The best salads are more than just greens and veggies. This stunning, flavorful salad is packed with vegetables but puts Israeli couscous in the spotlight. These round pearls of couscous add lots of texture and heartiness to the salad, making it a satisfying meal that you can feel good about!
Some people hear the word “salad,” and think of a boring, unappealing bowl of lettuce and dressing. What I love about Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine is that they make simple, easily-accessible ingredients into wholesome, impressive meals. Salads like my White Bean Salad (Piyaz), Fregola Salad with Grilled Halloumi or my Shirazi Salad with Chickpeas are great examples.
This Israeli couscous salad is similar. By combining just a few classic vegetables, nuts, and herbs, you’ll create a flavorful, wholesome dish that’s also nice and colorful. The best part, of course, is the pearl couscous. With fresh vegetables and a tangy lemon dressing, this salad is perfect as a refreshing side dish or balanced meal. After prepping your vegetables, all you’ve got to do is toss everything together. It’s easy, healthy, and full of various flavors and textures that are sure to satisfy! Add some cooked shrimp or chicken to make it more robust, too.
INGREDIENT NOTES AND SUBSTITUTIONS
- Israeli Couscous – Also known as pearl couscous or Jerusalem couscous. These grains aren’t your typical crumb-like couscous. They’re round, pearl-like balls that almost have the texture of pasta. Some come in different vegetable flavors (as pictured).
- Bell Peppers – I like to use red, green, and orange bell pepper to add plenty of vibrant color and crunch to this salad.
- Roma Tomato – Also known as plum tomatoes, I like these because they are nice and sweet.
- Green Onion – Adds a refreshing crunch to each bite without the overpowering pungency of other onions.
- Black Olives – I love olives in salad because they provide plenty of natural salty flavors. Feel free to substitute with kalamata.
- Zucchini – Super crunchy and not as watery as cucumber. Cucumber will work as a substitute.
- Basil – Chopped fresh basil brightens up all of the flavors in this salad, so don’t skip it!
- Pine Nuts – Toasted pine nuts add texture and a wonderful nutty aroma to this dish. Chopped cashews or pistachios can also work.
- Olive Oil – Use high-quality olive oil for a rich, earthy dressing.
- Lemon Juice – Freshly-squeezed lemon juice is the base of a tangy, citrusy dressing.
- Garlic – Garlic, lemon, and olive oil make a foolproof base for any salad dressing.
- Sugar – Just a bit of sugar mellows out the tart lemon and pungent garlic for a well-balanced dressing.
There are many varieties of this couscous salad recipe, so feel free to add whatever sounds good. Here are some popular ideas:
- Artichoke hearts
- Red onion or shallot
- Bulgarit or Feta cheese
- Golden raisins or dried cranberries
- Chopped serrano chiles
Video: Making Israeli Couscous Salad
To see the process from start to finish, watch the video located in the recipe card at the bottom of this post.
HOW TO MAKE ISRAELI COUSCOUS
- Toast Couscous. This step is optional, but helps bring out a toasty, nutty flavor. Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a saucepan. Add couscous and cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, until it is lightly toasted.
- Cook Couscous. Boil water in a medium saucepan. Add couscous, stir, then cover and let it simmer for 8 to 10 minutes. Once the water has evaporated or the couscous is tender, fluff with a fork and set it aside to cool.
- Prep Ingredients. Chop your vegetables and basil while your couscous is cooking. Toast the pine nuts in a small frying pan over medium heat. Add salt and set aside.
- Make Dressing. Whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, sugar, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Add red pepper flakes to taste.
- Assemble Salad. Add the cooled couscous, chopped veggies, pine nuts, and dressing into a large bowl. Toss and season to taste.
- Chill & Serve. You may serve this salad while the couscous is still warm, but I like to cover it and let it chill for at least an hour. Toss once more before serving.
- Storage – Ptitim will last for a day or two in the refrigerator. Just stir the leftover to recombine the ingredients. You may also want to squeeze a little more lemon juice over the top to freshen it up.
- Freezing – While you can’t freeze the whole salad, you can freeze the couscous by itself. Allow it to cool completely, then store in a ziploc bag in the freezer for up to 3 months. Thaw in the refrigerator before using.
- Make ahead – You can easily make this a day ahead of time for a potluck or family gathering. Or, make the couscous by itself, store in the refrigerator, and mix with the rest of the ingredients before serving.
Is Ptitim Pasta?
Ptitim is often called Israeli couscous, but it actually is a type of pasta. Though couscous is often considered to be a grain like rice is, it is actually made of flour, and water like other pastas are.
What’s the Difference Between Regular and Israeli Couscous?
Pieces of Israelian couscous are much bigger than regular couscous grains. Regular couscous is more crumb-like in texture, whereas the Israeli version is pearl-like balls that are soft and tender.
Is Israeli Couscous Healthy?
Israeli couscous is usually made of semolina flour and water. It’s not packed with tons of vitamins and nutrients, but it doesn’t contain any particularly unhealthy ingredients either. When it comes to enjoying a couscous salad versus a pasta dish, many might say a couscous salad is a bit healthier.
Can You Eat Zucchini Raw?
Though you may often eat zucchini when it is cooked, it’s still perfectly fine to eat raw. Eating raw zucchini, as with most vegetables, actually means you’re getting more nutrients out of it than you would if you cooked it. In this Israeli couscous salad, it adds the perfect amount of crunch.
Ptitim (Israeli Couscous Salad) + Video
- OPTIONAL STEP: In a medium-sized saucepan over medium-high heat, heat olive oil. Add the couscous and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 3-4 minutes or until fragrant and lightly toasted.
- In a medium-sized saucepan, bring water to a boil. Add couscous, stir and simmer for 8-10 minutes covered, or until the liquid is evaporated and the couscous is tender. Fluff and set aside to cool.
- While couscous steams, chop vegetables and basil. Over medium heat lightly toast the pine nuts in a small fry pan. Salt and set aside. In a small bowl whisk together the dressing.
- In a large bowl add the cooled couscous, chopped vegetables, pine nuts and salad dressing. Season to taste.
- Cover and chill for at least one hour. Toss to mix before serving.
- Outside Israel, ptitim is typically marketed as Israeli couscous, Jerusalem couscous, giant couscous or pearl couscous.
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.