Couscous Salad

Please tell me the following scenario is not unique to me: You are at a potluck-type event and you eat something that rocks your food-loving world. Because you arrived late to said potluck (ahem…) you didn’t see who brought the out-of-this-world food that you ate and so you slyly (or not so slyly in my case) walk around quizzing everyone you know about if they brought the salad and if not, WHO DID FOR GOODNESS SAKE? I take my food very seriously and have been known to stalk food-bringers at potlucks for no other reason than to force them to give me a recipe.

This couscous salad is one of those. Tasted at a potluck, I hunted and used my best detective skills to figure out that my friend Sarah (who also gave me the recipe for these divine nachos) brought the salad and I bugged her incessantly until she emailed me the recipe. (Seriously, people should run far, far away from the prospect of being my friend. I’m nuts.)

This salad is amazing. Absolutely amazing. So fresh and light, the couscous is enhanced with zesty lemon, fresh basil, summer-ripe tomatoes and a red wine vinaigrette that marries all the flavors together. The pop of feta cheese in every bite doesn’t hurt matters any either. I loved this upon first tasting and I love it still after having made it countless times. Healthy, light and refreshing, I will admit here and now I will never bring this to a potluck…because I simply want it all to myself.

Couscous Salad

One Year Ago: Linguine with Bacon and Spinach
Two Years Ago: Red Coconut Curry Noodles
Three Years Ago: Deep, Dark Chocolate Brownies

Summer Couscous Salad

Yield: Serves 8

Summer Couscous Salad


  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cups whole wheat couscous, uncooked
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 6 green onions, white and green parts chopped
  • 1/3 cup thinly sliced fresh basil or 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup reduced fat feta cheese


  1. In a medium saucepan, bring the broth to a boil. Stir in the couscous. Cover the pan, remove from the heat and let stand for five minutes. Transfer the couscous to a large bowl and fluff with a fork. Let the couscous cool to room temperature.
  2. In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, whisk together the olive oil, vinegar, red pepper, slat, paprika, and pepper. Set aside.
  3. Add the chopped green onions, basil, tomatoes, lemon zest and feta cheese to the cooled couscous and toss. Pour the vinaigrette over the salad and stir or toss until combined. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Recipe Source: adapted from my friend, Sarah H.

32 Responses to Summer Couscous Salad

  1. Melissa says:

    I know this is an “oldie,” but I’ve just discovered this recipe this summer and I’m hooked! The only change I’ve made is to use fresh mozzarella chunks or pearls in place of the feta. It’s hot tonight, and I didn’t want anything heavy, so I just had it for dinner tonight and added some baby spinach, too! Thanks for such a fantastic recipe!

  2. Anjeanette says:

    This is a huge favorite at our house! I often bring it with grilled chicken to families I am delivering a meal to, or to potlucks. EVERY time I share it with someone, they ALWAYS ask for the recipe!! Thanks for sharing all of your amazing recipes with us!

  3. IG says:

    Mel, love every recipe I’ve tried so far! I was wondering if this can be done the day before serving. Have you tried that? I’m serving at a cookout and would like to do as many things as possible ahead of time.

    • Mel says:

      IG – Yes this could definitely be made ahead but I would wait to stir in the cheese until serving and either reserve some of the dressing or make extra to stir in before serving because the salad may dry out a bit overnight.

  4. Sarah says:

    I made this tonight, with a few small modifications based on what’s growing in my garden: used chopped regular tomatoes instead of cherry tomatoes, and chives instead of green onions. What a fantastic recipe! It came together in no time and didn’t need any additional seasoning, in my opinion (or my husband’s – which is saying a lot as he adds salt to EVERYTHING). Delicious! Thanks for the recipe – this is my first visit to your website but I can’t wait to browse your other recipes.

  5. Melissa C says:

    PS I had to substitute lime for lemon….still delish!

  6. Melissa C says:

    I feel like I’m hitting home runs inside my own house…another great one Mel!!

  7. Deb says:

    Made this yesterday and it was delicious and so simple. I did the sub of red peppers for the tomatoes and I really liked the crunch the peppers brought. I also added about a cup of sweet corn and liked the sweetness it added. Great recipe for summer, can’t wait for the leftovers at lunch this week!

  8. KLL says:

    I will try the queso fresco, thanks!

  9. Mel says:

    Cyndi – you could easily leave out the tomatoes or sub red peppers like another commenter suggested.

    KLL – I think a GREAT sub for people who don’t like feta cheese is queso fresco. It is a Mexican cheese that crumbles just like feta but has a really mild taste. I use it a lot and it is widely available in most grocery stores.

  10. Cyndi L says:

    Just made this and it is absolutely delicious! I used chopped red pepper in place of the tomato because I wanted some color and unfortunately, my family are not tomato eaters. It worked out great! Thanks again, awesome recipe especially in the heat of the summer.

  11. Alicia Quigley says:

    Love it! I’m bring it to the Church BBQ tonight. But I really don’t want to share. A little spice on my lips (I may have had a sample bite or two!) and great all around flavor. I didn’t find whole wheat couscous at my store, used the regular one and no basil. Turned out perfect! Thanks again Mel!

  12. Barbara A. says:

    Cyndi L
    It tastes just fine without tomatoes!

