This loaded couscous green salad is AMAZING! It comes together fast…and that fresh basil dressing will knock your socks off.

I know salad can sometimes be a bit of a letdown, but I promise with all the fervor in my soul that this salad is worth it. 

It has quickly and easily become one of my favorite salads ever. I’ve made it four times in the last several weeks and everyone that I’ve forced to eat it has declared it also: best ever. 

There’s a lot going on. It’s loaded with crazy delicious ingredients, and that fresh basil dressing is next level. But it comes together fast, and most of it can be made ahead of time!

white serving bowl with tongs scooping a serving of loaded couscous green salad

If you follow Si over at A Bountiful Kitchen, you already know she has impeccable taste in food. She also happens to be one of my favorite humans on the planet.

The origins of this salad come from her blog. (She gave me permission to post my slightly altered version.)

I’m a big fan of loaded salads with gobs of personality. This salad has it all. 

  • romaine
  • dried cranberies
  • bacon (bacon!)
  • couscous (more on that down below)
  • Parmesan shreds
  • sweet corn
  • toasted pine nuts
  • and a fresh basil dressing that blows all other dressings out of the water
white plate with romaine lettuce, craisins, bacon, parmesan, and fresh basil dressing

Let’s Talk About Couscous

Couscous is sometimes referred to as a grain, but it’s actually more like pasta.

Itty bitty tiny pasta. (Israeli couscous is larger, but this recipe calls for smaller Moroccan couscous.)

The beauty of couscous is that it takes just minutes to cook. It’s fluffy, light, and is the perfect addition to this salad, adding texture, personality, and tastiness.

I use a box of roasted garlic and olive oil couscous (pretty widely available in many grocery stores). Flavor! But you can use regular bulk or bagged couscous. I’ve included a how-to in the notes of the recipe. 

My best tip for yummy couscous? Cook it in broth instead of water. 

Also, do you see those beautiful shards of Parmesan atop the salad? 

Listen, you can dig into your Parmesan block however it makes you happy. BUT, if I can influence you to try cutting off thin strips with your vegetable peeler, I’ll feel like my work here is done. 

If you haven’t shredded Parm like this before, you’ll feel like a rockstar and have a restaurant-level salad staring you in the face. 

white serving bowl with romaine lettuce, bacon, parmesan, craisins, and pine nuts

Crazy Delicious Fresh Basil Dressing

A quick note about this ridiculous dressing:

As if the salad ingredients weren’t delicious enough on their own, this dressing, delightfully heavy on the fresh basil, takes it straight over the top. 

Creamy and light, it can be made several days in advance. Just beware of the risk of doing so: it may be gone before you need it for the salad. It’s so good! 

Fresh basil is pretty imperative to the dressing. Dried basil or other fresh herbs won’t be as yummy. It’s worth waiting for fresh basil! 

blender with fresh basil leaves, salt and pepperpouring fresh basil dressing over couscous green salad

Make it a meal…or not

I’ve served this a couple of times with grilled chicken. Either alongside or diced and thrown into the salad. 

INCREDIBLE. 

But it also makes a fantastic side dish for just about any meal, and it’s the perfect salad to bring to a BBQ, potluck, or friend’s house for dinner. 

This is definitely one of those recipes that will make your life infinitely better. I’m so excited to finally get it in front of you! 

white plate with fork and romaine lettuce, craisins, bacon, parmesan, and fresh basil dressing

One Year Ago: Amazing Grilled Pork and Veggie Salad 
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Three Years Ago: 5-Minute Hot Fudge Sauce {Three Flavors!}
Four Years Ago: Cuban Sandwiches {Slow Cooker or Instant Pot}
Five Years Ago: Caramel Pecan White + Dark Chocolate Chip Toffee Bars 
Six Years Ago: Spinach, Apple & Gouda Salad with Honey Mustard Dressing
Seven Years Ago: Vanilla Funfetti Mug Cake {Egg and Dairy Free} 
Eight Years Ago: Grilled Lime Coconut Chicken with Coconut Rice
Nine Years Ago: Black Bottom Pudding Pie 
Ten Years Ago: Smothered Pork Chops {Slow Cooker}

Loaded Fresh Basil and Sweet Corn Couscous Green Salad

Yield: 8 servings
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Additional Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 45 minutes
white serving bowl filled with salad ingredients for loaded fresh basil couscous green salad

Ingredients

Fresh Basil Dressing:

  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise (see note)
  • 1/4 cup red wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped shallot or green onion
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch black pepper

Salad:

  • 5.8 ounce box roasted garlic and olive oil couscous (see note)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 1/4 cups chicken broth
  • 12-15 cups chopped romaine lettuce (see note)
  • 6-8 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled or chopped
  • 1 cup dried cranberries or cherries
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels (thaw frozen corn before using)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated or peeled Parmesan cheese (see note)
  • 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts

Instructions

  1. For the dressing: combine all the ingredients in a blender together and process until smooth. Refrigerate until needed. Dressing can be made several days in advance (flavor gets better with time).
  2. For the salad: make the couscous by bringing the chicken broth and olive oil to a simmer in a saucepan on the stovetop. Stir in the couscous and the seasoning packet (if using the roasted garlic variety). Cover the saucepan and let sit for 5-7 minutes. Fluff with a fork and let cool to room temperature before using.
  3. In a large serving bowl, add the romaine lettuce, cooled couscous, cranberries, bacon, cheese, corn, and pine nuts.
  4. Drizzle with dressing and toss to combine (or serve dressing on the side).

Notes

Mayo: the mayo helps bind the dressing so it doesn't separate (and so it isn't too thin). I often use the full 1/2 cup mayo but sometimes I use 1/4 cup mayo + 1/4 cup sour cream.

Couscous: If you can't find or don't want to use roasted garlic couscous from a box, you can use bulk or bagged Moroccan (small) couscous without any seasonings. Use about 3/4 cup. Bring 1 1/4 cup chicken broth to a simmer, add the couscous + 1/2 teaspoon salt, stir, cover, and let sit for 5 minutes. Fluff couscous and let cool completely before using.

Romaine: you'll need about 3-4 romaine hearts (like the ones at Costco) or 1-2 large heads of romaine.

Parmesan: I like to use a vegetable peeler and peel off shreds of Parmesan but it can also be freshly grated (use the large holes of a box grater).

Pine Nuts: I use this easy microwave method for toasting the pine nuts for this salad.

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Recipe Source: adapted from Si at A Bountiful Kitchen (halved dressing and changed up ingredients reducing mayo, swapped out a few of the salad ingredients)