This quick, simple Israeli couscous recipe is a perfect grain side dish for just about any meal! Cook Israeli couscous (or pearl couscous) until tender, then toss with a dressing of fresh lemon juice, olive oil, shallot, and lots of finely chopped fresh herbs. The taste is citrusy and vibrant!
This incredibly versatile recipe goes well with lamb chops, steak, or chicken, really any protein that is complimented by lemon and fresh herbs. With just a few simple ingredients and a total prep and cook time of 20 minutes all in, you’ll make this Israeli couscous salad again and again!
What Is Israeli Couscous?
Israeli couscous, also sometimes referred to as pearl couscous, is noticeably larger in size than Moroccan couscous. Both can be sold in whole wheat varieties, but for this salad recipe we’re sticking with couscous made from Semolina flour (as is typical).
While both varieties of couscous have similar flavors, Moroccan couscous tends to cook quicker. Peal or Israeli couscous takes about 15 minutes to simmer once water has come to a rapid boil. The couscous cooks in a saucepan with a tight fitting lid until tender. It has a similar texture and consistency to pasta.
What You’ll Need To Make Israeli Couscous Salad
- Israeli couscous: Though you can substitute with Moroccan couscous, if preferred
- Extra virgin olive oil: The base of the salad dressing
- Lemon zest and lemon juice: Adds an amazing, bright citrus flavor throughout.
- Fresh oregano, finely chopped: A slightly lemony, mint forward flavor.
- Fresh chives: A gentle onion flavor.
- Shallot: While thinly sliced shallots can have an intense onion flavor, let these sit in olive oil while the couscous cooks to give them a slightly more subtle onion-garlic flavor.
- Feta cheese: Adds a creamy, tanginess and a little bit of salt.
- Freshly ground black pepper: For serving!
You’ll also need a medium saucepan with a tight fitting lid.
How To Cook Israeli Couscous
You can toast the Israeli couscous in a dry pan before cooking if you like, but we don’t think it’s necessary in this particular recipe.
Instead, follow the instructions on the back of the packaging. Bring water to a rapid boil, then add add dry couscous and some Kosher salt. No need to add butter or olive oil, as the couscous will get tossed with a dressing (or marinade before serving). Lower the temperature to a simmer, then cook covered for 15 minutes, or until all the water has been absorbed and the pearl couscous has the same al dente texture you’d look for in cooked pasta.
Fluff the couscous with a fork, then toss with the dressing.
To make the Israeli couscous salad dressing, combine extra virgin olive oil, lemon zest, fresh lemon juice, chopped oregano, chives, and one thinly sliced shallot in a large bowl or measuring cup, then whisk well. The longer you let this mixture sit, the less of a bite and intense onion flavor the shallot will have. Toss this with warm couscous, then serve hot or at room temperature — totally your personal preference!
Just before serving, top with additional chopped chives and lots of freshly cracked black pepper. Oh my gosh, it’s so delicious!!
Can I Use Moroccan Couscous Instead?
Absolutely! Moroccan couscous is the most readily available variety of couscous in American markets. You’ll typically see it sold as instant, precooked, or quick-cooking. It’s available made from semolina flour (the default) as well as wheat flour (labeled whole wheat couscous). Each piece is much smaller than Israeli or pearl couscous, but it can be used in the exact same way. The biggest difference is in the texture. While Israeli couscous has more of a pasta-like consistency, Moroccan couscous tends to be a bit more chewy and firm.
It takes only 5 minutes to cook Moroccan couscous (versus 10-15 minutes for pearl couscous), so it’s quicker too! Either work well with this dressing and makes for a fantastic grain side dish.
Our absolute favorite lunch recipe is this couscous salad with tarragon roasted shrimp, slivered almonds, and chopped tomatoes. It is the stuff of dreams and so easy to make ahead for meal prepping!
- Feel free to cook couscous in chicken broth, vegetable broth, or other liquid (perhaps a mixture of broth and white wine) to add additional flavor, depending on the recipe.
- Want to add veggies? Stir in fresh baby spinach, chopped swiss chard or kale, or even baby arugula for a slight peppery bite and flavor!
- Don’t have oregano and chives? Substitute with any fresh herbs that compliment the other dishes you’re serving it with: fresh basil, chopped parsley or fresh mint, even scallions in place of chives or shallot work well.
How Long Will Israeli Couscous Salad Keep?
This couscous recipe will keep for up to 5 days in a sealed, airtight container in a refrigerator.
This is totally going to become a year round staple in our kitchen. Tastes great, has a small ingredient list, and is a great versatile side dish for so many different proteins. Can’t ask for much more than that!
If you make this Israeli Couscous Recipe, please let us know by leaving a review and rating below!
For other couscous recipes, check out this apricot glazed chicken or our most popular salmon recipe: crispy pan seared salmon with parmesan cream sauce!
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More recipes to try!
- Lentil Salad
- Grilled Asparagus In Foil
- Smoked Salmon Salad
- Accidental Vegan Roasted Vegetable Salad
- Chicken Provencal
20-Minute Israeli Couscous with Feta
- 1 cup Israeli couscous or pearl couscous
- 1 ½ cups water
- ½ tsp Kosher salt
- 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 Tbsp lemon juice about ½ lemon plus 1 tsp fresh lemon zest
- 2 Tbsp fresh oregano finely chopped
- 2 Tbsp chives
- 1 medium shallot peeled and thinly sliced into half moons
- ¼ cup feta cheese crumbled
- Freshly ground black pepper for serving
- Cook the couscous. Bring 1 ½ cups of water to a rapid boil over high heat. Add 1 cup dry couscous and ½ tsp Kosher salt, then return to a boil. Immediately reduce the temperature to a simmer, then cover the pan and cook for 15 minutes. Remove the lid, then use a fork to fluff the couscous.
- Meanwhile, make the dressing. In a 2-cup measuring cup, combine 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice, 1 tsp lemon zest, 2 Tbsp chopped oregano, 2 Tbsp thinly sliced chives, and thinly sliced shallot. Stir well.
- Dress the salad. When couscous is fully cooked, pour the dressing on top. Toss very well. Stir in ¼ cup crumbled feta cheese, then taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Garnish with freshly cracked black pepper before serving. Can be served hot, warm, or room temperature.