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 the salad before it is stirred together

Why We Love This Israeli Couscous Salad Recipe

I’ve been looking forward to sharing my new favorite salad recipe with you–Israeli Couscous Salad bursting with parsley, lemony, garlic dressing and chickpeas.

This is what I like to call an all-season dish. If you’re serving it in warmer seasons, pair it with grilled lemon and herb marinated boneless chicken and a light yogurt sauce. If you’re making it in the wintertime, serve the salad with homemade hummus and pan seared lamb chops or spice rub roasted chicken. You can’t go wrong!

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’s still popular and is commonly very simply prepared worldwide. Here in the United States, we mostly only see instant couscous which is added to boiling water, and then sits, off the heat covered for 5 minutes. 

overhead of couscous salad garnished with lemon wedges

Key Ingredients For This Couscous Salad Recipe

  • Israeli Couscous: You can find this in the bulk section of your health food store, or in the large supermarkets it’ll be with the rice and grains. Popular brands are Rice Select and Bob’s Red Mill. 
  • Parsley: There is a hearty amount of parsley in this recipe, a common ingredient in Lebanese cuisine and other regions within the Middle East. We’ve used a lot of it, similar to Tabbouleh.
  • Chickpeas: To give this couscous salad more fiber and some plant-based protein, I added a can of chickpeas. You can always soak and cook your own chickpeas, but trust me, this will save you so much time.
  • Almonds: Toasted sliced almonds add a nutty crunch to this salad.
  • Golden Raisins: These are optional, but keep an open mind and try it! We think you’ll love the sweet and savory combination. Zante currants can be substituted or dried cranberries if you do not have golden raisins.
  • Olive Oil: For the dressing, you’ll need 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil. Use a high quality oil for the best fruity olive oil flavor.
  • Garlic: For this dressing we added 3 chopped cloves of fresh garlic. It really makes this such a savory dressing! But don’t worry it is not raw! The garlic is actually cooked in the oil (with the spices) so the garlic flavor is mellowed quite a bit.
  • Seasonings: Cumin, Lemon, and Salt. The cumin 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! 

How To Make This Pearl Couscous Salad

Step 1: Cook couscous

Bring a medium pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Once you add the Israeli couscous to boiling water, give it a stir and cook (like pasta) until it’s al dente. You may need to turn down the burner to keep the pot from bubbling over. Once done cooking, make sure to drain through a fine mesh sieve or colander with small holes so none of it drains through.

Step 2: Cook dressing

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.

Step 3: Assemble the salad

Add in the couscous and stir to coat. Add chickpeas, parsley, almonds (or pistachios) and raisins and stir to combine. Serve immediately or chill. If you are serving it cold, you may need to add a touch more salt. 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.

the salad in a bowl plus a serving of it in a small bowl

FAQs and Expert Tips for Israeli Couscous Salad

Make Ahead

Tost the almonds and once they are cool, transfer them to a small bag and keep at room temperature. Once couscous is cooked, add to a serving bowl with the remaining ingredients placed over top (do not stir). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate up to 24 hours. When you are ready to serve it, stir it together. The almonds are best when added at the last minute.

Leftovers

Place leftover Israeli Couscous Salad in a large resealable container and keep refrigerated up to 2 days. Stir well before serving. You can also store in the salad bowl, covered with plastic wrap.

Serving Suggestions For Israeli Couscous Salad

Variations To Try and Substitutions

  • Instead of the garlic, lemon and cumin dressing, you can use our more traditional lemon dressing.
  • Instead of pearl couscous, use regular couscous (or whole wheat couscous.) Follow the cooking instructions on the package.
  • You can take these flavors in another direction by using our Red Wine Vinaigrette and instead of almonds and golden raisins, add in finely chopped black olives, diced cucumbers and halved cherry tomatoes. Add crumbled feta cheese if you like.
  • Use another type of canned beans like white beans, edamame or kidney beans

Additional Mediterranean Recipes to Try

  • This Chickpea Salad with Creamy Avocado Dressing is a great protein source for plant-based diets and is perfect to serve at potlucks, summer cookouts, picnics and barbecues.
  • Here is a delicious Roasted Eggplant Salad with chickpeas, parsley and feta mixed in. It has a rich and savory lemon and roasted garlic dressing.
  • With only 20 minutes of prep work, this simple Mediterranean Barley Salad is another easy recipe to add to your collection.
  • I love this Mediterranean Quinoa Salad! It’s like a cross between Greek salad and quinoa tabbouleh all brought together with a garlic lemon dressing!
  • If you’re looking for quick and easy you must try my 15-Minute Greek cucumber Salad with feta, olives and cherry tomatoes. It’s the absolute best! 

At Healthy Seasonal Recipes, we specialize in cooking with fresh veggies and creating weeknight meals. Sign up HERE to get more produce-forward dinner ideas for FREE! If you make this recipe, please come back and leave a star rating and review. I would love to hear what you thought! Happy Cooking! ~Katie

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overhead of the salad before it is stirred together

Israeli Couscous Salad


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5 from 6 reviews

  • Author: Katie
  • Total Time: 43 minutes
  • Yield: 8 cups 1x
  • 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!


Ingredients

Units Scale
  • 1 1/2 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 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 15ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds or chopped pistachios
  • 1/4 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.
  • Prep Time: 25 minutes
  • Cook Time: 18 minutes
  • Category: Side dish
  • Method: Stove top
  • Cuisine: Middle Eastern

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