Quick couscous salads

Michele Borboa, MS

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Light, fluffy, diminutive orbs of semolina wheat, couscous is an ancient grain-like pasta (yes, pasta — couscous is not a grain in and of itself) that has historical roots reaching back to the Middle Eastern 13th century. Today, couscous is eaten in many places worldwide and has become a popular ingredient in American cooking.


Though traditional couscous takes considerable time to prepare, the quick-cook variety found in the States can be on the table in 10 minutes or less. Delicious as a warm side dish, couscous can also be transformed into a cool summertime salad. The options are endless — making it a favorite quick meal!

Couscous salad recipes

You can find regular and whole wheat couscous in bulk at many natural food stores as well as packaged in the pasta and grains aisle at the supermarket. The recipes below are made with couscous the size of granules; however, you can make couscous salads with the larger-sized variant called Israeli couscous for a change in texture and eye appeal.

Pistachio apricot couscous salad

Serves 6 to 8


For the salad dressing:

  • Juice of zest of 2 blood oranges
  • Juice and zest of a lemon
  • 1 tablespoon pureed or minced fresh ginger
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon turmeric (or curry powder for an extra boost of flavor)
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

For the couscous salad:

  • 3 cups cooked couscous, warm
  • 1 small red bell pepper, seeded, minced
  • 1/2 small red onion, minced
  • 4 to 5 fresh apricots, pitted, diced
  • 1 cup pistachios
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


  1. To make the dressing, whisk together all ingredients and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine salad ingredients. Drizzle in half of the dressing and toss to combine. Taste and add more dressing if you prefer a moister salad or stronger flavor.
  3. Refrigerate for 1 hour or up to overnight and serve with extra dressing on the side.

Asparagus and orange couscous salad

Serves 4


  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 asparagus spears, ends trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 2 cups cooked couscous, warm
  • 2 navel oranges, peeled, sectioned, chopped
  • 1/2 cup your favorite black or green olives, chopped and pitted
  • 3/4 cup chopped green onions (green and white parts)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup coarsely chopped toasted walnuts


  1. Heat oil in a medium-sized skillet over medium heat. Add asparagus and cook, stirring often, for 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper and add garlic. Cook, stirring for another 2 minutes or until asparagus is crisp-tender. Remove from heat and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, combine couscous, oranges, olives, green onion, parsley, vinegar and walnuts. Transfer asparagus and oil from the skillet to the bowl, tossing to combine. Refrigerate for 1 hour or up to overnight before serving.

Sun-dried tomato and artichoke heart salad

Serves 6 to 8


  • 3 cups cooked couscous, warm
  • 1 cup sun-dried tomatoes, packed in oil, drained, chopped
  • 1 cup marinated artichoke hearts, drained, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup minced red onion
  • 1 cup dried currants
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano (or 1 teaspoon dried oregano)
  • 3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Handful of toasted pine nuts


  1. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients.
  2. Refrigerate for 1 hour up to overnight before serving.

More salad recipes

Hearty dinner salads
Filling low-carb salads
Protein-packed summertime salads

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Michele Borboa, MS
Michele Borboa, MS is a contributing editor for SheKnows.com specializing in health, fitness, and all things food. She is a veteran health and fitness professional, personal chef, and mom in Bozeman, Montana. She is also the author of the time-saving cookbook Make-Ahead Meals Made Healthy (Fair Winds Press, July 2011). You can contact Michele at michele.borboa@sheknows.com or give her a tweet at http://twitter.com/micheleeborboa.