This Israeli couscous salad is loaded up with grilled vegetables, herbs and a lemony dressing. It's easy to make and easy to adapt depending on what you have. It's also perfect to make ahead, can be a side or light meal, so great for summer entertaining, picnics or any excuse.
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Pasta salads are a popular choice at potlucks in the summer, though I have to say they are often not my favorite. Some I find too heavy on the mayo, or just a bit too plain. And don't get me started on if they are left out too long.
While this isn't necessarily a dish just to add to a potluck table, it would certainly work well, just as it would for picnics, to take for lunch or eat as a side for any meal. It has a bright lemon and herb dressing, lots of veggie additions and is easy to change up as suits, too.
What is Israeli couscous?
Israeli couscous, also known as giant or pearl couscous are kind of like a large version of couscous, or a small pasta, made with semolina flour. Technically, there are slight differences between the different names, though you can for the most part use them interchangeably.
Israeli couscous is typically toasted, not quite as much as fregola but still a little to give some more flavor. The name apparently comes from when it was created in Israel during a time of food rationing. The government asked a manufacturer to create a wheat product to replace rice. Pearly couscous can be even bigger, especially the Lebanese version, but the name can be used for the Israeli couscous size, too.
What they all have in common, though, is they can take on flavor and be pretty versatile. You can use it as a simple side in itself, make it into salads like this and my fruit, herb and feta Israeli couscous salad or add it to soups and stews.
Ways to adapt this salad
You can pretty much use any vegetables in this dish, but I find the mix of colors and flavors I have used here works well. It's easier to cook the vegetables in larger pieces and then chop them after cooking to mix through with the couscous.
If you can't grill outside, then you can also use a grill pan inside, and the corn could then be boiled instead. However if you can grill, I really recommend it for the great flavor it adds. Plus it's really quick and easy. I don't always add tomatoes, but they go add a lovely extra burst of flavor and texture.
Other things you could add to this include:
- Other grilled vegetables such as asparagus, mushrooms, eggplant or fava beans (cooked in the pods)
- Jarred/preserved vegetables like sun dried tomatoes, olives or artichokes
- Nuts such as pine nuts or slithered almonds (I'd recommend toasted)
- Feta cheese, or other cheese crumbles/cubes
- Proteins like chicken or shrimp (both great to grill at the same time as the veg!).
I made a lemon basil vinaigrette to mix in with this, then also added in some chopped parsley, but you could also use other herbs like tarragon, cilantro and chives. I do definitely recommend using some herbs in there to add to the fresh flavor. You could add other dressings but I'd suggest you keep them pretty light.
This Israeli couscous salad with grilled vegetables is wonderfully adaptable, and also great for making ahead. It will keep in the fridge a couple days, ready to serve at a potluck, picnic or whenever else suits. It's bright, light and easy to scale up and down. Perfect summer's eating!
Try these other summery sides:
- Fattoush salad (a bright chopped salad with crunchy pita chips)
- Marinated zucchini and summer squash
- Panzanella salad (a simple Italian bread and tomato salad)
- Plus get more ideas in the summer recipes and sides archives.
Israeli couscous salad with grilled vegetables
- 1 ⅓ cups Israeli couscous giant couscous, 210g
- 3 cups light stock 720ml, (eg vegetable/chicken) you may not need quite all of it
- 1 zucchini (courgette), small-medium (around 4-5oz, 115-140g)
- ½ red pepper similar weight to zucchini
- ½ tablespoon olive oil (approx)
- 1 cob corn husked
- 4 tablespoon fresh parsley chopped
- 10 cherry tomatoes approx, optional
For lemon basil vinaigrette
- 4 tablespoon olive oil (¼ cup/60ml)
- 2 tablespoon lemon juice
- ¼ teaspoon Dijon mustard
- ¼ teaspoon honey or sugar if making vegan
- 1 pinch salt
- 1 pinch pepper
- 4 tablespoon fresh basil chopped (¼ cup - chopped volume), approx 7g/1/4oz
- Preheat the grill to a medium-high heat.
- Place the couscous and stock in a pot, bring to the boil and simmer for around 10-12 minutes until it is cooked and tender. Drain off any excess stock then place in a bowl. (Note if you like, you can toast the dry couscous in a little oil before adding warm stock and simmering.)
- Meanwhile, make the dressing by placing the olive oil, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, honey (or sugar), salt, pepper and chopped basil in a small jar. Cover with a lid and shake to combine and emulsify. Alternatively, place all but the basil in a bowl, whisk together to emulsify then add the basil and mix through. You can add this to the cooked drained couscous whenever the couscous is ready, or add together with other ingredients when all cooked.
- While the couscous is cooking, cut the zucchini into thick slices, cut the ½ pepper in half. Drizzle the zucchini slices and pepper with a little olive oil (no more than around ½ tablespoon in all) and rub in.
- Place the zucchini slices, pepper chunks and corn on the grill and cook until all are cooked - with a little dark grill marks is fine but you don't want them overly cooked. The time will depend on your grill but will be around 10mins.
- Cut the cherry tomatoes in half or quarters, depending on size, if using.
- Chop the zucchini and pepper into bite-size or smaller chunks and cut the corn kernels from the cob. Add all to the couscous, along with the chopped tomatoes, parsley and the vinaigrette and mix through and serve. Can also be served cold/room temperature.
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This recipe was first shared in June 2015 and has been updated, primarily with new photos.