This vegan couscous salad is light, refreshing and makes the perfect main or side dish! With roasted chickpeas, veggies and a zesty lemon vinaigrette, it's nutritious and packed with flavor. Even better, it's ready to eat in less than 30 minutes.
This pearl couscous salad is a delicious and satisfying option for lunch or dinner during the busy weekdays! It's also a great salad to bring to serve a crowd.
It's the perfect option for meal prep, as it can easily be made ahead of time and will stay fresh throughout the week. Plus, the homemade salad dressing can be used with other recipes, like this buddha bowl, throughout the week.
Why you'll love this recipe
- It's quick and easy to make! There's only 3 components to this dish and it's ready to eat in 30 minutes.
- This vegan couscous salad recipe is refreshing & light yet nutritious & packed with flavor!
- It's customizable. One of my favorite things about salads in general is how customizable they are. You can easily make this recipe gluten-free or change the veggies out as a great way to use up what's in your fridge, or just for whatever you prefer.
- This dish can be enjoyed as a main dish or side dish.
What is couscous?
Couscous is a made from small balls of crushed durum wheat. It's traditionally popular in North African, Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine, but has become popular in other areas of the world like Italy, France and the United States because couscous cooks quickly and is a great alternative to sides.
Although it looks like a grain, couscous is actually more closely related to small pasta. This is because it's related to semolina flour, which is a coarser flour that's left over after the finer flour has been removed during the milling process.
It has a light and fluffy texture along with a neutral flavor, so it's perfect for picking up the flavors of the other ingredients in the dish (like the vegetable broth and lemon dressing).
Luckily, because this recipe is so simple, you don't need any special tools or equipment that you don't likely already have in your kitchen. All you'll need are:
- Whisk: to mix up the lemon vinaigrette
- Sheet pan: to roast the chickpeas on
- Medium-sized saucepan: to cook the couscous in
- Mixing bowls: to make the dressing in and to toss the salad in
- Couscous: There are several different types of couscous but I chose pearl couscous (also referred to as Israeli couscous) for this dish as I feel it's a bit heartier. Feel free to use regular couscous (Moroccan couscous) or whole wheat couscous. You can easily find any variety at your regular grocery store.
- Vegetable Broth: to cook the couscous in! Vegetable stock adds extra flavor to the dish as a whole.
- Chickpeas: we'll be roasting them for added crunch and plant-based protein.
- Fresh Veggies: we'll be using mixed greens, cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes, and cucumbers. Feel free to add/swap in whichever veggies you prefer.
- Vegan Feta Cheese: this will add some creaminess and tang to the salad.
- Lemon Vinaigrette: the homemade dressing is made up of lemon juice (lime juice would work as well), olive oil, mustard, salt, pepper and maple syrup.
See recipe card below for a full list of ingredients and measurements.
Variations & Substitutions
- Make this dish gluten-free by swapping out couscous for quinoa, millet or gluten-free orzo.
- Other couscous alternatives you could use are bulgur wheat or barley. Keep in mind, these two are not gluten free!
- Toast the couscous in the saucepan with 1 tablespoon of olive oil for 3-5 minutes over medium heat before adding the vegetable broth and water. After a few minutes the couscous pearls will start to brown slightly. Stir regularly in order to ensure that all the pearls get toasted and to prevent any of them from burning. This will bring out a nutty flavor!
- Change up the veggies! Some other veggies you could use are black olives, marinated artichokes, carrots, red onion, green onions, red bell pepper, corn, fresh herbs like fresh basil or fresh parsley, or sun-dried tomatoes.
- Add in some healthy fats like avocado, nuts and/or seeds. Pepitas, hemp hearts, pine nuts, walnuts, slivered almonds or pistachios are all great options.
- Make this salad more filling by adding extra protein like tofu, tempeh, different beans (like white beans) or vegan chicken strips.
- Add some spice by adding red pepper flakes to the dressing or couscous.
This recipe has not been tested with any other substitutions or variations than the ones listed above. If you replace or add any ingredients, please let us know how it turned out in the comments below!
This vegan couscous salad is quick and easy to make, with only has 3 main components!
Step 1: Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Add chickpeas to the baking sheet and toss in extra virgin olive oil, paprika, salt and black pepper.
