Pan Bagnat French Tuna Sandwich
Pan Bagnat French Tuna Sandwich

Pan Bagnat is the ultimate make-ahead picnic sandwich! Find some crusty bread, good quality canned tuna, a few choice toppings and you’re on your way. It seems fancy, but this French tuna sandwich couldn’t be simpler.

Welcome to le pique-nique! (That’s French for picnic: Insert happy face here.)

Where does Pan Bagnat come from?

Pan Bagnat is to the Nice area (in the French Mediterranean) what Muffuletta is to New Orleans.

You can find the sandwich on every corner – in bakeries, in markets and even at stalls on the beach. Traditionally it is prepared with round, crusty buns, but you can also find it in the form of baguettes or large round loaves of bread cut into individual slices.

This sandwich is variously known as pan bagnat, pan bagna, or pain bagnat—all pronounced“pahn bahn-yah.” The meaning of the name is literally “bathed bread”.

It’s basically a Salade Nicoise in a sandwich, but oh what a sandwich!

Canned tuna, anchovies, olives, tomatoes, onions, and hard-boiled eggs are some of the standard ingredientsbut this sandwich can be a hodgepodge for any others you might have around.

Try adding thinly sliced ​​fennel, leftover green beans, radishes, cucumbers, fresh herbs, bell peppers, and red peppers from a jar—just a few of the possibilities! You can even substitute leftover fresh tuna or salmon for the canned tuna.

The hallmark of this sandwich is its very moist consistency: The bread is doused with olive oil before filling and then pressed to absorb all the juices from the tuna and other ingredients.

This results in a delicious concert of ingredients marrying together while the sandwich sits. Crusty bread ensures that the inside is soft but the outside of the bread remains firm.

What is the best type of tuna?

I’d vote more for canned tuna than fresh tuna in this sandwich (and also in Salade Nicoise), but only when it’s wrapped in olive oil.

Water Packed Tuna is of course lower in calories, but also a little drier than tuna in olive oil. In contrast, Tuna packed in olive oil is tender and moist, and the flavor of the tuna really shines. You can drain some but not all of the oil if you like. Just don’t squeeze everything out as it is very aromatic.

If I’m feeling like a slob, I’ll buy Tonnino tuna by the jar for a few bucks more. I especially like the lemon and pepper version. I love it in both this sandwich and in Salade Nicoise, which is my favorite meal on summer evenings when the fridge is empty, but I always have a few tomatoes, olives, and eggs on hand.

The best bread for pan bagnat

The best choice for this sandwich is a piece of crusty bread. While working on this recipe I was able to find some 10 inch long baguette style loaves that are ideal for the sandwich as each loaf could be cut in half to make two sandwiches. A large round loaf of bread, about 8 inches in diameter, would also work.

In other words, any crunchy loaf that looks like it’ll make four sandwiches will work (or even similarly crunchy buns). Hollow out some of the insides of the bread, leaving room for the ingredients.

About those hard boiled eggs

Hard-boiled eggs are pretty straightforward—if you happen to have a few on hand, just slice them up to add to the sandwich. If you want to peel hard-boiled eggs easily, make sure to steam or pressure cook them.

My husband was a little suspicious of them in this sandwich but commented on how they added an almost creamy texture to the filling. I like to cook up a few extra for snacks or to-go on days I walk out the door without breakfast.

Tame your raw onions

Raw onions of any kind can be takeover artists in any sandwich, dominating (and ruining for me) all other ingredients. There is a solution!

  1. Soak them in cold water to leach out the enzymes that convert into pungent compounds.
  2. Do this within seconds of slicing an onion .

Leave them in the water while you assemble the other ingredients and give them a quick rinse, which makes them team players but still retains some crunch.

I prefer red onions here and this is the usual one because I like the color, but you can use a sweet Vidalia onion or a plain yellow onion if you like.

Now add something salty!

Anchovies, capers, and olives add a lot to the sandwich, but feel free to use them however you like. Small, pitted Nicoise olives are my favorites for their mild saltiness, but these finer points should be dictated by what you have available and what you like.

How to assemble the Pan Bagnat

Once you’ve got the ingredients together, now comes the fun part. Brush the top and bottom of the bread with olive oil, sprinkle with salt, pepper and a little vinegar and layer the fillings on top.

Then wrap the bread tightly in plastic wrap and weigh it down with something heavy, such as a piece of cheese. B. a cast-iron skillet with some canned goods on it, or your heaviest pot. Press the sandwiches for about 10 minutes, then flip and press for another 10 minutes. Then, use a sharp or serrated knife to cut through the cling film and you’re good to go.

Your picnic expected! Pack your basket with these sandwiches, a bottle of chilled French rosé, and plenty of napkins. Enjoy your meal!

More classic French recipes

  • Nicoise salad
  • Coq Au Vin
  • Quiche Lorraine
  • French onion soup
  • Mussels in white wine sauce

Pan Bagnat (French Tuna Sandwich)

preparation time
20 minutes

20 minutes

total time
40 minutes

2 rolls

Instead of a baguette, you can make this sandwich with an 8-inch round, crispy loaf.

If you want to make the sandwiches a day in advance, refrigerate overnight before slicing and bring to room temperature before consuming. For added fun, wrap each sandwich in parchment and tie with string.


  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced

  • 2 hard-boiled eggs, sliced

  • 2 anchovy fillets, finely chopped

  • 2 (5-ounce) cans of oil-packed tuna

  • 1/4 cup pitted Nicoise or Kalamata olives

  • 1 to 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

  • 2 10-inch baguettes or 1 large baguette, halved (see recipe note)

  • 1 garlic clove, peeled

  • 1/4 cup olive oil

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper

  • 2 tomatoes, sliced

  • 12 large basil leaves


  1. Soaking Onions:

    Place the onion slices in a bowl and cover with cold water. Let them soak at room temperature for at least 10 minutes or up to 30 minutes while you make the sandwiches.

  2. Make the sandwich filling:

    In a bowl, combine the tuna, its oil, anchovies, olives, and 2 teaspoons of red wine vinegar. Stir gently to avoid crushing the tuna chunks.

  3. Prepare bread:

    Slice the baguettes lengthwise to separate the top from the bottom. Remove some of the soft crumbs from the top and bottom of the bread to make room for the filling.

    Rub the insides with the garlic clove. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with vinegar, salt and pepper.

  4. Fill the sandwiches:

    Spread the tuna mixture evenly over the bottom of the baguettes. Garnish with the red onion, egg slices, tomatoes and basil. Drizzle with more olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

    Cover the sandwiches with the tops of the baguettes and wrap each tightly in plastic wrap.

  5. Press the sandwiches:

    Place the wrapped sandwiches side by side on the counter and place a cutting board on top. Place a heavy pot or pan on top and add a few canned goods to weigh it down even more.

    Press the sandwiches for 10 minutes, flip them over and continue pressing on the other side for another 10 minutes.

  6. Slicing and storing sandwiches:

    If the sandwiches are still wrapped in plastic, use a serrated knife to cut them into individual portions.

    The sandwiches are now ready to eat or can be packed in a picnic basket or lunch box and eaten within about two hours. The sandwiches taste best at room temperature.

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Hello everybody, Even if you're limited on time and money, I believe you can prepare wonderful food with everyday products. All you have to do is cook cleverly and creatively!