This Israeli Couscous Salad recipe with chickpeas brings together flavors of lemon, garlic and cumin with fresh parsley. It’s a fast and healthy side dish salad and naturally vegan so it compliments so many meals!  

overhead of couscous salad with toppings before stirred together, hands holding bowl

I am rounding the corner to the end of Salad Month 2020 with another amazing Side Dish Salad. Today I have Israeli Couscous Salad bursting with parsley, lemony, garlic dressing and chickpeas. 

What’s the Difference Between Israeli Couscous and Regular Couscous?

Israeli Couscous

Israeli couscous, also known as ptitim or pearl couscous is a pasta made in factories by mechanical extrusion. The small pearl-like beads must be boiled and drained, just like pasta.

Ptitim was actually invented in the 50s in Israel as a rice substitute. Today it is still popular and is commonly simply prepared and considered more of a “kids” food there. Here in the United States it is available in the grains section of large supermarkets, health food stores and specialty markets and is regarded with more gourmet status. 

North African Couscous

By contrast, couscous is a North African grain dish made by rolling semolina wheat with water into much smaller granules. Traditional handmade couscous is steamed over a stew to gradually moisten it and gives it a light and fluffy texture.

Here in the United States, we mosty only see instant couscous which is added to boiling water, and then sits, off the heat covered for 5 minutes. 

 

 

Ingredients For This Couscous Salad Recipe

The full measurements are listed below in the recipe card.

  • Israeli couscous:

    You can find this in the bulk section of your health food store, or in large supermarkets it’ll be with the rice and grains. Popular brands are Rice Select and Bob’s Red Mill. 

  • Extra-virgin olive oil:

    Because you’ll be heating the olive oil, you don’t have to use your best quality olive oil. 

  • Garlic:

    I know this seems like a lot of garlic! But the garlic actually is cooked in the oil before whisking it with the other dressing ingredients, so this helps to soften the flavors. 

  • Ground cumin:

    This gives the dressing a delicious Middle Eastern flavor. Note: if you want to give this salad another flavor pop, add a half teaspoon of cinnamon in with the cumin! 

  • Lemon:

    To give this lots of zing, I used one and a half lemons! Zest them first, then juice away! 

  • Salt:

    You can use kosher salt instead of regular salt, but make sure you double the amount. Here’s a post about subbing kosher salt

  • Chickpeas:

    To give this couscous salad more fiber and some plant based protein, I added a can of chickpeas. I like to use chickpeas that are packed in cans made without BPA lining. Eden is my favorite. 

  • Parsley:

    You can use flat leaf or curly parsley for this salad. Whichever floats your boat! Make sure you measure it after you chop it though. I used a packed cup. 

  • Sliced almonds or chopped pistachios:

    Either is great. Just make sure you take a couple extra moments to toast them to bring out their flavor! 

  • Golden raisins:

    I love the sweetness they add. You could sub in regular purple/black raisins or even zante currants. If you do not like sweet/fruit in savory food/salads, you can add 1 large ripe diced tomato instead. 

overhead of couscous salad garnished with lemon wedges

How to Make this Vegan Middle Eastern Couscous Salad

How To Cook Pearl Couscous

Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add in the Israeli couscous and give it a stir. Then let it cook, just as you would pasta, until it’s tender. This takes about 8 minutes.

You may need to turn down the burner to keep the pot from bubbling over. 

Then drain it through a fine mesh sieve or colander with small holes. Rinse it with cold water to cool it down and keep it from sticking. 

How to Make Lemon, Garlic and Cumin Dressing

While your couscous cooks, you want to make the dressing. To give it lots of bold flavor, and to soften the bite of the garlic, I cooked the garlic and cumin in oil first. Here’s how:

  1. Use a Cold Skillet:

    Start with a cold medium skillet. Then add the oil and garlic to it. Starting with a cold skillet ensures that the garlic will not brown too quickly and won’t become bitter or burnt. 