Step 2: Bake for 20-30 minutes, or until golden and crispy.
Step 3: Add vegetable broth and water to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Add in the couscous and salt, return to a boil then lower the heat to a simmer.
Step 4: Cover and let cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once all the liquid is absorbed, fluff with a fork and set aside.
Step 5: In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the lemon vinaigrette ingredients.
Step 6: To a large bowl or platter, add cooked couscous, roasted chickpeas, spinach & arugula mix, tomatoes, cucumbers and vegan feta. Toss to combine. Either drizzle the lemon dressing and toss once more to combine, or serve the dressing on the side. Serve immediately!
This couscous salad can be served on its own as a main dish or it could be served as an appetizer or side dish. This would be delicious alongside bean burgers, soups, baked falafel, stuffed peppers, burritos or tacos and so much more.
- Be sure to stir the couscous more frequently if you're cooking it in a stainless steel saucepan. The couscous will get stuck to the bottom of the pan otherwise.
- Serve the dressing on the side. Aside from being able to control how much or how little dressing goes on your salad, this is better for storage purposes if there are any leftovers so the spinach/arugula don't get soggy.
- Pat the chickpeas dry before tossing in olive and seasonings. If they're too wet, they won't get nice and crispy.
Refrigerator: Make this salad ahead of time or store any leftovers in the fridge for up to 4 days. I recommend keeping the couscous salad and the lemon vinaigrette in separate airtight containers. When ready to serve, drizzle with desired amount of dressing and give it a quick toss.
Freezer: I would not recommend freezing this dish. If you didn't use all of the couscous, for some reason kept it separate or just made extra, you can freeze the couscous by itself for up to 3 months in an airtight container or freezer-friendly bag.
Unfortunately, no. Couscous is made from semolina, which is a from durum wheat. If you are gluten-free, some alternatives you could use are quinoa, millet or gluten free orzo.
For pearl couscous (or Israeli couscous) the ratio is 1:1.5. For every 1 cup of pearl couscous, you'll need 1.5 cups of liquid. For this recipe, it's 1 cup of vegetable broth and ½ cup of water. If you choose to use regular couscous (or Moroccan couscous), the ratio is 1:1. Always be sure to check the package instructions just in case!
Although they look similar, they are different! Bulgur wheat is made from the whole grain of wheat which is then parboiled, cracked, and used in different dishes such as tabbouleh.
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Vegan Couscous Salad
- Cutting Board
- Salad Spoons
- 1 can (15 oz) chickpeas drained, rinsed & patted dry
- 1 tablespoon (15 mL) olive oil
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ⅛ teaspoon pepper
- 1 cup (165 g) pearl couscous
- 1 cup (240 g) vegetable broth
- ½ cup (110 g) water
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 mini cucumbers thinly sliced
- 1 cup (224 g) cherry tomatoes halved lengthwise
- 5 oz spinach & arugula mix
- 3 tablespoons (42 g) vegan feta crumbled
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon dijon mustard
- ⅛ teaspoon sea salt
- pinch black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon maple syrup optional
- Preheat oven to 425 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Toss the chickpeas in olive oil, paprika, salt and pepper. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet.1 can chickpeas, 1 tablespoon olive oil, ½ teaspoon paprika, ¼ teaspoon salt, ⅛ teaspoon pepper
- Roast the chickpeas for 20 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown and crispy.
- While the chickpeas are roasting, add vegetable broth and water to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil.1 cup vegetable broth, ½ cup water
- Add the couscous and salt to the saucepan, return to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook until tender, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.1 cup pearl couscous, 1 teaspoon salt
- In a small bowl, whisk together all of the ingredients for the lemon vinaigrette.2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, ½ teaspoon dijon mustard, ⅛ teaspoon sea salt, pinch black pepper, ¼ teaspoon maple syrup
- In large bowl, combine cooked couscous, roasted chickpeas, sliced cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, spinach & arugula mix, and vegan feta.2 mini cucumbers, 1 cup cherry tomatoes, 5 oz spinach & arugula mix, 3 tablespoons vegan feta
- Drizzle with the lemon vinaigrette and lightly toss once more, or serve the dressing on the side. Serve immediately and enjoy.