Versatile as it is delicious, this pearl couscous salad with pine nuts makes a great side dish, flavorful addition to a salad, or a light yet filling meal. You’ll love the fresh flavors in the easy dressing, and the ability to customize this nutritious recipe to suit your preferences!
Darlings, make-ahead salad recipes are among this busy lady’s favorite things! Even when you love to cook so much it’s your job, it’s nice to open the fridge some days to see nutritious, delicious, and ALREADY PREPARED dishes. And the choir said, “amen”! This is why I’m sharing this pearl couscous salad recipe with you today.
Pasta salads aren’t just another side dish, they’re a must on your meal prep repertoire. We make them year-round because they are so versatile! Need an easy side dish for a meal? Salad. Want a nice light dinner on the patio? Salad. Need to prepare your lunch for the week on to save time on busy weeknights? Salad.
You can make this type of salad with pasta, like couscous, or a variety of grains. I love this feta farro salad recipe, and my grandmother’s tabbouleh recipe made with bulghur wheat is a classic. But recently, I’ve been using a lot of pearl couscous, also called Israeli couscous. You can find it in the rice section, usually, and it comes in a “regular” and “whole wheat” variety. The cooking instructions are simple. You cook it in a saucepan with water or broth, let rest, and if you have any excess liquid, drain. Israeli couscous, because of the larger size, has a heartier texture and is the best option for make-ahead salads.
Pearl Couscous Salad Ingredients and Customizations
The salad recipe as provided is a good base recipe. On its own, it’s wonderful. You combine the cooked couscous with scallions, crispy sweet peppers, fresh mint, an easy olive oil and lemon dressing, and toasted pine nuts. I will make this and we will use it as a side for grilled fish or chicken, or I will serve as-is on a bed of greens. But there are a few changes we also make that you might like too…
First, if I have a can of chickpeas around, it’s nice to add them for additional fiber. The chickpeas also make the salad more filling so it’s a good stand-alone light meal.
If you’d like to add a protein in advance, cubed firm tofu or cooked chopped chicken breast can be mixed right in! Use about a cup, there’s no fixed measurement.
Lastly, if you don’t have pine nuts, slivered toasted almonds are a wonderful substitute! If you need to make a nut-free version, use sunflower seeds instead, or skip the nuts altogether. There are already plenty of amazing flavors in this dish!
How far in advance can I make this recipe? Can I freeze it?
The flavors in a couscous salad are usually at their best the day after. It allows time for the ingredients to blend and some of the delicious lemon dressing to soak into the couscous. I usually make mine anywhere between a few hours before I plan to serve up to the day before.
If you want to make this recipe to cook ahead for the week’s meals, you should be fine making it on Sunday and portioning out through Friday. But it will be at its best if consumed within about 4-5 days of when you make it.
While you can freeze rice and many grains, I probably wouldn’t freeze couscous salad. The reason is that things like the bell peppers don’t freeze and thaw at the same texture, so it would taste funny. And since couscous is a pasta, it can also change in texture.
I hope you love this easy pearl couscous salad recipe, darlings!
- 1 cup pearl couscous (Israeli couscous)
- 1 1/2 cups broth
- 1/2 cup chopped scallions (white and green)
- 1 cup chopped sweet bell pepper
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoons lemon juice
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon ground pepper
- 1/4 cup pine nuts or chopped almonds, toasted
- Bring the broth to a boil in a small saucepan with a lid. Stir in the couscous, reduce the heat to low, and cover. Cook 10 minutes until the couscous is tender and has absorbed almost all the liquid. Remove from the heat, transfer to a large mixing bowl and allow to cool a bit.
- While the couscous is cooling, wash and chop the scallions, bell pepper, and mint.
- Mix the dressing ingredients - olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper - in a small bowl or mason jar.
- If your nuts aren't toasted, place them in a dry skillet over medium heat for 5 minutes until lightly browned. Remove from the skillet to cool.
- Add the scallions, bell pepper, and mint to the couscous with half the nuts.
- Pour the dressing over the salad and stir to combine.
- Allow the salad to rest at least 10 minutes before adjusting salt, pepper, or mint to taste. A few hours, up to overnight, in the refrigerator allows the flavors of the salad to really come together.
- Top with the remaining nuts just before serving. If not serving immediately, refrigerate until ready to serve. Remove from the refrigerator 15 minutes before serving to allow it to come to room temperature.
- If you are making this salad in advance and want to serve in individual portions, you can mix all the nuts into the salad.
- Pair with a protein or serve on top of a bed of salad greens for a satisfying and easy meal.
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