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Couscous Tabbouleh

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This herbed golden Couscous Tabbouleh salad is inspired by the classic Middle Eastern Tabbouleh salad: a super flavorful salad with lots of fresh herbs and veggies and a light lemony dressing. Super quick and easy to make and perfect for a light lunch! Naturally vegan and oh so delicious.

Bowl of couscous salad with cucumber and tomato

I LOVE these kinds of EASY, HEALTHY, FLAVORUFL salads. You know, the kind bursting with fresh chopped veggies, lots of fresh herbs, and take oh, less than 15 minutes to make.

Put on some tunes (or a podcast, if that's more your jam), chop some veggies and herbs, and you have a wonderful lunch or side dish that keeps well until the next day (hellooo summer meal prep!).

Bowl of couscous tabbouleh.

Couscous tabbouleh salad

Tabbouleh is a traditional Middle Eastern salad made with bulgur wheat and lots of fresh herbs. (And just FYI, it is sometimes spelled tabouli salad.)

In this version, I've substituted bulgur wheat with couscous, which is easier to find and cook (literally, you don't have to cook it, but more on that later). Also, I add raisins to get a bit of a sweet contrast (but do not worry if you don't like raisins you can skip them!), and some turmeric to make the couscous stand out with a very pretty golden color and enhance the healthiness of this dish.

Turmeric is a fun spice to use because it gives everything a very nice yellow color, and has very powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant health benefits. (Source) Turmeric doesn't have much flavor, which is actually a good thing because you can add it to almost anything where you want to add a pop of color!

This herbed couscous salad is also very make-ahead friendly and makes great leftovers, so it's perfect to prepare as a meal prep side dish or whenever you want to have lunch ready for the next couple of days. Also, it is a great addition to barbeques and cookouts as a nice refreshing and healthy side dish.

Just make sure to have the recipe on hand, since a lot of people will ask you for it!

Moroccan couscous in a container.

Related recipe: Kamut Tabbouleh Salad

What is couscous and how to cook couscous

Even if it looks like a small grain, couscous is a kind of pasta made from wheat. It is traditionally used in the Middle East and Morocco. There are different kinds of couscous and for this salad, I use the smaller kind, also known as Moroccan couscous. 

Couscous is a very handy ingredient staple to have in your pantry since it doesn't need any cooking, it's very versatile, and easy to use in a lot of recipes.

To “cook” couscous, you just need some hot boiling water (or vegetable stock of your preference), in a 1:1 ratio with the couscous (simple, right??). Just add the boiling hot water to a bowl with couscous (add a pinch of salt if not using salted veggie broth), and carefully stir to combine. The couscous will "cook" as it soaks up the water, and your couscous is ready to eat in under 5 minutes!

While couscous can be eaten on its own as a side dish, I love using it in salads and flavorful bowls with flavorful ingredients to make the couscous more "fun" to eat.

Related recipe: Mediterranean Couscous with Tuna Bowls

Ingredients for couscous tabouli

  • 1 ½ cups of Moroccan couscous (the small kind) 
  • 1 ½  cups boiling water or vegetable stock
  • 2 medium-large tomatoes, finely diced
  • 1 cucumber, finely diced
  • ½ onion, finely diced (or use red onion or 2-3 scallions)
  • 1 cup finely chopped spearmint, from 1 bunch (stems discarded)
  • 2 cups finely chopped parsley, from 1-2 bunches (stems discarded)
  • ½ cup raisins (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

Ingredients to make couscous tabbouleh salad.

Ingredient notes and substitutions

  • You can substitute small couscous with pearl couscous if you prefer, whole wheat couscous, or even use the traditional bulgur wheat. Just cook according to the package instructions.
  • You can also add other fresh herbs such as cilantro or chives, but do not skip mint or parsley, since they are the true stars of the show. Don't worry, the mint won't make the salad taste like toothpaste, it just gives it a refreshing flavor.
  • Freshly squeezed lemon juice works much better than bottled lemon juice. I love using this lemon squeezer when I need to squeeze just 1-2 tablespoons of lemon juice. 
  • You can skip the turmeric if you don't have it, but if you give it a try, please don't skip the black pepper. Black pepper helps the body to absorb the curcumin in turmeric, (its anti-inflammatory component).
  • If you don't like the idea couscous salad with raisins, just skip them. 
  • Try adding olives!
  • Onion: If you find onion to be too strong, you can chop it and mix it with the lemon juice while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. It will make the onion less pungent. You can also use red onion or green scallions, if you prefer. 

Instructions

Step 1: Cook the couscous: Place the couscous in a large bowl. Add a teaspoon of turmeric and the salt and pour slowly the boiling water or vegetable stock, little by a little while mixing with a fork. Allow to rest for 3-5 minutes and stir again, fluffing the couscous grains. Adjust the flavor with more salt, if desired, or add a few tablespoons more hot water, if you find that the couscous is not soft enough for your liking. 

Bowl of golden couscous with turmeric.

Step 2: Add a drizzle of olive oil and stir to prevent clumps, and allow the couscous to cool to room temperature while you chop all the veggies.

Step 3Prep the veggies: Finely dice the tomatoes. If you want, you can set the tomatoes in a colander to drain the extra liquid. Chop the cucumber (your choice whether to peel the cucumber!). Chop the onion.

Adding chopped tomatoes to couscous salad.

Step 4Finely dice the mint and parsley. It's going to feel like you have an INSANELY LARGE amount of herbs. Just keep chopping until the pieces are as small as you can get them. 

Chopping fresh parsley and mint.

Step 5: Add all the chopped veggies and herbs, as well as raisins (if using), and lemon juice, and stir. Adjust the flavor with more salt, lemon juice, or olive oil. Enjoy immediately, or refrigerate for up to 24 hours to let the flavors meld.

