Israeli Couscous with Tomato and Olives

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Israeli couscous with tomato and olives is an easy side dish bursting with savory flavors. Chewy pearl couscous is simmered on the stovetop until tender then tossed in a Mediterranean-inspired sweet and tangy cherry tomato sauce.

Israeli Couscous with Tomato and Olives

Israeli couscous, also known as Pearl for it’s perfectly round and dainty appearance, is a nice way to add variety in your daily mealtime routine. These chewy spheres of semolina wheat readily soak up any sauce or dressing. It’s a pantry item that you should keep stocked because it’s easily prepared on the stovetop.

Cooking couscous is very similar to pasta noodles, however, instead of boiling until al dente, it’s covered and gently simmers until tender. To infuse rich Mediterranean flavors into this dish, ripe cherry tomatoes and briny kalamata olives add a hint of sweetness plus savory notes to the sauce. The tomato mixture simmers with aromatics and vinegar to intensify the flavors.

cherry tomatoes and olives cooking on the stovetop

How to cook Israeli Couscous with tomato sauce

  • Simmer covered, until the water is absorbed and chewy.
  • Saute tomatoes, olives, shallots, garlic, vinegar in a large saute pan.
  • Allow tomato mixture to simmer until sauce lightly thickens.
  • Combine couscous, parsley, and basil with tomato sauce.

Is Israeli Couscous the same as Pearl Couscous?

Yes, Israeli couscous is synonymous with Pearl Couscous. It’s a style of the semolina wheat that has been formed into the size of peppercorns. They have a chewy pasta-like texture when cooked. Pearl is significantly larger than other types of couscous like Moroccan, but about half the size of Lebanese varieties which is more like a pea.

Israeli Couscous added to a pot with tomato sauce

Can you substitute regular Moroccan Couscous for Israeli Couscous?

In most cases yes, especially as a plain side dish or when incorporated into a chilled couscous salad. However, when combining couscous with a sauce like this tomato recipe, it’s best to use the larger and more robust Israeli variety. It absorbs the liquid better without becoming mushy like the more fine-sized Moroccan type.

How do you make a homemade tomato sauce?

A fresh tomato sauce is one of the easiest and quickest recipes to make on the stovetop. Using vine-ripened baby tomatoes adds a lovely sweetness, balanced with a punch of red wine vinegar for pungency and brightness.

Sauteing the sliced tomatoes in earthy olive oil and then simmering until the liquid that’s released concentrates the flavors. The salty flavors from the olives season the sauce and add a luxurious depth of flavor. It all happens in just 10 minutes! The sauce provides a nice coating around the couscous.

Spoon scooping Israeli Couscous with tomatoes and olives

Serve this with

Do you need to rinse couscous before cooking?

Couscous doesn’t need rinsing before preparing like rice. There aren’t many free starches released from the semolina wheat product when washed or cooked. The larger Israeli couscous is more sticky like pasta and separates easily with a fork. Using a little bit of olive oil or cold water can help to separate the Pearl couscous, or when combined with dressing and sauces.

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Israeli Couscous with Tomato and Olives

Israeli couscous with tomato and olives is a flavorful side dish that's tossed in a Mediterranean-inspired sweet and tangy cherry tomato sauce.
Pin Print Review
4.18 from 52 votes
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time25 mins
Total Time35 mins
Servings 4 servings
Course Side
Cuisine Mediterranean


  • 1 ½ cups water
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
  • 1 cup Israeli couscous, pearl couscous
  • 4 cups baby tomatoes, cut in half
  • ½ cup kalamata olives, pitted, sliced
  • ½ cup minced shallots
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon minced parsley
  • 1 tablespoon sliced basil
  • black pepper, as needed for seasoning


  • Bring water and ½ teaspoon salt to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add couscous and reduce heat to a simmer.
  • Cover and cook until the water is absorbed, 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the couscous sit for 5 minutes, and then fluff with a fork.
  • Combine the cut tomatoes, olives, shallots, garlic, red wine vinegar, and ½ teaspoon salt in a medium bowl.
  • Heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. 
  • Slowly and carefully add the tomato mixture to the pan.
  • Saute and cook until the tomatoes are softened and sauce forms, 8 to 10 minutes. 
  • Add the cooked couscous, parsley, and basil to the tomatoes, stir to combine. 
  • Taste and season with more salt and pepper as desired.

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Nutrition Facts
Israeli Couscous with Tomato and Olives
Amount Per Serving
Calories 305 Calories from Fat 144
% Daily Value*
Fat 16g25%
Saturated Fat 2g10%
Sodium 853mg36%
Potassium 70mg2%
Carbohydrates 33g11%
Fiber 2g8%
Protein 5g10%
Vitamin A 65IU1%
Calcium 22mg2%
Iron 0.6mg3%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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Jessica Gavin

I'm a culinary school graduate, cookbook author, and a mom who loves croissants! My passion is creating recipes and sharing the science behind cooking to help you gain confidence in the kitchen.

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19 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. JJ says

    Oh, yay! I love large pearl couscous (much better than the small grain type). This looks delicious and I’m going to get the ingredients to try this today! I know already it’s going to be delicious.

  2. Alana says

    This dish was excellent I served as a side dish with the Mediterranean Chicken and herb dish. Definitely a keeper!

    Thanks for posting this great recipe!

  3. Chuck says

    The photo made me do it !! Made this as a side dish last night with roast chicken for a Mother’s Day dinner. It was really good and very easy. My wife and son enjoyed it as much as I did.

  4. Lizette says

    This was so delicious 😍 . I couldn’t find pearl couscous so I used medium size and I thought I had garlic so I used powdered garlic instead and didn’t have parsley but either way we loved it. Li

  5. Allison says

    This recipe was great! The only change I made was I cut the tomatoes in half, drizzled a little bit of olive oil and s&p on them and threw in some cloves of garlic. Roasted them on baking sheet in a 250 degree oven for 1 hour.

  6. Eskimo67 says

    So easy and so delicious! I added a little Gorgonzola cheese on top of each serving, it gave the dish a creamier texture. This dish is a go-to recipe in my house!

  7. carla mancini says

    can you use sundried tomato instead of cherry tomato? i want to serve it with moroccan chicken

  8. Annette says

    I absolutely love this recipe… I’ve made it quite a few times and it makes my heart happy! My family enjoys it with sautéed shrimp and scallops 🤗. Thank you!

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