Try your hand at this pearl couscous recipe for an easy Middle Eastern inspired dinner that is bursting with flavor. We start by marinating tender lamb chunks in a bath of olive oil and sweet, smokey baharat spice blend. The meat is then seared to perfection, sauteed with onions and peppers, and combined with couscous to create a lamb and pearl couscous masterpiece.
Today’s pearl couscous recipe is yet another gem from the world of Middle Eastern Cuisine. If you are a fan of my recipes such as Ptitim (Israeli Couscous Salad), Kafta (with Beef or Lamb), and Persian Saffron Rice with Apricot, you definitely don’t want to miss this one.
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This pearl couscous recipe with lamb is not only a sumptuously spiced, delicious dinner — it’s also a great way to build confidence in the kitchen! Although Middle Eastern cooking can seem quite exotic at first, all you need is a well stocked spice cabinet and a little bit of know-how. That’s where I come in to help you! Expand your horizons and taste buds today with this crowd-pleasing pearl couscous recipe.
Regarding that spice cabinet, feel free to explore my Spice Blends Archives for ideas, tips, and inspiration from all stops along the Silk Road.
- Lamb – I prefer lamb loin meat, but leg of lamb or lamb shoulder are perfectly acceptable. If lamb isn’t your favorite, feel free to substitute beef.
- Baharat Spice – This traditional spice blend is warm, earthy, sweet, and smoky. Find it in the international aisle or click the link for a DIY version.
- Olive Oil – Mild, nutty, and floral. Forms the base of the marinade without overpowering the spice blend.
- Pearl Couscous – Decent substitutes include quinoa, short grain rice, millet, or another grain of your choosing.
- Red Onion – Adds pungency with a slight sweetness. White or yellow onions will work too.
- Bell Peppers – Offer a dash of fresh, peppery, sharpness. Choose any color variety or go with a mix of colors.
- Honey – Gives the dish a touch of sweetness while harmonizing the rest of the flavors in the recipe.
- Soy Sauce – Adds salty, savory, umami tones.
- Mint – Contributes a fresh, cooling element to balance out the flavor profile.
- Green Onions – Adds a pop of fresh, peppery flavor and vibrant dash of color.
- Marinate the Meat. Add the lamb meat, olive oil, and baharat spice to a small bowl. Toss to coat well, then set aside to marinate for 15 minutes.
- Cook the Couscous. In a large pot, bring 3 cups of water and ½ teaspoon of salt to a boil. Stir in the couscous and return to a boil. Reduce heat, cover pot, and simmer for about 20 minutes.
- Sear the Lamb. Place a deep skillet over medium high heat. Allow it to get hot enough to almost smoke, then add the marinated lamb pieces. Cook with adequate room between each piece of meat. Let the meat pieces sear and caramelize on the first side before flipping and searing them on the opposite side.
- Add the Veggies. Toss in the bell peppers, red onions, honey, soy sauce, and dried mint. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring to mix well. Reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for an additional 5 minutes.
- Combine with Couscous. Thoroughly drain any excess water from the couscous. Transfer the lamb and veggies to the couscous pan, stirring to incorporate. Add salt to taste.
- Garnish & Serve. Scoop the mixture into bowls, garnish with fresh chopped green onions, and serve immediately.
Should You Rinse Pearl Couscous Before Cooking?
No, there is no need to rinse for this pearl couscous recipe.
If you were working with a true grain, such as rice, you might want to rinse before cooking to remove any excessive starch. However, couscous is closer to pasta and does not require rinsing. Simply add to boiling water and let the magic happen.
Can You Overcook Pearl Couscous?
Yes, you can overcook pearl couscous. Too much liquid or overcooking can lead to couscous that is sticky and possibly even mushy. No need to worry, though! Simply follow the water ratio instructions and set a timer.
Ideally, your pearl couscous recipe will have a light, fluffy, and slightly chewy texture.
What is the Difference Between Couscous and Pearl Couscous?
In its original and simplest form, couscous is made by taking coarsely ground grains, mixing them with water, and rolling them between the hands to form small beads. It is most commonly made from semolina wheat, and sometimes is also made from barley or millet.
- Moroccan Couscous – This is the most common, recognizable variety of couscous you will see on the shelf. It consists of quite small granules (similar to the size of semolina grains), has a nutty flavor, and cooks very quickly.
- Pearl Couscous – This variety of couscous is much larger, and can be about the size of peas. The terms pearl couscous and Israeli couscous are often used synonymously, although some claim pearl couscous is actually Lebanese, or Moghrabieh couscous. Regardless of the debate, pearl couscous is much larger, fluffier, and rounder than its Moroccan relatives and takes longer to cook.
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Lamb and Pearl Couscous Recipe
- In a bowl add lamb, baharat spice and oil, tossing to coat. Let marinate for 15 minutes.
- Bring 3 cups of water and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a boil and add the couscous. Stir and bring back to a boil. Lower heat to simmer, cover and cook 20 minutes.
- Heat a deep skillet over medium-high heat for a few minutes until it almost starts to smoke. Add the marinated lamb and separate in pan, leaving room around the pieces. Let sear and caramelize on one side before turning to brown other side.
- Add the onion, peppers, honey, soy sauce and dried mint, stirring to mix thoroughly with lamb. Cook for 3 minutes, turn heat to low and cover. Cook for 5 minutes.
- Drain couscous of any excess water and add to lamb mixture, stirring to mix thoroughly. Season to taste with salt.
- Scoop into bowls and serve with chopped green onion on top.
- I use lamb loin meat, but feel free to use lamb shoulder or leg of lamb meat, cubed into 1-inch pieces. Don’t like lamb, substitute with beef stew meat (beef chuck).
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.