This Couscous Salad recipe is texture flavor fireworks that’s bright, light, satisfying with the best dressing of your life!
This Greek Couscous Salad recipe is the swoon worthy triple threat of light, satisfying and flavorful! It’s loaded with delightfully chewy pearl couscous, juicy tomatoes, crunchy bell peppers, crisp cucumbers, zippy pepperoncini, salty Kalamata olives, optional roasted chickpeas and tangy creamy feta all enveloped in tangy, herbaceous Sun-Dried Tomato Feta Pesto! This couscous salad recipe is always a crowd pleaser for holidays, potlucks and parties or a delicious grab-and-go lunch or light dinner. This Greek Couscous Salad is 100% prep ahead friendly for meal prep or stress free entertaining. So please, add it to the menu this week because it is guaranteed to become an instant beloved favorite!
HOW TO MAKE Couscous Salad VIDEo
couscous salad Recipe
This Pearl Couscous Salad recipe is an easy, utterly scrumptious side dish that belongs in everyone’s repertoire (and face!) with its fresh, healthy ingredients, versatility and creamy, tangy, nutty, herbaceous dressing.
It is stand-alone-fabulous or I love serving it with my favorite marinated proteins like Greek Chicken, Chicken Shawarma and Harissa Chicken and everything in between. There are so many reasons to love this couscous salad recipe! Here are just a few:
Couscous Salad Ingredients
This Pearl Couscous Salad recipe combines my favorite elements of a Greek salad — fresh tomatoes, crisp cucumber, salty feta, briny olives — with tender couscous. Everything is tossed with a homemade Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto Dressing that’s so good, you’ll want to use it on everything!
Here’s what you’ll need to make this couscous salad recipe (full ingredient list and measurements can be found in the recipe card at the end of this post):
For the Salad:
For the DRESSING
How to Make Couscous Salad
Pearl couscous salad is incredibly easy to make! You can begin chopping the veggies and making the dressing while the couscous cooks. Or, prep all the veggies the day before to make assembly the next day even quicker!
Step 1: Roast the chickpeas (optional)
- Roasting and even adding the chickpeas is optional, but they really pack a punch of protein and are easy to prepare while you prep the rest of the ingredients.
- Start by spreading chickpeas on a kitchen towel and pat them very dry, then rub them with the towel to remove any loose skins.
- Next toss with olive oil, smoked paprika, ground cumin, salt and pepper and spread into an even layer on a baking sheet.
- Roast for 20-30 minutes, or until they are as crispy as you want them.
Step 2: Cook the Pearl Couscous
- Cook couscous in boiling water or chicken broth until al dente. Drain.
Step 3: Make the Dressing
- The dressing is a quick pulsing of a jar of sun-dried tomatoes in oil, fresh basil, almonds, feta, garlic, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, oregano, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes.
- The pesto dressing will seem like a thick paste rather than a thin dressing which is exactly what we want. It will thin and spread out to envelop the couscous as you stir it with the vegetables.
Step 4: Assemble the Salad
- Once the couscous has cooled to room temperature, fluff the grains to separate them.
- Add all of the salad ingredients to the bowl of couscous, followed by the dressing.
- Toss until evenly coated.
Step 5: Garnish and Serve!
- Serve the salad immediately, or refrigerate and serve chilled.
- Garnish with additional feta and fresh parsley before serving if desired!
- Cook the couscous in bouillon or broth. Couscous is a sponge and benefits greatly from cooking in broth or DIY broth made with chicken bouillon. If cooking it just in water, be sure to salt the couscous otherwise it will be bland.
- Don’t overcook the couscous. There are many variables when cooking couscous such as the exact type, type of pot, simmering temperature, etc. so make sure to pay attention and check the couscous for doneness at 6 minutes then cook on as needed.
- Chill the couscous salad. This pearl couscous salad is delicious at room temperature, but like all pasta salads, it tastes even better after being chilled for an hour so the the flavors have time to meld.
