Israeli Couscous with Spring Leek and Garlic

Israeli Couscous with Spring Leek and Garlic

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This is wonderful on its own as a side dish. The toasted pearls of couscous can also serve as a bed for an appetizer of poached artichokes, or even as an entrée with a hearty dollop of Cilantro-Walnut Pesto.


Recipe Courtesy of Mollie Katzen for the California Walnut Board


  • 1 medium leek, cleaned and minced (or in very thin half rounds)
  • 1 1/2 Cup Israeli (pearl) couscous
  • 1/2 Cup cilantro-walnut pesto (OPTIONAL, see separate recipe)
  • 1 Teaspoon minced or crushed garlic
  • 2 Cups boiling water
  • 1 Cup chopped walnuts, lightly toasted
  • black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 Teaspoon salt


Calories Per Serving523

Folate equivalent (total)75µg19%

Our Best Couscous Recipes

Couscous is one of those ingredients to keep stocked in your pantry. It’s a form of pasta (so it’s hearty and satisfying) and cooks up in a flash. It’s also incredibly versatile it can be used just like some of your favorite grains. From breakfast bowls to family-friendly dinners, a little couscous always comes in handy!

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Perfect Couscous

Couscous isn&rsquot a grain, as some people may think &mdash it's actually a type of pasta made from durum wheat and shaped like a grain. The couscous you have in your pantry is most likely instant couscous that's been steamed and dried so it cooks very quickly, for a fast and easy side dish or base for a salad or bowl. Look for whole-wheat couscous in your supermarket it cooks in the same time as the regular variety and has all the virtues of whole wheat pasta. This recipe makes a big batch for make-ahead meal prep but is easily halved.

Garlic Chicken with Israeli Couscous

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Crowd-Pleasing Couscous

Israeli couscous is made with wheat just like other varieties but its larger, pearl-like pieces mean that it has a nice, chewy texture when cooked.

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Moroccan Seafood Stew with Couscous

Couscous cooks up in almost no time at all, making it the perfect base for quick meals. Here, we pair it with equally as speedy shrimp and mussels for a flavorful bowl of seafood stew.

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Cherry Couscous Pudding

A sweet take on a typically savory dish. Instead of broth, cook your couscous in a combo of skim and almond milk &mdash and add dried cherries and a cinnamon stick for extra flavor. Don&rsquot forget to fluff it up!

Israeli Couscous with Parmesan

This 15-minute dish makes a fantastic side or vegetarian main. Chopped pistachios add buttery flavor and a nice crunch &mdash and are the perfect source of plant-based protein.

Spiced Couscous and Chicken

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Moroccan-Spiced Couscous with Scrambled Eggs

Scrambled eggs get a filling and flavorful makeover with the addition of savory couscous and a refreshing cucumber salad. Perfect for brunch or breakfast-for-dinner-inspired meals.


Super fast and really good! I subbed farro for couscous feta for goat cheese added cauliflower and asparagus and used some leftover "green seasoning" from last week's Trinidadian recipe. Will add cherry tomatoes to serve. Yum!

I omitted the leeks and used lemon zest and a little more salt instead of a preserved lemon (because I didn't have any). It was really good. The texture is a tad bit problematic because the couscous is never drained, so there is a risk it may turn into mush - but other than that it was extremely satisfying.

Delicious! Just be careful adding salt. The preserved lemons are quite salty so I used much less than the “2 heaping teaspoons”. Made this twice so far.

Super tasty. Did use the two tsps of salt, but used kosher salt and felt it was not too salty. Tasted good without but followed the suggestion to add lemon zest and liked this. Will definitely make again.

Nice lemony flavor. I didn't have preserved lemon so used lemon zest and juice of one lemon. Added goat cheese w/ fig. Lovely. Spared the mint. I think that would have been a conflicting taste.

Easy and very delicious. I used frozen peas and didn't have goat cheese, but it still had a nice creamy texture from the leeks. I will make again, I think some lemon zest stirred in at the end would be a nice touch.

I haven't made this, but have it in my recipe box. I just don't understand the photo, is that really Israeli couscous? It looks like some other grain. I have only seen round Israeli couscous.

Easy and a really wonderful dish, just as a meal in it self or as a side.

Ridiculously good. Would say I would make it again but I have already made it twice. Used half the amount of goat cheese and half a preserved lemon the second time, as that's what I had, and still it was delicious. Great served with pan-seared lamb!

Good recipe but I have no idea what they were thinking with the amount of salt. I love salt and have to be very careful about over seasoning. This is too much. Season to taste and ignore that line in the recipe. Otherwise, simple, fast, and would have been delicious.

Falafel-Spiced Middle Eastern Couscous (Israeli Couscous)

Couscous is a staple ingredient in North African and Middle Eastern cuisine and is very similar to small pasta such as orzo. Pasta, however, is made from ground wheat while couscous consists of little steamed balls, made from crushed durum wheat semolina. That distinction aside, though, it can be used in very similar fashions as a starchy side dish or the base of a salad. When properly cooked, it should have a very light and fluffy texture.

