Appetizers / International / Lifestyle / Main Dishes / Salad

Guarantee that everyone will love it: French Tuna Salad Sandwich

This overnight French Tuna Salad sandwich is incredibly filling and robust, incorporating bold summer flavors with fresh veggies and herbs. When picnics start to get boring with peanut butter and jelly, this is a sandwich that travels well and pleases even the most picky eater.

Special thanks to Will, a good friend of my sister-in-law, for the inspiring recipe behind this delicious French tuna salad.

This French Tuna Salad Sandwich is like the best of two worlds – a hearty sandwich world with a Nicoise salad world. It’s amazing, and it’s such a pleasant and unique upgrade to a typical (and boring) tuna sandwich.

This recipe calls for oil packed tuna, fresh herbs, bell peppers, red onion, olive tapenade, and vinaigrette all stuffed inside a hearty, crusty bread. The key is to let the sandwich sit overnight, so the flavors have time to meld together AND so the crusty bread can soak up some of the vinaigrette.

The recipe, though long, is fairly easy. We originally adapted recipe from here but added/changed a few ingredients!

A few notes on the French Tuna Salad Sandwich…

  • The tuna is really a key player, so get fancy tuna packed in olive oil. The higher quality tuna you choose, the more firm and flavorful it will be. This tuna is THE BEST. Even if you’re not a tuna fan, this tuna will convert you. It’s pricey, but the quality is exceptional. It’s uh.may.zing. Here’s the brand we love, though it’s hard to find. The Wild Planet Tuna is another brand we love, and it should be easier to find, as more stores carry it.
  • Double check – is that tuna packed in oil? You’ll want an oil packed tuna, so the oil from the can mixes with the home made vinaigrette and gets soaked into the bread.
  • There are many variants to the Nicoise salad. Some contain green beans, while others contain capers. Feta cheese is another that would go well with this salad. Play around and see what you like, though this recipe is one Meg and I both love.
  • Double check the tuna is dolphin safe, because earth love is important.
  • This recipe yields a lot of tuna salad. I love storing the leftovers in the fridge and then mixing it with some mixed greens. There’s plenty of salad left over, that you could Leven grab an extra loaf and make another one.
  • And, here’s the history, the controversy, and all the different variations of the Nicoise Salad!

Onward with the recipe.

Take an incredibly crusty French baguette. Ideally, use 1~2 days old baguette. If you get a freshly baked bread, put it in the oven at 320F for about 10-15 min after slicing in a half before applying olive oil.) Or the bread will be extremely chewy and your jaws get tired after eating the sandwich.

Cut the baguette in half, then slice it again horizontally. Here’s the trickiest part of the whole recipe: scoop out the crust from the bottom halves of bread. You’re creating a tiny food trench, to capture every last bite of deliciously yummy tuna. Then, dredge both sides with olive oil. Next, rub a clove of garlic on the bread and fill the trench with about 1/4 cup of basil leaves. Like this…

Next, make the tuna salad. Here are the star players.

For the salad and vinaigrette you’ll need:

1 can of tuna (If you like more tuna, double it!)

1 can of artichoke, drained and chopped (about 1/2 cup)

1/4 cup of fresh parsley, chopped

3/4 cup of olive tapenade (We particularly like a tapenade pack from Whole Foods!)

1/2 cup of red sweet mini peppers, chopped thinly (about 2-3 mini peppers)

1/2 red onion, chopped thinly

One lemon, juiced

6 tablespoons of olive oil, plus more for the bread (if you are using tuna in olive oil, you can use the oil)

salt and pepper, to taste

Mix the salad by combining the drained tuna, parsley, artichokes, olive tapenade, bell pepper, and red onion. Salt and pepper, to taste. Next, in a separate bowl, mix the lemon juice with the olive oil. Once it’s combined, pour over the tuna mixture. Generously scoop this salad onto the bread. Sigh – such a perfect combination of color that’s just oh-so lovely.

Cover the sandwich with the remaining bread, and wrap in Saran Wrap. You’ll want to wrap it as tightly as possible. Then, pop that baby in the fridge. While it’s in the fridge, try to put something heavy on the sandwich. You want as much pressure on the sandwich overnight, which will encourage the bread to absorb the flavors.

The next day, your lunch is ready!

Pair it with a fruit salad and some lemonade, and it’s almost like you’re visiting Provence, France. Bon appetite!

It’s pretty good to just eat as is! Bon Appétit!

Tweaking ideas :

  • Instead of rubbing garlic, you can chop garlic and combine with Tuna Salad!
  • We also sometimes skip brushing olive oil process when we just want to make it really quickly!
  • If you are tuna lovers, use 1.5-2 times amount of tuna!
  • You can reduce amount of onion by half if you don’t like too oniony flavor.
  • Feta cheese & caper would go well with this tuna salad!
  • We recently just like to eat tuna salad as is on bunch of greens. It goes really well with boiled eggs and a slice of sourdough bread! You can mix in chopped garlic and basil leaves instead of rubbing/laying on baguette. Bon Appetite!

Our favorites :

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Pan Bagnat aka Fancy French Tuna Salad Sandwich

Prep Time 20 mins
Total Time 12 hrs
Course Main Course, Salad, Snack


  • 1 loaf crusty French bread (*)
  • 1/4 cup whole basil leaves
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 can tuna, 6 ounces (If you love more tuna, feel free to use 1.5-2 times more)
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 3/4 cup olive tapenade (e.g. chopped olive is good, too)
  • 1/2 red onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup red sweet mini pepper, chopped (2-3 mini peppers)
  • 1 can drained and chopped artichokes (about 1/2 cup after chopped)
  • 6 tbsp olive oil, plus more for drizzling If you are using tuna in oil, you can use the oil.
  • 1 juice from one lemon
  • salt and pepper, to taste


  • Slice baguette in half, then horizontally slice it.
  • Scoop out inside of bread of the bottom side, to create a trough.
  • Drizzle bread with olive oil, and rub with garlic.
  • Line bread with basil.
  • In a medium bowl, mix tuna, parsley, olive tapenade, artichoke, veggies, and salt/pepper.
  • Add the juice from one lemon and the olive oil.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste and stir.
  • Scoop tuna mixture onto the bread.
  • Make a sandwich, by topping one half with the remaining halves of bread.
  • Wrap in saran wrap tightly, and store in fridge.
  • Cover the sandwich with something weighted, and leave overnight.
  • The next morning, take out of the fridge and cut into individual serving sizes. Enjoy!


* Bugette – Ideally, use 1~2 days old baguette. If you get a freshly baked bread, put it in the oven at 320F for about 10-15 min after slicing in a half before applying olive oil.) Or the bread will be extremely chewy and your jaws get tired after eating the sandwich.
Keyword party, sandwich, tuna

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