This Mediterranean couscous salad is a quick, colorful, and satisfying dish with crunchy vegetables, fluffy couscous, and zesty olive oil & lemon dressing.

You’ll love the freshness and simplicity of this recipe. You can make it in one bowl in the time it takes you to cut the vegetables.

Couscous salad is excellent for meal prep. Enjoy it as a quick lunch or healthy dinner, or bring it to potlucks and picnics. It’ll be a sure crowd-pleaser!

easy couscous salad with olives, cherry tomatoes and chickpeas on a plate

Dietary Note: this recipe is suitable for a vegetarian and vegan, and gluten-free diet. It’s low in cholesterol and saturated fats.

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What is couscous salad?

easy couscous salad with pickled red cabbage and yogurt dressing
Mediterranean couscous salad served with yogurt tahini sauce and topped with sautéed nuts, dried fruits, and quick pickled red cabbage.

Couscous is a North African dish popular in the Mediterranean countries of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Italy, and France.

As you learned in our guide on how to cook couscous, you can prep it in 5 quick minutes in a bowl with hot water.

You guys loved it with our Moroccan carrot salad and Moroccan chickpea stew, and many of you also enjoyed it with lentil tabbouleh, lentil salad, and whole roasted cauliflower with chermoula sauce.

couscous salad on a platter

For this couscous salad recipe, we took inspiration from traditional Moroccan couscous, prepared with a pinch of turmeric or saffron to make it look gorgeously golden.

Unlike our warm couscous salad with vegetables, this refreshing salad is served at room temperature and seasoned with a simple but delicious olive oil, lemon, and lemon zest dressing.

Add a pinch of cumin, fresh parsley, and grated garlic to the couscous to stay true to Mediterranean and Moroccan flavors.

couscous salad on a white plate with raisins and shaved almonds

You’ll love the zesty, fresh, and aromatic taste!

Follow our step-by-step recipe, and in less than 20 minutes, you’ll have a delicious and versatile couscous salad excellent for a quick lunch, healthy dinner, side dish, meal prep, potlucks, picnics, and barbecues.

Ingredients and Substitutions for Couscous Salad

couscous salad ingredients

Quantities are in the recipe box at the bottom of the page.

Couscous

You’ll need regular couscous (Moroccan couscous), which looks like tiny granules of pasta.

You can substitute whole-wheat couscous for regular couscous.

You’ll also need hot water to cook the couscous.

If you want a salad with a richer flavor, you can substitute reduced-sodium vegetable stock for the water.

Note: To make an Israeli couscous salad, substitute pearl couscous (Israeli couscous) for regular couscous. In this case, cook the pearl couscous per package instructions before mixing it with the other ingredients.

Flavor and Color

Couscous has a neutral flavor and a pale color. To make it tastier and more appealing, season it with:

  • Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • Turmeric powder (or a pinch of saffron)
  • Ground cumin
  • Grated garlic
  • Grated lemon zest

Mix these ingredients with the dry couscous before adding the hot water.

It’s a simple trick we learned during our travels, and it’ll infuse the couscous with a beautiful aroma and golden color.

Extra virgin olive oil

Extra virgin olive oil is traditionally used around the Mediterranean, where olive trees abound.

You’ll love the fragrance of extra virgin olive oil that touches the warm couscous. They go so well together.

Lemon juice

Freshly squeezed would be best. It adds freshness and tanginess.

However, if you are more into sweeter flavors, you can use orange juice instead.

If you can’t find lemons or oranges or want to try something else, you can use red wine vinegar, white wine vinegar, or apple cider vinegar.

Chickpeas

You can use canned or dry chickpeas that you previously soaked and cooked. Here’s our guide on how to cook chickpeas, where we explain how to do that.

We always like to add a legume to this Mediterranean couscous salad because 1) legumes are a staple in Mediterranean countries, 2) they are protein-rich, and 3) they contain plenty of gut and heart-healthy fiber.

Substitute cannellini beans, black beans, or lentils for chickpeas.

Cherry tomatoes

You can use cherry tomatoes, date tomatoes, plum tomatoes, or another small tomato type. They add a touch of sweetness to the salad.

