30 Minutes or Less Dinner Make Ahead - Heat & Serve Recipes Side Dishes

Healthy Italian Couscous Salad

A wood bowl with couscous and chopped vegetables. A brass spoon and spilled salad lay on the counter.
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Italian Couscous Salad is fluffy couscous mixed with raw vegetables and a light Italian herb dressing that is served room temperature or even cold. It’s healthy, filling and incredibly flavorful. The best part for me? The surprise of sweetness when you get a bite with a golden raisin.

Preparing a salad using couscous rather than pasta has lots of benefits. Couscous has a smaller, granular texture compared to pasta, which means it can absorb dressings and flavors more easily. It’s lighter and fluffier texture can make salads feel fresher and less heavy, making it particularly appealing during warm weather or when serving as a side dish.

Couscous also requires less cooking time compared to pasta. It is ready within 5-10 minutes, while boxed pasta usually takes longer to boil and cook. This makes it a great option for a quick and convenient salad.

About the Ingredients

Couscous – I prefer Rice Select Couscous but any brand is good. Just be sure NOT to buy pearl couscous or Israeli couscous.

Chopped vegetables – zucchini, carrots and red onion.

Chick peas – also known as garbanzo beans. Be sure to drain and rinse your chick peas before adding them to the salad to remove the thick starchy canning water.

Golden raisins

Salad dressing – olive oil, white wine vinegar, Italian Seasoning, sugar and salt.

A close up of the ingredients in Italian couscous salad - couscous, chopped vegetables, chick peas and golden raisins, held on a wood spoon.

How to Make Italian Couscous Salad

Begin by cooking the couscous. Bring 1 cup of water, seasoned with a pinch of salt and a little olive oil, to a boil. Once it is boiling, remove the pot from the heat and stir in the couscous. Cover the pot with a lid and let it stand for 5 minutes.

While the couscous is cooking (aka standing) chop the zucchini, carrots and red onion. And make your salad dressing.

To whisk up the dressing simply combine the dressing ingredients (olive oil, white wine vinegar, Italian Seasoning, sugar and salt) in a small mixing bowl and set it aside.

After the couscous has sat for 5 minutes use a fork to fluff it. You’ll see that it has come together in a patty like form so just break it up a bit. Then mix in the chopped veggies, chick peas, raisins and salad dressing.

You can either cover your salad and refrigerate it until you’re ready to serve it or simply leave it at room temperature if you’re serving it soon.

Recipe Substitutions & Variations

Make It A Main Dish

This Italian Couscous Salad is so hearty and delicious that you might just want to make it your entire meal (especially leftovers for lunch!) Try adding a handful of arugula and some Italian Seasoned Chicken Breast to turn this side salad recipe into a main dish.

Other Mix-ins

Italian Couscous Salad can be made with lots of different mix-ins and still taste great so feel free to experiment and veer off the recipe a little. Try any combination of these ingredients to change up your salad game:

  • slivered almonds
  • chopped cherry tomatoes
  • cucumber
  • sweet peas
  • yellow squash
  • dried cranberries
  • bell pepper
  • artichoke hearts
Couscous in a wood bowl with chopped zucchini, carrots, red onion, chick peas and golden raisins.

Make Ahead Instructions

The absolute best part about Italian Couscous Salad is that it isn’t served hot. You can make this salad completely ahead of time and no one would ever know the difference. Serve it at room temperature or cold straight from the refrigerator.

To make Italian Couscous Salad ahead of time simply follow the recipe as written and refrigerate it until you’re ready to serve it!

FAQ’s and Recipe Tips

What can I put in couscous to make it taste better?

When cooking couscous add salt and either olive oil or butter to the boiling water. This will give your couscous a nice flavor base.

Is couscous a rice or a pasta?

Neither – couscous is made of durum wheat so it is most similar to pasta but unlike pasta couscous is made of crushed and rolled wheat rather than ground.

Is couscous healthy?

It is less refined than pasta and it contains more protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals and rice making it a healthier option than both.

A yellow cast iron bowl hold couscous mixed with vegetables, chick peas and golden raisins. A wood spoon holds a scoop of salad.

The Recipe for Italian Couscous Salad

The recipe is attached below for easy downloading and printing.  If you test it out be sure to leave a note in the comments below. I’d love to hear what you thought. Serve your Italian Couscous Salad with Italian Seasoned Chicken Breast and arugula to make it an entrée. Enjoy!

Overhead view of a pot of couscous salad with chopped vegetables, chick peas and golden raisins. The pot sits on a neutral patterned dish towel.

Italian Couscous Salad

A healthy veggie heavy salad bursting with fresh flavors. Prep this salad in just 15 minutes and then serve it at room temperature or cold for an easy summer side dish.
Prep Time 15 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Course Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine American, Italian, Middle Eastern
Servings 8 servings
Calories 198 kcal


For the couscous

  • 1 cup couscous
  • 1 cup water
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp olive oil

For the salad

  • 1 zucchini chopped
  • 2 carrots peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 red onion diced
  • 15 oz canned chick peas drained and rinsed
  • 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds

For the dressing

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp Italian seasoning
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar


  • Bring 1 cup water to a boil. Add a pinch of salt and 1 tsp olive oil. Turn off the heat and pour in 1 cup couscous. Give the water a stir and placed the lid on the pot. Let the couscous stand for five minutes.
    1 cup couscous, 1 cup water, pinch of salt, 1 tsp olive oil
  • While the couscous is sitting in the pot chop 1 zucchini, 2 carrots, and 1/2 red onion.
    1 zucchini, 2 carrots, 1/2 red onion
  • Using a Wooden spoon, fluff the couscous.
  • Stir in the chopped vegetables, 1/4 cup golden raisins, 1/2 cup sliced almonds and 15 oz canned chick peas.
    15 oz canned chick peas, 1/4 cup golden raisins
  • Whisk together 3 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp white wine vinegar, 2 tsp Italian seasoning, 1 tsp salt, and 1 tsp sugar in a small bowl. Pour dressing over salad and toss.
    3 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp white wine vinegar, 2 tsp Italian seasoning, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp sugar
  • Serve at room temperature or cold.


To turn this salad into an entrée try adding some arugula and top it off with grilled chicken. 
Keyword make ahead, salad, Vegetable, Vegetarian

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