This Moroccan Couscous Salad will have everyone wanting seconds. With dried fruit such as apricots and raisins, tossed with a lemon vinaigrette, this cold couscous salad is perfect served with roasted chicken or salmon. Enjoy this salad made from Mediterranean couscous as part of a quick weekday lunch or part of a holiday spread, like Easter.
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I often have daydreams of what I would make when I have space and money to make my own Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter dinners and my mind often goes wild. (feel free to check this part of the blog out for ideas for holiday recipes).
With Easter just around the corner, I often daydream about doing a Middle Eastern type of Easter dinner; I guess an homage to Passover as it will.
A nice roasted lamb loin rubbed with mint and parsley and garlic (this stuffed lamb breast recipe would work nicely); delicious pitas, yogurt sauce, hummus, green and bean salads (this green bean salad would be perfect), and finally this Moroccan Couscous Salad!
The Story Behind This Moroccan Couscous Salad
Back in my younger chef days, I worked a restaurant in Central Phoenix that added a Mediterranean couscous salad to their lunch menu. We had a salad very similar to this one; of course, I added my own flair to it. This salad was then served with a roasted chicken breast and feta cheese.
The salad at this restaurant had more of Mediterranean flair to it than a Moroccan but my version has changed that. As the years have gone on, I have geared this salad more to an homage to Moroccan flavors but still, think this would be an excellent addition to my dream Easter dinner spread.
I made a version of this Moroccan couscous salad a couple of years ago for an Easter Dinner with my in-laws. It was a hit!
What Makes this Cold Couscous Salad Moroccan
As I mentioned, the original salad very much had more of a Mediterranean feel than Moroccan. When I was researching what to call this salad, I consulted with my Flavor Bible (read this post about other essential reference books for your kitchen) and found that my version had more of Moroccan flair. Though I won’t call it an “authentic” recipe by any means.
However, Moroccan cuisine and this salad both feature:
- Preserved lemons and fresh lemons
- Pine nuts
- Couscous (obviously)
Cilantro is more predominate in Moroccan cooking than parsley or mint. If that’s your jam, feel free to swap out the parsley and mint for the cilantro. However, I feel like the other herbs work just a well here.
For more tips on how to combine spices, herbs, and other foods to create regional dishes, check out this post here.
How to Cook Couscous
Before we go on to make this incredible cold couscous salad, I feel like I need to talk about couscous and its varieties. Not all couscous is the same however, all couscous is pasta!
There are two different types of couscous. Israeli (pearled) couscous and Mediterranean couscous. I have a recipe here that showcases Israeli couscous as part of a Moroccan lamb stew.
Israeli couscous is cooked very much the same as store-bought dried pasta. It’s boiled in salted water for about 8 minutes and then drained and served.
Mediterranean couscous is cooked with a 1:1 ratio. How I like to cook my couscous is boiling my cup of water and adding it to my cup of couscous (in a bigger container of course) with some salt. Cover it with plastic wrap, or a lid if you’re using one of these cool bowls, to steam the couscous. It only takes about 5 minutes for the couscous to be ready and then you just fluff it with a fork.
Moroccan Couscous Salad Dressing
With so much texture and flavors going on in this salad, I felt like it was important to keep the couscous salad dressing simple. Even though lemon dressings can seem simple, this one really highlights the salad well.
One thing that I like to add to this lemon salad dressing is preserved lemons (learn more about preserved lemons here). I love using preserved lemons because you’re able to use the peel aside from just zesting. Preserved lemons give a nice texture and a different taste than just lemon zest does. They are worthwhile to make in order to enjoy this salad.
However, if you don’t have preserved lemons on hand and don’t want to order any, just add lemon zest to the dressing and you’re good to go.
How to Make Moroccan Couscous Salad
I believe that this salad is best when it’s been made ahead of time and has had time for the flavors to marry together. The raisins and dried apricots plump up a bit, the cucumber softens just a bit and the couscous holds together well.
As the couscous is cooking in the water, I use the down time to cut up all of the ingredients going into the salad. The couscous won’t be too hot to add everything to once it’s fluffed with a fork, so your herbs will stay nice and green for a while.
Feel free to make this salad as soon as 30 minutes before dinner is ready (though you can really eat it right after it’s all mixed together). Though, this salad will only stay good in the fridge for about 5-7 days before the herbs start looking sad and the lemon vinaigrette starts to lose its acidity.
I would adamantly avoid freezing this salad to save for later. You’ll notice a lot of textural changes within the salad if you froze and then thawed to enjoy later. With how good this Moroccan couscous salad is, I don’t think you’ll have a problem eating it before it turns.
There ya have it, a nice and fresh Mediterranean couscous salad to enjoy for lunch or to bring to a holiday gathering, like Easter dinner! You can eat this salad by itself or with chicken or salmon.
If you have enjoyed this recipe, let me know down in the comments below (along with a rating!)
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- 1 cup Mediterranean couscous
- 1 cup water
- 6 ounces dried apricots
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 3 each persian cucumbers, sliced into half moons
- 1 bunch Italian parsley
- 1 bunch mint
Preserved Lemon Vinaigrette
- 2 each preserved lemons, 2 zested lemons would also work
- 2 lemons, juiced
- 1/2 cup EVOO
- To taste salt and pepper
- 1 tbsp honey
- Bring 1 cup of water to a boil in a pot with some salt. Once the water comes to a boil, add the couscous to the water, cover with a lid, and take the pot off of the heat. Let it sit for about 5 minutes or until the water is absorbed and the couscous volume has doubled.
- Take the dried apricots and slice them relatively thin. Add the raisins and cucumbers to the bowl.
- Roughly chop mint and parsley and add to the dried fruit.
- Juice the two lemons, add salt and pepper, olive oil, honey, and preserved lemons
- Add cooled couscous to the bowl along with the vinaigrette and toss to combine.
Here is the link for my preserved lemon recipe if you would like to make them yourself!
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Serving Size8 ounces
Amount Per ServingCalories 377Total Fat 19gSaturated Fat 3gTrans Fat 0gUnsaturated Fat 15gCholesterol 0mgSodium 173mgCarbohydrates 54gFiber 6gSugar 29gProtein 5g