Pan Bagnat: Le French Tuna Salad Sandwich

September 26, 2010

Test Kitchen-Approved

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
Prep time: 8 hrs 10 min


  • 1/2 loaf crusty French baguette
  • 1 clove garlic, cut in half
  • 4 to 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
  • 1 pinch sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
In This Recipe


  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.

More Great Recipes:
Sandwich|Salad|French|Lemon Juice|Olive|Parsley|Tuna|Artichoke|Bell Pepper|Cast Iron|No-Cook|Make Ahead

Reviews (118) Questions (2)

118 Reviews

jackie D. February 11, 2019
I've already made this superb sandwich twice, once for my girlfriends and another time for my family. Both times a hit. Just love it and of course you can and must change it around to make it at your pleasure, but the basic idea is fantastic!!!
Ann January 24, 2019
Unlike everyone else, we found this sandwich missing something, which is strange given the long, delicious ingredient list. It just had no zip, not enough depth of flavor. If we make it again, we will definitely use roasted red peppers and something, either a spice or sauce, to add heat. Very bland as is.
Margaux January 15, 2019
Absolutely delicious! Came together perfectly, I skipped the green beans but the artichokes were key. Added a little extra parsley and lemon/oil emulsion for an extra zest I preferred.
Cheryl September 16, 2018
Loved this! Made using smashed chickpeas instead of tuna (I eat vegan) and used this delicious and flavorful dressing:
Put it over salad greens with cut cherry tomatoes; added the artichoke hearts. Would add more green beans next time.
Regine September 7, 2018
Wow. I have to confess I was really skeptical about a French bread sandwich that you prepare overnight. But this sandwich for sure gets way better if you do prepare it overnight with something heavy on top of it to flatten it. I just had it for lunch at work and it was delicious. 3 things though! 1) You could easily use this quantity of filling for a full instead of half a baguette. 2) Rather than rubbing the garlic on the bread, crush it and mix it with the tuna. In fact, use more than 1; I used 3. 3) Add a bit of hot sauce or some crushed spicy pepper (i.e., habanero, serrano) if you like your sandwich a bit hot. I look forward to making it again. Also, I did not have green beans so I skipped it.
Pamela T. August 10, 2018
This is a new favorite. Really easy to make as-is or to customize. I made into a salad with spinach and spring mix. AMAZING!
Lindsay S. June 22, 2018
This is just amazing, my favorite meal right now. I've made it several times and love it best just as it is written. I do use higher quality tuna in oil, and I like 1/2 cup chopped artichoke hearts and roasted red peppers in jar instead of raw. I like kalamata here better bc they are stronger. Don't skimp on lemon juice. It's so perfect with the feta and granny Smiths!! I devour it with such passion, ha. I love it topped on the basil and garlic rubbed baguette as an open face sandwich too.
monica August 10, 2017
This is my go-to for picnics, tailgates, and parties. Scales up and modifies easily (for example, I can't eat onions, so I sub out for some roasted garlic and fresh chives). I'll have to try adding head-boiled egg!
monica August 10, 2017
😂 HARD-boiled eggs, not head-boiled
Betty J. July 2, 2017
I am making this tomorrow evening! But without the tuna because I am vegan but its a great chance to make dinner for two and add tuna to my partner's sandwich. It looks beautiful. And I have all the ingredients on hand except the bread.
Corinn B. August 16, 2015
New favorite sandwich!!! The basil is truly the icing on the cake!
je M. July 1, 2015
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!
Sonia G. June 16, 2015
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.
ghainskom June 8, 2015
Eating this as I type. Forgot the garlic and still, this sandwich is crazy good. Delicious!
marymary November 17, 2014
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.
Catherine O. November 17, 2014
I think using it as a pasta sauce, esp. in summer, is a terrific idea! Thanks for sharing.
Eliza November 16, 2014
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:)
Rebekah July 30, 2014
Had this last night, was wonderful, one of the best sandwiches we've ever had. Thanks!!
Catherine O. July 25, 2014
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.
GuysEnPlace July 12, 2014
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.
Gaia G. May 14, 2014
Okay!! I'm totally trying this THIS week. I'll let you know how it turns out
marymary April 16, 2014
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...