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For a fresh twist on a pasta salad recipe, try this walnut-spiked, pickled shallot-infused Israeli Couscous Salad. The easy salad recipe is terrific as a dinner side dish or a light lunch.

Israeli Couscous salad on a white and black platter.

Fresh and bright, nutty and just hearty enough without weighing me down, the flavors of this easy pasta salad absolutely blow me away. It stars pretty pearled couscous as the grain of choice, and each bite of the satisfying vegetarian side dish (or light lunch recipe) is like a party in your mouth. With the fresh mint and zippy citrus flavors, it totally tastes like spring on a plate!

Discover how to make my go-to Israeli Couscous Salad, which might just be my signature picnic menu dish, plus learn how to customize it to make the salad recipe your own. (Psst…if you like this concept, then chances are you’ll love my Easy Bulgur Salad.)

Table of Contents
  1. Ingredient notes
  2. Step-by-step instructions
  3. Recipe tips and variations
  4. Recipe FAQ’s
  5. Israeli Couscous Salad Recipe

Ingredient notes

  • Shallots: I’d be remiss if I didn’t emphasize how brilliant the addition of quickly-pickled shallots is in this couscous salad. They only take a few minutes to make, and I know you’ll find other ways of sneaking them into your recipes for an unexpected pop of flavor. (Might I recommend pickled shallots atop Slow Cooker Pulled Pork and tossed into Panzanella Salad?) Within this Israeli Couscous salad recipe, I explain how to make Pickled Shallots. I highly recommend whipping up a double batch to use half in other ways!
  • Israeli couscous: This larger style of couscous is usually sold in bags, boxes, or even small plastic jugs at well-stocked grocery stores or online.  Look for packages labeled maftoul, pearl couscous, or Israeli couscous. Since couscous is actually a pasta that only looks like a grain, feel free to use other tiny pastas: orzo, farfallini, fregola, bow tie pasta…you get the idea. You can also use the smaller-grained regular couscous for this recipe. For a more main dish-style salad, swap hearty cooked lentils for the couscous.
  • Arugula: The peppery notes of this leafy green play nicely with the tangy pickled shallots and salty feta cheese. If you can’t find or don’t love arugula, try spinach or baby kale instead.
  • Feta cheese: Or crumbled goat cheese.
  • Thawed frozen peas: If you have access to fresh green peas, go for it! No peas at all? No problem; replace them with diced cucumber or blanched green beans.
  • Fresh mint: Or fresh parsley if you prefer.
  • Walnuts: Toasting nuts brings out their flavor even more, plus it creates a crunchier texture and intoxicating aroma. Read on for my top two ways to roast walnuts. You could also used toasted pecans if you like.

Step-by-step instructions

  1. To pickle the shallots, in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring vinegar, sugar, and a pinch of salt to simmer, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Stir in shallots.
Pickled shallots in a silver saucepan.
  1. Cover and cool completely, about 30 minutes. Drain well and discard marinade. 
Pickled shallots in a small clear bowl.
  1. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine couscous and oil. Cook the couscous until lightly browned, about 5 to 6 minutes. 
Couscous in a silver saucepan.
  1. Stir in water and salt and bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until water is absorbed, stirring occasionally, about 9 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 3 minutes. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet and spread in a single layer. Cool completely, about 15 minutes.
Couscous on a baking sheet.
  1. In a large bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, red pepper flakes (if using), and a pinch of salt. Add cooled couscous, arugula, mint, ½ cup feta, peas, walnuts, and drained shallots. Toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper and transfer to a serving bowl. Garnish with remaining feta and more chopped walnuts.
Israeli Couscous salad on a white and black platter.

Recipe tips and variations

  • Yield: My Israeli Couscous Salad recipe makes six entree-sized portions. If you’re serving this pasta salad as a side dish, it will serve 10 to 12.
  • Storage: Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. This salad in general (and the arugula in particular) has great staying power in the fridge!
  • Make ahead: The pickled shallots can be made a week in advance (store covered in the refrigerator). Make and cool the Israeli couscous a day in advance, storing it covered in the refrigerator (a large zipper-top plastic bag works well).
Israeli Couscous salad on a white and black platter.

Recipe FAQ’s

How do you toast walnuts?

To toast walnuts in the oven, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or foil for easy cleanup. Toss the walnuts in 2 teaspoons oil and sprinkle with salt if desired. Arrange in a single layer on prepared baking sheet. Toast until the nuts are browned and fragrant, stirring occasionally, about 7 to 10 minutes. To toast walnuts on the stove, toss the walnuts in 2 teaspoons oil and sprinkle with salt if desired. In a medium skillet over medium heat, heat the walnuts until browned and fragrant, stirring occasionally, about 2 to 5 minutes

What if I want more protein?

I find this vegetarian recipe to be quite filling as-is. On days I’m feeling super-hungry, however, I wouldn’t be mad about a boost by way of Grilled Shrimp Skewers, shredded or diced Rotisserie Chicken, or sliced Grilled Pork Tenderloin on top of the salad.

