Recipe: Couscous Salad

For those of you who haven’t used it before, couscous is a grain-like pasta that is extremely easy and quick to cook. It is a staple food throughout the North African cuisines of Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Mauritania and Libya.

This couscous salad is an extremely easy, healthy and tasty meal when you’re strapped for time. It also makes a great accompaniment to any main course.

12 minutes
10 minutes
4, generously
  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1 1/4 cup boiling water
  • cucumber
  • red onion
  • bell peppers
  • tomato
  • olive oil
  • kosher salt

This recipe is relatively up to you on how you want to make it. I’ll give a simple rundown of the basic process and some ingredients you can use, but in the end you can mix in whatever vegetables you want to really. I’ll give some alternative ideas as we go along.

First thing first is to make the couscous. Add your couscous to a boil and pour over the water, already boiling from a kettle. The water should come up and be just above the couscous. To be perfectly honest I rarely actually measure the water, I just pour boiling water over the couscous until it just covers it.

Once the boiling water has been added to the couscous, cling wrap the bowl tight. In 10 minutes you’ll have perfectly cooked couscous. At that point simply fluff up the couscous with a fork and it will be ready to go. You can do this in advance so the couscous cools down to room temperature before eating it if you want.

While the couscous is cooking you should work on your veggie prep. At this stage you can do pretty much anything you want. I like to make my couscous salad have a bit of a Mediterranean feel to it, so I usually use cucumbers, red onion, orange/green bell peppers and some tomato. If you have some leftover veggies that are a little old though, feel free to use this recipe as a fridge cleaner. If you like to eat the vegetable raw then it will go great in this salad.

I like to do a nice dice on all the vegetables and then toss them with a bit of salad dressing. I don’t like adding the dressing to the couscous because it can get a bit soggy, especially if you have leftovers of this salad. If you toss the dressing with just the vegetables and then add them to the couscous I find you get a much better result.

You can definitely use a store bought salad dressing but making your own is extremely easy. The basic ingredients are found below:

  • 1 part acid
  • 3 parts oil
  • mustard
  • kosher salt
  • pepper

The acid in the above ingredient list can be any kind of vinegar, lemon juice, lime juice, grapefruit juice, etc… For the oil I recommend using olive oil for the most part but definitely feel free to experiment with other oils as well.

When I make these dressings I usually do them in old jam jars. I add all the ingredients and shake the jar to mix them. This works really well and it encourages experimentation since they are relatively small batches. The jam jar also lets you easily see what your proportions of acid to oil are. If decide to use a jam jar, then use about a teaspoon of mustard. If you use a bigger container, use a little bit more mustard. Any kind of mustard will do but I recommend something flavorful like a dijon or grainy mustard.

Add a pinch of salt and a pinch of pepper and then mix well and taste. Since this is going to dress a salad, it’s good if it’s a little over seasoned as a general rule. Once you add it to the veggies it should be perfect. I also want to note that the mustard is technically optional. If you want you can just use the acid and oil and it will work fine. What the mustard does, other than add a good bit of flavor, is act as an emulsifier which will help to bind the oil and vinegar together. If you don’t use it you might just have to shake the dressing a little longer.

Once you have your salad dressing done, toss it with the vegetables so they get a nice even coating. I don’t like them with too much dressing, a nice thin coating is best. Once they are coated you can add them to the couscous (assuming it’s done cooking) and mix together. To finish feel free to use a bit of cheese (something like a feta is great) as well as some fresh herb if you desire. I also like to serve crispy tortilla chips or something crunchy to have with the salad.


This is a really basic recipe that can be adapted a lot of different ways. Below are two suggestions for other types of vegetables and dressings you could use to transform the base recipe, but if you think something will work try it out!

For a Mexican version of this salad you could use cooked beans, corn, tomatoes and red onions to create a more Mexican type of salad. If you go this route I would recommend a dressing of lime juice, olive oil, grainy mustard, hot sauce and some cumin mixed it.

If you would rather make the salad a bit more French use some garlic, cooked zucchini, cooked eggplant, mushrooms, bell peppers and tomato. This combination is something like a ratatouille and can be tossed with a nice dressing consisting of red wine vinegar, olive oil, dijon mustard and some dried parsley and Parmesan cheese. Serve with some slices of baguette for that last bit of French-ness (not a real word, but you get the point).

As always thank you for reading and if you try out this recipe let me know how it goes in the comments below. Please also let me know any recipes, cuisines or techniques you want to know more about and I’ll try my best to either share something I’ve already done or find something new.