- Purchase brined feta. If you have the option, go for blocked brined feta. Blocks of feta can be packaged with or without a brine. Vacuum-packaged feta without a brine isn’t as moist whereas brined feta is packaged in salt water (a little or a lot), and doesn’t dry out.
- Use ripe tomatoes. The riper the tomatoes, the sweeter, richer, the better the couscous salad!
- Customize the salad. The ingredients in this recipe are simply suggestions. You can add/swap any ingredients for your favorites or omit ingredients altogether. Like more olives – add more olives! Don’t like onions? Use less onions or swap them for green onions or shallots. Want a tangier salad? Add pickled red onions. The possibilities are endless!
- Customize the dressing. Don’t be afraid to make the dressing your own. Make it tangier by adding additional vinegar one teaspoon at a time, add additional herbs, etc.
- Scale the recipe. This recipe is easy to scale up for large crowds/potlucks or to scale down for lunch by using the up and down arrow in the recipe card next to the servings.
possible recipe variations
You can mix up this Greek Couscous Salad recipe in countless ways but please don’t skip the essential tomatoes, cucumbers and feta! Other than that, feel free to omit or add additional ingredients. Here are some recipe variation ideas:
- Customize Cheese. You can use more or less feta cheese depending on how tangy you want your pearl couscous salad. You can also swap the feta for mozzarella balls but then you will be missing the tanginess feta adds. Instead, crumbled goat cheese is a great alternative to feta.
- Add a protein: add Greek meatballs, Greek chicken, harissa chicken, shrimp, pork, salami, prosciutto, etc. to make your couscous salad a complete meal.
- Swap the onions: use bright, tangy, punchy pickled red onions recipe instead of raw. They’re ready in 30 minutes!
- Add capers: a common addition in Dodecanese islands. Capers are actually flower buds that have been brined to mellow their bitterness. The resulting brined capers are tangy, salty, lemony doses of flavor.
- Add radishes: for a spicy, crispy, zesty kick.
- Add vegetables: add any vegetables your heart desires! Asparagus, corn, broccoli, green beans, snap peas, etc.
- Add avocados: slice or chop a large avocado for satisfying creamy bursts to complement the crunchy textures. Make sure you use a ripe avocado but not overly ripe or it will turn to mush. Add the avocados just before serving.
- Add artichoke hearts: tender, slightly sweet and nutty additions.
- Make it vegan and dairy free: omit the cheese or use a vegan feta substitute. You can also use 1 tablespoon capers in dressing instead.
What to serve with couscous salad
Greek Couscous Salad is delicious served alongside your favorite Greek-inspired dishes but is equally delicious alongside any main dish proteins. Here are some of my favorite Mediterranean dishes to serve alongside this couscous salad, but don’t let this limit your imagination!
- Marinated Greek Chicken: an all-time reader’s favorite recipe! This Greek chicken is juicy, tender and flavorful from a lemon, oregano, garlic laced marinade.
- Greek Burgers: burgers infused with feta, garlic, dill, mint, cumin and oregano, grilled to succulent juicy perfection. Serve them up with pearl couscous salad and sweet potato fries to really hit the spot.
- Greek Meatballs: juicy, fragrant, herbaceous Greek Meatballs are utterly addicting, dripping with lemon, garlic, dill and oregano flavors.
- Greek Chicken Gyros: are easy, flavorful, make ahead and healthy – winning! The combination of juicy Greek lemon chicken, creamy tzatziki, fresh crisp veggies, and tangy feta wrapped in warm pita bread is out of this world. All it needs is a side of couscous salad!
- Lemon Basil Chicken: is crazy juicy from an easy marinade of olive oil, lemon juice, basil, oregano, garlic, onion, and red pepper flakes. It’s super easy and super flavorful and perfect alongside couscous salad.
- Chicken and Beef Souvlaki: chunks of marinated chicken or beef grilled or baked to juicy perfection.
- Harissa Chicken: an easy, healthy, juicy explosion of exotic, spicy flavors begging to be served with refreshing couscous salad.
