This simple couscous salad is packed with tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, fresh herbs, and feta, all tossed in a simple lemon dressing. It’s light, refreshing and makes for a healthy side dish.
Looking for a light and easy side dish that doesn’t skimp on flavor? Look no further than this easy couscous salad!
It combines fluffy couscous with crunchy greens, salty feta, all tossed in an easy lemon dressing. Whether you need a side dish for a summer potluck or a quick and easy recipe for lunch, this salad is perfect! Not to mention that it is delicious and very easy to prepare.
Why you will love this salad
- It’s light, refreshing, and packed with tons of fresh vegetables and herbs!
- This salad only takes about 20 minutes to prepare, so it’s perfect for busy days.
- It can be served as a side dish or add your favorite protein to make it a main meal.
- The lemon dressing brings a tangy, fresh flavor that ties everything together.
What is couscous?
Couscous is a staple in many North African and Mediterranean cuisines. It is made of small balls of semolina flour, which is the same flour used to make pasta. Semolina is combined with water and rolled into small grains. Couscous is often mistaken for a grain, but it is technically a type of pasta.
Couscous has a mild, slightly nutty flavor, making it versatile and an excellent base for a variety of dishes. It is particularly good in salads as it absorbs the flavors of the ingredients it is combined with. It is a popular alternative to rice or quinoa for those looking to try something different.
In terms of nutrition, couscous is a good source of carbohydrates and also contains some protein and fiber. Opting for whole wheat couscous can add an extra nutritional boost.
types of couscous
There are different types of couscous, the most common being Moroccan couscous, which is what we are using in this recipe. Moroccan couscous is very small and cooks quickly. There is also Israeli or pearl couscous, which is larger and takes a little longer to cook. Another variety is Lebanese couscous, which falls somewhere in the middle in terms of size.
- instant couscous – also known as Moroccan couscous, this is the star ingredient of this salad! It cooks in just 5-10 minutes, making this salad come together in no time! Couscous can usually be found in the grain section of most grocery stores, with rice and quinoa. I used RiceSelect Moroccan Style Couscous for this recipe.
- grape tomatoes – adds a sweet and juicy component to the salad. You can cut them into cubes or cut them in half. Cherry tomatoes will also work.
- english cucumber – adds a nice crunch! Feel free to use a regular or Persian cucumber instead if that’s what you have on hand.
- Red onion – a little adds sharpness and depth of flavor. Feel free to use a yellow onion if you prefer.
- fresh parsley – Fresh herbs always elevate a dish and parsley goes perfectly with the rest of the ingredients in this salad. You can also use mint, basil, or a combination of both.
- extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice – for the dressing we only use olive oil and lemon juice to keep things simple!
- sea salt and ground pepper – to season
- crumbled feta – adds a creamy and salty element that blends beautifully with the other textures.
How to do
cook couscous: Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Once boiling, add the couscous, cover, and let stand 5-10 minutes until the water is absorbed and the couscous is tender.
combine ingredients: Fluff the couscous with a fork and transfer to a large bowl. Add the tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, and parsley to the bowl and stir to combine.
make dressing: In a small bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. This creates a simple and flavorful dressing.
Mix: Pour the dressing over the couscous mixture and stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
Serve or refrigerate: You can serve the salad immediately or refrigerate it until ready to serve. Top with feta just before serving for an extra creamy and salty texture.
substitutions and notes
This couscous salad recipe can be easily customized! Here are some substitutions and notes:
- couscous type: You can substitute Moroccan-style couscous with pearl couscous (also known as Israeli couscous) for a different texture if you like.
- Vegetables: Feel free to add or swap the vegetables with whatever you have on hand. Red bell pepper, radishes, zucchini, broccoli, or baby spinach make great additions.
- Herbs: If you’re not a fan of parsley, try using fresh mint, basil, or a combination of herbs.
- Bandage: For a dressing with more depth of flavor, try this Red Wine Vinaigrette, White Balsamic Vinaigrette, Greek Salad Dressing, Garlic Tahini Dressing, or Lemon Vinaigrette Dressing.
- Without gluten: If you’re looking for a gluten-free alternative to couscous, try making my Easy Quinoa Salad instead.
- dairy free: If you need this salad to be dairy-free, skip the feta or use a vegan feta like this Follow Your Heart Vegan Dairy-Free Crumble or VIOLIFE Just Like Feta Block.
- Add nuts and seeds: Adding a few nuts or seeds can bring a nice crunch and a lot of nutritional value to this salad. Some great options include pine nuts, walnuts, sliced almonds, hemp seeds, and sunflower seeds.
- add protein: To turn this into a meal-sized salad, add some grilled chicken, shrimp, chickpeas, tofu, or tempeh. This Apple Cider Vinegar or Air Fryer Chicken Breast recipe would be a great addition. Check out more protein pairing ideas below!
Couscous Salad Variations
- mediterranean touch: This salad already has a Mediterranean twist, but for a more Mediterranean couscous salad, add some kalamata olives and serve it with a scoop of hummus and this easy baked falafel.
- southwest style: Mix together some black beans, corn, bell pepper, and replace the parsley with cilantro and feta with cotija cheese. Use lime juice instead of lemon, and add a pinch of cumin and chili powder to the dressing.
- asian fusion: Use rice vinegar instead of lemon juice and add soy sauce or tamari to the dressing. You can also add some chopped chives and different vegetables like cabbage, peas, carrots, and/or broccoli.
- Italian: Swap feta with mozzarella balls, parsley with fresh basil and add a drizzle of balsamic reduction.
What to serve with couscous salad
Honestly, this salad goes well with just about anything! It makes a great side salad for cookouts, but it’s also the perfect meal prep salad for brunches all week long. Here are some pairing ideas:
How to store
To do it in advance: I would recommend leaving the feta out and adding it just before serving. The rest of the salad can be fully assembled and stored in an airtight container for 4 to 5 days in the refrigerator.
to save leftovers: Store leftovers in an airtight container for 4-5 days in the fridge.
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Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Once boiling, add the couscous, cover, and let stand 5 to 10 minutes, until the water is absorbed and the couscous is tender.
Fluff the couscous with a fork, transfer to a bowl, and add the tomatoes, cucumbers, red onion, and parsley.
In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper.
Pour the dressing over the couscous mixture and stir to combine.
Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to serve. Top with feta just before serving.
Service: 1/4 recipe | Calories: 461kcal | Carbohydrates: 48gram | Protein: 13gram | Fat: 25gram | Saturated fat: 7gram | Polyunsaturated fat: 2gram | monosaturated fat: 14gram | Cholesterol: twentymilligrams | Sodium: 563milligrams | Potassium: 323milligrams | Fiber: 6gram | Sugar: 1gram
Nutrition information is automatically calculated and should only be used as an approximation.