Israeli Couscous

4.78 from 88 votes
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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 recipe with tomato and olives.

Israeli couscous, also known as Pearl for its perfectly round and dainty appearance, is a nice way to add variety to 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, and 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 semolina wheat that has been formed into the size of peppercorns. When cooked, pearl couscous has a chewy pasta-like texture. Pearl is significantly larger than other types of couscous, like Moroccan, but about half the size of Lebanese varieties, which are more like peas.

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 cherry tomatoes and olives.

Serve this with

Recipe Science

Do you need to rinse couscous before cooking?

Couscous doesn’t need rinsing before preparing like rice. When washed or cooked, the semolina wheat product releases a few free starches. 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.

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.
4.78 from 88 votes
Prep Time10 minutes
Cook Time25 minutes
Total Time35 minutes
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.

Nutrition Facts

Serves: 4 servings
Calories 305kcal (15%)Carbohydrates 33g (11%)Protein 5g (10%)Fat 16g (25%)Saturated Fat 2g (10%)Sodium 853mg (36%)Potassium 70mg (2%)Fiber 2g (8%)Vitamin A 65IU (1%)Calcium 22mg (2%)Iron 0.6mg (3%)

Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000-calorie diet. All nutritional information is based on estimated third-party calculations. Each recipe and nutritional value will vary depending on the brands you use, measuring methods, and portion sizes per household.

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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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30 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. El says

    First time I ever had this, I was out in the fire line on a wildfire. It was the vegetarian option, and I hunted and pecked till I found this recipe! It’s become a household favorite.

  2. Haley says

    I’ve made this multiple times and it’s seriously so good. So flavorful, relatively healthy, easy to make, goes with everything. Just made it again for the holidays and everyone asked for the recipe.

  3. kelley ummel says

    This was delicious, I added a little feta cheese but it really doesn’t need it! Easy to make too! Would definitely make this again

      • Terri says

        I make this recipe in the summer when cherry tomatoes are delicious. But, instead of israeli cous-cous I use hemp seeds. I am gluten free. And all my ingredients are organically grown.

        • Jessica Gavin says

          Thanks for sharing a great way to make the salad gluten-free with hemp seeds. I’ll have to give that a try!

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