Israeli Couscous Salad Recipe

We get it; plain white rice gets boring after a while, and you're a little tired of having roasted potatoes for the millionth time in a row. Of course, serving your expertly prepared fish or chicken on otherwise empty plates wouldn't exactly be welcome either, so you're desperately in need of some sort of starchy side. Let us help you.

Israeli couscous is a vastly underrated grain that has a similar texture to rice but a more versatile application like pasta. It's fairly quick cooking and can even be served plain, if that's your jam (sometimes it's nice to keep it simple). It's more dense than regular couscous, making it easy to dress up and fill with herbs and veggies for an excellent side dish. In this recipe shared by developer Michelle McGlinn, Israeli couscous is dressed in olive oil, lemon, mint, and parsley, then tossed with cucumber, chickpeas, and onion for a refreshing crunch. You could even eat this as a main course because of how filling it is. Ready to swap out the rice for a seriously good side? We have the recipe for you.

What you need for Israeli couscous salad

Start with Israeli couscous. Also called pearl couscous, this type of couscous is different from the tiny, granular Mediterranean couscous and looks almost like small, round pasta. To make the couscous you'll need about the same amount of water. You'll need plenty of olive oil for this recipe, and because it's used as a dressing, it's worth choosing a nice extra-virgin variety. You'll also need it to roast the chickpeas, which you'll just need one can of, along with salt and pepper. For the salad, you'll need fresh lemon juice, mint leaves, parsley, a small onion, and cucumbers. You can use any kind of cucumber here, but we opted for Persian cucumbers to keep the water content to a minimum. To finish everything off with some spice, grab Aleppo pepper flakes — and if you don't have those, standard red pepper flakes will work, too.

Cook the couscous

While we provided the instructions for cooking Israeli couscous, it's also worth checking the box for instructions in case the ratios differ. For ours, we use almost equal amounts of couscous and water, with just a little more water to avoid drying out. Like pasta, couscous cooks to al dente, a chewy but soft texture not unlike a grain of rice. Unlike pasta, though, couscous absorbs most or all of the water in the pot and is fluffed more similarly to rice. Bring the water to a boil, drop in the couscous, stir, and cook, covered, until the water is mostly absorbed and the couscous is al dente. If the couscous still feels hard, instead of chewy, add more water and cook a little bit longer.

Peel and roast the chickpeas

The key to roasting really crispy chickpeas is to peel the skins off, first, then pat completely dry. This isn't the most glamorous task, and you might be tempted to skip it: We suggest giving it a try so your chickpeas really crisp. If you're really short on time? This recipe is just as delicious with raw chickpeas, so skip the roasting altogether.

To peel the chickpeas, just rub the bean between your fingers gently until the skin begins to peel away. Remove the skin and put the peeled chickpea in a bowl or on a baking sheet. Repeat with all of the beans (you might want to put on a good T.V. show while you do this) then pat the shelled beans completely dry with a paper towel. Very lightly oil and season the beans, then pop them in the oven until crispy golden brown.

Tossing the salad together

Now for the easy part: Bringing it all together. Put the couscous, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a bowl and toss, then add the veggies and toss again. Once the chickpeas are finished roasting, add those too, then sprinkle with red pepper flakes. If the salad looks a little dry, drizzle in extra olive oil until the couscous is well coated. If you have the time, we recommend letting the mixture sit at room temperature for about an hour before serving to let the flavors meld together.

Serving and storing Israeli couscous

This super simple side salad is excellent for meal prepping because it stores really well. It's delicious as a cold salad but can also be heated up and enjoyed warm, whether in the microwave or on the grill (our developer heated hers in a cast iron skillet on the grill for a delicious dinner al fresco). It pairs with just about any protein from tilapia filets to roasted chicken and can also be enjoyed on its own as a main course. It can be stored in the refrigerator for about a week, or until the cucumbers start breaking down (they'll be the first to go – and you'll notice). Move over, rice — there's a new grain in town, and we're making it all season.

Israeli Couscous Salad Recipe
5 from 36 ratings
Learn how to make this refreshing salad made with couscous, cucumber, and onion with a hint of mint and lemon.
Prep Time
Cook Time
side view of salad in a bowl
Total time: 40 minutes
  • 2 cups Israeli couscous
  • 2 ½ cups water
  • 1 (15.5-ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained
  • ½ cup + ½ tablespoon olive oil, divided
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided, plus more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon pepper, divided, plus more to taste
  • Juice from ½ lemon
  • 3 Persian cucumbers or 1 large English cucumber, sliced into half moons
  • ½ stem mint (6 to 8 leaves), chiffonade
  • 1 small white onion, sliced
  • ¼ cup finely chopped parsley
  • 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper flakes
  1. To cook the couscous, bring water to a boil in a saucepan. Once boiling, add the couscous, lower the heat to medium low, and cover. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until water is absorbed and couscous is al dente. Drain any remaining water if needed.
  2. To crisp the chickpeas, preheat the oven to 400 F. Peel the chickpeas, pat completely dry, then toss with ½ tablespoon olive oil. Sprinkle with ½ teaspoon each of salt and pepper, then spread on a baking sheet. Roast for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy.
  3. While the chickpeas are roasting, prepare the vegetables, then toss together the cooked couscous, ½ cup olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, and lemon juice in a large bowl. Add the cucumber, mint, onion, parsley, and pepper flakes and toss to combine. Once ready, add the roasted chickpeas.
  4. Toss to combine, then season with additional salt and pepper to taste.
Calories per Serving 754
Total Fat 32.2 g
Saturated Fat 4.4 g
Trans Fat 0.0 g
Cholesterol 0.0 mg
Total Carbohydrates 97.8 g
Dietary Fiber 12.6 g
Total Sugars 6.6 g
Sodium 853.9 mg
Protein 19.8 g
The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.
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