Niçoise Salad with Grilled Vegetables and Basil-Mustard Vinaigrette
When a salad graduates from an afterthought to a showpiece, chances are you’re talking Salade Niçoise.
Packed with flavor, it’s a light but complete meal that also sticks to your ribs. It’s perhaps my favorite dish to have on hot days.
Here I take the classic Provençal dish and serve it with grilled vegetables and a basil vinaigrette — all in celebration of summer’s exuberant flavors.
On a side note, although my Niçoise is fishless, grilled tuna steak would be a great addition to it.
See all tuna recipes.
*Note: Make sure the slices stay attached together.
For the vinaigrette
- 2 Tablespoons red-wine vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 shallot, peeled and quartered
- 12 large basil leaves
- 1/2 Cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/4 Teaspoon sea salt
- Freshly ground pepper, to taste
For the grilled vegetables
- 4 baby eggplants, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices lengthwise
- 2 Teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for grilling the eggplant
- Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- 1 medium-sized red onion, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices through the root end*
- 1 Teaspoon balsamic vinegar
For the salad
- 1 large handful baby arugula
- 1 1/2 Pound baby red potatoes, unpeeled, boiled until tender, and halved
- 8 Ounces haricots verts, trimmed and left whole
- 2 ripe medium-sized tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
- 4 -6 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and halved
- 1/2 Cup Niçoise olives
- 1/3 Cup large caper berries, drained
Calories Per Serving590
Folate equivalent (total)135µg34%
You won't miss the tuna in this vegetarian spin on a Niçoise salad! Olives, artichokes, capers, and lemon vinaigrette fill it with bright, briny flavor.
I first fell in love with Nicoise salad when Jack and I visited the city where it originated: Nice, France. While we were there, I ordered it everywhere we went. There’s something about the combination of crisp summer veggies, bright lemon vinaigrette, and briny olives and capers that I find absolutely irresistible. As an added bonus, hard boiled eggs and potatoes make it hearty enough to be a meal on its own. And in the summer, anytime I’m eating salad for dinner, I’m happy.
If you’re familiar with traditional Niçoise salad, you know that it’s made with tuna. Of course, my version of the recipe is vegetarian, so I replace the fish with white beans. They give the salad an extra boost of plant-based protein, and they offer a delicious creamy contrast to the crisp veggies. If you wanted to, you could serve your Niçoise salad over a bed of greens, but I think it’s perfect as it is. It’s filled with contrasting textures, bold flavors, and a rainbow of summer veggies. I really love this one, and I hope you do too.
This classic Provençal sandwich, which means “soaked bread” in the ancient Nice dialect, is nothing more than a Salade Niçoise served between two pieces of bread. In the old days it was considered to be a humble food, made with ingredients that every household would have on hand.
But today Pan Bagnat is fashionable fare. And for good reason: it makes an extraordinarily delicious and satisfying meal. In my version, the grilled peppers add a bit of depth to this simple sandwich, and the basil vinaigrette soaks the whole thing with its ambrosial fragrance. It’s the quintessential summer sandwich!
Food & wine pairing: Naoussa, Xinomavro with pan bagnat
How about trying something unusual: a Xinomavro from Naoussa (Greece), like the Thimiopoulos Vineyards, “Uranos” Xinomavro? These powerful wines have complex aromas of dark fruit, tobacco, earth, black olives and sometimes a hint of pepper – all of which harmonize beautifully with the flavors of this sandwich. Of course, you can always serve a Côte du Rhône – this is the wine you’d be served with a Pan Bagnat if you were to order one in a Provençal restaurant.
What Kind of Vegetables to Use
For this salad Nicoise recipe, I used a combination of Romaine lettuce and spring mix. It’s a simple combination of greens but it’s always my go-to for the family because it’s so easy to prep, and it’s going to be delicious in this.
I’m in love with our Franke Farmhouse Sink because it’s nice and deep compared to our old sink which seemed so shallow that things would just splash all over our granite. Not the case in this beauty.