You can usually find couscous in either the pasta aisle of your supermarket or sometimes in the section with grains. Traditional couscous is quite small, but you will also find larger balls of couscous called either Israeli or pearled couscous. Technically the two are not exactly the same, but many manufacturers don't make the distinction and you'll see both types of labels. This recipe uses the larger, pearled-style, but feel free to use the smaller grains if you prefer.

Like pasta, couscous has a mild flavor and benefits from the addition of flavorful ingredients like vegetables and spices. Pre-roasting chickpeas gives them a lovely crunch and great texture against the soft, fluffy couscous. Roasting the cherry tomatoes greatly increases their sweetness and caramelizes their juices. This is also a great way to coax the most amount of flavor from out of season tomatoes.

In this recipe, traditional falafel spices, such as cumin and coriander, are sprinkled over the chickpeas and tomatoes prior to roasting. The roasting also makes the spices more aromatic.

Crumbled fresh feta adds both flavor and salt to the finished dish. Serve this as a side dish with grilled chicken or fish. Then pack up any leftovers for lunch the next day. The flavors will meld together even more after a night in the refrigerator.

Lemon Infused Israeli Couscous Recipe

Did you know couscous is a pasta? No it is not an ancient grain as many have come to believe. But it is super easy. And ridiculously delicious!

Couscous is made from semolina wheat and comes in multiple forms. There is organic, Moroccan, whole wheat, multicolored, and my personal favorite…whole wheat Israeli couscous.

Israeli couscous tends to have a nuttier flavor because it is actually toasted before it is packaged. Which results in a deeper and earthier flavor that is more reminiscent of a grain than a pasta.

Personally, the idea of couscous to me always sounded great but the end result always ended up being just blah. I always used to get Moroccan couscous. Which is small and round and can be dry and…blah.

It was not until we are at a friend’s wedding many years ago that I tasted Israeli couscous that actually was AMAZING.

It was creamy, yet each individual grain still fell away. And it was delectably cheesy.

What’s the secret I wondered as I shoveled spoon after spoon of the delicious little, edible marbles into my mouth.

Parmesan cheese of course. And butter. Perfect.

So naturally I had to come home and re-create it. And lighten it up a bit. I decided to add in a bit more flavor components into it to really make the flavors pop.

It was a ridiculously simple recipe and I served it with anything from my plank salmon, to my lemony chicken. Personally, I never needed a side dish for it. I could eat it right out of the pot as a meal.

The best part was it can be frozen easily and also used in salads, soups or even as a binder in crab cakes or fish cakes.

It starts out with a tablespoon of butter, 1 shallot and the zest of half a lemon.

Over medium heat, we are going to melt the butter and let the butter get infused with the flavors of the shallot and the lemon zest. Give this about 3 minutes. Again, you are sweating the aromatics not browning them.

Throw in a cup of your Israel couscous and toss everything together, ensuring your couscous is covered by the shallot and butter mixture. Essentially you are toasting them a bit. Do this for about 2 minutes.

Pour in 1 and 1/4 cups of chicken broth, stock or water. I find the chicken stocks and broths give it a more savory flavor. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook, covered for 10 minutes.

Fluff with a fork. This will ensure you have light and fluffy individual grains. Sprinkle in 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese and mix with a fork. Taste for seasoning.

Serve in a bowl with some more lemon zest, chopped parsley and nice shredding of Parmesan cheese on top.

What is pearl couscous?

Israeli couscous, also known as pearl couscous, are these pasta-like little pearls made from wheat flour and semolina, that aren’t gluten free at all!

I do have a confession to make, tho… As much as I love couscous now, I had never had, or heard of (!) pearl couscous in my life until I was in culinary school a few years ago. It just wasn’t a thing when I was growing up – remember, we Brazilians love our rice!

Since eating it for the first time, pearl couscous, or Israeli couscous as it’s also know, has become part of our weekly meal planning. It’s super delicious, easy to make, and its great to use in salads, or as a side dish. If you don’t use it regularly, I totally recommend!


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Disclaimer: Nutrition facts are derived from linked ingredients (shown at left in colored bullets) and may or may not be complete. Always consult a licensed nutritionist or doctor if you have a nutrition-related medical condition.

Calories per serving: 218

Get detailed nutrition information, including item-by-item nutrition insights, so you can see where the calories, carbs, fat, sodium and more come from.

Spicy ptitim (Israeli couscous)

In the maze of gray buildings, carpentry shops, Escher-like stairways and metal scaffolding behind my office, you’ll find a little luncheon restaurant tucked away. Well, actually, you probably won’t find it. You have to know exactly where it is, and even then, you still might wind up searching for it.

But let’s say you find it. It’s a modest place — Mediterranean Restaurant is its name. There, a kindly couple dishes up beautifully prepared homestyle meals. Step up to the counter, where a tempting assortment of foods gaze back at you — stuffed peppers, mafroum, meatballs of different shapes and sizes, kubbeh dumplings, mixed vegetables, roasted potatoes, and pasta. Yes, pasta. Among that wealth of handmade food is a simple pasta, yes, the kind that comes in a bag, cooked according to the package instructions and tossed with spices.

