Salad Niçoise: the Traditional French Recipe

The salad nicoise a recipe that even French chefs can't agree on. Green beans and potatoes? Tuna or anchovies? And mayonnaise? We look at the main ingredients in a salad niçoise, and the accompaniments and drinks to serve with it.
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You know it is important when a culinary scuffle can be set off by a salad. Not just any salad of course, but the traditional Salade Niçoise. In recent weeks, acclaimed French chef Cyril Lignac set off an internet furor by including green beans and potatoes in his version of the salad. Sacrilege!

A classic French dish, this was after all the salad described as “simple food for poor people”. Originating in the town of Nice on the French Riviera, the salad niçoise (pronounced “ni-soise”) dates back to the 19th century and this provençale recipe has provoked debate ever since.

It is however one of those French classics that has traveled the globe. So let’s see what goes into a traditional nicoise salad recipe, and what all the controversy is about. Allons-y!

The Ingredients

There are so many different opinions on what goes into the salade niçoise that it is difficult to know where to start, even if we start with that classic French pantry.

Much of the debate centers around what ingredients are local to Nice and what is not. If you really wanted to, you could toss in some avocados, except avocados are not native to Provence!

i) The Boiled Vegetables

green beans Green beans
Potatoes Potatoes

The biggest controversy, as I mentioned above, is over the green beans and potatoes. Several famous French chefs have weighed in on the topic. Former Nice mayor Jacques Médecin proclaimed in his 1970s cookbook: “never, never, I beg you, include boiled potato or any other boiled vegetable in your salad niçoise.”

Other chefs have noted that 100 years earlier, even famed French chef Auguste Escoffier had dared to put those dreaded ingredients in his version of the salad.

However, Mr. Escoffier was from the town of Villeneuve-Loubet just across the river from Nice, and so obviously not a local. He seemed however a very big fan of no-cook meals, so no boiled potatoes or beans.

These days, it really is “to each his own”. If you like green beans and potatoes, go for it!

ii) The Fish

In terms of fish, it has become rather acceptable to substitute different types of fish such as tuna instead of anchovies. But you must decide: either tuna or anchovies, not both together.

seafood market

Most recipes call for the use of canned tuna and anchovies, but you can use fresh tuna filets as well if you wish. If you don’t have tuna or anchovies, salmon might do in a pinch.

iii) The Salad dressing

oil Olive oil
vinegar Red vinegar *
lemon * can substitute with lemon

The classic vinaigrette is a very simple mix of olive oil and red vinegar, but non-traditionalists have been known to substitute lemon juice for vinegar. If you prefer a creamier sauce, you can use mayonnaise with a dash of dijonnaise mustard.

cream Mayonnaise
mustard Dijon Mustard

iv) Other ingredients

vegetables at a food market

The base of the salad nicoise is usually mesclun, which is usually a blend of arugula, mâche, and other young green leaves. It is usually sold in grocery stores as a “spring mix”.

Black olives are a must in any salad niçoise recipe, but many people also decide to add items such as:

cucumber Cucumbers
bell peppers Bell peppers
corn sweet corn
feva beans fève (fava) beans
shallots shallots
radishes radishes
artichokes baby artichokes
onion small onions

Heaven help you, however, if you decide to add rice to the recipe, as a certain Uncle Ben’s recipe did once for an advertising campaign!

If you are making the salad niçoise in your own home however, who is to judge? I won’t tell, if you won’t 😉

What to serve with it?

A couple of slices of baguette are a must with a salad niçoise. If you are serving the salad as a starter, consider pairing it with a cold roti de porc (pork roast) and potatoes.


What drinks to serve?

A light local rosé from the nearby vineyards of Côtes de Provence or Côtes du Rhône will pair beautifully with a salad niçoise. You can read more about French wines here.


Similar salad recipes

Salad nicoise recipe

Salade Niçoise Recipe

Nassie Angadi
The salad nicoise, a lovely summer salad from the city of Nice on the French Riviera.
4.75 from 8 votes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Course Appetizers and Starters
Cuisine French
Servings 4
Calories 625 kcal


  • 4 round medium-sized tomatoes
  • 5 eggs
  • 1/2 cup of sliced black olives
  • 1 can of fava beans
  • 3 chopped spring onions
  • 2 cans of tuna or anchovies
  • 400 g of mesclun salad “spring mix”
  • 1 clove of chopped garlic
  • 6-7 chopped basil leaves
  • 4-5 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons of red vinegar
  • pinch of salt and pepper

Optional Ingredients

  • 1 thinly-sliced bell pepper
  • 1 chopped cucumber if not including fava beans
  • 1/4 cup of lemon juice if not including red vinegar
  • 1/4 cup sweet corn
  • 1/4 cup small red onions if not adding spring onions
  • 1/4 cup chopped radishes

Other Possible Ingredients

  • 1 cup boiled green beans
  • 3 boiled medium-sized potatoes chopped
  • 2-3 tablespoons of mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon of mustard


  • To make the vinaigrette, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar (or lemon juice), basil, and garlic in a bowl. Add salt and pepper, and any optional ingredients such as mustard or mayonnaise.
  • Boil the eggs for 8 minutes, then let cool in a bowl of cold water. Remove egg shells and chop into quarters.
  • Rinse the mesclun lettuce and arrange in a large serving bowl.
  • Chop the tomatoes into quarters and toss into the serving bowl, along with the eggs.
  • Shred the tuna (or anchovies) into small pieces and add in the bowl.
  • Drain and rinse the canned fava beans and put in a pot of boiling water. Bring to a simmer and cook for approx 5-8min until soft.
  • Add the rest of the ingredients into the serving bowl and toss the salad.
  • Let salad rest for 20 minutes before serving.


Note: The portions above are for a starter. Adjust the quantities as needed, if you are serving as a main dish.


Serving: 1gCalories: 625kcalCarbohydrates: 52gProtein: 31gFat: 35gSaturated Fat: 6gPolyunsaturated Fat: 26gCholesterol: 257mgSodium: 457mgFiber: 11gSugar: 10g

Please note: We are not certified nutritionists and these estimates are approximate. Each individual’s dietary needs and restrictions are unique to the individual.

You are ultimately responsible for all decisions pertaining to your health. This website is written and produced for entertainment purposes only.

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If you enjoyed that, check out our other classic French recipes that are easy to prepare. You may also enjoy reading about more French food facts, from brown eggs to chicken-flavored chips. Bon appétit and à bientôt !

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