Vegan Tuna-Less Nicoise

by Gena on July 22, 2013


OK, maybe “Nicoise” is a stretch, since the star of Nicoise salad is probably the tuna (along with the Nicoise olives, which I totally forgot to add and mention. Thanks for pointing it out,¬†Rachel!). But when I whipped up this salad over the weekend–a mix of farmers’ market greens, roasted new potatoes, blanched green beans, cherry tomatoes, and vinaigrette, along with a dollop of cashew cheese–I couldn’t help but think of the traditional French lunchtime classic.

I’m always insisting that making replacements in vegan dishes isn’t all about coming up with exact replicas; it’s about figuring out what a non-vegan ingredient contributes to the dish (salt? protein? umami? creaminess? crunch?) and then adding a vegan ingredient that’ll do the same thing. Usually, I replace anything fishy in a recipe with kelp or dulse flakes (check out my raw tuna salad for an example), but for me, what tuna always added to a Nicoise salad was umami and salt. And that’s what the cashew cheese is doing right here.

I can’t get enough new potatoes lately: I love how easy they are to roast, and how nicely the absorb herbs and seasonings. Sweet potatoes are wonderful and all, but more often than not what you taste when you roast them is sweetness. New potatoes and fingerling potatoes, both seasonal stars at the moment, are much more of a blank canvas, and they’re so easy to toss into salads, zucchini pastas, or soups.


Any vinaigrette will work in this salad, but I used my standard lemon/dijon/olive oil mix. Get creative: creamy dressings, apple cider vinegar dressings, and balsamic vinaigrettes will all work very well.


Vegan Tuna-Less Nicoise


  • 2 cups new potatoes or fingerling potatoes, quartered
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 heaping cups green beans, trimmed (thinner ones work better in salad, I think)
  • 1 1/2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 6 to 8 cups mixed greens (arugula, mesclun, butter lettuce, romaine, kale--whatever you've got)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1/2 cup basic cashew cheese (see this post for recipe)


  1. 1. Preheat oven to 400. Toss the potatoes in the olive oil. Spread on a foil or parchment lined baking sheet, and top with rosemary, sea salt, and pepper. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, or until potatoes are golden brown. Remove from heat and allow them to cool. (This step can be completed a day or two in advance.)
  2. 2. Bring a medium pot of water to boil. Add green beans and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, or until beans are slightly tender but still have bite. Drain them and immediately rinse under cold water to stop cooking. Shake them dry and set aside.
  3. 3. Place the mixed greens, tomato, beans, and potatoes in a large salad or mixing bowl. Whisk the oil, lemon juice, and mustard together, and season a little bit with salt and pepper. Pour dressing over the salad and toss to combine. Divide into four serving bowls, and top with two tablespoons cashew cheese.
  4. Makes 4 Servings.


On first inspection, all this roasting and blanching and mixing seems like a heck of a lot of work for a salad, but if you make the cashew cheese in advance (I tend to make a batch every single weekend, and use it through the week) and roast the potatoes the day before, it’s of course very easy to throw together. A lot of the recipes I love–salads with lots of ingredients, zucchini pastas with cashew cheese and other toppers–involve a lot of components, so I tend to prep the components on the day I get groceries for the week ahead. When I’m ready to mix and match, it’s as simple as reaching in the fridge. I’ve mentioned my standard “component” staples before, but they tend to include:

  • 1 to 2 dressings
  • 1 batch cashew (or other nut/seed) cheese
  • 1 batch nut/seed pate
  • 1 batch hummus
  • 1 to 2 trays roasted seasonal veggies
  • 1 batch (1 dry cup before cooking) prepared quinoa
  • 1 batch (1 dry cup before cooking) cooked legumes

Sometimes I can do this all on a single day (the grains and legumes happen in my rice cooker, which makes life easy). Sometimes, it gets spread out over a couple of days. The dressings, nut pate and/or cheese, and roasted veggies are more hands on, so I carve out space when I can.

Anyway, that’s a small glimpse into my process! A lot of you ask about how I stick to healthy food when I’m busy, and this is how, though I should mention that I absolutely do not hesitate to purchase some canned beans or a container of prepared hummus when things are really hectic. It’s important to be realistic about how much you can handle.

I hope you enjoy this salad; it’ll make a great appetizer for summer entertaining. And feel free to halve the recipe if you’re a fellow solo dweller, though it certainly won’t hurt to make all of the called for potatoes; if you enjoy them as much as I do, it won’t take you long to gobble them up!