Given these options, who would order the pasta?

Well, that’s what I thought for years. Then one day, I don’t remember why, I ordered the pasta.

Suddenly, I understood what it was doing there. It was addictive, and I was hooked.

What makes a lunch counter pasta good enough to compete with a dozen handmade foods, all of which demand more care and preparation? In short, the spices. Tossed with a ruddy mix of Mediterranean spices — the restaurant doesn’t get its name for nothing — this is a prime example of simple pleasures.

Now, I’m back at work but I’m working from home, so I haven’t been at the office in quite a while. But either way, if I want to eat an embarrassingly large quantity of spicy pasta, best to do it in my own home, right?

So this is my best guess as to what goes into that dish. In place of the pasta, I use ptitim — also known as Israeli couscous, or Ben-Gurion’s rice — an Israeli creation that basically is, well, pasta. Little roasted nibs of pasta shaped like rice, or balls, or stars, or what-have-you. My favorite is the rice shape. It has a fun texture.

Thus, in the comfort of my own home, I’m free to skip over impressive stuffed vegetables and elegant dumplings and gorge myself on simple, spicy pasta/ptitim. No one will know.

For one 500-gram bag of ptitim:

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 4 cups water

In a pot, fry the onion in the oil on a medium flame. Add the ptitim, stir and let brown lightly. Add the spices and the water, cover, and bring to a boil. Let simmer until the water is fully absorbed, let sit for a minute or two with the flame off, and fluff before eating.

Israeli Couscous with Mushrooms, Shallots, and Asparagus

Yes, after getting a dusting of snow each day over the past week, we awoke to a new 6″ layer of fresh white stuff. Our local weather reported that 180 days prior is when our area received its first snowfall of the season. That’s 6 months of snow and winter…we need to be done already!

BUT…I did have to readily admit how gorgeous it was out there that morning. The rising sun gave way to a brilliant blue sky, the perfect canvas for strokes of white sparkly powder on dark bare branches and pine. Plus, it was our youngest daughter’s birthday. There was just too much beauty going on to waste with being grumpy about the weather!

Back in January, The Pampered Chef sent me a big box of kitchen goodies to play with. This here white skillet has quickly turned into a favorite piece of meal making equipment around here. We use it almost every single day. It’s lightweight, with sloped high side walls that give extra room, perfect for one-skillet meals. The pan heats up quickly and evenly, with a super non-stick cooking surface. We love it!

While this Israeli Couscous with Mushrooms, Shallots, and Asparagus is not truly a one-skillet meal (the couscous is cooked in a separate saucepan), this white skillet was just the perfect vessel to bring this meal together. I also set the skillet right on the table and served from it, it’s such a bright and pretty piece!

Our kids now cheer when they hear we’re having Israeli couscous, after falling in love with a dish incorporating curried cauliflower. The couscous is just so much fun to eat! A tiny pasta, soft and puffy and delightfully chewy, like little bubbles in your mouth…what’s not to like?!

This pasta dish, full of tender couscous, makes for a lovely meal. Loaded with tender asparagus, mushrooms, and shallots, and then drizzled with a light lemony dressing, it’s the perfect dish for spring. Whenever that might occur around here!

Easy to Make

Hardest part of this recipe? Cooking the couscous. And spoiler, it's not that hard.

Step 1: Toast Israeli couscous in a pan with some oil and then add water to simmer couscous until it's tender.

Meanwhile, prep your tomatoes, cucumbers, vinaigrette, parsley, leeks, and shallots.

Step 2: Add your garden fresh (or not) cucumbers and tomatoes to the couscous.

Tip for cutting Leeks: Leeks have a lovely sweet oniony flavor (as they're in the same family) which is perfect for this recipe. To cut leeks, cut off the dark green leaves and the root. Then slice the white / light green remaining piece in half and then slice thinly into little half moons. Give them a quick soak in water to rinse out any dirt that hides in the layers, and then drain and rinse. For this salad we prefer the leeks chopped, but you could also leave them in the half moon slices.

Step 3: Add parsley, leeks, shallots, and mint to the bowl with cucumbers, tomatoes, and couscous and give it all a good mix.

Meanwhile, give a lemon a quick zest with your favorite lemon zester. This lemon zest will add a brightness and aroma to your salad that, honestly, was the final key to the many iterations of this salad we've made over the years.

Step 4: Add the vinaigrette to a pour spout Pyrex or other cup and give a good mix.

Tip: Use a fork to vigorously mix the vinaigrette well so that the garlic powder and salt are well incorporated into the oil, vinegar, and lemon juice.

The perfect summer couscous salad that is fresh, herbaceous, but with a tangy, acidic vinaigrette!

Ready in just 20 minutes, this Israeli Couscous Cucumber Salad makes the perfect summer lunch or side dish that's light and fresh but still hearty thanks to the couscous.