Our Favorite Lemon Herb Couscous Salad

How to make light and healthy couscous salad with a simple lemon vinaigrette, cucumber and herbs. Jump to the Easy Lemon and Herb Couscous Salad Recipe or read on to see our tips for making it.

Watch Us Make The Recipe

It really doesn’t get much fresher than this. We love this light salad — it doubles as a side, can be the main event or works well topped with grilled chicken or Adam’s favorite, shrimp! With lots of texture from crisp cucumber, sweet tomatoes, crunchy nuts, and raisins, this is certainly one of our favorites. You can even make it ahead of time. By the way, we love this salad so much we created spin-off using orzo pasta. If you love this salad, take a look at our Lemon Orzo Pasta Salad with Cucumbers and Olives.

How to Couscous Salad with Lemon, Herbs and Crisp Veggies

Serve this salad warm or cold. You even swap or add your favorite fresh ingredients. We love crisp cucumbers, tomatoes, and golden raisins.The base of the salad is made with Israeli (or pearl) couscous.

How to make the best couscous salad recipe with a simple lemon dressing, cucumber and lots of fresh herbs. See the easy recipe and video.

What is Israeli Couscous?

Israeli Couscous is a little different from what most of us think of when we hear couscous. It’s in the shape of small round pearls made from semolina flour and wheat and is very similar to pasta in its texture. In fact, you actually cook it in boiling water for about 10 minutes then drain. Easily use in place of rice, or even in place of pastas in soups or salads.

If you cannot find Israeli Couscous, you can substitute with a small pasta shape such as orzo or use regular couscous.

The Secret for the Most Flavorful Salad

To make the best, most flavorful salad, add the vinaigrette to the couscous while it is still warm. We do the same with pasta salad and even potato salad.

Since the couscous is warm, it soaks up all the flavor from the dressing. Speaking of the dressing, this is one of my go-to recipes. We love keeping this salad light and fresh, so our favorite dressing to toss the couscous in is a light lemony vinaigrette. It’s simple — and great to toss with warm veggies like carrots or as a light salad dressing. All you need is Dijon mustard, honey, lemon zest, lemon juice, and olive oil. Just whisk together until creamy, and then season with salt and pepper and you’re done.

Once the couscous is dressed, it’s up to you for what else you add – we love diced tomato, crisp cucumber, lots of fresh herbs, golden raisins, and crunchy walnuts. [Here’s another couscous salad: Lemony Arugula Salad with Couscous, Cucumbers and Feta! The salad is simple, fast and tastes like it came from a fancy restaurant.]

How to make the best couscous salad recipe with a simple lemon dressing, cucumber and lots of fresh herbs. See the easy recipe and video.

Make Ahead Tips

This is delicious when eaten straight away, but you can also make the salad, cover it and refrigerate for up to 4 hours. This way all the flavors marry and mingle, making for an even more delicious salad. If you are planning to make a day or two ahead of time, keep the tomatoes and walnuts separate until you’re ready to serve. This way they will remain crisp.

How to make the best couscous salad recipe with a simple lemon dressing, cucumber and lots of fresh herbs. See the easy recipe and video.

More Easy Salads

Recipe updated, originally posted March 2012. Since posting this in 2012, we have tweaked the recipe to be more clear. – Adam and Joanne

Our Favorite Lemon Herb Couscous Salad

  • PREP
  • COOK
  • TOTAL

We love this light couscous salad — it doubles as a side, can be the main event or works well topped with grilled chicken or Adam’s favorite, shrimp! With lots of texture from crisp cucumber, sweet tomatoes, crunchy nuts and raisins, this is certainly one of our favorites. You can even make it ahead of time. See the notes section below for our tips.

Makes approximately 8 (1 cup) servings

You Will Need

1 1/2 cups dried Israeli couscous, also called pearl couscous

Salt and fresh ground black pepper

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon honey

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

2 to 4 tablespoons fresh squeezed lemon juice, depending on taste

1 medium English cucumber, diced

1 large tomato, diced

1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh herbs; use any combination of fresh parsley, cilantro, basil, dill, or mint

1/4 cup chopped walnuts, toasted

1/4 cup raisins, we love golden raisins

Directions

    Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil. Add couscous and cook until tender, 8-10 minutes. Drain.

    While the couscous cooks, in a large bowl, whisk the oil, mustard, honey, lemon zest, lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Add the drained couscous to the dressing and mix well.

    Stir in the cucumber, tomato, herbs, walnuts and raisins. Taste for seasoning and adjust with salt and/or pepper as needed. Enjoy warm or cover then refrigerate until cool, about 1 hour.

Adam and Joanne's Tips

  • If you cannot find Israeli Couscous, you may substitute with a small pasta shape such as orzo or use regular couscous.
  • To toast walnuts, add to a dry pan over medium heat. Cook, stirring frequently until the nuts turn golden brown and become fragrant, 5 to 10 minutes.
  • Make-Ahead: This salad is delicious when eaten straight away, but you can also make the salad, cover it and refrigerate for up to 4 hours. This way all the flavors marry and mingle, making for an even more delicious salad. If you are planning to make a day or two ahead of time, keep the tomatoes and walnuts separate until you’re ready to serve. This way they will remain crisp.
  • Nutrition facts: The nutrition facts provided below are estimates. We have used the USDA Supertracker recipe calculator to calculate approximate values. We assumed 1/4 teaspoon of added salt.