- Doner Kebabs: are healthy, juicy chicken with irresistible caramelized edges layered with fragrant spices. One of my most popular recipes!
- Chicken Shawarma: marinated in lemon juice, a plethora of hand-picked spices and my secret ingredient which all work together to create the most dynamic chicken you ever tasted. Add this Greek Couscous Salad and dinner is served.
- Cumin Spice Rubbed NY Strip Steaks with Harissa Butter: one of my all-time favorite steak recipes! Buttery tender steak ripping with flavor in every caramelized, charred crust bite. All it’s missing is a side salad!
- Tandoori Chicken: bursting with bold, smoky, and as-spicy-as-you-want-it flavors, super juicy, and is going straight to the “favorite” file.
Can Couscous Salad be Made in Advance?
Yes! You can prep the entire salad in advance, or you can prep elements of the salad ahead of time.
-Couscous: can be cooked and refrigerated up to 5 days in advance.
-Veggies: chop all of the salad ingredients and layer in a large serving bowl in this order: tomatoes, pepperoncini, cucumbers, onions, bell peppers, feta. Cover tightly and store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. Drain any excess juices before adding the couscous and dressing.
-Chickpeas: can be roasted up to 3 days in advance, noting that they’ll soften over time. Store in an airtight container on the counter until ready to use.
-Dressing: can be made up to 3 days ahead of time and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
-Entire salad: assemble and enjoy within 48 hours.
HOW TO STORE AND REHEAT
Leftover pearl couscous salad should be stored in the fridge in an airtight container. Salad is best eaten within 2 days, noting that the couscous will soften over time as the veggies release their moisture.
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- 2 cups pearl couscous
- 5 cups low sodium chicken broth or water with 1 TBS bouillon/better than bouillon
- 1 ½ cups English cucumber, sliced and quartered
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 red bell pepper, chopped
- 1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
- 1/2 cup red onion, chopped or thinly sliced
- 1 cup pitted Kalamata olives, halved
- 2/3 cup pepperoncini, roughly chopped
- 1 15 oz. can chickpeas, rinsed (see notes for optional roasting)
SUN-DRIED TOMATO FETA PESTO VINAIGRETTE
- 1 8.5 oz. jar sun-dried tomatoes in oil
- 1 cup packed fresh basil leaves
- 1/4 cup almonds
- 2 ounces block feta cheese or ¼ cup crumbled
- 3 garlic cloves, peeled
- 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 tsp EACH dried oregano, salt
- 1/4 tsp EACH pepper, red pepper flakes
- chopped parsley
- Couscous: Bring chicken broth or water with bouillon to a boil in a large pot. Add the couscous, cover, and reduce to a simmer. Cook for 6-8 minutes, or until couscous is al dente. Drain couscous through a sieve and transfer to a large serving bowl to cool to room temperature. Meanwhile:
- Dressing: Add all of the Sun-Dried Tomato Feta Pesto ingredients to a food processor and process until finely chopped, scraping down the bowl as needed (it will be thick).
- Salad: Once the couscous has cooled, fluff the grains to separate. Add all of the salad ingredients followed by the dressing. Toss until evenly coated. Serve immediately or refrigerate and serve chilled. Garnish with additional feta and fresh parsley before serving if desired.
To Roast Chickpeas:
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with foil or a non-slip mat.
- Spread the chickpeas on a kitchen towel and pat them very dry; rub them with the towel to remove any loose skins.
- Transfer the dried chickpeas to the prepared baking sheet and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 teaspoon smoked paprika, ½ teaspoon ground cumin, ¼ teaspoon salt and ⅛ teaspoon pepper.
- Roast for 20 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown and crisp. Ovens can vary, so bake until they are as crispy as you want them.
StorageLeftover pearl couscous salad should be stored in the fridge in an airtight container. Salad is best eaten within 2 days, noting that the couscous will soften over time as the veggies release their moisture.
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