Because of its customizable nature, the Niçoise salad is just about the easiest way to treat yourself to a special meal without making a grocery run.

By Matthew Kassel
November 06, 2019
Photo: Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Karen Rankin; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis

When I don’t know what to make for lunch—which happens often—I’ll often opt for a Niçoise salad. Given its exotic name, it is surprisingly easy to throw together; there’s virtually no prep time, and the necessary ingredients are likely to be found in your fridge or pantry. 

In fact, I’ve come to believe that the Niçoise salad—so named because it originates from the French city of Nice, on the Mediterranean Sea—is the perfect pantry salad. All you need is lettuce, a hard-boiled egg, olives, tuna, anchovies and a vinaigrette.

RELATED: 6 Meals That You Can Make Completely From Pantry Staples

It’s usually the case that I’ll have a bowl of hard-boiled eggs in my fridge, so I won’t have to wait to prepare one. I also keep olives and some spinach, arugula or bibb lettuce on hand. As for anchovies and tuna, I keep cans on cans of the stuff in my cupboard for the occasions when I’m craving a Niçoise salad, which I have come to think of as a more elegant version of the Cobb salad. Olive oil and red wine vinegar are also staples in my kitchen, so a quick vinaigrette is just a few whisks away. The salad’s ingredients can be composed or simply tossed together—whatever you’d like. I prefer arranging them tidily in a bowl. It’s aesthetically pleasing, and makes my throw-together pantry lunch feel like something special.

WATCH: How to Make Niçoise Gnocchi Salad

The Niçoise salad is probably best enjoyed during the warmer months. But I have found that it is still refreshing throughout the winter as well, when any sort of leafy greens are a welcome sight and when a crisp salad such as this one can at least remind you of summertime. 

GET THE RECIPE: Quickie Niçoise Salad

I am by no means a hard-liner regarding variations on this salad. Being loose with the Niçoise salad feels like an appropriate thing to do, considering that there are so many interpretations of the “right” way to make one. Some like to exclude lettuce. Others don’t include tuna. There are those who won’t add cooked vegetables, and those who will. I say do what you want.

Typically, I’ll use whatever I have on hand and just call it a Niçoise salad—if I have some capers or a red onion or a cucumber, for instance, all the better; the egg, tuna, anchovies and olives are the elements that always form the base for me. Green beans (or haricot verts), boiled potatoes, and tomatoes are all common additions. And yes, a Niçoise salad is an excellent vehicles for leftovers you may have kicking around. 

Need inspiration? Give one of these Niçoise recipes a try: 

Steak Niçoise Salad

Lobster Niçoise Salad

Niçoise Salsa

Niçoise Gnocchi Salad

Chicken Niçoise Salad 

The Niçoise salad is a simple salad, but it is also surprisingly luxurious and, happily, quite nutritious. It is texturally interesting—silky here, with a satisfying crunch there. I always feel as if I’ve done something good for my body after I eat one.

If you’ve never made one, don’t hesitate. The Niçoise salad is just waiting to be assembled from the ingredients that, I would bet, are already in your kitchen.

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