Israeli couscous, pearl couscous, or Ptitim, is a type of pasta developed in Israel in the 1950s; it’s easy to prepare and it cooks in less than 10 minutes.

It’s shaped into tiny balls and is an excellent ingredient to make a delicious pearl couscous salad with crunchy veggies and a tasty dressing.

Here, we show you how to cook Israeli couscous and transform it into a tasty and colorful Mediterranean Israeli couscous salad.

Salad with pearl couscous, cherry tomatoes, and cucumber

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

Don’t have time to read the full blog post? JUMP TO RECIPE HERE!

What is Israeli couscous?

difference between Israeli couscous and regular couscous side by side

Despite its English name, Israeli couscous – pearl couscous or Ptitim – is not a type of couscous but small pasta balls made with durum wheat semolina flour and water, similar to Sardinian fregola.

Its shape is reminiscent of Palestinian maftoul, Levantine moghrabieh, and North African Berkoukes.

You’ll love pearl couscous because it cooks quickly—about 7 minutes in boiling water or vegetable broth—and has a slightly chewy and satisfying texture.

Pearl couscous on a wooden spoon after cooking

Here, we’ll show you how to use Israeli couscous to make a delicious, Mediterranean-inspired pearl couscous salad.

This salad is perfect for meal prep, potlucks, barbecues, packed lunches, or everyday meals.

The recipe is inspired by Egyptian balela salad and our Moroccan couscous salad.

Like our farro salad, rice salad, and orzo salad, it’s packed with fresh, juicy, crunchy veggies, umami-loaded sun-dried tomatoes and olives, and a bold mustard dressing.

Israeli couscous with sumac onions and yogurt

We love topping the salad with sumac onions and serving it alongside a thick yogurt tahini sauce and toasted pinenuts.

With this recipe, we want to celebrate the colorful flavors of the Mediterranean, crossing borders and embracing traditions that complement and elevate each other beautifully.

Ingredients and substitutions for pearl couscous salad

ingredients for pearl couscous salad

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

Israeli couscous

Ptitim, sometimes called Israeli couscous, giant couscous, or pearl couscous, is the main ingredient in this pearl couscous salad.

Pearl couscous looks like small balls of pasta. You can find it in larger supermarkets or online.

You’ll also need water or vegetable broth to cook Ptitim.

Substitute farro, orzo, barley, rice, fregola, or Moroccan couscous for pearl couscous.

Chickpeas

Chickpeas are the perfect complement to pearl couscous because they complete the protein profile of this delicious salad.

You can use canned or dry chickpeas that you cook yourself in water.

Here’s our guide on how to cook chickpeas if you need guidance.

Substitute black beans, edamame beans, and lentils for chickpeas.

Bell pepper

We use green bell pepper.

Substitute yellow or red bell pepper for green.

Cucumber

English cucumber, American cucumber, or Persian cucumber are all excellent options.

Scallions

We love the mild, zesty flavor of fresh spring onions.

Substitute shallots or red onions for scallions.

Cherry tomatoes

Cherry tomatoes add juiciness and natural sweetness to this Israeli couscous salad.

Substitute plum, date, or another type of small tomatoes for cherry tomatoes.

Fresh herbs

We recommend using fresh flat-leaf parsley, also known as Italian parsley, commonly used in the Mediterranean regions.

Substitute fresh mint, basil, dill, or oregano for parsley.

If you want, you can combine two or more fresh herbs.

Olives

Our favorites are olive taggiasche from Italy and kalamata olives from Greece.

Sun-dried tomatoes

Go for sun-dried tomatoes in oil for the best taste and texture.

Substitute marinated artichoke hearts for sun-dried tomatoes.

Dressing

We use our reader’s favorite mustard dressing with:

  • Extra virgin olive oil.
  • Fresh lemon juice or red wine vinegar.
  • Maple syrup or honey.
  • American mustard or Dijon mustard.
  • Grated garlic or garlic powder.
  • Ground cumin or sumac.
  • Salt & black pepper.

Serves well with

Pearl couscous salad serves well with:

Israeli couscous on a plate with hand holding a spoon

How to make Israeli couscous salad

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

Cook the Israeli couscous

Cook the pearl couscous in plenty of lightly salted boiling water or vegetable broth per package instructions—about 7 to 10 minutes.

While the couscous cooks, you can start preparing the vegetables.

Pearl couscous in a white pot with a wooden spoon

Taste a pearl of couscous to ensure it’s cooked, then drain it and add it to a large mixing bowl.

Let it cool down for 10 minutes. In the meantime, finish preparing the vegetables.