Onion or Shallot

Finely chopped red onion or shallot add sweet and tangy notes to the couscous salad.

Substitute green onions, radishes, or white onions.

Cucumber

We add cucumber for freshness and crunch. You can replace it with diced green or red bell peppers or thinly sliced fennel.

Bell pepper

We use yellow bell pepper to add sweetness, crunch, and a vibrant yellow color. Substitute red bell pepper or canned corn.

Olives

They add umami to this Mediterranean couscous salad. It’s easier if you use pitted olives, black or green.

For a fancier salad, opt for kalamata olives or taggiasche olives.

Substitute marinated artichokes or chopped sundried tomatoes for olives.

Parsley

Flat-leaf parsley is the variety used in the Mediterranean area.

If you can’t find it, feel free to use the curly type.

Other dried and fresh herbs that are good with couscous are fresh mint, fresh basil, dill, and dried oregano. You can mix more herbs if you like; they are delicious together.

Serves well with (optional)

Couscous salad on stuffed eggplant

How to Make Couscous Salad

US cups + grams measurements in the recipe box at the bottom of the page.

1. Cook the couscous

To a large mixing bowl, add the dry couscous, grated lemon zest, grated garlic, ground cumin, turmeric powder, salt, and black pepper.

Stir well with a fork or wooden spoon until combined.

couscous with spices in a glass bowl

Boil the water in a kettle or a pot, then pour it over the couscous.

Stir with a fork to ensure that the water covers the couscous, cover it with a plate, and set aside for 5 – 10 minutes (in the meantime, you can chop the veggies).

couscous covered in hot water

When the couscous fully absorbed the water, fluff with a fork to separate the granules.

To do that, gently scrape or rake the granules with the tips of a fork until there are no lumps and the couscous granules are all separated and fluffy.

hands fluffing up couscous with a fork

2. Cut the veggies

  • Remove the stem and seeds of the bell pepper, then chop it into small dice.
  • Cut the cherry tomatoes into quarters.
  • Cut the cucumber in half, then each half in half again, and slice into triangles.
  • Finely chop the shallot or red onion.
  • Cut the olives into thin slices or in half.
  • Finely chop the parsley.
  • Drain and rinse the chickpeas.
fresh veggies for couscous salad

3. Mix the salad

Add the chopped vegetables and the chickpeas to the bowl with the couscous.

Season with extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice and mix well until all ingredients are well combined.

hand holding a tablespoon of olive oil over a bowl with chopped vegetables

Taste and adjust for salt, olive oil, and lemon juice before serving.

hands mixing couscous salad in a glass bowl

Serving Suggestions

You can serve this couscous salad recipe immediately or store it in the fridge and serve it later.

It’s excellent for a quick lunch or healthy dinner, or you can bring it to potlucks, barbecues, and picnics.

hand holding a silver fork with couscous salad

Turn the salad into a delicious meal by serving it with:

couscous salad on a white plate with pickled cabbage and roasted raisins

Other sauces/spreads/dressings you can serve this couscous salad with are:

Variations

Couscous salad as a filling

microwave sweet potato loaded with couscous and tahini sauce

The best thing about this salad is that you can use it as a quick and delicious filling for other vegetables. Among our favorites are:

Couscous salad on stuffed eggplant

Greek couscous salad

Add crumbled feta in the mix with the other ingredients, and you’ll have a delicious Greek couscous salad.

Warm couscous salad

couscous with vegetables

Our couscous with vegetables is a delicious warm couscous salad with eggplant, zucchini, and other delicious vegetables.

We cook the veggies in a pan with olive oil and herbs to make them super tasty before mixing them with the couscous.

Check out our warm couscous salad recipe.

Couscous black bean salad

You guys loved our black bean salad with sweet potatoes, corn, avocado, and cilantro lime dressing.

Well, couscous black bean salad is the same recipe but with added couscous in the mix. It’s delicious and a must-try for black bean and cilantro lovers.

Check out our black bean salad recipe and add a cup of cooked couscous.

Storage & Make Ahead

Make ahead: Couscous salad is excellent for meal prep as it keeps well in the refrigerator for up to three days.

The next day, the salad is even tastier as the flavors have time to meld.

