Mediterranean Couscous Salad

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Mediterranean couscous salad with a fresh lemon herb dressing. Tiny durum wheat semolina cooks on the stovetop then gets tossed with colorful vegetables, feta cheese, olives, and garbanzo beans. A healthy side dish that packs a crunch!

Mediterranean couscous salad in a white bowl

This Mediterranean couscous salad strikes the perfect balance of phytonutrients and fiber-rich vegetables plus protein that makes this salad light yet satisfying. This vegetarian side dish celebrates the use of fresh and flavorful ingredients with each bite delivering a burst of flavor.

Couscous is an underutilized pantry item. It’s a staple in regions like Morocco and Northern Africa, but we often forget how versatile it is to use in our daily meals. The good news if you pick up a package of instant couscous, it only takes 5 minutes to absorb hot water and turn into tender grains.

Couscous has a lovely nuttiness and acts like little sponges, selfishly soaking up the citrus dressing for your benefit. It’s a wonderful solution when you’re needing a quick and light meal.

Couscous cooking in a pot

How to make Mediterranean couscous

  • Allow couscous to absorb hot water until tender.
  • Fluff with a fork and allow to cool.
  • Combine with vegetables, garbanzo beans, herbs, and feta.
  • Combine lemon zest, lemon juice, vinegar, salt, and pepper.
  • Toss with lemon herb dressing.

Is couscous pasta?

No, couscous is crushed durum wheat semolina that is formed into tiny spheres. It’s much smaller compared to traditional Italian pasta. There are different types of couscous available, and depending on the size can yield a more delicate or chewier experience.

salad ingredients in a bowl before being mixed together

How do you cook couscous?

With the instant variety, the stovetop method cooks in just 5 minutes of covered soaking in hot water, then it’s ready to add into the salad once cooled. The microwave method just involves heating water to near boiling, then stirring in couscous, covering, and sitting until light and fluffy. It’s an extremely convenient starch to use, that pleasantly absorbs the salad dressing for super flavor bites.

How do you make lemon herb dressing?

A combination of fresh lemon zest and juice, red wine vinegar, herbs, and extra virgin olive oil provides a nice tang to the salad. The ingredients are whisked to create a quick emulsified dressing.

The recipe makes just enough salad dressing to coat the components, but you can always double the amount if you would like to serve more on the side. If you have extra, a few slices of lemon to squeeze on top would be nice to serve at the table.

What ingredients do you add to couscous salad?

To infuse Mediterranean flavors, I add a hearty amount of red bell pepper, red onion, cucumbers, ripe tomatoes, kalamata olives, and feta cheese. Freshly chopped herbs like mint, basil, and parsley add fragrant aromas, while dried oregano adds an earthy taste. Garbanzo beans or chickpeas add a source of vegetarian protein and creaminess.

Top down photo of a mediterranean couscous salad

Serve this with

Why you should never boil instant couscous

Instant Moroccan couscous is pre-cooked, compared to the traditional varieties. This means that you don’t need continuous boiling or simmering, otherwise the texture will become overcooked and mushy. Just a simple stir and sit in hot water will perfectly cook them.

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Mediterranean Couscous Salad

Mediterranean couscous salad with a fresh lemon herb dressing. Tossed with colorful vegetables, feta cheese, olives, and garbanzo beans.
Pin Print Review
4 from 430 votes
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time10 mins
Total Time30 mins
Servings 6 servings
Course Salad
Cuisine Mediterranean

Ingredients

Couscous

  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup instant couscous
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Salad

  • ½ cup diced roma tomato, ¼-inch dice
  • ½ cup diced english cucumber, seeds removed, ¼-inch dice
  • ½ cup diced red bell pepper, ⅛-inch dice
  • ½ cup canned garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • ¼ cup minced red onion
  • ½ cup kalamata olives, pitted and sliced
  • 2 tablespoons feta cheese
  • 1 teaspoon chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon chopped mint
  • 1 teaspoon chopped basil
  • ¼ teaspoon dried oregano

Lemon Dressing

  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Instructions 

Couscous

  • Bring water, salt, and olive oil to a boil in a medium saucepan. Add couscous and stir quickly. Turn off the heat and cover.
  • Let couscous stand until tender, 5 minutes and then fluff with a fork and let cool. 

Salad

  • Combine couscous, tomatoes, cucumber, bell pepper, garbanzo beans, red onion, olives, cheese, parsley, mint, basil, and oregano in a medium bowl.

Lemon Dressing

  • Whisk together lemon zest, lemon juice, vinegar, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Slowly drizzle in the olive oil and whisk until a thickened dressing forms.
  • Pour dressing over the couscous salad, stir to combine.

Notes

  • This recipe uses instant Moroccan couscous, but Israeli pearl or Lebanese can be substituted.
  • Other types of vinegar can be used like white wine vinegar, apple cider, or balsamic vinegar.
  • The dressing can be doubled, reserving half for serving on the side. 
  • MAKE IT LOW CARB: Use 2 1/2 cups cauliflower rice instead of couscous. You can eat raw or saute and then add with the vegetables. 
  • Serving Size: About 2/3 cups

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Nutrition Facts
Mediterranean Couscous Salad
Amount Per Serving
Calories 203 Calories from Fat 72
% Daily Value*
Fat 8g12%
Saturated Fat 1g5%
Cholesterol 5mg2%
Sodium 573mg24%
Potassium 128mg4%
Carbohydrates 27g9%
Fiber 2g8%
Sugar 1g1%
Protein 5g10%
Vitamin A 510IU10%
Vitamin C 19.6mg24%
Calcium 45mg5%
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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93 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. Bridget Bergeron says

    Wow, this was delicious! So easy and luckily I had all of the ingredients on hand (except the mint). I decided on a whim to add some small sautéed shrimp and it was a perfect summer meal on a hot Louisiana day. I can’t wait to try it again with some of the suggestions, such as cilantro, or orzo pasta, or quinoa, and will make sure to have mint. This will definitely be on a regular rotation.

    • Jessica Gavin says

      The couscous has 2 tablespoons, but you can reduce it to 1 tablespoon if you’d like. You could reduce the olive oil in the dressing to 2 tablespoons instead of 3 tablespoons, but it won’t be as thick.

  2. Carlos says

    Great recipe, Jessica! Thanks. I reduced the amount of olives a little and added a little more of all herbs. Wonderful

  3. KC says

    I live in Macau and Western ingredients are really hard for me to find so it is hard for me to find a good recipe with ingredients I can buy here. This is one of the recipes I’m going to keep forever! We loved it so much and were so surprised how all the flavors mixed in the next day!

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