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A fresh, healthy Israeli pearl couscous salad with feta, tomatoes and cucumber. This tasty salad is perfect for lunch or an easy dinner.
Here you go! A fresh and summery-feeling Mediterranean tomato and cucumber salad combined with whole grain pearl couscous.
This gorgeous salad never fails to disappear every time I make it!
The salad has that magically delicious combo of crunchy, vibrantly-colored veggies, green herby-ness and tender couscous pasta, all mixed with a punchy lemon-garlic dressing.
This is one of those recipes you’ll want to make on repeat, all year round.
When is the right time to make pearl couscous salad?
I’m so glad you asked!
While just about any chopped tomato, cucumber and red onion salad will have you dreaming of summer days, this particular one will fit into your daily meal-prep routine no matter the weather situation.
- Pack into a container and take to work or the beach (very highly recommend the latter).
- On the backyard picnic table to eat al fresco (YES).
- For dinner, at the end of a long, long day. (Thank you).
The inspiration for this delicious fresh salad came from a friend, a pottery artist from Tel Aviv. She taught me a few things about what to do when you have people over. It goes something like this:
- Arrange some chairs around a table, then open a bottle of wine — chilled rosé is perfect.
- Put out some glasses, plates and napkins so everyone can help themselves.
- Set a bowl on the table full of chopped tomatoes, cucumber, fresh herbs and some olive oil, with some fresh pita on the side.
- Get busy talking and sipping. all while enjoying a delicious, no-fuss Mediterranean salad.
About Israeli pearl couscous
Israeli couscous is a type of pasta made with durum wheat or semolina flour (no, it’s not gluten-free). The grain is shaped into small, pearl-size balls that are toasted and then dried.
Pearl couscous looks different from the more minuscule grains of Moroccan-style couscous that you may be familiar with. And I know you’re wondering:
Is Israeli couscous healthy?
If you’re not watching your carb intake, then absolutely yes! Especially when compared to rice, couscous comes out ahead. Here are some nutrition benefits of pearl couscous:
- Pearl couscous is a good source of fiber, protein (6 grams per cup)
- It’s also low in sugars on the glycemic index than other grains, such as white or brown rice.
Substitutes for pearl couscous
Tunisian or Lebanese couscous, or mahjoub, is very much like Israeli-style couscous. They’re totally interchangeable in this recipe.
Another option is to assemble the salad using cooked quinoa, millet or amaranth grains to make it gluten-free.
How to cook pearl couscous
One major difference between fine instant couscous and pearl couscous is the way it’s cooked. Instant couscous can be cooked by the absorption method, which means it’s soaked in a ratio of hot water until the grains have absorbed all the water and become moist and fluffy.
On the other hand, Israeli couscous or pearl pasta cooks just like regular pasta in a pot of boiling salted water, and then it’s drained and ready to eat or toss in a salad.
Cooking time: Check the directions on your package, but count on cooking pearl couscous 10-12 minutes. Test and taste to be sure it’s nicely al dente, because you don’t want the grains to turn mushy.
What to serve with couscous salad
This is basically a vegetarian tomato-cucumber salad with some cooked grain tossed in. It’s great to serve all by itself, or try it with:
- Fresh toasted pita bread
- As a side dish with simple baked lemon chicken.
- Or this quick garlic butter shrimp pasta!
More easy healthy whole grain recipes:
- Warm French Lentil Salad with Goat Cheese
- Mediterranean Vegetable Tabbouleh Salad
- Farro Risotto with Tomato and White Beans
- Farro Salad with Roasted Vegetables
Pearl Couscous Salad with Tomatoes and Feta
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 small garlic clove, grated or finely chopped
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon crushed red chili, or to taste
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ cup (60 ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 cup (142 g) pearl couscous, bulgur, faro or other grain you like
- Kosher salt
- 1 pint (300 g) cherry tomatoes, quartered
- ⅓ cup (60 g) thinly sliced red onion
- 3 green onions, thinly sliced
- 1 teaspoon chopped jalapeño or serrano chili
- 2 or 3 Persian cucumbers, thinly sliced
- ¼ cup each fresh cilantro. parsley and mint leaves, torn if large
- 4 ounces (125 g) feta cheese, crumbled
- Make the dressing: Whisk the lemon juice, garlic, cumin, chili, and salt in a serving bowl. Drizzle in the oil while whisking to emulsify.
- Cook the couscous: Bring 2 quarts water to a boil in a saucepan with 1 tablespoon salt. Cook the couscous (or chosen grain) until tender or according to package directions. Drain and cool for 10 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes, red and green onions, chili, cucumber and couscous to the bowl and toss gently to mix. Sprinkle the herbs and feta over the salad. Serve and enjoy.
Karen’s Notes and Tips
- You can cook the couscous a few days ahead. Keep it in a container in the refrigerator, but assemble the rest of the salad when you’re ready to serve.
Hey, I’m Karen
Creator of Familystyle Food
I’m a food obsessed super-taster and professionally trained cook ALL about making cooking fun and doable, with easy to follow tested recipes and incredibly tasty food! Read more about me here.