Tip: It’s okay if the pearls stick together; they’ll separate later when you toss them with the vegetables.

cooked pearl couscous cooling in a bowl

Prepare the vegetables

Cut the cherry tomatoes in half. Drain and rinse the chickpeas. Thinly slice the spring onions.

Chop the cucumber and bell pepper into small dice. Drain the olives and sun-dried tomatoes from their liquid. Finely chop the parsley.

Ingredients for Israeli couscous salad in a white bowl

Add vegetables to the bowl with the cooked pearl couscous.

Make the dressing by whisking together extra virgin olive oil, fresh lemon juice, maple syrup, mustard, grated garlic, ground cumin, salt, and black pepper.

hand with dressing drizzling over Israeli couscous

Pour the dressing over the salad, then toss until well combined.

Taste and adjust for salt and lemon juice.

hands mixing pearl couscous and fresh ingredients in a bowl

Serving suggestions

Israeli couscous salad can be served as a main course or a side dish. It’s nourishing and fulfilling, so we often have it for lunch or dinner.

You can top it with sumac onions or quick pickled onions, jalapeños, crumbled feta cheese or non-dairy feta, and toasted pine nuts.

Israeli couscous salad on a big white plate with a silver spoon

Another delicious way of serving it—our favorite—is next to a thick and creamy yogurt tahini sauce, which you can make in seconds by mixing Greek yogurt or non-dairy yogurt and tahini.

Top the salad with a generous pinch of sumac onions, and you’ll be in for a treat!

Uh. Jalapeños or pickled jalapeños are always welcome if you like it spicy.

Israeli couscous with fresh vegetables on a white plate with a fork

Finally, pearl couscous salad is also excellent on a Mezze platter with other small Mediterranean and Levantine dishes.

Among our favorites are:

Variations

Easy couscous salad

easy couscous salad on a white plate with a silver fork

An easy variation to this salad is made with Moroccan couscous, which cooks fast and tastes delicious.

Here’s our couscous salad recipe if you are interested.

Tips

Cook the pearl couscous al dente.

Pearl couscous is just like pasta. It’s best when slightly undercooked, al dente, with a slight bite.

To achieve this irresistible chewy texture, cook the pearl couscous for 7 minutes, taste it, cook longer if necessary, or drain it if al dente.

Let it cool down before adding the veggies.

Let the cooked pearl couscous cool down for at least 10 minutes in a large bowl before you add the fresh vegetables.

Salt the boiling water

Salt the boiling water to infuse the pearl couscous with flavor. This step might not be necessary if you cook it in vegetable broth.

Questions

What is the difference between Israeli couscous and regular couscous?

Despite its English name, Israeli couscous, also called Ptitim or pearl couscous, is not a type of couscous but rather a type of small toasted pasta balls.

Israeli couscous looks and tastes more like Sardinian pasta fregola. It’s made with the same ingredients as pasta: durum wheat semolina flour and water.

Israeli-couscoues-and-moroccan-couscous-side-by-side

Is Israeli couscous a grain or pasta?

Israeli couscous is a type of pasta made with durum wheat flour and water, like Italian pasta.

What does Israeli couscous taste like?

Israeli couscous tastes almost exactly like orzo pasta, sometimes known as risoni.

It has a neutral flavor with very mild, nutty notes. It absorbs the flavor of the condiments and ingredients served with it well.

If cooked al dente, it has a slightly chewy and satisfying texture.

Storage & Make ahead

Make ahead: This Israeli couscous salad is an excellent recipe for meal prep. It keeps well for 2 to 3 days in the refrigerator. You can, therefore, make it in advance and bring it to picnics, potlucks, and barbecues or have it as a packed lunch.

Refrigerator: Leftovers can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Remove them 15 minutes before serving.

Freezer: We don’t recommend freezing pearl couscous salad

More Mediterranean Salads

More Mediterranean Recipes

Israeli couscous with sumac onions and fresh vegetables on a plate

Israeli couscous salad

By: Nico Pallotta
5 from 6 votes
Israeli couscous, pearl couscous, or Ptitim, is easy to prepare and it cooks in less than 10 minutes.
Here, we show you how to cook Israeli couscous and transform it into a tasty and colorful Mediterranean Israeli couscous salad.
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 7 minutes
Total Time: 27 minutes
Servings: 4 people
Course: Main Course, salad, Side
Cuisine: Mediterranean

Ingredients

SALAD

  • cups pearl couscous + 4 cups/1 liter water or vegetable broth & 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes halved
  • cups cucumber diced
  • 1 cup green bell pepper diced
  • 4 scallions thinly sliced
  • 1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas or 3 cups cooked chickpeas
  • ½ cup olives kalamata or taggiasche
  • ½ cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil chopped
  • 1 cup flat-leaf parsley chopped

