20 Couscous Recipe Ideas That Are Easy, Comforting and Unexpected

You’re mostly familiar with the boxed instant kind (the five-minute one is a savior), but the truth is that couscous is just as easy to prepare from scratch, and it can complement just about any main. Whether you stuff it in a whole chicken, throw it on a salad or swap it in for rice, these tiny granules of semolina-based deliciousness are always an easy win. Read on for 20 couscous recipe ideas that won’t disappoint.

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1. 15-Minute Mediterranean Couscous

  • Time Commitment: 15 minutes
  • Why We Love It: <30 minutes, beginner-friendly, high protein

Whoever said cooking was hard never tried this lightning-fast recipe. The fussiest part is boiling the couscous; the rest is just tossing it with tomatoes and pantry staples.

2. Moroccan Couscous-Stuffed Cornish Hens

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour
  • Why We Love It: high protein, special occasion-worthy

Serve this at your next dinner party and you'll become the hostess with the mostest in an instant. The stuffing is dappled with dried apricots and slivered almonds for texture.

3. Sheet Pan Honey Tahini Salmon with Chickpeas and Couscous

  • Time Commitment: 25 minutes
  • Why We Love It: <30 minutes, crowd-pleaser, sheet pan recipe, high protein

Forget waiting for a pot of water to boil to make the couscous. It cooks right on the sheet pan alongside the salmon in chicken stock instead.

4. Vegetable Tagine with Fluffy Couscous

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, vegetarian, beginner-friendly

You can really use any veggie you'd like, whether you're feeling carrots, eggplant, zucchini or winter squash. Follow Jamie Oliver's lead and crown your plate with a dollop of yogurt and a drizzle of harissa.

5. Pearl Couscous with Chickpeas, Eggplant and Peaches

  • Time Commitment: 35 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, special occasion-worthy, vegan

You won't believe how creamy this dish actually is, courtesy of nutty tahini, fresh lemon juice and olive oil. Substitute apricots, plums or cherries for peaches if you'd prefer.

6. Grilled Pesto Chicken Couscous Bowls

  • Time Commitment: 55 minutes
  • Why We Love It: high protein, beginner-friendly, make ahead

And just like that, you're the most envied coworker in the break room. Wait until you tell them you made the spinach-arugula pesto from scratch.

7. Spicy Couscous with Yogurt

  • Time Commitment: 45 minutes
  • Why We Love It: <10 ingredients, beginner-friendly, vegetarian

Earthy whole-wheat couscous + spicy harissa + tangy yogurt = the most delicious side of all time. You *could* add a protein...but we think this dish is satisfying enough to be eaten as is.

8. Salmon and Fennel Dinner Salad

  • Time Commitment: 55 minutes
  • Why We Love It: high protein, beginner-friendly, special occasion-worthy

Complete with tender pearl couscous and herby yogurt-lime dressing. Everyone will appreciate the juicy bursts of sweetness from the strawberries, too.

9. Lemony Couscous Salad with Hummus Dressing

  • Time Commitment: 30 minutes
  • Why We Love It: beginner-friendly, special occasion-worthy, vegan

We're psyched about the roasted cauliflower, toasted pie nuts, comforting couscous and fresh herbs, but the lemon-hummus drizzle really seals the deal for us. Pair it with beef kofta or chicken tagine.

10. Julia Turshen’s Stewed Chickpeas with Peppers and Zucchini

  • Time Commitment: 50 minutes
  • Why We Love It: vegetarian, beginner-friendly, one pot

Couscous is the perfect base for soaking up all the veggies' natural juices, but quinoa, rice or pasta will work in a pinch. Just don't be shy with the herbed lemon-mayo sauce on top.

11. Ina Garten’s Creamy Chicken Thighs with Lemon and Thyme

  • Time Commitment: 1 hour and 25 minutes
  • Why We Love It: special occasion-worthy, high protein

If the Queen of Chambray tells us to serve dinner atop a bed of couscous, you best believe we'll follow through. (After all, you won't want to waste a single drop of the tangy, oniony wine sauce.)

12. Melon Couscous Salad with Avocado, Grapes and Mint

  • Time Commitment: 20 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, make ahead, beginner-friendly, vegan

This is what we really mean by "eat your greens." The produce is tossed in a ginger-mustard dressing, but we're betting crumbled feta cheese would take it over the top.

13. The Best Chicken Soup

  • Time Commitment: 55 minutes
  • Why We Love It: kid-friendly, crowd-pleaser, beginner-friendly

Noodles are nostalgic, but they're not exactly exciting. This version of chicken soup puts tender couscous in their place, along with anti-inflammatory ginger, turmeric and garlic.

14. Summer Arugula Salad with Basil Vinaigrette

  • Time Commitment: 15 minutes
  • Why We Love It: <30 minutes, <10 ingredients, vegetarian

Bye, kale Caesar. You can sit this one out, in favor of a dish that serves as a great way to show off your farmers market tomatoes and corn. (Did we mention it also contains white cheddar cheese?)

15. Butternut Beef Stew with Pearl Couscous

  • Time Commitment: 6 hours
  • Why We Love It: one pot, crowd-pleaser, high protein

Eat your heart out, Campbell’s. This cozy masterpiece is made with butternut squash, nutmeg and pumpkin beer, so it's prime for a chilly fall evening.

16. Spicy Couscous with Shrimp and Chorizo

  • Time Commitment: 25 minutes
  • Why We Love It: high protein, beginner-friendly, <30 minutes

We like to think of this as a super simplified spin on paella. The recipe calls for Spanish chorizo, but you can substitute Mexican ground chorizo if you'd prefer.

17. Chickpea Couscous Salad

  • Time Commitment: 15 minutes
  • Why We Love It: <30 minutes, beginner-friendly, make ahead

Warning: If you bring this to a picnic or potluck once the weather warms up, you'll be expected to make it for every event that follows, too. It's bright and summery, thanks to a zingy lemon vinaigrette.

18. Whole Roasted Branzino with Herbed Israeli Couscous

  • Time Commitment: 50 minutes
  • Why We Love It: special occasion-worthy, high protein, beginner-friendly

Behold: the most impressive dinner for two you'll ever make. Ask your grocery store's fishmonger to scale and clean the branzino for you to minimize the fuss once you bring it home.

19. Jeweled Couscous with Pomegranate and Lentils

  • Time Commitment: 55 minutes
  • Why We Love It: vegan, beginner-friendly, make ahead

This dish is served in Persia and parts of the Mediterranean to celebrate big occasions. There are many ways to prepare it, but this version features baby bella mushrooms, golden raisins, pomegranate arils and fresh herbs.

20. Simple Couscous

  • Time Commitment: 15 minutes
  • Why We Love It: crowd-pleaser, beginner-friendly, make ahead, <30 minutes

If you can't decide on a fancy dish, go back to basics with this lemon-herb take on couscous. Nuts and dried fruit spruce it up without adding any extra work to your plate.

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Taryn Pire is PureWow’s associate food editor. A former bartender and barista, she’s been writing about all things delicious since 2016, developing recipes, reviewing restaurants and investigating food trends at Food52, New Jersey Family Magazine and Taste Talks. When she isn’t testing TikTok’s latest viral recipe, she’s having popcorn for dinner and posting about it on Instagram @cookingwithpire.

Taryn Pire

Food Editor

Taryn Pire is PureWow’s food editor and has been writing about all things delicious since 2016. She’s developed recipes, reviewed restaurants and investigated food trends at...
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