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
4.1 from 136 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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Reader Interactions

51 Comments Leave a comment or review

  1. JJ says

    This also lends itself beautifully using Orzo in place of the couscous (which I’m not partial to). Refreshing, and a great way to enjoy fresh veggies.

  2. Shannon Avery says

    I’m pretty sure the carb count is wrong in this recipe. Couscous is pretty high in carbs. It looks very good, but I am going to try it with rice cauliflower instead

  3. Nancy says

    If I make this the day before brunch, do you think I should wait to toss with the dressing right before serving?

  4. Carol says

    Can you tell me if there is a substitute for onion? Raw onions are hard on digestive system. Thank you. Can’t wait to try it. Looks awesome!

    • Lynn says

      I cut the onions down by half and added a good-sized clove of garlic, minced very small, to the dressing. It felt like it needed a bit of garlic, and it did benefit.

      Also, I had leftover CPU’s course, garbanzo bean, and dressing so I mixed in some of the dressing and saved for lunch the next day. The dressing permeated the grains nicely overnight. I added veggies and the rest the next day and it was delicious. Great salad all around, thanks for sharing it.

    • Lynn says

      Just cook the Cous cous according to package instructions, cool, then add. I used pearl cous cous, I like it’s size, it’s not instant. Nice contrast with the garbanzo beans. Warning, don’t use Trader Joe’s garbanzo beans. They are too soft and mushy for a salad. Great to make hummus with, but not in a salad.

  5. Carol says

    I made a small version of this salad because I didn’t know if we would like it. The couscous & chickpeas/garbanzo are new to me. I used a homemade light poppyseed dressing. I prefer a sweeter salad dressings. Also, I used some lettuce. My husband & I loved this. Will make again soon.

  6. Amanda says

    I’ve made this twice now! I absolutely love the lemon vinaigrette dressing. I usually just add whatever veggies I have leftover to it with feta and olives. Delicious, I would highly recommend giving this easy recipe a try.

  7. Diana says

    Added cilantro, for healthy greens…I usually make this salad with quinoa or bulgar and was surprised how well the couscous held up. Thanks for the tip!

  8. Katelyn says

    Best dish I have made in a very long time. Kind of did my own thing with proportions of ingredients but absolutely followed the dressing instructions. 10 stars!!

  9. Carol says

    This was delicious and exactly what I was craving for fresh spring food! We did warm roasted chicken and homemade tzatziki as well. I can’t remember the last time I loved a new recipe this much! Thanks for making our night! (Hubby loves it too)

  10. Lisa Pape says

    Your recipe for the Mediterranean salad was soooo good!! I have officially replaced Katie Lee’s Mediterraniasn salad, which is very similar, with yours. I made a few small changes to it though. First, I doubled it because I knew it would go fast. Next, I used orzo instead of couscous because that’s all I had. Next, I made the lemon dressing and the after cooking the orzo al dente, I drained it and while it was still hot I let ii sit in the vinaigrette for about 20 minutes to let if soak up all the liquid. I also tripled the amount of mint. I love your recipes and all the explanations on why you do what you do. Thank you!!

  11. Michelle says

    I make a similar salad with Israeli couscous and fresh chopped parsley. I don’t care for olives so I leave them out and add mango for sweetness.

  12. Rebecca says

    This dish took a bit of effort to pull together but was well worth it.
    So fresh and delicious, satisfying and attractive to the eye. To me what makes this dish is the lemon vinaigrette dressing that I will definitely use again, possibly for other recipes. It would be amazing on fish dishes and other dishes featuring pasta or fresh veggies. If you are looking for a different variation on a conventional pasta salad look no further you will not regret.

  13. Vee says

    Loved this recipe!! I skipped out on the olives, added more deseeded tomatoes and served with softboiled egg, and it turned out perfect. I used to hate any form of salad (I used to call them food for goats and not humans) but now I absolutely love it!!!

  14. Casey says

    This dish is now a staple at my house. We love it! I make it a little spicy, adding cumin, red pepper flakes and lots of pepper!!!!

  15. Tina B says

    Great recipe! I followed the recipe except used 1 tbsp for all the fresh herbs and doubled the feta cheese. It was delicious! Served with grilled lamb chops. This will be a staple in our family and will make for company!

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