There are so many yummy vegetables in this salad and you can see just how beautiful all of the colors are. If you want to save some time prepping just buy the pitted olives, I promise you’ll thank me for it!
Niçoise Inspired Salad with a Basil Mustard Vinaigrette
I say “Niçoise inspired” because the purists will come for me otherwise (Tony would balk at my take no doubt)! There are no anchovies present. I didn’t opt for tuna. I added far more “extras” than a traditionalist would find acceptable. I mean no disrespect…but the salad evolved as I prepared it and I’m inclined to follow my cravings.
To be honest, I found so many variations on the “traditional” recipe I wouldn’t know where to begin. Some say tomatoes, anchovies, and olive oil—nothing more. Others include olives, artichokes, and red peppers—but no tuna or lettuce. My vinaigrette harkens to more accepted variations mustard, vinegar, and olive oil make up the primary ingredients. But many would sneer at my roasted potatoes and blanched green beans—never mind my white beans, cucumber, and avocado.
Broken down however, we still have simple ingredients, full of flavor. Simple well-prepared ingredients with the power to excite me just as much as any bowl of artfully crafted ramen, perfectly grilled steak, or slow-simmered pasta Bolognese. I think this is why the salad (any version of it) works so well. At its best it’s a fusion of quality ingredients, dressed simply but flavorfully, that encapsulates the flavors of summer.
Often it’s the simple dishes and recipes that linger in my mind long after the meal is over, the dishes have been cleared, the kitchen put back in order. This is due largely to the quality of ingredients used. Have you ever had a ripe summer tomato? Bursting with flavors of sweet sunlight? What about the taste of a salty brine-infused olive? Kalamata for example—a good quality Kalamata olive awakens the taste buds in a riot of salt and red wine vinegar. A creamy avocado with a splash of lemon is a meal in and of itself. Rich and buttery with the faintest hint of sweetness!? That will never bore me.
My loose interpretation bears all this in mind. It includes fresh baby red and green butter lettuces, ripe cherry tomatoes, crisp Persian cucumber, buttery avocado, creamy white beans, blanched green beans, briny olives, tender roasted baby potatoes, soft boiled eggs (I could write an ode to these, don’t get me started), a sprinkling of capers, and seared salmon finished with garlic and basil. I kept my seasonings fairly simple. My dressing is a blend of good quality olive oil, whole grain mustard, vinegar, a bit of honey and lemon, and tons of fresh basil.
It’s true there is a lot happening with this take on what I’ve learned is a controversial salad. But the flavors are simple, the ingredients fresh, and that is key for eating well. Serve with some chilled white wine and you’re set! Is it too soon to start longing for winter?
Are you a fan of the Niçoise salad? How do you prepare it? Are you a purist or do you play around with tradition? Leave a comment below!
Niçoise Inspired Salad
- 10 oz. baby butter lettuce
- 6 soft-boiled eggs
- 2 cups roasted baby potatoes
- 6 oz. blanched green beans
- 6-8 oz. salmon
- 1 ¼ cups cherry tomatoes
- ½ c. Kalamata olives
- 1 avocado, sliced, + a splash of lemon
- 2-3 Tbsp. capers
- 1 ½ cups sliced Persian cucumber
- 1 cup cannellini beans
- Salt and Pepper
- Olive oil
- Basil mustard vinaigrette, recipe follows
Rinse lettuce well, shake off excess water, and dry on clean kitchen towels.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer. One by one, carefully lower eggs in with a slotted spoon. Cook for about 6 ½ to 7 minutes to get that perfect runny yolk (about 6 minutes 30 seconds for the Vital Farms eggs I used). Immediately transfer to an ice bath to stop cooking process. Let cool for about 3-5 minutes before removing the eggshells and halving our quartering. Because cooking time will always vary depending on the size of the egg, I recommend doing a test egg to make sure you don’t under or over cook.