If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #inspiredtaste — We love to see your creations on Instagram and Facebook! Find us: @inspiredtaste

Nutrition Per Serving: Serving Size 1 cup / Calories 219 / Protein 5 g / Carbohydrate 29 g / Dietary Fiber 2 g / Total Sugars 4 g / Total Fat 9 g / Saturated Fat 1 g / Cholesterol 0 mg / Sodium 160 mg
AUTHOR: Adam and Joanne Gallagher

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42 comments… Leave a Comment
  • Sue K July 20, 2019, 11:57 pm

    I was quite disappointed. I used extra lemon and still added more. Needs more crunch.Some celery or cauliflower or even carrots or radihes maybe. Definitely needs doctored. I did like the flavor added from the raisins but I probably at least doubled that amount. Mind you, there are just 2 of us so I halved the pasta but really did not reduce the other ingredients.

    Reply
    • Joanne July 23, 2019, 5:05 pm

      Hi Sue, We are sorry you did not enjoy the salad. This really is one of our favorites. The great thing about the recipe is that you can always add more veggies/crunch to your tastes.

      Reply
  • Marcella Cooks July 3, 2019, 6:58 pm

    This recipe is FANTASTIC – I’ve made it several times and mint is my favorite herb to use. My Mom doesn’t like couscous and this recipe turned her around. Kids keep asking for it – love to serve this with your pan seared pork chops! Thanks so much!

    Reply
  • Kimberly @ I Wish I Was a Muffin May 23, 2019, 1:46 pm

    I made this salad for lunch and loved it! I like the texture of pearl couscous, and the veggies, dressing, and herbs made for a very refreshing salad.

    Reply
  • Wilma April 28, 2019, 1:07 pm

    Great recipe

    Reply
  • cindyfromminneapolis April 26, 2019, 11:05 am

    Oh wow!! Made this salad for a potluck last night and it was a HUGE hit! I made enough that we would have leftovers, but no! the bowl was completely empty by the end of the evening. I love the freshness of the dressing and used tons of herbs including chives which popped up in our garden now that it’s spring. We are vegetarians and I’m always on the lookout for suitable additions to our weekly rotation. Thank you so much for this wonderful recipe. Will be using it again and again!

    Reply
  • Canela March 7, 2019, 10:59 pm

    Love this salad!! I didnt have walnuts or raisins at home so used pomegranate and it was still crunchy and summery!! Thank you 🙂

    Reply
  • Chantal February 26, 2019, 4:20 pm

    This was so tasty! I followed exact instructions but added some chicken for some added protein to make it a full meal! So delicious!

    Reply
  • Ed Stock January 29, 2019, 8:15 am

    Eliminate the raisins and it’s delicious.

    Reply
  • Gail Wheeler January 27, 2019, 11:17 pm

    We love the Israeli pearl couscous & use it often. Mostly, we cook the tri-colored Pearl Israeli couscous & add to sliced zuchini & yellow squash that has been sauteed in a little olive oil (maybe a little butter added) as it makes a great side dish that even one of our local restaurants served. Kroger used to carry the tri-colored Israeli pearl couscous, but seems to have discontinued it. We then found it at Harris-Teeter & stock up when we go out of town & find Harris-Teeter stores. Comes in good sized plastic containers & the tri-colors are so pretty! This recipe sounds delish!

    Reply
  • Jean Tarr September 6, 2018, 8:52 pm

    Love the size of the Couscous. Great dressing with added garden herbs of dill, mint, basil and parsley. I used 5 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice and it was fresh and lovely served warm. Will have more salad served cold tomorrow and see how the flavors of the herbs continue to blend.

    Reply
  • Julie M August 14, 2018, 8:09 pm

    Delicious and a nice summer and easy after-work dish! Left out raisins and added olives and mozzarella pearls. Fresh Cherokee Purple tomatoes fresh from the garden.

    Reply
  • Caroline August 12, 2018, 7:52 pm

    Très bonne salade !!!

    Reply
  • Sarah August 3, 2018, 3:13 pm

    Hello, I’m not a mustard fan but love all the others elements of your salad. Do you think I just not add the mustard or maybe you have an idea for a substitute? Thank you.

    Reply
    • Joanne August 3, 2018, 3:43 pm

      Hi Sarah, You can leave it out. The mustard adds a little more zing to the dressing, but I’ve made this without it before and still loved it.

      Reply
  • Courtney Haueter July 30, 2018, 8:01 pm

    10 out of 10!! FOR SURE. It was amazing, refreshing. We loved this. I literally ate it for breakfast the next morning. We almost tripled the nuts and golden raisins, and used pecans instead of walnuts.

    Reply
  • Nancy July 24, 2018, 11:34 am

    Do you think sweetened dried cranberries could be substituted for the raisins?

    Reply
    • Joanne July 26, 2018, 5:36 pm

      Absolutely!

      Reply

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