Healthy, satisfying and bursting with bright flavor, this Lemony Couscous recipe is ready in 25 minutes or less. Featuring tender couscous pasta tossed with asparagus, snap peas, creamy ricotta, and a citrusy lemon vinaigrette. Quick and easy to prepare, this couscous lemon salad is a delicious side for any meal. Plus it’s perfectly packable and portable for picnics, potlucks, and barbecues too!
Featured comment: The beautiful, vibrant photos made me want to try this recipe, and I’m so glad I did! Such a bright, fresh summer salad and the zesty lemon dressing is SO good! I will definitely be making this again. Thank you!” – Marissa
Update: This recipe was originally published in June 2019. I made updates to the article below to include more information about making the best lemony couscous with asparagus at home.
About this lemony couscous
This is what summer salads should look like, friends! Light, refreshing, full of texture and bursting with flavors, this lemony salad is going to become your go-to salad for summer!!
Savory, chewy pearl couscous tossed with tender-crisp, thinly sliced asparagus and snap peas; crunchy radishes, delicate chives, pungent onions, salty ricotta salata and fresh mint leaves. Finished with a silky, luscious, tangy lemon dijon dressing, this lemony couscous salad is bursting with refreshing, vibrant flavors!
Plus, this couscous salad with lemon is perfect for meal prep! And, it serves great at room temperature, cold and warm, making it the perfect side dish for picnics, potlucks and summer BBQs! It’s absolutely perfect with a grilled protein, such as chicken, shrimp and salmon for a healthy, light summer dinner! Essentially, this lemon couscous salad is perfect for any and every occasion!
What is lemony couscous salad?
A couscous salad is a quick and healthy dish made of fluffy cooked couscous tossed with veggies and a dressing or vinaigrette. The salad couscous can also include protein such as meat, chicken, fish or shrimp depending on the recipe.
Couscous is made from crushed wheat semolina formed into tiny spheres. There are three types of couscous common in salads – Moroccan couscous (the smallest in size), Israeli couscous (also called pearl couscous), and Lebanese couscous (the largest in size).
This lemony salad utilizes Israeli couscous which resembles tiny pearls of pasta and has a chewy, firm texture. Pearl, or Israeli couscous is located in the pasta or rice aisle of most major grocery stores. However, if you can’t locate it, you can substitute any small pasta such as orzo or you can use regular couscous.
What dressing for lemon couscous salad?
Couscous is like a sponge and will soak up any dressing you toss with it. And, since couscous is extremely versatile, it pairs well with a wide variety of dressings, vinaigrettes, and sauces. This lemony couscous salad recipe uses a zippy, refreshing Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette that perfectly complements the fresh vegetables and couscous pasta.
How to make this lemony couscous recipe?
This recipe for lemon couscous salad is easy to make and can be ready and on the table in 30 minutes or less!
- Cook the couscous. Cook the pasta according to package directions in a large pot of boiling water. Then, drain and set aside.
- Sauté the asparagus and snap peas. Cook the asparagus and snap peas in a large skillet over high heat until bright in color. Then, set aside to cool. (If you want to serve the vegetables raw, simply omit this step.)
- Make the dressing. In a small bowl, whisk together all the ingredients for the dressing. Then, taste and adjust for seasoning before setting aside.
- Toss the salad. In a large bowl, toss together the couscous, vegetables and half of the dressing. (Note: make sure you toss the salad while the couscous is still warm so it soaks up all the flavor!)
- Serve. Add the ricotta, chives and mint to the couscous lemon salad. Then, drizzle with more dressing before topping with cheese and fresh lemon zest. Serve and enjoy!
Serving lemon couscous recipes
How to serve couscous salad?
You can serve lemon couscous warm, cold or at room temperature. Also, you can serve this dish as a stand alone vegetarian main, or as an accompaniment to a wide variety of entrees. Couscous salad is a refreshing way to get out of your boring rice side dish rut!
What goes well with lemon couscous?
Below are a few dishes that will pair well with this lemony couscous recipe:
- Chicken (grill, sear, roast, poach)
- Salmon (grill, sear, roast, poach)
- Steak (grill, pan-sear)
- Shrimp (grill, pan-sear roast, poach)
Or give your next family dinner a fun lemon theme by serving your couscous with Lemon Salmon and Asparagus, Lemon Chicken Stir Fry, or Creamy Lemon Pasta with Chicken and Peas. Just don’t forget to serve a few pink lemonade cocktails and lemon crinkle cake mix cookies on the side!
What can I to add to this couscous lemon salad?
Couscous is extremely versatile and pairs well with a wide variety of flavors. And lemony couscous salads are the perfect way to make the most of seasonal veggies or to use up whatever is left in your refrigerator and pantry!
Mix-ins to add to this lemony salad
- Onions or Pickled Onions – Red onions, shallots, yellow onions, scallions
- Bell peppers
- Artichoke hearts
- Beans – black beans, white beans, edamame
- Fresh herbs – mint, parsley, chives, cilantro, or basil
- Cheese – feta, parmesan, halloumi, mini balls of mozzarella
- Nuts – walnuts, almonds
- Cold Shrimp or Fried Shrimp
- Shredded or chopped chicken
- Cooked salmon
Storing this lemon couscous recipe
How long does this couscous keep?