Roast potatoes at 400°F with 2 tsp. olive oil, salt and pepper, for 15-20 minutes, or until tender.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, lightly salt water, and add in green beans. Cook 60-90 seconds, until tender but still crisp, before transferring to an ice bath, then drain and set aside.
Season the salmon fillet with salt and pepper. Heat 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a pan (non-stick preferably) over medium-high heat. Sear salmon for about 3-4 minutes on each side. I like to finish by adding a splash of lemon juice to the pan, along with some fresh crushed garlic, and a pinch of fresh basil.
Basil Mustard Vinaigrette
- 1 large clove garlic, minced
- ¼ tsp lemon zest
- 1 Tbsp. lemon juice
- 1 Tbsp. + ½ tsp. Dijon mustard
- ¼ cup Pinot Grigio white wine vinegar
- 2 tsp. honey
- 1 heaping Tbsp. minced basil
- 1 tsp. no salt seasoning blend, optional (I use Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute)
- 2/3 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
For the vinaigrette combine all ingredients except for the olive oil in a mixing bowl. Using your stand mixer or handheld mixer, whisk until everything is well combined. While still whisking, slowly drizzle in olive oil to emulsify. Transfer to a mason jar with lid and refrigerate until ready to serve.
To assemble the salad arrange lettuce on a large serving dish, followed by the rest of your ingredients. You can serve this salad mixed, but I prefer to serve it as a composed salad. I also prefer to let people dress their salad to their liking.
I tossed my cherry tomatoes in a little olive oil, salt, and pepper.
I sprkinled red pepper flakes on my soft-boiled eggs.
I seasoned the cannellini beans with a pinch of the no-salt seasoning blend.
None of these are necessary steps! But I just went with what sounded good in the moment!
Tools You’ll Need:
Summer is salad-for-dinner season and we’re INTO it. Not only are salads healthy, they can be thrown together without turning on the stove or even firing up the grill—they’re the ultimate no-heat, ten minute dinner. Here are a few we make all summer long:
Grilled Nicoise Salad
The mild licorice flavor of the tarragon vinaigrette adds a sweet, herby note to the smoky grilled lettuces. Save any leftover vinaigrette, covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- 2 heads of Romaine hearts, cut in half, washed and dried
- 2 heads red leaf lettuce, cored, cut in half, washed and dried
- 2 heads of Italian radicchio, cored and cut in half
- 2 lemons, cut in half
- 4 6-ounce skinless salmon or tuna filets
- 8 small New potatoes, boiled or steamed until tender and sliced
- 8 quail eggs, halved
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Garnishes - sea salt, olives, cherry tomatoes, anchovy filets
- 1/4 cup fresh tarragon, minced finely
- 1 tablespoon Dijon style mustard
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- Pinch of black pepper
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1/2 cup best quality extra virgin olive oil
1. Preheat the grill to medium high or heat a grill pan over medium heat.
2. Brush the lettuce, radicchio, lemon halves and fish filets with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
3. Place the lettuce, radicchio, lemons and fish filets cut side down in the pre-heated surface and grill for 5 minutes until the lettuces and radicchio are a bit charred and slightly limp. The fish is cooked when it feels slightly firm. DON’T OVER COOK THE FISH!
4. Remove the lemons when they are very dark brown (about 10-15 minutes).
5. Place quail eggs in a pot of boiling water and boil for 3 minutes. When cooled, slice eggs in half.
5. Transfer to a platter and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Serve with Tarragon Vinaigrette. Garnish with eggs, potatoes, olives, tomatoes and anchovies.
- 4 ounces small red or white potatoes (about 4), scrubbed and halved
- ½ cup Easy Anchovy Vinaigrette (see Associated Recipe)
- 4 ounces fresh green beans (1 cup), trimmed
- ¾ cup rinsed canned chickpeas
- 1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
- 2 ½ ounces water-packed light tuna, drained
- 2 hard-boiled eggs, quartered
- Chopped fresh parsley for garnish
Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a large saucepan fitted with a steamer basket. Add potatoes to the basket cover and steam until tender, 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer the potatoes to a medium bowl. Add vinaigrette and toss gently with a flexible spatula to coat. Let the potatoes stand in the dressing for a minute or two. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the potatoes to a platter or divide between 2 plates.
