
    This looks wonderful! I never thought to put thyme in my vinaigrette, but I am going to try it this week! This is a perfect meal for warm summer evenings!

  2. What a gorgeous composed salad, Cynthia! I love everything you included and especially the fresh herb and lemon vinaigrette. It is so rewarding to make your own dressing. It tastes so much better and you can pronounce everything that’s in it!

  3. I love that you substituted wild Alaskan salmon in this! Looks delicious! And you are absolutely right about homemade salad dressings – always better! 🙂

  4. 5 stars
    You know the way to my heart! When we’re not traveling, we cook clean 80% of time, so this is right up our alley! But it would taste even better if you made it for me, lol 😉

  5. One of my favorite salads. Actually way better at home than any I’ve ever ordered in Nice! I buy tuna belly now – either Spanish or Italian. So good for special salads like this. Have you ever had it?

  6. Please, no potatoes, no green beans in the salade niçoise !!

    I grew in Nice so I know what I’m talking about… 🙂 🙂

    Also, your recipe isn’t low-carb with potatoes in !


    1. Sorry to disagree with you, but I spent 18 months in culinary school and was trained by European chefs, most of whom were French. Salade Nicoise is a very classic presentation of a composed salad. Both potatoes and green beans are part of the salad. In fact,I’ve never heard of one that didn’t include those ingredients. Just to be sure, I went back and checked my text book from culinary school, Larousse Gastronomique, (which is a culinary “bible”) AND Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cuisine. Regarding the “low-carb” aspect, you are correct, if you ate all those potatoes by yourself, they most surely wouldn’t be low carb. The beauty of a “Composed” salad is that the ingredients are presented separately, so this dish is ideal for a variety of diets. Are you low-carb? Skip the potatoes! Allergic to eggs? Don’t take one. Vegetarian? Don’t don’t eat the fish. The salad is meant to be served to 6-8 people. Perhaps you’ve been eating a modern version of this salad?

      1. 5 stars
        lowcarbfrenchie is correct if we are discussing the original Salade Nicoise before it started to become internationally famous. The original, original 😉 was just tomatoes, anchovies and olive oi. In the early 1900s it was usually included tomatoes, anchovies, artichokes, an olive-oil-based dressing, red peppers and black olives, but excluded tuna, potatoes, and lettuce. The later 1900s, as it became a global favorite, took on the fuge and variation style of tuna, canned or fresh, capers, potatoes, boiled egg, etc.

        So, for a Nicoise local, lc-frenchie says sooth. In the 70s, I went to College de Nice, as well as up in Grenoble, worked in Paris, ate this often, and the salad was transitioning to what you so well describe above.

        The wiki has a lot of good references:

        1. thank you for that clarification Scott. I went to culinary school in the early 80’s. It was classical French training of 16 months. This is the recipe I was taught. I’m sure the recipes changed and adapted quite a bit over time. I rely on Le Guide Culinaire by Escoffier and other culinary text and reference books. Here’s a quote from the guide, originally published in 1907: “Take equal quantities of diced French green beans, diced potato and quarters of tomatoes. Decorate with capers, olives and anchovy filets. Dressing, oil and vinegar.” Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking (1970) includes tuna and hard boiled eggs. The bibb you see is to line the platter and so that it will photograph better. Yes, I did take license with the tuna and substituted salmon which I noted. Again, the beauty of a Salade Composee is that if you’re not fond of one or more of the ingredients, you’re free to skip them.

  7. Your salad is beautiful. Have you ever tried tuna belly? It comes in jars, from Spain and Italy, and it’s not at all like canned tuna. I also love fresh tuna on a Nicoise. Great recipe.

  8. 5 stars
    Have loved this “salad” for years. It really is a beautiful presentation and a joy to eat.
    Thank you for reminding me I can make at home.

  9. 5 stars
    Such a beautiful salad and with your directions it was so easy to make! Everyone was so impressed and loved it! Thanks for reposting as it reminded me to leave a review.

5 from 47 votes (34 ratings without comment)

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