Couscous Salad

This colorful couscous salad recipe tastes irresistibly fresh with herbs, garlic, and lemon! It’s ideal as a side dish, lunches, picnics or potlucks.

Couscous Salad

Here’s a salad that’s about as delightful as they come: this fresh and herby Couscous Salad! It’s an ideal way to use Israeli couscous, those delightfully chewy pasta spheres. Throw it together with fresh dill and mint, garlic, lemon and a pile of vegetables, then sprinkle with salty feta. Take a bite and it’s irresistibly fresh and savory: we couldn’t stop eating it! This deli-style Israeli couscous salad works for lunch or picnics, or as a colorful side for fish, chicken or the grill. Really, what can’t this salad do? With one bite you’ll be smitten.

Ingredients in this couscous salad recipe

A couscous salad could work with Moroccan couscous, which has very small irregular pieces. But this one uses the larger perfectly round Israeli couscous, which technically isn’t couscous at all! We like an Israeli couscous salad because the larger size has a more distinguishable texture when mixed in with the veggies. Here’s what you’ll need for this salad:

  • Israeli couscous (aka pearl couscous)
  • Garlic powder
  • Garlic clove
  • Shallot
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Fresh dill and fresh mint
  • Baby arugula
  • Feta cheese crumbles
  • Lemon juice and zest
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Simply cook up the Israeli couscous, slice the veggies, and mix everything together! It’s quick and simple, and the flavor is unbelievably refreshing with a pop of acidity.

Israeli Couscous
Israeli couscous is larger in size than standard couscous and spherical

Couscous vs Israeli couscous

A little background on couscous! What’s the difference between standard couscous and Israeli couscous? Make sure to grab Israeli couscous when shopping for this recipe. Here’s what to know:

  • Couscous is a North African pasta with tiny grains made from semolina flour. Its texture looks like grains of rice or quinoa, but’s actually a pasta! It originated with the Berbers of Algeria and Morocco between the 11th century and 13th century. It’s a cultural dish of the Maghrebi cuisines in the countries of Algeria, Tunisia, Mauritania, Morocco, and Libya. Couscous has very small, irregular grains. It’s the standard variety and labeled “couscous” at the grocery (it typically won’t include the word Moroccan).
  • Israeli couscous aka pearl couscous is larger and shaped like balls. It’s technically considered a pasta and not couscous, since the grains are large and shaped exactly the same. It’s always been machine made, whereas couscous is made by hand. The food was invented in Israel in the 1950’s when the government needed to feed masses of immigrants.
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Keep in mind: couscous is not gluten free and it’s not suitable for gluten-free diets. You can find gluten-free couscous online.

Couscous Salad

Look for baby arugula

One important note for this couscous salad: make sure to look for baby arugula! If you can’t find it, don’t substitute it with standard arugula. Here’s why:

  • Baby arugula has a feathery texture and is sold in bags or boxes. It has a delicately peppery flavor.
  • Standard arugula, sold in bunches, has a very spicy flavor that would overpower this salad!
  • Can’t find baby arugula? Substitute another baby green like baby spinach or baby kale.

Using fresh herbs in this couscous salad

This Israeli couscous salad goes big on herby flavor with fresh dill and fresh mint: they’re integral to the light, herbaceous flavor. But they can be expensive in winter months! Here are a few notes on working with fresh herbs:

  • If you can, use both fresh dill and mint. Growing your own herbs in the summer is the best way to keep this economical.
  • Want to use only one fresh herb? Go for the fresh dill and omit the mint.
  • Avoid substituting dried herbs: they have a much different flavor. If desired you can simply omit the herbs entirely: it still tastes good! (Just not quite as good.)
Couscous Salad

Ways to serve this couscous salad

This couscous salad is one of those ultra-versatile recipes that you can use for many different occasions and seasons. Here are some of our favorite ways to serve it:

Let us know how you plan to serve it in the comments below!

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More salad recipes

Love a good grain or bean salad? They make a lovely easy side dish idea. Here are a few more fun recipes you’ll love:

This couscous salad recipe is…

Vegetarian. For gluten-free, look for gluten-free couscous online. For vegan and dairy-free, omit the feta and add a few pinches more salt.

Print

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Description

This colorful couscous salad recipe tastes irresistibly fresh with herbs, garlic, and lemon! It’s ideal as a side dish, lunches, picnics or potlucks.


  • 1 cup Israeli couscous (aka pearl couscous; look for gluten-free if desired)
  • ¼ teaspoon garlic powder
  • ¾ teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, sliced
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh dill
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh mint**
  • 2 cups baby arugula (or other baby greens)*
  • ½ cup feta cheese crumbles (omit for vegan and add more salt to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice, plus zest of ½ lemon
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • Fresh ground black pepper


  1. Bring 1 ½ cups water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the Israeli couscous, garlic powder and ½ teaspoon of the kosher salt and reduce to a simmer. Cover with lid and cook 8 to 10 minutes, until the couscous is tender and the water is absorbed.  Remove the couscous to a bowl, mix it with 1 teaspoon of the olive oil, and allow to stand for 2 to 3 minutes. 
  2. Meanwhile, mince the garlic and shallot. Slice the cherry tomatoes in half. Chop the dill and mint.
  3. When the couscous is done resting, place it in a large bowl with the chopped vegetables and herbs. Add the baby arugula, feta cheese crumbles, lemon juice and zest, the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, ¼ teaspoon kosher salt, and a few grinds of black pepper. Mix gently to combine. Serve immediately or refrigerate for up to 5 days (flavor is best right away but tastes great after refrigeration; you may need to revive the flavors with a pinch or two of salt).
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Notes

*Make sure to look for baby arugula, which has a feathery texture and is sold in bags or boxes. Standard arugula, sold in bunches, has much too spicy of a flavor. If you can’t find it, substitute another baby green like baby spinach or baby kale.

**If it’s winter and you’d like to pare back and use only one herb, go for the fresh dill. We highly recommend this salad with both fresh herbs (and try growing your own herbs in the summer). Avoid substituting dried herbs: you can simply omit the herbs entirely and it still tastes good.

  • Category: Salad
  • Method: Stovetop
  • Cuisine: Salad
  • Diet: Vegetarian