You can keep cooked lemony couscous salad at room temperature for up to 2 hours. After that, you’ll need to store the leftover couscous in an airtight container. Leftovers will last for up to 3 days in the fridge.
Can I make this couscous salad with lemon ahead of time?
You can absolutely make this lemon couscous recipe ahead if time. As a matter of fact, I happen to think this couscous salad tastes better if made ahead of time. This allows the pasta pearlsto really soak up all the flavors in the lemon dressing.
Can I freeze this lemony couscous?
While you can freeze cooked pasta, I do not recommend freezing this lemon couscous salad as a whole – rather store it as separate parts.
To freeze this recipe, cook the pasta to al dente according to package directions and allow it to cool completely. Then, transfer the couscous to a freezer bag. Finally, remove as much air as possible before sealing the bag and storing it in the freezer.
Is this lemony couscous salad healthy?
Couscous salad is a “skinny” pasta salad option. Couscous is loaded with powerful antioxidants and is a good source of fiber. If you are looking to make your salad even healthier, opt for whole-wheat couscous in your salad!
How much protein in lemony couscous?
The precise amount of protein in a couscous salad will depend on the brand of ingredients. However, this lemon salad recipe has 11 grams of protein per serving.
How many calories in this recipe?
This lemon couscous salad recipe has approximately 336 calories per serving.
Light and full of flavor, you will want to make this lemon couscous salad all summer long!
Until next week, friends, cheers! To vibrant summer salads!
More couscous recipes!
More recipes with fresh lemon!
- Pink Lemonade Vodka Cocktail
- Honey Lemon Chicken Stir-Fry
- Lemon Baked Salmon Asparagus Recipe
- Creamy Lemon Chicken Pasta (One Pot Recipe!)
- Lemon Crinkle Cake Mix Cookies
The best lemony salad recipe 👇
Lemon Couscous Salad Recipe
- 1 Large Pot or Saucepan
- 1 skillet (optional - for sautéing veggies)
- 1 ½ Cups Uncooked Pearl Couscous (7.5 ounces)
- ¾ pound Thin Asparagus Spears – trimmed & cut on bias (SEE NOTES)
- 12 ounces Sugar Snap Peas – cut on bias
- 1 large Shallot – finely diced
- 4-5 Radishes – thinly sliced
- 8 ounces Ricotta Salata – crumbled (you can substitute feta)
- 1/3 Cup Chives - Sliced
- 1/3 Cup Parmesan – grated or shaved, or more to taste
- 1/3 Cup Fresh Mint Leaves - torn
- To Taste Flakey Maldon Sea Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper
- Cook the couscous: Bring a large pot of water to a boil and then season the water generously with salt (SEE NOTES). Add the couscous and cook to al dente according to directions on the package. Then, drain the couscous and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process. Next, drain again, gently shaking the colander to remove all the excess water. Set cooked couscous aside.
- OPTIONAL - Saute Veggies: While the couscous is cooking and cooling, sauté the asparagus and snap peas*: Heat one tablespoon of oil in a heavy large non-stick skillet over high heat. Add the sliced asparagus and snap peas. Season with salt and pepper. Quickly sauté, tossing constantly, until tender-crisp and bright in color, about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to a large bowl. Set aside and allow to cool.
- Make the dressing: In a measuring cup or small bowl, whisk together the remaining 6 tablespoons of the oil with the Dijon mustard, lemon juice, honey, lemon zest, ½ teaspoon salt and scant ¼ teaspoon pepper. Taste and adjust for seasoning with salt and pepper.* Set aside
- Toss salad: Add the cooled couscous to the bowl of asparagus and snap peas. Toss to combine. Add in the shallots and sliced radishes. Drizzle with half of the dressing. Toss to well to combine. (If serving later, cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate).
- To serve: Add the ricotta, chives and mint to the salad. Taste and adjust with more dressing and season to taste with salt and pepper. Finish with parmesan, lemon zest and drizzle with any remaining dressing if desired. Enjoy!
- Cooking Pearl Couscous: If you want to add more flavor to your couscous, cook it in unsalted vegetable or chicken broth instead of water! Or, you can use a mixture of broth and water!
- Quickly sautéing the sliced asparagus and snap peas is completely optional; however, it's recommended if you're serving younger bellies. Personally, I love this salad with raw asparagus and snap peas.
- Asparagus: I recommend you also peel the stems of the asparagus after trimming if you are going to skip step 2 of the recipe and serve the asparagus raw.
- Dressing Couscous: Make sure you add the vinaigrette to the couscous while the couscous is still warm! Warm couscous will soak up all the flavor from the dressing while cold couscous will simply swim in the dressing.
- Adjust to Taste! Always make sure you taste the food and adjust the seasonings as you are cooking or mixing! This is especially true with the salad dressing. If you want a sweeter dressing, add more honey. For a tarter dressing, add more lemon juice and/or zest. If the dressing just tastes bland, add more salt and pepper. BUT, just remember, the dressing is one component of the couscous salad and will taste completely different once every element is tossed together!
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