Light yet filling, my Couscous Salad recipe is a crisp combination of shrimp, seasonal vegetables, herbs, and nuts. It’s served with a sweet and somewhat spicy olive oil dressing and topped with a mouthwatering tangy balsamic syrup. Sprinkle on some feta or parmesan cheese, and you have a truly Mediterranean meal that totally satisfies!
Couscous is a protein-dense, fiber-rich pasta that’s healthy and easy to eat. It’s widely eaten throughout the Middle East and Mediterranean, and especially throughout Africa.
It makes a great salad base, and I especially love to make couscous salad in the summer months. Paired with seasonal vegetables like tomatoes, zucchini, and green onions, it’s a great and healthy way to make use of seasonal produce!
For an extra Mediterranean twist, this couscous salad is dressed with a lemon and olive oil dressing and topped with a balsamic drizzle.
If you’d like to enjoy a couscous dish that comes closer to its African origins, I highly recommend trying out this Moroccan recipe with almonds and pomegranate.
INGREDIENT NOTES AND SUBSTITUTIONS
- Israeli Couscous - Also known as “pearl” couscous, this variation is larger. We’ll also add olive oil to keep each grain from sticking together.
- Shrimp - I like using large shrimp for this recipe, but you can also use smaller shrimp. You want 1 lb worth, whichever size you go with.
- Bell Peppers - I recommend using half green peppers and half red.
- Roma Tomatoes - Prepare these by seeding and chopping. I prefer Roma as they are less watery and won’t leave you with a wet, soupy salad.
- Green Onions - Chives, leeks, or shallots would work as well.
- Black Olives - This is a common Mediterranean ingredient. If you do not like olives, try capers or your favorite pickled vegetable. Perhaps pickled turnips?
- Zucchini - Yellow squash or pumpkin are similar substitutes.
- Basil - Thyme, parsley, or cilantro are suitable for this salad as well.
- Pine Nuts - You can get these pre-toasted, or toss them in a pan and quickly toast on your own.
- Salad Dressing - A combination of olive oil, lemon juice, minced garlic, sugar, salt, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Feel free to be creative with additional herbs and seasonings!
- Balsamic Syrup & Feta Cheese - These are to drizzle and sprinkle on top. You can make your own balsamic syrup by reducing balsamic vinegar in a pan.
HOW TO MAKE COUSCOUS SALAD
- Make the Couscous. Boil a pot of salted water. Pour in the olive oil and the Israeli couscous. Stir, cover, and let simmer for 8 minutes. Once the liquid has evaporated and the grains become fluffy and tender, remove from heat and let cool.
- Prep the Shrimp & Veggies. While the couscous cools, clean and devein the shrimp if fresh. If using raw shrimp, boil in lightly salted water until pink and then transfer to an ice bath to prevent overcooking. Chop up the zucchini, onions, herbs, and peppers.
- Toast the Pine Nuts. If you are toasting your own pine nuts, do so now in a pan over medium heat.
- Make the Dressing. Whisk together all of the dressing ingredients. Alternatively, you can add all of the ingredients to a jar and shake to mix.
- Assemble. Add everything to a large bowl and mix. Fluff up the couscous and add salt and pepper to taste.
- Chill & Serve. Chill in the fridge for at least one hour before topping with the optional balsamic, parmesan or feta, and serving.
How long does couscous salad last in the fridge?
Store leftovers in an airtight container for up to 3 days in the refrigerator.
Making couscous is a very quick process, so my recommendation for meal preppers is to pre-chop your veggies and pre-mix your dressing, which will stay fresh for 1 week. Then, make the couscous in batches throughout the week.
What other veggies can you add to couscous salad?
A better question would be: what veggies can’t you add to couscous salad?
Aside from squashes, tomatoes, and onions, you can also throw in cucumbers, eggplant, okra, mushrooms, and beets. These would be very Mediterranean choices.
Truly, however, you can add whatever vegetables you like best.
What is couscous vs. quinoa?
Couscous is a grain and has a similar consistency to pasta when cooked. On the other hand, quinoa is actually a seed and has a crunchy texture. Both have a great deal of fiber and protein.
For an example of how quinoa can be used in a salad, check out my Ahi Tuna Salad recipe!
Mediterranean Couscous Salad with Shrimp
- 2 cups Israeli Couscous (pearl couscous)
- 2 ¼ cups water
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 lb large shrimp cooked (See Note 1)
- 4 bell peppers half each red green, orange bell pepper
- 2 Roma tomatoes seeded chopped
- 2 green onions sliced
- 15 oz black olives drained and pitted
- 1 zucchini large cubed
- ¼ cup basil leaves chopped
- ½ cup pine nuts
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 lemon juiced (about 3 tbsp)
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- ½ teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon sugar
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- Balsamic Syrup
- ¼ cup feta cheese (or Parmesan cheese)
- In a medium-sized saucepan, bring salted water to a boil. Add olive oil and couscous, stir. Cover and simmer for 8 minutes, or until the liquid is evaporated and the couscous is tender. Fluff and set aside to cool.
- While couscous steams, clean shrimp (See Note 1), chop vegetables and basil.
- Over medium heat lightly toast the pine nuts in a small fry pan.
- In a small bowl whisk together the dressing or add to a jar, seal and shake to mix.
- In a large bowl add the cooled couscous, shrimp, chopped vegetables, pine nuts and salad dressing. Season to taste.
- Cover and chill for at least one hour. Toss to mix before serving and drizzle with balsamic syrup and feta cheese (optional).
- If using raw shrimp: add 1 teaspoon kosher salt to 8 cups boiling water. Add the raw (thawed) shrimp. Turn heat off, stir and cook for 1 minute or until the shrimp turns pink. Transfer to ice bath (bowl with water and ice cubes) to stop cooking. Do not over cook shrimp!
*The information shown below is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist's advice.