DRESSING

  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon mustard American or Dijon
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup or honey
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin or sumac
  • ¾ teaspoon salt or more to taste
  • teaspoon black pepper

SERVING SUGGESTIONS

Instructions 

  • Cook 1½ cups pearl couscous in plenty of lightly salted boiling water or vegetable broth until soft but with a slight bite – 7 to 10 minutes.
    Drain it and add it to a large mixing bowl. Let it cool down for 10 minutes.
    cooked pearl couscous cooling in a bowl
  • In the meantime, prepare 2 cups cherry tomatoes (halved), 1½ cups cucumber (diced), 1 cup green bell pepper (diced), 4 scallions (thinly sliced), 1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas (drained), ½ cup olives, ½ cup sun-dried tomatoes in oil, 1 cup flat-leaf parsley (chopped).
    Add all to mixing bowl.
    Ingredients for Israeli couscous salad in a white bowl
  • Make the dressing by whisking together 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 1 tablespoon mustard, 1 tablespoon maple syrup, 1 small garlic clove, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, ¾ teaspoon salt, and ⅛ teaspoon black pepper.
    Pour over salad.
    hands mixing pearl couscous and fresh ingredients in a bowl
  • Toss until well combined. Taste and adjust for salt. Serve immediately or store in the fridge.
    The salad tastes best 15 minutes after it's made.
    Israeli couscous on a plate with hand holding a spoon

MAKE IT A MEAL

  • Make Israeli couscous salad a meal by serving it with yogurt tahini dressing, quick pickled red onions, and toasted pinenuts.
    Israeli couscous with fresh vegetables on a white plate with a fork

Notes

Nutrition information is an estimate for 1 large serving of Israeli couscous salad out of 4 servings as a main course.
STORAGE & MAKE AHEAD
Make ahead: This Israeli couscous salad is an excellent recipe for meal prep. It keeps well for 2 to 3 days in the refrigerator. You can, therefore, make it in advance and bring it to picnics, potlucks, and barbecues or have it as a packed lunch.
Refrigerator: Leftovers can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Remove them 15 minutes before serving.
Freezer: We don’t recommend freezing pearl couscous salad.
ALSO ON THIS PAGE

Nutrition

Calories: 474kcal, Carbohydrates: 80g, Protein: 16g, Fat: 11g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g, Monounsaturated Fat: 6g, Trans Fat: 0g, Cholesterol: 0mg, Potassium: 911mg, Dietary Fiber: 11g, Sugar: 10g, Vitamin A: 1455IU, Vitamin B6: 0.4mg, Vitamin C: 75mg, Vitamin E: 2mg, Vitamin K: 140µg, Calcium: 111mg, Folate: 158µg, Iron: 5mg, Manganese: 2mg, Magnesium: 97mg, Zinc: 2mg
Tried this recipe? Leave a comment below or mention @theplantbasedschool on Instagram. We are also on Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube, and TikTok.

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.

Easy right?

5 from 6 votes (2 ratings without comment)

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating




8 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This dish is amazing!!!! I toasted the couscous first, served with your sumac red onions and a bit of feta. We’ve decided to cook healthy vegetarian during the week, and I am so glad I found your site. I’ve made the Stuffed Bell Peppers, Barley Salad (subbed Faro) and Chickpea Quinoa Salad and loved them. So flavorful and healthy and I can’t wait to keep trying more!

    1. Hi Sue,

      Thank you so much for your message! We are sooo happy you like the recipes.
      It’s a great idea to toast the couscous first for even more flavor 🙂

      Have a wonderful and veggie-packed week.
      Nico

  2. 5 stars
    Thanks for all receipts. My husband loves lentils but I didn’t have any clue to cook a good dish with lentils until I saw this site and IG post!!!

    1. Fantastic, Misaki! I’m very happy we could provide a bit of inspiration 🎉

      Thank you for your kind comment. Kindest, Louise

  3. 5 stars
    I just made this recipe – it is so delicious and fresh! I can’t stop eating it! Thank you so much for sharing an easy and healthy recipe .

    1. That’s wonderful, Lisa! I’m very happy you liked the recipe, we are big fans of easy and healthy recipes too 😉

      Thank you for taking the time to leave a comment 🎉 /Louise

  4. 5 stars
    This dish looks absolutely delicious….
    Thank you for your endlessly inspiring plant based recipes, much appreciated
    You have changed the way I cook and eat forever!

    1. We are so happy you are here, Susan!! Thank you for your kind and supporting words, it means a lot to us ❤️