This Mediterranean couscous salad with vegetables is fantastic as a main entree or as a side dish. Moreover, it is the perfect dish year-round, but a fan-favorite during the summer – think summer BBQ! The best part, this Mediterranean couscous salad with vegetables is easy to make, light, healthy, vegetarian-friendly, and absolutely delicious!
I learned how to make Mediterranean couscous during the summer of 2016 with my Italian hosts. We made it for a summer neighborhood BBQ in Brescia and again in the countryside of Tuscany.
Today, I make my Italian-inspired Mediterranean couscous salad for my family and friends all the time. Everyone always loves it and asks how to make it. So, I thought it was finally time to share my Mediterranean couscous salad with vegetables recipe.
Learning How to Make Mediterranean Couscous in Italy
Learning to cook different Italian dishes with my local hosts in Italy remains one of the best experiences of my life. I learned so much from all of my hosts – from risotto to Foccacia, spaghetti carbonara, Mediterranean couscous, and more.
To be honest, I actually never liked couscous until I had Mediterranean couscous during my travels in Italy. Two of my hosts made Mediterranean couscous for us and it was so divine that I quickly changed my opinion. Today, couscous is one of my favorite dishes to make and I absolutely love it!
What truly made Mediterranean couscous special in Italy with my hosts was the ingredients. Of course, they always used the freshest local vegetables, but it was the additional special ingredient that made the couscous sing! Surprisingly, BOTH Italian hosts used this special ingredient that we had never heard of before – Japanese ume plum vinegar. Who would have guessed this Japanese vinegar was so beloved to Italians when they are known for their balsamic vinegar?!?
The Japanese ume plum vinegar adds a flavorful sweetness with a slight tanginess to the Mediterranean couscous. It truly elevates and brightens all of the flavors in the vegetables to make this dish outstanding.
What is Couscous?
There are three different types of couscous in the world – Moroccan, Israeli, and Lebanese. Each type of couscous is made of wheat or barley and formed into tiny balls of pasta. The major difference between the three is its sizes. Moroccan is the smallest (and most popular), Israeli is larger (and referred to as pearl couscous), and Lebanese is the largest couscous.
How to Cook Couscous
Moroccan couscous is VERY easy to cook! It literally takes 5 minutes and you barely have to lift a finger to cook it. One of the most important elements in the cooking process is the ratio. For perfect Moroccan couscous, you need a 1:1 ratio of water to couscous.
First, you add the water to a pot over medium heat with a pinch of salt and olive oil. This is for both flavor and moisture. Once the water comes to a boil, you add the couscous and briefly stir the small pasta. Then you cover the pot and remove it from the heat. Let the pot stand for 5 minutes and voila – the couscous is cooked.
The final important step is to fluff the couscous with a fork which creates a lightness and helps break apart the small pasta. It is that simple!
Mediterranean Couscous Salad with Vegetables Ingredients
Our Italian hosts explained to us that a large number of people immigrated from Northern Africa to Italy. Therefore, the traditional and popular cuisines traveled with them. Hence why Moroccan couscous is a beloved ingredient in the kitchen to many Italians.
The vegetables I chose for this Mediterranean couscous salad are based on the vegetables my Italian hosts frequently used in their own kitchen. You are more than welcome to incorporate or substitute your favorite vegetables of choice.
- Moroccan (instant) couscous
- Olive oil
- Garlic cloves
- White onion
- Red bell pepper
- Orange bell pepper
- Yellow bell pepper
- Sun-dried tomatoes
- Kalamata olives
- Feta cheese
- Fresh mint
- Fresh basil
- Dried oregano
- Japanese plum vinegar
- Salt and pepper
How to Make Mediterranean Couscous Salad with Vegetables
Making Mediterranean couscous salad with vegetables is one of the easiest recipes you can ever make. The only “hard” part is dicing your fresh herbs and vegetables. Moreover, it takes no more than 15 minutes to cook this colorful dish.
After you finish your prep work i.e. dicing all the fresh vegetables and herbs, and measuring the remaining ingredients – it is time to cook! In a large sauté pan, add the olive oil and warm it up over medium heat. Then add your minced garlic and diced onion. Cook this until the onions are translucent.
Add your diced bell peppers and zucchini to the pan and sauté until the vegetables begin to soften but are still firm to the bite. This should take about 5 to 8 minutes. Meanwhile, you can begin cooking the couscous.
In a separate pot, bring the water with salt and olive oil to a boil over medium-high heat. Once the water comes to a boil, add the couscous to the water and stir. Remove the pot from the heat, cover, and let stand for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, fluff the couscous with a fork to break apart the small pieces of pasta. This will also help lighten the couscous.
Once the vegetables are soft, add the sliced sun-dried tomatoes and kalamata olives. Followed by the dried oregano and fresh herbs. Season the vegetable mixture with salt and pepper to taste.
Mix together the remaining olive oil and Japanese plum vinegar. Then add it to the couscous while slowly stirring/fluffing it to allow for even distribution. Add the couscous to the sauté pan of mixed vegetables and carefully toss everything together with two wooden spoons. Lastly, toss the feta cheese into the mixture.
Season to taste with salt and pepper, serve, and enjoy!
- 1 1/2 cups Moroccan (instant) couscous
- 1 1/2 cup water
- 7 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 medium white onion, diced
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 1 orange bell pepper, diced
- 1 yellow bell pepper, diced
- 2 zucchini, (diced without seeds)
- 8 ounces sun-dried tomatoes, patted dry and sliced
- 1 cup kalamata olives, sliced
- 8 ounces feta cheese
- 1 teaspoon fresh mint, chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 3 tablespoons Japanese plum vinegar
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Saute the diced onion and garlic with 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Cook the onions and garlic until the onions become translucent. Then add all the diced bell peppers and zucchini and continue to cook until the vegetables are soft but still have a bite to them (about 5 - 8 minutes). Make sure you stir occasionally to allow for evenly cooking.
- Meanwhile, you can prepare and cook the Moroccan couscous. In a separate pot, bring the water to a boil with a pinch of salt and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. When the water reaches a boil, add the couscous, stir, cover the pot and remove from the heat. Let the couscous stand for 5 minutes. Then fluff the couscous with a fork to lighten and break the small pieces of pasta apart.
- Once the vegetables are finished cooking, add the sliced sun-dried tomatoes and kalamata olives to the pan. Then add the basil, mint, and dried oregano. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Mix together the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil with the Japanese plum vinegar. While stirring the couscous, slowly pour the mixture to allow for even distribution. Add the couscous to the pan of vegetables and carefully toss everything together with two wooden spoons.
- Finally, toss the feta cheese into the mixture. Season to taste, serve, and enjoy!
This dish is perfect as a main entree or side dish. Personally, we like to serve it as a side dish alongside a fillet of salmon, cod, steak, or chicken breast.
Make this recipe your own using your favorite vegetables and ingredients. You can switch up the vegetables and substitute the kalamata olives and sun-dried tomatoes for black olives and cherry tomatoes.
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