    Try using Monterey Jack cheese as a sub. Or you might give the salad a good dose
    of freshly grated or ribboned Parmesan. Or no cheese at all: this salad is great almost
    any way!

  13. Cyndi L says:

    This looks so amazing I am going to try it tonight. One question though I hate tomatoes, so what should I substitute them with? A note to KLL why not use crumbled goat instead of feta. Thanks Mel for another great recipe!

  14. KLL says:

    Quick question, I HATE feta cheese but it appears in a million recipes I want to try. What is a good cheese to substitute when a recipe calls for feta?
    i think the only cheeses i’m not a fan of are feta and ricotta, and everything calls for them!

  15. Barbara A. says:

    This is definitely a party-sized recipe: I gave a much as I could to friends because mine is a single-person household. Surprisingly, it remained fresh-tasting and looking for a week! After tasting I added more onion (red – didn’t have green) and more lemon juice simply because those flavors rock my boat It’s a real winner … and yes, very similar to tabbouli salad which I also love!

  16. jaesi says:

    couscous! how could you not love the stuff? it has a fantastic name!
    love this variation, must try.

  17. I love couscous – it’s the perfect potluck food since it can be served hot or warm. Confession: I’ve never tried tossing mine in a vinaigrette. Although, next time I make it, I’ll try and remember to do so.

  18. Teresa says:

    I made this today and it is wonderful (I had to try one spoonful!). Bringing it to a POTLUCK burger night at our pool club tonight. Sure it will be a great hit. Thanks for a delicious summer recipe!

  19. Anne says:

    Hi Mel,
    I love your blog. I check in with you every week. I have 4 kids and love your recipes. They actually eat them! I too am a picnic stalker. Here is a recipe I found at a church picnic. It is from . However, Do NOT go to smitten kttem dot com, as the lady told me at first, because that is a TOTALLY different kind of website! We had a good laugh about that! Anyway, here it is:
    If you love tomatoes, it is the best. Also, I made your couscous salad for dinner tonight b/c I had all the ingredients and it looked so cool and yummy. I loved it! Have you ever tried tabouli? A friend of mine from Algeria gave me this recipe.
    Hope you like it. Keep up the good work!
    1/2 c. bulgur wheat (cover with boiling water and let sit for 30 min. Then squeeze water out.)
    1c. diced tomato
    1 lg diced cucumber
    sliced green onion (to taste)
    chopped fresh parsley (to taste)
    1/2 c. chopped fresh mint
    1/3c. lemon juice
    1/3 cup good olive oil (I use a little less.)
    salt and pepper

  20. Susan says:

    I LOVE couscous salad! I make mine similar to this, but add toasted almonds and a few dashes of Madras curry powder for special occasions. YUM!!

  21. Looks perfect for summer! Can’t wait to try it.

  22. Martha P. says:

    Can’t wait to send this recipe to my daughter who has just moved to Arizona – we are talking about temps that are unreal – 112 today! She loves couscous anyway you fix it and especially anything that takes little heat to fix and cool to eat! Sounds like a real winner to take to any get together. Our minister has actually got in the pulpit after a meal and asked who fixed a certain item and requests the recipe be given to ‘his wife’! 🙂 If you get tired of cooking – think you might be a hit at stand-up comic!

  23. Rebecca B says:

    I was invited to a BBQ for this Saturday and we have to bring our “favorite summer salad, side or appetizer”. I was going to take a look at your recipe index, but this came at the perfect time. I usually like to try out a recipe at home before sharing it with other people, but your recipes are so consistent that I feel confident bringing it on Saturday without making it before hand!

  24. Oh, we definitely have the same M.O. I have been known to park myself at the food table (early!) just so I can match people with the dishes they bring. Then after sampling, I’m after the people for recipes for the good stuff. Non sequitur, Happy 10th anniversary! You two look way too young to have 5 young’uns. Where are the wrinkle and worry lines? 🙂 Also, you look way too thin to have had 5 kids AND be a foodie! I want to know your secret!

  25. Jess in ND says:

    Yay, more couscous recipes! I’m making a menu plan for this school year comprised mostly of your recipes. Who am I kidding, they’re ALL your recipes. Anyway, I’ve got teriyaki meatballs with couscous on the plan.

  26. Karen says:

    This type of salad is also yummy with quinoa. I’ve added balsamic and olive oil as it is cooling to absorb more flavor. 🙂

  27. Kim in MD says:

    Oh…I was busy laughing that I forgot to say how delicious this salad looks! I love couscous, and I would have hunted this recipe down, too!

  28. Kim in MD says:

    Ha ha! I have said it before, Mel, but I think we may have been seperated at birth! 😉
    I laughed when I read this post because I do the same thing at BBQ’s and parties! If there is a dish I love, I hunt down the person who brought it to inquire about the recipe. I am such a foodie, and I love collecting recipes from friends and family, people at parties and restaurants. When I make the recipes I collect, I think of the person who shared the recipe or remember the wonderful vacation we were on. That’s what I love about food and cooking! I love that a recipe can take you back to special place and time with loved ones. I think of you often, Mel, because I often find myself making your recipes for dinner! 🙂

  29. StephenC says:

    I’ll be at Whole Foods later today and will get couscous from the bulk bins. Great idea!

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