My mother would boil potatoes and eggs in the same pot and when she was done she would let them sit in cold water in the sink. I knew what this meant: Nicoise salad for dinner. I can’t remember what other ingredients she used in her Vegetarian Nicoise Salad recipe except lettuce, boiled potatoes, hard boiled eggs, and a tangy dressing. Maybe there was a little dried dill. She claims she never added tuna. It didn’t matter. It was one of my favorite meals as a kid.

Vegetarian Nicoise Salad

The French Nicoise Salad

I did a little research as I prepared to write my own Vegetarian Nicoise Salad recipe. It turns out what goes in Nicoise salad does matter quite a lot—especially to the French.

The original recipe, developed in Nice, France in the late 1800s, was very simple, containing tomatoes, anchovies, and olive oil. Over time, chefs added more ingredients, including boiled eggs, green beans, artichokes, and other seasonal vegetables.

In the 1970s Jacques Medecin, the mayor of Nice and a renowned chef, asserted that Nicoise salad should never contain boiled vegetables. Hard boiled eggs were fine, but other boiled vegetables were not allowed.

The French defended Medecin’s position vehemently over the years. In 2016, a Michelin chef named Helene Darroze posted a Nicoise salad online containing boiled potatoes and boiled green beans only to be met with scorn and ridicule.

Vegetarian Nicoise Salad

Who knew that salad could be so controversial?

Our Vegetarian Nicoise Salad

No matter how much the French may disparage us, here at The Salad Lobby we maintain that salad is an expression of individual creativity and a celebration of local bounty. If boiled green beans complete the canvas of your Nicoise salad, then go forth, boil those beans!

For our Vegetarian Nicoise Salad recipe I took inspiration from many sources: my mother, the French, and the Portland Farmers Market where fresh spring produce abounds.

Vegetarian Nicoise Salad

I walked to our local Saturday farmers market in the Park Blocks, at Portland State University, forgetting that this popular downtown attraction means we were elbow-to-elbow with hordes of tourists and post-brunch Portlanders. Still, the beautiful mountains of fresh spring produce composed our Nicoise salad. I selected some asparagus, radishes, chives, and fava beans to add to the fresh red leaf lettuce already at home.

Some may say Nicoise isn’t Nicoise without tuna or anchovies. But I would argue that Nicoise is all about Nicoise olives. They add enough brine to more than compensate for the tuna. I kept this salad vegetarian and found Nicoise olives at an olive bar at a local grocery store. Tomatoes also seemed essential to me. Since tomatoes aren’t quite in season yet, I added some roasted, marinated ones from the olive bar. Marinated red peppers would also go well.

Vegetarian Nicoise Salad

I added sliced boiled potatoes and boiled eggs making this salad fit for a meal. Next I roasted the asparagus for a few minutes and blanched the fava beans for just 30 seconds. Fava beans are incredible lightly blanched. Supposedly, the French and Americans are the only ones who remove the beans’ waxy outer casing. I did for this salad, but you could leave them on if you want to fuss with them less.

The only aspect of this Vegetarian Nicoise Salad that’s classic is the dressing. Just a simple white wine vinaigrette with some diced shallots and herbes de Provence—et voilà, a Nicoise salad dressing.

Vegetarian Nicoise Salad

The French traditionalists may discredit our Vegetarian Nicoise Salad as an American corruption all they want. But we lobby to free salad from the chains of convention. Salad is a palate for expression of local bounty and our own artistic appetites.

Go forth, make your own Vegetarian Nicoise Salad!

Vegetarian Nicoise Salad

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  1. Boil water for potatoes and eggs. ou can boil them in the same pot to save water and energy. Remove the eggs after 10 minutes if you like softer yokes, 12 minutes if you like a firmer yolk. When you remove the eggs, shock them in cold water to make them easier to peel. Check potatoes for done-ness when you remove the eggs. They should be firm but tender to a knife.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Arrange asparagus on a baking sheet and toss in olive oil and a dash of salt. Roast for 10 minutes.
  3. Shuck the fava beans from their large pods. In a small pot of boiling water, blanch the beans for 30 seconds and shock them in cold water. You can remove the waxy outer skin or serve with skin on.
  4. Slice the radishes into thin rounds and dice the chives.
  5. Wash the lettuce and spin or dry it. Tear the leaves into bite-sized pieces and arrange on 2 plates.
  6. Slice the potatoes into rounds and eggs into wedges or rounds.
  7. Arrange the ingredients on the bed of lettuce, leaving the chives and olives to sprinkle over the entire salad.
  8. Serve with a vinaigrette dressing on the side.
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4 Responses

  1. Create/Enjoy

    Interesting history!! I love nicoise salad, need to make it more at home!

    Funny, last time I went to France, I was poor/underemployed out of grad school after the recession, raw vegan and seriously nutrient-depleted, and had a lot of anxiety. I counted my pennies on that trip and ate mostly fruit and didn’t enjoy much french food at all, but made an exception from my raw vegan-ness for a nicoise salad out at lunch on a day trip with my friend. Eggs, tuna, and even cooked potatoes. It was delicious and I think the only meal I remember from that trip!

  2. Erin

    I love the idea of adding seasonal veggies to the Nicoise salad, not just what I think as the standard affair of green beans, eggs and olives. I am a huge fan of big salads so I will have to add this to my rotation!

  3. Michele

    Salads are a great way to let loose with your creativity! And bending the traditional Nicoise salad ingredients is a wonderful way to take advantage of seasonal, local produce.

  4. Hillary Harper

    I know it’s crazy, but I’ve never actually had a Nicoise salad! You’ve inspired me now and I’ll definitely be making it this week for lunch or dinner 🙂


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