Add green beans to the steamer basket, cover and steam until tender-crisp, 4 to 6 minutes. Rinse under cold running water to stop the cooking.
Arrange the green beans, chickpeas, tomatoes, tuna, and eggs on the platter (or plates). Drizzle the remaining dressing from the bowl over the salad. Garnish with parsley, if desired.
Champagne Dijon Mustard Vinaigrette on a Classic Nicoise Salad
I start with the traditional ingredients for the vinaigrette for this French Classic Nicoise Salad with some changes like using Traditional Dijon Mustard, and champagne vinegar instead of white wine vinegar. I also added a hint of onion flavor with some finely chopped shallot, and I prefer to use garlic in a mashed form. And of course, I highly recommend using a premium extra virgin olive oil (I use Lia EVOO). I usually combine all those ingredients in a mason jar with a lid for easy emulsifying and storage.
Grilled Chicken Niçoise Salad – Whole30
Grilled Chicken Niçoise Salad is one of my all-time favourite make-ahead meals. Not only is it super easy to prepare all of the ingredients, but it’s one of the few cases in which things actually taste great when served cold the next day. I’d like to think that this Niçoise salad is both adult and kid friendly and with back-to-school just around the corner it will be a great addition to your weekly lunch-time arsenal.
Originally created in the city of Nice, along the southern coast of France, Salade Niçoise is a fresh, crisp and bright salad that is light yet filling. The best news? It’s Whole30 compliant, making it perfect for those who are tackling the upcoming September Whole30!
There are a variety of preparations and, as with most things classic and delicious, everyone has their opinion when it comes to what should and shouldn’t be included in a Niçoise salad. In my experience, the most popular versions of the salad are made with tuna (canned or freshly cooked), green beans (usually blanched), chopped tomatoes, hard-boiled eggs, sliced radish, black olives, tender, leafy greens, and boiled creamer potatoes. Sometimes, the tuna is replaced with anchovies for a briny punch of flavour. I’ve loved tuna for as long as I can remember, but I know that canned fish can be a tough sell for some kiddos (and adults). Especially if you’re already trying to get them to eat a salad!
Here, I replace the fish with grilled chicken breast simply seasoned in some salt, pepper, dehydrated onion and chili flakes for a touch of spice. I also grill the green beans, getting a bit of char on them for added flavour, and season them in some Everything But the Bagel Seasoning from Trader Joes. If you don’t have the spice blend, it’s a combination of poppy seeds, white and black sesame seeds, dehydrated garlic and onion, and salt. To add even more flavour to the salad, I toss the boiled potatoes in some extra-virgin olive oil and fresh dill.
To cut down on prep time and clean up, I boil the potatoes and eggs in the same pot. While the eggs will take exactly 12 minutes, the potatoes can take between 16 and 18, depending on their size. I encourage you to boil the creamer potatoes whole because otherwise they will start to crumble in the water. If cooking indoors, I use a cast-iron grill pan to cook the chicken and green beans. I won’t lie, the chicken tastes much, much better when cooked on the Traeger, but a grill-pan will get the job done.
If you’re in a serious time crunch, feel free to simply dress the salad with some extra-virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar and a pinch of salt and pepper. If, however, you want to take things to the next level, make a quick-and-easy Red Wine Vinaigrette. The flavours from the grainy mustard, honey and garlic are perfect with the salad ingredients. Just keep in mind that honey is off limits during Whole30, so feel free to omit if you’re making the dressing while doing a round.
As always, I think you should feel free to experiment with different versions of this salad and see which combinations of flavours and ingredients you like best. After all, you’re the one that has to eat it! Try adding julienned red bell pepper, canned artichoke hearts, sliced cucumbers, or substitute grilled salmon. You’re the boss, applesauce!