Israeli Couscous

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Toasted pearl couscous with pistachios and pine nuts, chewy raisins, a hint of cinnamon, and a squeeze of lemon combine in this incredibly flavorful Israeli Couscous dish.

Perfect as a side dish or an easy lunch all on its own, this is one couscous recipe you need to try straight away.

Israeli Couscous

Israeli Couscous

Over a year ago, my sister, Jenny, told me that she had a dish she wanted to make for me and described this Israeli Couscous. I’ve looked forward to trying it ever since the first time she mentioned it.

This past month, we finally had the chance to make this recipe together. Served with Pan Fried Chicken Thighs, this is a meal that is as perfect as it can possibly be.

Savory pine nuts and pistachios coupled with sweet raisins and flavorful mediterranean herbs and spices make Israeli Couscous recipe stand out. It’s so much better than just about any other couscous recipe I’ve tried.

I loved this couscous so much, I hid the leftovers in the back of the fridge and helped myself to them frequently over the next couple days.

This is a wonderfully easy side dish that is substantial enough to stand alone for a meal. Israeli Couscous keeps fabulously in the refrigerator and I can see myself making future batches to eat for my lunches all week long.

What is Couscous?

Couscous looks and cooks very similar to grains like rice and barley but it’s actually pasta! If you’ve only ever had traditional couscous, the itty bitty pieces that have a powdery texture, you might be surprised by Pearl Couscous.

This type of couscous (also called Israeli Couscous) is little round balls of pasta. Pearl Couscous are slightly chewy, a little bit nutty, have a satisfying bite, and taste absolutely nothing like traditional couscous.

Couscous is popular in mediterranean cooking but it’s also a way to shake things up if you’re tired of the usual rice and pasta side dishes. It goes so well in salads and stir-fries and is super easy to cook.

I am head over heels in love with this dish and I can’t encourage you enough to try it for yourself.

Israeli Couscous (aka pearl couscous) is technically a pasta!

How to Cook Couscous

Couscous gets much of its flavor by toasting it in oil or butter in a pan prior to cooking it water or broth. In this recipe, the dried couscous is added to a pan with melted butter along with chopped onions and a cinnamon stick that adds such a nice level of flavor.

Once brown and toasty, I add chicken broth to the couscous and simmer it all until the couscous is perfectly tender. Your couscous will be ready to enjoy in less than 10 minutes making it the ideal side dish for busy nights.

Couscous stores well in an airtight container in the fridge and freezes well too.

Israeli Couscous Recipe

Once you make this Israeli Couscous recipe you might find yourself wanting to make Pearl Couscous over and over again, eating it just as it is or enjoying it in Summer Israeli Couscous Salad (one of my favorite lunches). Check out this Easy Tomato Cucumber Couscous from She Wears Many Hats for another super simple and quick way to enjoy couscous.

Israeli Couscous Recipe

Kitchen Tip: I use this skillet to make this recipe.

Cooking tip: Use caution when salting the final dish. Most store-bought chicken broth will provide enough salt that you won’t need to add much salt at all. If you are using homemade chicken broth, be sure to use enough salt to bring out the flavors.

Barberries are a Middle Eastern dried fruit. They are very tart and you need to rehydrate them prior to adding them to the dish. They aren’t required, but they do add a distinct flavor to the dish. It is definitely worth the effort of locating them if possible.

I’m linking to them here, but you can also find them at most markets that sell Middle Eastern foods. (If you are using barberries, place them in the bottom of a coffee mug or heatproof cup and cover with boiling hot water. Let them sit for 15 minutes and rinse the barberries before adding them to the dish.)

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Israeli Couscous

4.8 from 5 votes
Recipe adapted from and with thanks to Trader Joe’s
Pin Print Review
Prep Time: 6 mins
Cook Time: 12 mins
Total Time: 18 mins
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Indian
Servings: 6 servings

Ingredients 

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 1/4 cup pistachios
  • Optional: 1/8 cup barberries
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1/2 large onion very thinly sliced
  • 2 cups pearl couscous
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 1/2 cup Italian parsley
  • zest of 1 small lemon
  • 1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt adjust to taste

Instructions

  • Warm the oil in a large deep skillet over medium high heat. Add the pine nuts and pistachios to the skillet. Saute until toasted and fragrant. Remove from the skillet to a plate or small dish. Melt the butter in the skillet and then add the onion, couscous, and cinnamon stick. Cook, while stirring frequently, until browned.
  • Add the chicken broth, bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Simmer until the couscous is tender, about 6 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add the barberries, raisins, toasted nuts, parsley, and lemon zest. Stir to combine. Taste and salt as needed. Enjoy!

Notes

Use caution when salting the final dish. Most store-bought chicken broth will provide enough salt that you won’t need to add much salt at all. If you are using homemade chicken broth, be sure to use enough salt to bring out the flavors. Barberries are a Middle Eastern dried fruit. They are very tart and you need to rehydrate them prior to adding them to the dish. They aren’t required, but they do add a distinct flavor to the dish. It is definitely worth the effort of locating them if possible. I’m linking to them here, but you can also find them at most markets that sell Middle Eastern foods. (If you are using barberries, place them in the bottom of a coffee mug or heatproof cup and cover with boiling hot water. Let them sit for 15 minutes and rinse the barberries before adding them to the dish.)

Nutrition

Calories: 363kcal · Carbohydrates: 53g · Protein: 10g · Fat: 13g · Saturated Fat: 3g · Cholesterol: 10mg · Sodium: 690mg · Potassium: 322mg · Fiber: 4g · Sugar: 1g · Vitamin A: 138IU · Vitamin C: 8mg · Calcium: 35mg · Iron: 2mg
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{originally published 1/8/15 – recipe notes and photos updated 3/6/18}

Israeli couscous is a side dish that will have you coming back for more!

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Mary Younkin

Mary Younkin

Hi, I’m Mary. I’m the author, cook, photographer, and travel lover behind the scenes here at Barefeet In The Kitchen. I'm also the author of three cookbooks dedicated to making cooking from scratch as simple as possible.

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  1. Abbey Campbell says

    I just made this to go with some steak and chicken. The salad is really yummy! I added in 3 cardamom pods with the cinnamon., i also added the juice of the lemon, and that just brightened up the whole dish.5 stars

  2. Kelly says

    Pretty tasty recipe- might make it full vegetarian next time by using veg bouillon instead of chicken. No barberries where I am, so I used dried cranberries instead- worked great! I did need to add quite a bit of salt and pepper at the end- my pistachios were unsalted though so maybe that had a bit to do with it? I also added a splash of lime juice to brighten it a bit- seemed to really bring it up a little. Shaved some fresh parmesan over the top before serving- really nice. Even carnivores seemed to like it! I’ll make this one again.4 stars

  3. Albert from New Zealand says

    Excellent dish rich in texture and flavour. Made this recipe several times, and at times modified it by adding additional vegetables to it: chopped cherry tomatoes, cucumber, courgettes, baby spinach, etc. Thank you for sharing this recipe.5 stars

  4. Judy Combs says

    This was delicious! Served with shish kebabs and it was a great complement. Simple, light, flavorful.5 stars