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Israeli Couscous salad on a white and black platter.

Israeli Couscous Salad

This recipe for Israeli Couscous Salad welcomes any changes you feel like making to it, but I make mine with toasted walnuts, feta, mint, peppery arugula, and quick pickled shallots; every forkful is fresh and fantastic. It’s really tempting to eat the whole bowl in one sitting.
5 from 3 votes
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 35 mins
Total Time 45 mins
Servings 6 servings
Course Main Course, Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine Israeli
Calories 457

Ingredients 

For the pickled shallots:

  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 shallots thinly sliced (see note 1)

For the couscous:

  • 2 cups Israeli couscous (about 10 ounces, see note 2)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1/2 teaspoon Salt

For the salad:

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes optional
  • 4 ounces baby arugula roughly chopped (see note 3)
  • 1 cup fresh mint leaves roughly chopped
  • 4 ounces feta cheese crumbled (see note 4)
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas thawed (see note 5)
  • 1/2 cup walnuts toasted and chopped (see note 6), plus more for garnish

Instructions 

To make the pickled shallots:

  • In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, bring vinegar, sugar, and a pinch of salt to simmer, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Stir in shallots.
  • Cover and cool completely, about 30 minutes. Drain well and discard marinade. 

To make the couscous:

  • In a medium saucepan over medium heat, combine couscous and oil. Cook the couscous until lightly browned, about 5 to 6 minutes. 
  • Stir in water and salt and bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until water is absorbed, stirring occasionally, about 9 to 12 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand, covered, for 3 minutes. 
  • Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet and spread in a single layer. Cool completely, about 15 minutes.

To make the salad:

  • In a large bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, mustard, red pepper flakes (if using), and a pinch of salt. Add cooled couscous, arugula, mint, ½ cup feta, peas, walnuts, and drained shallots. Toss to combine.
  • Season to taste with salt and pepper and transfer to a serving bowl. Garnish with remaining feta and more chopped walnuts.

Notes

  1. Shallots: I’d be remiss if I didn’t emphasize how brilliant the addition of quickly-pickled shallots is in this couscous salad. They only take a few minutes to make, and I know you’ll find other ways of sneaking them into your recipes for an unexpected pop of flavor. (Might I recommend pickled shallots atop Slow Cooker Pulled Pork and tossed into Panzanella Salad?) Within this Israeli Couscous salad recipe, I explain how to make Pickled Shallots. I highly recommend whipping up a double batch to use half in other ways!
  2. Israeli couscous: This larger style of couscous is usually sold in bags, boxes, or even small plastic jugs at well-stocked grocery stores or online.  Look for packages labeled maftoul, pearl couscous, or Israeli couscous. Since couscous is actually a pasta that only looks like a grain, feel free to use other tiny pastas: orzo, farfallini, fregola, bow tie pasta…you get the idea. You can also use the smaller-grained regular couscous for this recipe. For a more main dish-style salad, swap hearty cooked lentils for the couscous.
  3. Arugula: The peppery notes of this leafy green play nicely with the tangy pickled shallots and salty feta cheese. If you can’t find or don’t love arugula, try spinach or baby kale instead.
  4. Feta cheese: Or crumbled goat cheese.
  5. Thawed frozen peas: If you have access to fresh green peas, go for it! No peas at all? No problem; replace them with diced cucumber or blanched green beans.
  6. Fresh mint: Or fresh parsley if you prefer.
  7. Walnuts: Toasting nuts brings out their flavor even more, plus it creates a crunchier texture and intoxicating aroma. Read on for my top two ways to roast walnuts. You could also used toasted pecans if you like.
  8. Yield: My Israeli Couscous Salad recipe makes six entree-sized portions. If you’re serving this pasta salad as a side dish, it will serve 10 to 12.
  9. Storage: Store leftovers covered in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. This salad in general (and the arugula in particular) has great staying power in the fridge!
  10. Make ahead: The pickled shallots can be made a week in advance (store covered in the refrigerator). Make and cool the Israeli couscous a day in advance, storing it covered in the refrigerator (a large zipper-top plastic bag works well).

Nutrition

Serving: 1servingCalories: 457kcalCarbohydrates: 56gProtein: 13gFat: 20gSaturated Fat: 5gCholesterol: 17mgSodium: 436mgPotassium: 334mgFiber: 5gSugar: 7gVitamin A: 955IUVitamin C: 14mgCalcium: 176mgIron: 2mg
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Executive Chef and CEO at | Website | + posts

Meggan Hill is the Executive Chef and CEO of Culinary Hill, a popular digital publication in the food space. She loves to combine her Midwestern food memories with her culinary school education to create her own delicious take on modern family fare. Millions of readers visit Culinary Hill each month for meticulously-tested recipes as well as skills and tricks for ingredient prep, cooking ahead, menu planning, and entertaining. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the iCUE Culinary Arts program at College of the Canyons.

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  1. I’m just trying to figure out how many days is the skirt for. It is seriously my favorite salad but I’m hoping to make it this weekend for a Tuesday early Thanksgiving is that possible