Greek Couscous Salad

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

a large bowl of Greek couscous salad recipe with tomatoes, olives, cucumbers, red onions, bell peppers, feta

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:

  • It’s loaded with everything delicious, seriously the flavor-texture explosion is unreal.
  • The Sun-Dried Tomato Feta Pesto is so ridiculously flavorful I use it as a dip, so naturally it makes the best dressing AKA the best couscous salad ever!   
  • The couscous salad can be served up as lunch, a light dinner, side dish or potluck favorite.
  • It’s easy to customize with your favorite add-ins or simply by what you have in the refrigerator.
  • It is delicious eaten right away.
  • OR it taste even better the next day for superb leftovers or meal planning.
  • It can be made 100% in advance and doesn’t dry out thanks to the nature of the dressing.
  • It is a meal-in-itself thanks to the protein packed chickpeas or add chicken or shrimp.
  • It pairs beautifully with practically everything from Greek cuisine, to Italian cuisine, to hot-off the grill proteins to comfort foods to cozy soups.
top view of Greek couscous salad recipe made with pearl couscous

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: 

  • Couscous: although it looks like a grain, couscous is actually a type of pasta that cooks into a delightfully chewy texture. Look for pearl couscous which is the largest type of couscous. It is sometimes erroneously used synonymously with Israeli couscous, but pearl couscous is even larger than Israeli couscous. Of course, if you can’t find pearl couscous, Israeli couscous will do.
  • Chicken broth or bouillon: I prefer cooking couscous in water seasoned with chicken bouillon or better than bouillon for affordable flavor, but you may use chicken broth, vegetable broth or water. 
  • Cucumber: use an English cucumber because it tends to be sweeter, plus you don’t have to peel it! Quarter the cucumber and cut it into slices. If you use a standard cucumber, you may wish to scoop out the seeds after you cut it in half if it’s extra seedy.
  • Tomatoes: ripe, juicy, sweet tomatoes are a must!  I prefer cherry tomatoes because they are flavorful and juicy yet firm, which means they release less water into the salad and don’t dilute the dressing as much. Still, pick whichever type of tomatoes you prefer.
  • Bell peppers: I used a blend of yellow and red bell peppers, but orange will also work. I don’t recommend green because they are grassy instead of sweet.
  • Red onion: brings the zippy punch. Use more or less to taste.
  • Kalamata olives: gems of dark, rich, intensely fruity, salty flavor that are delectable with the crisp veggies. I use whole pitted Kalamata olives and halve them myself because they are juicer and tend to hold together better but you can use canned sliced olives if you prefer.
  • Pepperoncini: a type of mild, yellow-green chili pepper that belongs to the same family as bell peppers. They boast a mild, tangy zing when pickled. Pepperoncini typically come in a glass jar and are shelved next to the sandwich condiments such as pickles, banana peppers, and jarred roasted red bell peppers.
  • Chickpeas: drain and rinse the chickpeas and add them to the Greek couscous salad as is, or optionally roast them with cumin, paprika, salt and pepper until crisp. (Instructions provided in the recipe card below). 

For the DRESSING

  • Sun-dried tomatoes: buy sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil. You’ll be using the entire jar — tomatoes and oil! The oil is ultra-flavorful and means you won’t have to add any extra olive oil to the dressing.  
  • Fresh basil: look for fresh basil that’s vibrant green in color and has no visible bruising or wilting. 
  • Almonds: are a cheaper alternative to pine nuts and make for a flavorful pesto! 
  • Greek feta: is a rich, creamy, sharp, salty, tangy, and lemony white cheese made of at least 70% sheep’s milk (production standards) with goat’s milk usually making up the other 30%. Look for feta with the highest percentage of sheep’s milk, these will be the creamiest and least crumbly. The higher the percentage of goat’s milk, the crumblier the feta will be. Look for blocks of feta (vs. the crumbled) with the specialty cheeses at your grocery store. You may also substitute with crumbles, but blocked feta tends to be more flavorful.
  • Garlic: you may substitute with ½ teaspoon ground if you don’t have fresh on hand.
  • Red wine vinegar: adds fruity tanginess.  Please don’t substitute with another vinegar here, especially white vinegar because it’s too strong. 
  • Lemon juice: fresh is best but you may use bottled. If you don’t have any handy, you may substitute with red wine vinegar. (TIP:  For fresh lemon juice at your fingertips, freeze leftover lemon juice by the tablespoon in ice cube trays.)
  • Herbs and spices: dried oregano, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes round out the dressing.
top view showing how to make couscous salad recipe by adding pearl couscous, tomatoes, cucumbers, chickpeas, bell peppers, red onions and olives to a bowl and tossing to combine

Ingredient Substitutions 

  • Water and bouillon: May be substituted with chicken broth, vegetable broth or salted water.  
  • Cherry tomatoes: May be swapped with grape tomatoes, or, dice up seeded Roma tomatoes.
  • Almonds: Can be substituted with walnuts or pine nuts, noting that the flavor of the vinaigrette will change. 
  • Dried oregano: May use fresh. You’ll need roughly 3x the amount of fresh herbs as dried. 
  • Lemon juice: Can be replaced with additional red wine vinegar

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.
showing how to make pearl couscous salad recipe by roasting chickpeas

Step 2: Cook the Pearl Couscous 

  • Cook couscous in boiling water or chicken broth until al dente. Drain.
showing how to make couscous salad recipe by simmering couscous until al dente in chicken broth

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.
showing how to make the dressing for Greek couscous salad recipe by adding basil, sun dried tomato, feta and almonds to a food processor

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. 
showing how to make couscous salad by tossing the pearl couscous with vegetables and dressing in a white bowl

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! 
a large bowl of Greek couscous salad recipe with tomatoes, olives, cucumbers, red onions, bell peppers, feta
  • 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.
  • 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 chickenharissa 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.
showing how to make couscous salad recipe by blending sun dried tomatoes, basil and feta together
  • 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.

adding couscous salad recipe to a bowl with pearl couscous, tomatoes, cucumbers, feta

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top view showing how to make couscous salad recipe by adding pearl couscous, tomatoes, cucumbers, chickpeas, bell peppers, red onions and olives to a bowl and tossing to combine

Greek Couscous Salad

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!
Servings: 10 -12 servings
Total Time: 40 mins
Prep Time: 30 mins
Cook Time: 10 mins

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Ingredients

COUSCOUS

  • 2 cups pearl couscous
  • 5 cups low sodium chicken broth or water with 1 TBS bouillon/better than bouillon

SALAD

  • 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

GARNISH

  • feta
  • chopped parsley

Instructions

  • 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.

Video

Notes

To Roast Chickpeas:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.  Line a large baking sheet with foil or a non-slip mat. 
  2. Spread the chickpeas on a kitchen towel and pat them very dry; rub them with the towel to remove any loose skins.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

Storage

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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4 Comments

  1. Ann says

    I would love to make that Greek Couscous Salad, but I note that you do not include the Nutritional Info on the recipe. How could I get this information?

  2. Salesha says

    I made this recipe this week and it was amazing!! I used the crumbled feta because I don’t like cheese made with goats milk. I’ve been enjoying it all week!!

    • Jen says

      I love a recipe that keeps on giving, thanks Salesha!

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