Before I go, announcement time: I’ll be teaching an Intro to Raw Foods class at the Whole Foods Market in Tenleytown in D.C. this wednesday at 6pm. Tips, tricks of the trade, a live telling of my raw foods love story, and lots of tasty food samples will be included! If you’re local, it would be great to see you. You can register here. Come one, come all!


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{ 19 comments… read them below or add one }

Suzanne @ hello, veggy! July 22, 2013 at 2:12 pm

I’ve never had a non-vegan nicoise, so I’m sure your version would fool me!

What is exactly is a ‘new or fingerling’ potato? I’ve only ever seen white, yukon, and sweet potatoes in my supermarkets..


Nichole July 22, 2013 at 2:19 pm

This sounds yummy, I’ll have to give it a try soon! I think hearts of palm, if you like them, would be a nice addition – they sort of have that salty, umami flavor and a flaky, almost fish-like texture.

The longer I’m vegan, the less interested I am in replicating non-vegan recipes in a vegan way. This is especially since I started gluten-free two weeks ago, since most good meat replacements are made with vital wheat gluten. I just want whole, real food that’s easy to prepare and tastes good. I’m not looking to mimic meat or wheat anymore ;)


McKel Hill, MS, RD, LDN | Nutrition Stripped July 22, 2013 at 2:30 pm

Yummy! I love oil and vinegar based potato salads/dressings. Such a great combination for the starchiness from the potato ;)


Rachel @ Eat Learn Discover July 22, 2013 at 2:41 pm

I love this! Must get my hands on some of those potatoes :-)

But also, though I know traditional nicoise salads are made with tuna, I think it gets its name from the nicoise olives that are in it. Which are totally vegan!


Gena July 22, 2013 at 2:43 pm

….and which I totes forgot. D’oh!


janet @ the taste space July 22, 2013 at 3:09 pm

Yay for your own class! Have fun! :)


Emma July 22, 2013 at 3:44 pm

I’ve been eating a lot of new potatoes recently (they’re an English summer staple!) and invariably have some leftover in the fridge. I usually slice them over salads cold and add a few dollops of hummus, but roasted and with cashew cheese sound better :)


Kathleen July 22, 2013 at 7:35 pm

Made this for dinner tonight with a side of tofu. Delicious! Xo


Elisabeth July 22, 2013 at 7:56 pm

I made a salad very similar to this the other night, and it was very yummy! Thanks for sharing your version here. In case you didn’t know, you can roast the green beans in the oven, too, which creates a wonderfully savory and caramelized flavor that I just love, instead of steaming them.


Lindsay July 23, 2013 at 6:52 am

Ooooh that sounds lovely!


Blaine Arin July 22, 2013 at 10:04 pm

I often think of potatoes being pretty blah, but you’re so right about how they make a stellar canvas for bold flavors. I’ll look at them differently next time they’re staring me down at the grocery store.

Love that you shared a template of your weekly food prep ritual! I’m always trying to tell my clients/friends/family that it’s all about how you set yourself up for eating week. Those bursts of cooking go a long way, and there’s nothing that makes me happier than a fridge full of awesome food waiting for me when I get home. (you’ve inspired me to make a batch of cashew cheese – why have I not been doing this??)


Christina @ The Beautiful Balance July 23, 2013 at 1:49 am

Yum! I love the idea of making a vegan nicoise salad. Not to mention, the cashew cheese looks incredibly delicious :)


Ricki July 23, 2013 at 7:07 am

Becareful of potatoes and nightshade foods. They cause inflammation. Goal is to REDUCE inflammation


Reba - Not So Perfect Life July 23, 2013 at 9:21 am

I wish I was there to take your raw food class!


Gena July 24, 2013 at 10:10 am

Wish you were, too!


Christy@SweetandSavoring July 23, 2013 at 5:51 pm

What a delicious salad! I love the combination of flavors :)


sharon July 24, 2013 at 1:43 am

I do believe that this will be tomorrow’s lunch or dinner. We love putting cooked potatoes in salads; they add a delicious creamy texture with a little sweetness. Thanks for another great recipe!


Carrie (Carrie on Vegan) July 24, 2013 at 2:51 pm

Good luck with your class tonight, I wish I could be there! I’m going to be teaching one at Whole Foods in Los Angeles in January (I haven’t picked the topic yet). I love showing people how easy it is to make healthy, delicious food as I’m sure you do, too. Enjoy!


Gena July 24, 2013 at 8:59 pm

Wish I could be there for yours, Carrie!


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