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Israeli Couscous Salad with Cherry Tomato Dressing

DFV

Israeli Couscous Salad with Cherry Tomato Dressing

This Israeli couscous salad is incredibly colorful and delicious. Filled with textures and flavor, it’s the perfect good-for-you make-ahead salad for picnics, potlucks, and lunch boxes.

Israeli Couscous Salad with Cherry Tomato Dressing // FoodNouveau.com

Ever heard of Israeli couscous? This “couscous” is not a type of couscous, but rather a round-shapred pasta made with wheat flour. Called “ptitim” or “p’titim” in Israel, this pasta shape was created in 1953 by the country’s prime minister, who was looking for a wheat-based alternative to rice. The pasta was indeed first shaped like grains of rice (similar to Italian orzo), but then the company that manufactured the pasta first came up with a round alternative, which was inspired by couscous.

Israeli couscous is a wonderfully versatile foundation on which you can build tasty warm or cold dishes. Also called Jerusalem couscous, pearl couscous, or giant couscous, the chewy pasta absorbs surrounding flavors without ever losing its shape and texture or clumping together, possibly making it the ultimate ingredient for prepare-ahead salads.

In this Israeli couscous salad recipe, the chewy beads soak in the rich roasted tomato dressing and elegantly mingle with crunchy cucumbers, umami-rich black olives, earthy parsley, and peppery arugula. This is a bright, gorgeous salad, one that screams for you to put together a picnic on a warm summer day. It’s also a great salad you can make ahead and divide between individual lunch containers, meal prep-style.

To increase the protein content of the dish, simply fold in shredded cooked chicken, sauteed cubes of tofu, or crumbled feta cheese. However you choose to serve this Israeli couscous salad, you’re in for a treat.

Israeli Couscous Salad with Cherry Tomato Dressing // FoodNouveau.com


Helpful Tips for Making This Israeli Couscous Salad


Don’t skip toasting that couscous!

Some brands of Israeli couscous sell the pasta already toasted, which saves you a step. But if the Israeli couscous you bought is not toasted, don’t skip the extra step! Toasting Israeli couscous is quick and easy and adds that trademark nutty flavor to the pasta. 

Can’t find Israeli couscous? Here are some substitutes

If you can’t find Israeli couscous, you can use a very similar Italian pasta called fregola. Originating from Sardinia—hence its nickname “Sardinian couscous”—fregola pasta has the same shape as Israeli couscous, though it can be a bit larger in size. It’s most often sold toasted.

If you can’t find either Israeli couscous or fregola, you can substitute orzo pasta, which is readily available in all grocery stores. Make sure to toast the orzo as instructed in the recipe to add that extra nuttiness to the salad.

A bowl of uncooked Israeli couscous // FoodNouveau.com

Making this salad ahead? Hold off on that arugula

This Israeli couscous salad is the perfect make-ahead salad. In fact, the pasta absorbs even more flavor from the cherry tomato dressing as it sits.

If you’re making the Israeli couscous salad ahead of time, make sure to keep the arugula out of the dish and only toss it into the salad right before serving. Arugula is fragile, so its leaves would wilt upon sitting for several hours.

If you’re serving the salad at a picnic or potluck or as a side dish, bring the salad back to room temperature at least 1 hour before serving. Then toss in the arugula along with an extra drizzle of cherry tomato dressing. Adjust the seasoning to taste and serve.

If you’re meal prepping this Israeli couscous salad, prepare it without the arugula then divide it between individual containers. Add an extra drizzle of cherry tomato dressing over each serving, then top with a large pinch of (undressed) arugula. Close each container and refrigerate.

Israeli Couscous Salad with Cherry Tomato Dressing // FoodNouveau.com

 
Israeli Couscous Salad with Cherry Tomato Dressing // FoodNouveau.com

Israeli Couscous Salad with Cherry Tomato Dressing

This Israeli couscous salad is incredibly colorful and delicious. Filled with textures and flavor, it's the perfect good-for-you make-ahead salad for picnics, potlucks, and lunch boxes.
Prep Time:10 mins
Cook Time:25 mins
Cooling Time:30 mins
Servings 6 servings

Ingredients

For the broiled cherry tomatoes

For the cherry tomato dressing

For the Israeli couscous salad

  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup Israeli couscous, also called pearl couscous, or p'titim (see note for substitutions)
  • 1 ¾ cups water
  • ¼ cup Kalamata black olives, pitted and chopped
  • ½ cup diced cucumber
  • ¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 large handfuls arugula

Instructions

  • To broil the cherry tomatoes: Set a rack in the upper third of the oven, then preheat to broil. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  • Halve the cherry tomatoes and place in a mixing bowl. Add the olive oil, sea salt, and black pepper and mix to coat the tomatoes with the oil. Spread on a single layer over the baking sheet. Tuck the unpeeled garlic clove under some of the tomatoes to prevent it from burning, then broil for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the tomatoes have shrunk in size and are slightly blackened around the edges.
  • To make the cherry tomato dressing: Once the roasted cherry tomatoes are completely cool, place half the tomatoes, the peeled garlic clove (its flesh should be very soft now), and all the remaining dressing ingredients in a tall measuring cup. Puree with a hand blender until you reach a smooth consistency. (You can also make the dressing using a blender or mini food processor). Set aside.
  • To make the Israeli couscous salad: In a dry nonstick skillet set over medium heat, add the Israeli couscous and stir until the beads are toasted and golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add the water. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the couscous is al dente (soft with a bite).
    Note: You might need to use more or less water, depending on the brand of Israeli couscous you’re using. Please refer to the manufacturer instructions. If you taste the couscous and you feel it’s done but some water remains in the pan, drain it. Let the cooked Israeli couscous cool completely. (You can speed up the process by spreading the cooked couscous over a baking sheet to cool.)
  • In a large mixing bowl, toss together the cooked and cooled couscous, black olives, and diced cucumber together. Add a few tablespoons of dressing and toss to distribute the dressing evenly. Add the reserved broiled cherry tomatoes and parsley and toss to combine. Taste, adjust seasoning, and add more dressing if needed.
  • SERVING: If you serve the Israeli couscous salad immediately, add the arugula and toss to combine. Drizzle with extra dressing and serve.
  • STORAGE: If you're making the Israeli couscous salad ahead of time, hold off on the arugula and store the salad in an airtight container. Refrigerate for up to 3 days.
    For the best flavor, bring the salad back to room temperature at least 1 hour before serving. Then toss in the arugula along with an extra drizzle of cherry tomato dressing. Adjust the seasoning to taste and serve.
  • MEAL-PREP TIPS: If you’re meal prepping this Israeli couscous salad, prepare it without the arugula then divide it between individual containers. Add an extra drizzle of cherry tomato dressing over each serving, then top with a large pinch of (undressed) arugula. Close each container and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Did you make this?

Tell me how you liked it! Leave a comment or take a picture and tag it with @foodnouveau on Instagram.

Author: Marie Asselin

Prep Time: 10 mins
Cook Time: 25 mins
Cooling Time: 30 mins

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