  2. Cook The Garlic:

    Bring the oil and garlic mixture up to a simmer over medium high heat. You’ll want to swirl the mixture occasionally to make sure the garlic is not browning along the edges before the center heats through. 

  3. Bloom The Spice For Big Flavor:

    Once you see browning along the edges, add in the cumin (and cinnamon if you’re using it) and stir or swirl it into the oil. You’ll only need a couple seconds to bring out the flavors. (And note: this indeed will smell amazing!!) 

  4. Stop The Browning:

    Then quickly pour the hot oil mixture into your mixing bowl to stop it from cooking any more. 

  5. The Remaining Ingredients:

    Add in the lemon juice and lemon zest from 1 1/2 lemons. Add in the salt and stir everything together. 

Mixing the Salad

  1. Once the couscous has been drained, and rinsed, just add it to the dressing and stir it together to coat it with the oil. This will also prevent it from sticking together.
  2. Add in the chickpeas, parsley, nuts and raisins and then stir it together again. 

Make Ahead Tips For Couscous Salad with Chickpeas

  • If you want to make this recipe ahead, after you stir the couscous with the dressing. Add the remaining ingredients on top of the bowl, but do not stir it together. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and then refrigerate. When you are ready to serve it, stir it together.
  • Note: You may need to add a touch more salt if you are serving it cold. That’s because our taste buds are less perceptive to flavors when they are cold. And the couscous will absorb the dressing while it sits, and there will not be enough seasoning for the parsley, chickpeas etc. Israeli Couscous salad in a bowl with a serving in a small bowl

Steps to Make Israeli Couscous Salad 

Menu Ideas: What To Serve With This Recipe

Thanks so much for reading. If you make this recipe please come back and let me know by leaving a star rating and review! 

Happy Cooking!

~Katie

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overhead of couscous salad with toppings before stirred together, hands holding bowl

israeli couscous salad

  • Author: Katie
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 18 minutes
  • Total Time: 43 minutes
  • Yield: 8 cups 1x
  • Category: Side dish
  • Method: Stove top
  • Cuisine: Middle Eastern
  • Diet: Vegan

Description

This Israeli Couscous Salad recipe with chickpeas brings together flavors of lemon, garlic and cumin with fresh parsley. It’s a fast and healthy side dish salad and naturally vegan so it compliments so many meals!


Scale

Ingredients

1 ½ cups Israeli couscous

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 1/2 lemon, zested and juiced

1 ¼ teaspoon salt

1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 cup chopped parsley

½ cup toasted sliced almonds or chopped pistachios

¼ cup golden raisins


Instructions

  1. Bring a medium pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add couscous and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. Drain and rinse with cool water. Drain well.
  2. Meanwhile, combine oil and garlic in a small skillet and set over medium high heat. Cook, swirling until the garlic is just starting to turn golden, about 2 minutes. Add cumin and swirl for 5 seconds. Immediately pour the hot oil mixture into a large bowl. Add lemon juice, zest and salt.
  3. Add in the couscous and stir to coat. Add chickpeas, parsley, almonds (or pistachios) and raisins and stir to combine. Serve immediately or chill.

Notes

For more flavor, you can add 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon to the oil and garlic mixture with the cumin.

If you do not like raisins in savory dishes, you can sub in 1 large ripe tomato, diced.

Make Ahead Instructions

  • After you stir the couscous with the dressing, add the remaining ingredients on top of the bowl, but do not stir it together. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and then refrigerate. When you are ready to serve it, stir it together.
  • Note: You may need to add a touch more salt if you are serving it cold. That’s because our taste buds are less perceptive to flavors when they are cold. And the couscous will absorb the dressing while it sits, and there will not be enough seasoning for the parsley, chickpeas etc.

Nutrition

  • Serving Size: 1 cup
  • Calories: 298
  • Sugar: 4 g
  • Sodium: 283 mg
  • Fat: 14 g
  • Saturated Fat: 1 g
  • Carbohydrates: 36 g
  • Fiber: 3 g
  • Protein: 8 g

couscous salad with text overlay