This seared tuna niçoise salad is a variation on Julia Child's classic recipe! With ahi or albacore tuna, a hearty salad base, and a homemade vinaigrette, it makes a great main course.
There's no doubt about it — summer is a perfect time of year for an entrée salad.
But what about the rest of the year? Can a salad feel... substantial? Can it feel like the perfect comfort food in the dead of winter, or when early spring evenings still have a hint of winter cold?
Yes. If it's the right salad.
This seared tuna niçoise salad isn't just full of veggies — it's hearty!
The potatoes and green beans make this feel like a meal, not just an appetizer. The olives add a punch of flavor, and of course, the seared tuna is the star of the show!
French Tuna Niçoise with a Twist
This seared tuna niçoise salad is based on Julia Child's Salade Niçoise recipe in her book, Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 1.
We did make a few small changes to the recipe.
First, Julia used canned tuna, but we love this salad with seared tuna.
We also skipped the anchovies in this recipe, but if you’re a fan, you can add some anchovy fillets to the final salad.
What Type of Tuna Should I Use?
For seared tuna, we recommend either ahi or albacore tuna. Ahi is a little easier to find in stores, but if you can find albacore, we love it also!
The tuna in the photos is seared albacore loin.
Because we're preparing "undercooked" fish, the FDA recommends using fish that has been commercially frozen.
Do I Have to Use Niçoise Olives?
This salad gets its name from the niçoise olives, so in some ways it seems essential to the salad.
That said, niçoise olives are not easy to find (at least not where I live).
Kalamata olives are a great, easy to find alternative. The olives in the photos are kalamatas.
How to Prep Seared Tuna Niçoise Salad Ahead of Time
Quite honestly, I would eat salad niçoise much more frequently if it required just a little bit less effort! That said, with just a tiny bit of advance preparation, this salad can come together within minutes.
The boiled eggs, potatoes and green beans can be prepared ahead of time. Here's how.
Prep the potatoes by boiling them in water for about 15 minutes, or until tender. Remove the potatoes from the water and let them cool a little bit. Then you can refrigerate them until you're ready to make the salad.
Prep the green beans by adding them to a large pan. I use this Lodge 12" carbon steel skillet.
Steam the green beans in just a little bit of water until they're cooked but still firm. Drain the water and refrigerate the beans until you're ready to make the salad.
How to Make a Seared Tuna Niçoise Salad
Once you've prepared the potatoes and green beans, the rest of the salad comes together rapidly!
Make the quick and easy vinaigrette, and drizzle a little of it over the tuna. You'll want to reserve most of the dressing for the actual salad. Season the tuna with salt and pepper, and then get your hot pan ready.
Heat oil in a heavy pan (I used this same Lodge 12" carbon steel skillet) until the oil is extremely hot.
Once you add the tuna to the pan, you'll need to move quickly!
Place the tuna in the pan, and cook each side for about 15 to 30 seconds. You want to sear the outside but avoid cooking the inside (and tuna cooks fast!).
Remove the tuna from the pan, and thinly slice it with your sharpest knife. I use a Wusthof fillet knife.
All that's left is to assemble the salad!
Start by tossing your lettuce in some more vinaigrette.
Next, add the remaining ingredients to the salad.
I like to decoratively arrange everything, because this seared tuna niçoise salad can be a real show stopper!
To make it look gorgeous, arrange the green beans, potatoes, tomatoes, eggs, capers and olives on the lettuce.
Finally, carefully add the sliced seared tuna to the salad for what is (in my opinion) quite an impressive dinner salad!
Serve the salad right away, and as Julia would say, "Bon Appetit!".
Seared Tuna Niçoise Salad
- ¼ cup olive oil
- ⅛ cup red wine vinegar OR sherry vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- Pinch sea salt
- 6 baby Yukon gold potatoes
- 1 pound green beans, fresh or frozen (Use haricot vert if possible)
- 4 ounces mixed leafy greens
- 10 niçoise or kalamata olives (preferably pitted)
- 1 tablespoon capers
- ½ cup halved grape or cherry tomatoes
- 2 hard-boiled eggs
- 1 tablespoon oil
- 6 ounces ahi or albacore tuna (steaks or loins)
- Pinch salt
- Pinch pepper
- Add all of the vinaigrette ingredients to a small mason jar. Close the jar and shake vigorously. Set aside.Fill a medium saucepan halfway with water, and then bring water to a boil. Add the potatoes and boil for about 15 minutes, or until tender. Drain the water and set aside.
- Add green beans to a large heavy pan along with ½ cup water. Cover the pan and bring the water to a simmer. Continue cooking about 4 minutes, or until the beans are cooked but still firm. Drain the water and remove the green beans from the pan. Set green beans aside.(Making this ahead? Stop here, refrigerate all the ingredients and continue assembling the salad within 3 days.)
- Pat the tuna dry. Drizzle with a spoonful of the vinaigrette, and season with salt and pepper.Wipe the pan used to cook the green beans dry, and add 1 tablespoon oil to the heavy pan. Heat oil over medium heat until the oil is very hot.
- Add the fish to the hot pan and cook about 15-30 seconds per side, then remove from heat. Use a fillet knife to slice the tuna.
- Assemble the salad:Toss the lettuce in about half the vinaigrette. Arrange the tomatoes, potatoes, green beans, olives, capers, and boiled eggs on the salad.Top salad with the tuna, and serve immediately, with remaining vinaigrette on the side.
- Swap the tuna for canned tuna, preferably packed in oil. Drain before using.
- Add 6 to 13 anchovy fillets to the salad before serving.
- Boil the eggs ahead of time and leave in the shell until ready to use. Use within 7 days of boiling.
- Follow instruction steps 1 + 2 to prepare the potatoes and green beans, and then refrigerate both until you're ready to assemble the salad. Make sure to use the potatoes and green beans within 3 days.