Pan Bagnat: Le French Tuna Salad Sandwich

By • September 26, 2010 107 Comments

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Author Notes: The pan bagnat is the sandwich version of the salad Nicoise. You can find either in various forms all over the Mediterranean coast where it is made with fresh seasonal ingredients. Here, olive oil packed canned tuna is mixed with olives, red onions, fresh herbs, and vinaigrette. The salad fills the center of a crusty French baguette. In this case "crusty" is the operative word. The bread must have a hard crust on the outside otherwise it will fall apart. Pan Bagnat literally translated is "wet bread" - the point is for the vinaigrette to soak into the bread. In my opinion, THAT is what makes this such a great sandwich. - Waverly Waverly

Food52 Review: Pan Bagnat, literally "bathed bread," is a great solution to the brown bag lunch dilemma, and Waverly's version is pitch-perfect. A decidedly Nicoise tuna salad is pressed between two garlic and oil slicked halves of a baguette and left in the fridge overnight, which allows all of the juices to soak into the bread. We chose to include both of the optional ingredients -- crisp green beans, briny artichoke hearts -- and were glad we did. The resulting sandwich was a glorious riot of colors, flavors and textures. - A&MThe Editors

Serves 2, but multiplies easily

  • 1/2 loaf crusty French baguette
  • 1 clove garlic, cut in half
  • 4-6 basil leaves
  • 1 (6oz) can tuna
  • 3/4 cup Nicoise or Kalamata olives, sliced
  • 1/2 cup red bell pepper, seeded and sliced thin
  • 1/2 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup Italian flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 jar or can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped (optional)
  • 1/4 cup blanched French green beans, sliced into thirds (optional)
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  1. PREP THE BREAD: Slice the loaf of bread in half lengthwise. Remove some of the insides of the bottom half to create a trough into which the filling will go. Brush both halves with a little extra virgin olive oil. Rub each with the garlic. Line the half with the trough with the basil leaves.
  2. MIX THE SALAD: In a mixing bowl, combine the tuna, olives, red bell pepper, onion, parsley, artichoke hearts (if using) and green beans (if using). In a measuring cup or small bowl, whisk the lemon juice into the olive oil until it is emulsified/combined. Pour the vinaigrette into the tuna mixture and stir to combine. Season to taste with sea salt and pepper.
  3. ASSEMBLE: Spoon tuna mixture into the trough of the baguette over the basil leaves. Wrap sandwich well in plastic. Crush it down by placing a brick or heavy cast iron skillet and refrigerate, preferably with the weight, overnight.
  4. SERVE: In the morning, cut sandwich in half. Enjoy for lunch at home or wrap in foil and brown bag it (use a lunch box that will keep the sandwich chilled). Serve with cubes of feta cheese and a tart Granny Smith apple.

Tags: brown bag lunch, Canned tuna, picnic, savory, serves a crowd, tuna salad

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Comments (107) Questions (2)

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3 days ago je mange

Finally made these after saving the recipe forever ago. Delicious combination of ingredients, but is also easily customized for on-hand ingredients. Making again and again!

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18 days ago Sonia Garrison

Fantastic! Best tuna sandwich I have ever had. I added sardines and doubled the recipe and plan to add the rest of the tuna mixture to orzo tonight.

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26 days ago ghainskom

Eating this as I type. Forgot the garlic and still, this sandwich is crazy good. Delicious!

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8 months ago marymary

I make this twice a month and use less oil / dressing and add a boiled egg. When I don't have fresh basil, I use spinach leaves on the bread and dried basil in the salad. When eaten immediately, we like to first toast the bread brushed with garlic-infused olive oil, topped with peppered or swiss cheese. For sandwiches we wrap and refrigerate for later, I add feta cheese to the salad. If I have any leftover salad, I use that in a quick pasta dish for dinner. It's all good.

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8 months ago Catherine Oliver

I think using it as a pasta sauce, esp. in summer, is a terrific idea! Thanks for sharing.

