This elegant Rare Ahi Tuna Salade Niçoise is a twist on the classic French salad. Typically composed of canned tuna, Niçoise olives, haricots verts, potatoes, tomatoes, capers, anchovies and a light drizzle of lemon and olive oil, there are numerous variations.
My version is made with seared fresh tuna slices, plus the addition of hard boiled egg halves and a mustard vinaigrette on a bed of baby spinach. It’s perfectly acceptable to add or subtract ingredients and make it your own.
Ahi Tuna Salade Niçoise
When in France a few years ago, I ordered salad Niçoise at every destination: Paris, Aix en Provence, Bayeux and Cannes. The variations were endless, but they were all made with canned tuna.
What is in a Salade Niçoise?
My Food Lovers’ Companion describes Salade Niçoise as containing tomatoes, black olives, garlic, anchovies plus French green beans, onions, tuna, hard-cooked eggs and herbs. Check, check and more checks. I could use all my favorite ingredients and add seared Ahi instead of oil packed can tuna.
I’m sure this Ahi Tuna Salade Niçoise is sacrilege by many Niçoise purists, but the hubby was out of town, and I wanted to treat myself to one of my favorites without having to make a back up plan dinner. You can alter the amounts of ingredients to suit your preferences when making a salade niçoise. I’m not a huge fan of hard boiled eggs, so I only used three…and upped the tuna amounts. I didn’t even bother with the garnishes…I was too eager to dig in! Besides being utterly breathtaking with all the vibrant colors, this twist on the classic French salad was as palate pleasing as I imagined.
Rare Ahi Tuna
I was first exposed to sushi in my teens when we lived in Vancouver. My parents would explore some of the more exotic restaurants on the weekends, then treat my sisters and I once they found a favorite. We quickly became fans of this Japanese dish which was such a foreign experience for us Iowans.
The idea of eating raw seafood made us feel hip and chic. Fast forward a couple decades to when Bill and I ate at Todd English’s Olives and I had my first taste of tuna tartare. My love affair with rare tuna was reignited…and almost anytime Ahi tuna is on the menu, I will order it.
Note: Ahi tuna can be contaminated with mercury, so it’s recommended to limit your intake. Pregnant women and children should avoid eating ahi tuna. On the plus side, tuna is high in the essential omega-3 fatty acids. So the takeaway is that this Ahi Tuna Salade Niçoise should not be on your weekly menu, but every now and then is OK.
How to Tweak your Tuna Salad Niçoise
There are so many variations, that I doubt any restaurant serves the exact same recipe. Here are some ideas for making it your own:
Vary your protein. If you’re opposed to eating rare tuna, feel free to substitute a good quality canned or jarred tuna. Tuna in oil is classic, but if tuna canned in water is your preference, you can go that route. Look for the jarred tuna in olive oil. It’s pricey, but delicious. Grilled salmon is fun alternative.
Make sure you have plenty of color on your plate! Green beans, basil, greens, red tomatoes, black olives, cream colored potatoes, pink tuna will make a rainbow for your eyes.
I haven’t found the oily Nicoise olives locally, so if you’re in the same boat, Kalamata or another favorite olive works in a pinch.
The dressing can be a simple lemon juice and olive oil concoction, or a vinaigrette with herbs, mustard, garlic, minced shallots.
More Entree Salad Recipes:
- Southwest Chicken Salad from Noble Pig
- Salmon Salad Nicoise
- Vietnamese Beef Noodle Bowl
- Mexican Chopped Salad
- Shrimp and Orange Salad
- Burrata Caprese Salad
- Classic Salad Nicoise
- Kitchen Sink Chopped Salad
- Salad Recipes
This post was originally shared in October, 2012. Photos and text were updated in 2019.
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1 shallot, minced
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 pound small new potatoes, boiled till tender, cooled and halved
- 8 ounces haricot verts (French green beans), blanched
- 12 ounces cherry tomatoes, halved if needed
- 1/2 cup Niçoise olives, pits removed (I used Kalamata olives)
- 8 anchovies (I did not use)
- 4 hard boiled eggs, cooled, then halved
- 3/4-1 pound sushi grade Ahi tuna
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small English cucumber, thinly sliced
- Baby lettuces or spinach
- 1/4 cup scallions or red onion, thinly sliced, optional garnish
- Basil, optional garnish
- Salt and pepper, as needed
Make the dressing by mixing all ingredients except olive oil. Slowly add olive oil while whisking continuously. Set aside.
Drizzle a small amount of dressing on each side of the tuna. Allow to marinate in the refrigerator up to 1 hour, flipping once.
Remove from fridge, pat dry and season both sides with salt and pepper. Put about 1 tablespoon olive oil into saute pan. Sear tuna on both sides for a minute or to desired doneness. Briefly sear all edges. Allow to cool, then slice.
Arrange a bed of lettuce on individual plates or platter. Arrange remaining ingredients over lettuce. Drizzle with dressing and garnish with onions and basil if desired.
Adapted from Saveur.