Mixing couscous salad with raisins in a bowl.

Questions about couscous salad

I got answers for you!

Can I add protein to this salad?

Even though tabbouleh typically does not have any protein or meat added to it, you can certainly add it to make this a more filling main dish! A vegan protein, such as chickpeas or a vegan chick'n substitute would be great in this recipe if you want to keep it vegan. Otherwise, grilled chicken or fish would be a great addition to this couscous tabbouleh!

Is couscous gluten-free?

No, couscous is made from wheat, therefore it is not gluten-free. For a gluten-free tabbouleh, try my quinoa tabbouleh, or lentil tabbouleh for a fun twist.

Is couscous healthy?

Couscous is made from wheat, so it has the same nutritional value as pasta (ie, not super healthy). However, couscous is typically served with Mediterranean-style ingredients, such as lots of fresh veggies and lean proteins, while pasta is often served with heavy sauces. Therefore, many couscous recipes are a little healthier than pasta recipes!!

For a healthier couscous, look for whole wheat couscous (or get some here) and follow the cooking instructions on the package!

Related recipe: Shrimp and Vegetable Pearl Couscous Salad

Can I use pearl couscous or whole wheat couscous?

Yes! As I mentioned above, whole wheat couscous would make this salad a little healthier, thanks to the whole grain. Whole wheat couscous typically requires the same cooking process as regular couscous, but please double check the instructions on the box.

Pearl couscous is larger couscous (it looks like tiny little balls, see here). Since it is larger, pearl couscous typically requires some boiling and takes a few minutes to cook, just like pasta. Pearl couscous also comes in regular and whole wheat varieties. 

Any type of couscous would work great in this dish, just make sure to follow the cooking instructions for the couscous that you buy.

Can I skip the turmeric?

Yep! Just skip it!

How long does couscous last in the fridge?

It will last up to 3-4 days when stored in the fridge in an air-tight container, but I find it best within the first 2 days.

More middle eastern-inspired recipes to try:

If you enjoyed this couscous tabbouleh recipe, let me know with a comment and a star rating below. And don't forget to share it on Facebook and save it on Pinterest for later!

Bowl of couscous salad with cucumber and tomato
Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

Couscous Tabbouleh

This flavorful golden couscous tabbouleh salad comes together in just 15 minutes without any real cooking! It makes an amazing side dish or light lunch, and keeps well in the fridge for at least 2 days.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time0 mins
Total Time15 mins
Course: Lunch, Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine: American, Middle Eastern
Servings: 4
Author: Kate

Equipment

Ingredients

  • 1 ½ cups Moroccan couscous (the small kind)
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
  • 1 ½ cups boiling water or vegetable stock
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tomatoes finely diced
  • 1 cucumber finely diced
  • ½ onion finely diced
  • 1 cup fresh mint leaves stems discarded and very finely minced
  • 2 cups fresh parsley leaves stems discarded and very finely minced
  • ½ cup raisins (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice (from ½ lemon, or more to taste)

Instructions

  • Place the couscous in a large bowl. Add a teaspoon of turmeric and the salt and pour slowly the boiling water or vegetable stock, little by a little while mixing with a fork. Allow to rest for 3-5 minutes and stir again, fluffing the couscous grains. Adjust the flavor with more salt, if desired, or add a few tablespoons more hot water, if you find that the couscous is not soft enough for your liking.
  • Add a drizzle of olive oil and stir to prevent clumps, and allow the couscous to cool to room temperature while you chop all the veggies and herbs.
  • Add all the chopped veggies and herbs, as well as raisins (if using), and lemon juice to the bowl with the cooked couscous, and stir. Adjust the flavor with more salt, lemon juice, or olive oil. Enjoy immediately, or refrigerate for up to 24 hours to let the flavors meld.

Notes

Ingredient notes and substitutions

  • You can substitute small couscous with pearl couscous if you prefer, whole wheat couscous, or even use the traditional bulgur wheat. Just cook according to the package instructions.
  • You can also add other fresh herbs such as cilantro or chives, but do not skip mint or parsley, since they are the true stars of the show. Don't worry, the mint won't make the salad taste like toothpaste, it just gives it a refreshing flavor.
  • Freshly squeezed lemon juice works much better than bottled lemon juice. I love using this lemon squeezer when I need to squeeze just 1-2 tablespoons of lemon juice. 
  • You can skip the turmeric if you don't have it, but if you give it a try, please don't skip the black pepper. Black pepper helps the body to absorb the curcumin in turmeric, (its anti-inflammatory component).
  • If you don't like the idea couscous salad with raisins, just skip them. 
  • Try adding olives!
  • Onion: If you find onion to be too strong, you can chop it and mix it with the lemon juice while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. It will make the onion less pungent. You can also use red onion or green scallions, if you prefer. 
  • Add some protein: A vegan protein, such as chickpeas or a vegan chick'n substitute would be great in this recipe if you want to keep it vegan. Grilled chicken or fish would be a great addition to this salad!
This salad will keep well up to 3-4 days when stored in the fridge in an air-tight container, but I find it best within the first 2 days, otherwise the cucumber gets too mushy for my liking.

Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
Couscous Tabbouleh
Amount Per Serving
Calories 406 Calories from Fat 72
% Daily Value*
Fat 8g12%
Saturated Fat 1g5%
Sodium 619mg26%
Potassium 772mg22%
Carbohydrates 74g25%
Fiber 8g32%
Sugar 4g4%
Protein 11g22%
Vitamin A 3572IU71%
Vitamin C 58mg70%
Calcium 111mg11%
Iron 4mg22%
* The nutritional information shown here is just an estimate and not meant to be used as dietary/nutritional advice. Please consult a nutritionist for exact nutritional information based on the exact ingredients you use.

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