This quick and easy lemon couscous salad is healthy, light and bursting with fresh flavor! Packed with asparagus, snap peas, ricotta salata and a citrusy lemon vinaigrette, this salad is perfect for picnics, potlucks, barbecues, lunches or light dinners!!
Lemon Couscous Salad Recipe
This is what summer salads should look like, friends! Light, refreshing, full of texture and packed with flavor, this lemon couscous 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 shallots, salty ricotta salata and fresh mint leaves. Finished with a silky, luscious, tangy lemon dijon vinaigrette, this salad is full of fresh, vibrant flavors!
It can be made in advance and served warm or cold which makes it the perfect side dish for picnics, potlucks and summer barbecues! Or, it’s delicious enjoyed cold for an easy lunch or you can serve it along side a grilled protein for a healthy, light summer dinner! Essentially, this lemon couscous salad is perfect for any and every occasion!
What is couscous salad?
Couscous salad is a quick and healthy salad made of fluffy cooked couscous tossed with vegetables and a dressing or vinaigrette. The salad 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 varieties of couscous commonly used 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.
How to make lemon couscous salad?
This lemon couscous salad is easy to make and can be prepared, ready and on the table in 30 minutes or less!
- Cook the couscous. Cook the couscous according to package directions in a large pot of salted water. Drain and set aside.
- Sauté the asparagus and snap peas (optional). Cook the asparagus and snap peas in a large skillet over high heat until bright in color, about 2-3 minutes. 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 vinaigrette. Taste and adjust for seasoning.
- 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 salad. Drizzle with additional dressing and garnish with parmesan and fresh lemon zest. Serve and enjoy!
What dressing for couscous salad?
Couscous is like a sponge and will generously soak up any dressing you toss with it.
Since couscous is versatile, it will pair well with a wide variety of dressings, vinaigrettes and sauces. This couscous salad recipe is served with a zippy, refreshing Lemon Dijon Vinaigrette.
What goes well with lemon couscous? How to serve couscous salad?
Lemon couscous can be served warm, cold or at room temperature. It can be served alone as a main course, or it can be served as a side to accompany a wide variety of dishes. Couscous salad is a refreshing way to get out of your boring rice side dish rut!
Below are a few dishes that will pair well with lemon couscous:
- Chicken (grilled, pan-fried, roasted, poached)
- Salmon (grilled, seared, roasted, poached)
- Steak (grilled, pan seared)
What to add to couscous salad?
Couscous is extremely versatile and pairs well with a wide variety of flavors and ingredients! Couscous salads are the perfect way to make the most of seasonal vegetables or to use up whatever is left in your refrigerator and pantry!
Below are some ingredients you can add to couscous salads:
- Onions – Red onions, shallots, yellow onions, scallions
- Bell peppers
- Artichoke hearts
- Beans – black beans, white beans, edamame
- Fresh herbs – mint, parsley, chives, cilantro
- Cheese – feta, parmesan, halloumi, mini balls of mozzarella
- Nuts – walnuts, almonds
- Cooked shrimp
- Shredded or chopped chicken
- Cooked salmon
How long does couscous salad keep?
Cooked couscous salad can be kept at room temperature for up to 2 hours. Leftover couscous salad should be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator and will last for up to 3 days.
Can couscous salad be made ahead of time?
Yes, couscous salad can be made in advance. In fact, couscous salad tastes better if made ahead of time to allow the pearls of couscous to soak up all the flavor of the dressing.
Can you freeze couscous salad?
While you can freeze cooked couscous, I would not freeze couscous salad as a whole.
To freeze couscous, cook the pasta to al dente according to package directions and then allowing it to cool completely. Transfer the couscous to a freezer-safe zip-closure bag (remove as much air as possible before sealing) and then freeze.
Is couscous salad healthy?
Couscous salad is a healthier pasta salad option. Couscous is loaded with powerful antioxidants and is a good source of fiber. If you are looking to make your couscous salad even healthier, opt for whole-wheat couscous in your salad!
How much protein in couscous salad?
The precise amount of protein in a couscous salad will depend on the recipe and particular ingredients used. This lemon couscous salad recipe has 11 grams of protein per serving.
How many calories in couscous salad?
The exact number of calories in a couscous salad will entirely depend on the recipe and specific ingredients used. This lemon couscous salad recipe has approximately 336 calories per serving.
Light, refreshing and bursting with flavor, you will want to make this lemon couscous salad all summer long! Just don’t forget to make extra, because you are going to want leftovers for lunch the next day!
Until next week, friends, cheers – to vibrant summer salads!
The best lemon couscous salad recipe 👇
- 1 ½ Cups Uncooked Pearl Couscous (7.5 ounces)
- ¾ pound Thin Asparagus Spears – trimmed & cut on bias*
- 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
- Flakey Maldon Sea Salt & Fresh Ground Pepper – to taste
- 7 TBS Extra Virgin Olive Oil ,divided
- 1 ½ tsp Dijon Mustard
- 4 TBS Lemon Juice
- 1 TBS Honey
- 1 tsp Lemon Zest plus more for garnish
Cook the couscous: Bring a large pot of salted water* to a boil. Season generously with salt. Add the couscous and cook according to package directions until al dente. Drain the couscous and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process. Drain again, gently shaking the colander to remove excess water. Set aside.
OPTIONAL - 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!
- 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! This salad is really good raw!
- 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.
- 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.
- Always make sure you taste and adjust seasonings as you go! This is especially true with the 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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