Israeli couscous salad with cucumber and fresh herbs is a great way to use this tiny, tender pasta (also known as pearl couscous). With plenty of parsley, scallion, and red onion, it’s flavored with lemon and a hint of fresh mint.
Think of this easy salad as a kind of a tabbouli variation with a different starch and no tomatoes. Enjoy it all year round!
How to serve Israeli Couscous Salad with Cucumber
- This is a great addition to a Middle Eastern-themed meal or mezze platter that includes hummus (see 12 ways to make hummus, or simply get the packaged kind) and/or Baba Ghanoush.
- Serve as a side dish with falafel and pita.
- For a lovely soup-and-salad meal, serve side-by-side with Curried Red Lentil Soup with Sweet Potatoes and Greens.
What is Israeli couscous (aka pearl couscous)?
Israeli couscous might look like a grain, but it’s actually a tiny pasta. It’s round and quick-cooking, with a pleasant mouth feel. Look for it in bulk in natural foods stores, or in the Middle Eastern section of the international aisle in well stocked supermarkets. Sometimes (actually quite often) it’s labeled “pearl couscous.”
Sometimes called pearl couscous, Israeli couscous has an interesting origin story. In Hebrew, this product is transliterated as ptitim, which means “flakes.” Rice was scarce in Israel in the 1950s, so this product was developed as a substitute.
How to cook Israeli (pearl) couscous
Pearl couscous is cooked like any other kind of pasta, in plenty of simmering water until al dente.
Don’t make the mistake of cooking it like a grain — that is, with just double the amount of water, and cooking until the water was absorbed. It’s not enough, and if you then add more water at that point, you’ll wind up with mush.
Instead, use a higher ratio of water to couscous — 3 to 1 or more; it doesn’t really need to be exact. Simmer gently and steadily until al dente. See package recommendations as to time, as they may vary, though it’s in the vicinity of 7 to 8 minutes. Drain well when done in a sieve or mesh colander.
If you’re going to use the pearl couscous in a cold dish, rinse with cool running water in the sieve or mesh colander and drain well again.
More Israeli Couscous Salads
- 1 cup raw pearl couscous (Israeli couscous)
- 1 medium cucumber, quartered lengthwise, watery seeds trimmed away, and cut into small dice
- 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
- 2 to 3 scallions, thinly sliced
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Juice of l/2 to 1 lemon, to taste
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Optional ingredients (choose one)
- 1 half-sour pickle, finely diced
- 1/2 cup chopped pitted olives
- Cook the pearl couscous according to package directions until al dente, then drain into a mesh strainer. Rinse under cold running water until cool, then drain very well.
- Combine the cooked pearl couscous with the remaining ingredients (including either of the optional ingredients, if using) and stir together.
- Allow the salad to sit for a 15 to 30 minutes to allow the flavors to meld, then serve.
If you like Middle Eastern salads with a twist, you may also enjoy …
Here are lots more tasty vegan salads & sides.