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8 months ago Eliza

Delicious! Next time, I would cut the recipe in half, because it generated lots of leftovers even for two people. Would be great to make for a dinner party and have as finger food (though is quite messy:)

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11 months ago Rebekah

Had this last night, was wonderful, one of the best sandwiches we've ever had. Thanks!!

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11 months ago Catherine Oliver

Just made this (for tomorrow's lunch) for about the fourth time this year. It's the best sandwich I've ever had. We even carried it onto airplanes twice and had the flight attendants drooling over it. I use Ortiz Spanish tuna packed in olive oil. I follow the recipe as written and don't think it could be improved upon. Just crazy good. Thanks.

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12 months ago GuysEnPlace

Made this last night for lunch today and it was amazingly good, even better than my favourite Cafe! I added a hardboiled egg in the mix because they're a weakness.

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about 1 year ago Gaia Goodness Natural Foods

Okay!! I'm totally trying this THIS week. I'll let you know how it turns out

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about 1 year ago marymary

YES! This was such a refreshing sandwich. I may never use mayo and mustard on tuna fish salad again. This was my submission today for my favorite weekday go-to lunch... http://food52.com/blog...?

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over 1 year ago ECMotherwell

This is DELICIOUS! Wonderful when you're impatient and eat it right after preparation; even better the following day.

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over 1 year ago kimberly.godwin

I made this last Sunday night for lunch on Monday. I have to say, it was sooooo good. My guy even called me to say that was one of the best lunches I've even given him. I think this is also good without the bread. (I'm not the biggest bread eater.) Next time I might just make the 'filling' as it's own meal. Total keeper recipe!

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over 1 year ago Yodamom

I love this sandwich, it's the perfect picnic food. Thank you !

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over 1 year ago Barb

I make an easier variation of this that was inspired by Alton Brown's version, he adds boiled egg which I find really good on this. My variation uses prepared olive tapenade (I like Trader Joes's) and a little extra vinaigrette, and I save some carbs and calories by wrapping it in a thin pita bread lined first with a large leaf of romaine. You lose the dressing sinking into the bread but it's a great everyday lunch. I usually add onions, tomatoes, red peppers, and a bunch of crushed red pepper.

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over 1 year ago Waverly

That sounds quick and easy, Barb. I will give the olive tapenade and pita bread a try. Thanks!

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over 1 year ago Cinnamin

Love the tip about scooping out a little from the bottom half! Hadn't thought of it before. NYT's Melissa Clark of A Good Appetite also has a niece tutorial http://www.nytimes.com...

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over 1 year ago alin

wow! even my husband loved it...we served it open faced on toast.

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over 1 year ago gduncan757

Where's the tuna? When I read the recipe it looked like there was very little tuna in proportion to the other ingredients. I did not have a six ounce can so I used two five ounce cans instead and prepared this according to the recipe. I made it last night and waited until this afternoon before trying it. Overall, I love the recipe but I will do it a little differently the next time. 3/4 cup of kalamata olives is too much and the taste over powers the other flavors. I believe 1/3 or 1/4 cup should be enough. Half of a small onion is vague so I used 1/4 cup. The olive oil/lemon juice dressing (9 tablespoons) makes this very wet and 3 tablespoons of lemon juice is too much, making the tuna a little sour. I think 1 tablespoon of lemon juice with 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil will be plenty. I added the green beans and will do a little more than 1/4 cup the next time. I love garlic so instead of rubbing it on the bread I minced the clove and put it in the tuna. I look forward to making this again.

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almost 2 years ago Karen Weintrob

Nicoise Salad on a Baguette....what could be better!

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almost 2 years ago Katie

I rode a bullet train from Provence to Paris one summer, leaving my stage (bakery internship) in the south of France to see the finish of the Tour de France. I was given a pan bagnat for the journey. It's juicy flavors in delicious bread will be in my memory forever!

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about 2 years ago Sarah Beall

Wow, keeping this recipe. Made this for a summer evening dinner after playing a tennis match. Doubled the recipe and put it together on a ciabatta loaf and it easily fed the four of us. Everyone was licking their plates to get the last bits and pieces that fell out of their sandwich.