balsamic couscous salad

The stars of this Balsamic Couscous salad are pearl couscous, Mediterranean-inspired vegetables and a balsamic, lemon-y vinaigrette. It’s perfect as a side dish or lunch, for times when you want something bright-tasting and light. 

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I found this recipe on, which features vegetarian recipes. Compliments to Cassidy, a registered dietitian and recipe developer, for this one. It’s easy to make and so delicious!

The only change I made to her recipe was to omit the kalamata olives because I don’t care for them. I also plan to experiment with the dressing a bit when I have more time. It’s definitely good as is; but I think I’d prefer something with more lemon and a higher ratio of oil to vinegar. It’s just personal taste and my habit of always wanting to tweak recipes to make them my own. [Anyone else like this?]

About Chickpeas, Pearl Couscous + Substitutions

Chickpeas are a legume that add some protein and fiber, along with other key vitamins and minerals. You could definitely add or substitute a different source of protein like tofu or chicken, if you want.

Chickpeas and lemon

As much as couscous looks and acts like a grain, this North African ingredient is actually more of a pasta, made with semolina flour from crushed durum wheat.

The recipe calls for pearl couscous (also known as Israeli couscous), but you can substitute regular couscous or any chewy grain (like farro, barley or rice) if you prefer. I really like pearl couscous for their chewier, more pasta-like texture. To me, the smaller couscous have a grittier mouth feel and seem more grain-like.

cherry tomatoes and cucumbers

Balsamic Couscous Salad is Versatile

I made this salad for a girls’ lunch with my friend Nancy and she said it brought back memories of her time in Italy.  My husband and I also enjoyed the leftovers with grilled shrimp the next day. This one is going in my keeper file for sure! 

It’s simple to make this vegan: Substitute vegan feta or omit the feta altogether. Also, choose agave instead of honey for the dressing.

Are you ready to make Balsamic Couscous Salad?

Balsamic Couscous Salad

Course: Lunch, Side DishCuisine: MediterraneanDifficulty: Easy




  • 1 cup uncooked pearl couscous (also known as Israeli couscous)

  • Water or vegetable broth, in amount needed to prepare couscous according to package directions

  • 1 can (14-16 ounces) chickpeas — rinsed, drained and patted dry

  • 1 medium cucumber, diced

  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered

  • 1/2 medium red onion, diced

  • 1 medium red bell pepper, diced

  • 1/4 cup kalamata olives, finely chopped (optional)

  • 3 TBSP. fresh chopped parsley, Italian or regular

  • 1/4 cup feta

  • 1 medium lemon, sliced into wedges for serving

  • Balsamic Vinaigrette
  • 3 TBSP. balsamic vinegar

  • 3 TBSP. olive oil

  • 2 TBSP. lemon juice from half large lemon

  • 1 tsp. honey or agave syrup — more to taste, if needed

  • 1/4 tsp. coarse salt


  • Prepare one cup couscous according to directions on the package, using either vegetable broth or water. Cook until al dente and then drain any liquid.
    Note: You can do this step ahead and refrigerate the couscous until you’re ready to continue with the recipe.
  • Chop the vegetables as directed above. Mix cucumber, tomatoes, red onion, chickpeas, olives, red bell pepper, and cooked couscous in your serving bowl.
  • Make the Vinaigrette: Whisk the balsamic vinegar, olive oil, lemon juice, honey (or agave), and salt together in a small bowl.
  • Just Before Serving: Drizzle the vinaigrette on to the salad. Toss with fresh parsley and feta. Serve with a lemon wedge and pita bread on the side, if you wish.


  • If you don’t cook and chill the couscous ahead of time, you’ll want to refrigerate the salad (with warm couscous and chopped vegetables) for one to two hours before serving.

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  1. HI Lucie! Sounds super yummy! Did you use a regular cucumber or a one of the cucumbers that has the smaller seeds (can’t remember the name). Or did you cut the seeds out completely?

    1. Hi Erin,
      I used a regular cucumber for this. Sliced it vertically and then scraped out some of the seeds. You could definitely use an English cucumber which has fewer seeds. Hope you enjoy the salad!

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