Refrigerator: Keep the salad in a bowl covered with a plate or in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.

To maximize its flavor, take it out of the refrigerator 30 minutes before serving it.

Freezer: We don’t recommend freezing the salad as the fresh veggies would lose texture and crunch.

More Easy Salads

More Grain Bowls & Pasta Salads

Chickpea couscous salad on a white plate with olives and bell pepper

Couscous Salad

By: Nico Pallotta
5 from 14 votes
This Mediterranean couscous salad is a quick, colorful, and satisfying dish with crunchy vegetables, fluffy couscous, and zesty olive oil & lemon dressing.
You’ll love the freshness and simplicity of this recipe. You can make it in one bowl in the time it takes you to cut the vegetables.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes
Servings: 4 people
Course: Main Course, salad, Starter
Cuisine: Mediterranean

Ingredients

Couscous

  • 1 cup couscous dry
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon grated garlic
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 cup water just boiled
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice or more to taste

Veggies

  • 1 can (15-ounce) chickpeas or 1½ cups cooked
  • cups cherry tomatoes quartered
  • cups cucumber diced
  • 1 cup yellow bell pepper diced
  • 1 small red onion finely chopped
  • ½ cup olives halved
  • 4 tablespoons parsley finely chopped

Instructions 

  • To a large bowl, add 1 cup couscous, 1 teaspoon grated lemon zest, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1 teaspoon grated garlic, ¼ teaspoon turmeric, 1 teaspoon salt, and ⅛ teaspoon black pepper.
    Stir well with a fork until combined.
    couscous with spices in a glass bowl
  • Boil 1 cup water and pour it over the couscous.
    Stir with a fork to ensure the water covers the couscous, cover the bowl with a plate, and set aside for 5 – 10 minutes.
    In the meantime, chop the veggies.
    couscous covered in hot water
  • Fluff couscous with a fork.
    To do that, gently scrape or rake the granules with the tips of a fork.
    hands fluffing up couscous with a fork
  • Add 1 can (15-ounce) chickpeas, 1½ cups cherry tomatoes, 1½ cups cucumber, 1 cup yellow bell pepper, 1 small red onion, ½ cup olives, and 4 tablespoons parsley to the bowl with the couscous.
    hand holding a tablespoon of olive oil over a bowl with chopped vegetables
  • Season with 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil and 2 tablespoons lemon juice.
    Toss well then taste and adjust for salt before serving.
    easy couscous salad on a white plate with a silver fork

MAKE IT A MEAL

  • Serve couscous salad next to yogurt tahini sauce. Top with quick pickled red onions and toasted nuts and dried fruits.
    Links to recipes in the "serving suggestions" chapter above.
    easy couscous salad with pickled red cabbage and yogurt dressing

Notes

Nutrition information is an estimate for 1 large serving of couscous salad out of 4 without yogurt and nuts.
STORAGE & MAKE AHEAD
Make ahead: Couscous salad is excellent for meal prep as it keeps well in the refrigerator for up to three days.
The next day, the salad is even tastier as the flavors have time to meld.
Refrigerator: Keep the salad in a bowl covered with a plate or in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days.
To maximize its flavor, take it out of the refrigerator 30 minutes before serving it.
Freezer: We don’t recommend freezing the salad as the fresh veggies would lose texture and crunch.
ALSO ON THIS PAGE

Nutrition

Calories: 418kcal, Carbohydrates: 59g, Protein: 13g, Fat: 15g, Saturated Fat: 2g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 10g, Trans Fat: 0g, Cholesterol: 0mg, Potassium: 597mg, Dietary Fiber: 9g, Sugar: 6g, Vitamin A: 806IU, Vitamin B6: 0.3mg, Vitamin C: 91mg, Vitamin E: 3mg, Vitamin K: 80µg, Calcium: 86mg, Folate: 144µg, Iron: 4mg, Manganese: 1mg, Magnesium: 72mg, Zinc: 2mg
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Nico and Louise in the kitchen

Hi! We are Nico & Louise

Welcome to The Plant-Based School, a food blog with easy, tasty, and wholesome recipes.

Our aim is to help you and your family eat more veggies through delicious recipes with simple ingredients.

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