This vegan couscous salad is a simple dish with tons of fresh and vibrant flavors. Pearled couscous with spinach, fennel, fresh mint and a hint of lemon make the perfect side dish!Jump to Recipe
Why this recipe works
This recipe is:
- Vegan - perfect for vegan diets or just a great way to get in some more vegetables.
- Great for meal prep since it can be served warm or cold.
- Made clean with fresh and healthy ingredients.
Israeli couscous, pearled or pearl couscous, or ptitim is necessary in this side dish recipe. You can use tri-color couscous as pictured above, or single color couscous. Substitution would be a small pasta like orzo for a similar consistency or traditional couscous. Moroccan couscous is similar but a smaller grain.
I love adding chopped spinach to this Israeli couscous recipe because it’s light and fresh. Chopping the spinach allows for the greens to slightly wilt and be more digestible than large spinach leaves. Substitute for kale or arugula - they will have a similar wilting effect.
Fennel has a light licorice taste, and adds a great crunch to salads (that’s why I use it so often, like in my Kale Fennel Fig salad!). Shaving the fennel really thin and then allowing it to sit in the lemon juice reduces the licorice flavor. Substitute for white onion.
See the recipe card below for a full list of ingredients and measurements.
How to cut fennel
Cut fennel by trimming the fennel stems off. Next, cut the bulb in half and place one half to the side - we’ll only use half for this recipe. Remove the core by cutting a wedge or triangle-like shape off the bottom.
Place one half on a cutting board flat side down. Slice the bulb lengthwise in thin shaved strips, almost like you would an onion.
Place shaved fennel in a large bowl with freshly squeezed lemon juice and let sit to the side.
How to cook couscous
Boil 4 cups water in a pot on the stove. Alternatively, you can boil the couscous in vegetable stock or vegetable broth instead of plain water to impart even more flavor, but this is not necessary.
Once at a boil, add pearled couscous. Cook for 7-8 minutes, until pearled couscous is fully cooked.
Drain and rinse with cold water, until fully washed.
Assemble the salad
Add drained and rinsed couscous to the bowl of shaved fennel and lemon juice, add chopped spinach and drizzle extra virgin olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
Toss to combine and then add mint leaves. Toss lightly to combine again.
Serve immediately or cold.
This simple recipe is great on its own or as an easy side dish. If you want to add extra proteins for a complete healthy meal, here are some other options:
- Vegan proteins to add: veggie burger, roasted chickpeas, or meat alternatives like Beyond Meat.
- Non-vegan proteins to add: perfectly cooked salmon, chilean sea bass, or pork tenderloin.
This vegan couscous salad recipe is pretty versatile too! You can sub out or add any extra ingredients to fit your tastes and cravings.
- Roasted vegetables - Add leftover roasted vegetables like broccoli, red pepper, garbanzo beans, or cauliflower to this salad.
- Fresh vegetables - Lots of vegetables would be great in this salad. Try red onion, raw zucchini, red bell pepper, or cherry tomatoes.
- Fresh herbs - Add in green onions or fresh parsley.
- Something crunchy - Want to add some texture? Try adding some toasted pine nuts or pomegranate seeds before eating.
- Feta cheese - Try adding some vegan feta cheese at the end for extra salt!
- Olives - add some fresh chopped kalamata olives right before serving.
Cook the couscous like pasta. I find that cooking the couscous as you would pasta - boiling in a large pot of water - equals the best results. You can also follow the instructions on the label of couscous you purchase.
Rinse with cold water. Whenever I make pearled couscous, I always rinse it under cold water after cooking. This helps keep the couscous from sticking together and being mushy - we definitely don’t want that!
Shave the fennel. Fennel can have a distinct licorice taste that not everyone likes. By shaving the fennel as thinly as possible, it stays in a crunchy texture but reduces the strong taste.
Storage directions: Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 3-5 days.
Reheat directions: This vegan couscous salad can be enjoyed hot or cold! Once removed from the refrigerator, couscous may stick together. I suggest microwaving it for 10-15-seconds, so that salad is easy to serve. To serve warm, microwave for 60-90 seconds.
Frequently Asked Questions
Both Israeli couscous and regular couscous are made from semolina and flour. The traditional method for regular couscous is by hand - sprinkling flour into boiling water. Israeli or pearled couscous is by machine and is much bigger in size.
Couscous does not need to be washed before cooking. Since couscous is a pasta and not a grain, the starch does not need to be rinsed like rice.
Typically I serve ¼ cup of uncooked couscous per person or serving.
More Side Dish Ideas
- Fresh Mexican Avocado Salad
- Healthy Mexican Street Corn (Elotes)
- Vegan Mexican Rice
- Easy Asian Cucumber Salad
- Healthy Greek Roasted Eggplant Dip
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Vegan Couscous Salad
- cutting board
- medium pot
- ½ bulb fennel shaved thinly
- ¼ cup lemon juice
- 1 cup pearled/Israeli couscous
- 4 cups water
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- 1 cup spinach chopped
- ¼ cup mint roughly chopped
Cut fennel by trimming the fennel stems off. Next, cut the bulb in half and place one half to the side - we’ll only use half for this recipe. Remove the core by cutting a wedge or triangle-like shape off the bottom. Place one half on a cutting board flat side down. Slice the bulb lengthwise in thin shaved strips, almost like you would an onion.½ bulb fennel
Place shaved fennel in a large bowl with freshly squeezed lemon juice and let sit to the side.¼ cup lemon juice
Boil 4 cups water in a pot on the stove.4 cups water
Once at a boil, add one cup of couscous. Cook for 7-8 minutes, until pearled couscous is fully cooked.1 cup pearled/Israeli couscous
- Drain and rinse with cold water, until fully washed.
Add drained and rinsed couscous to the bowl of shaved fennel and lemon juice, add chopped spinach and drizzle extra virgin olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.¼ cup extra virgin olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt, 1 cup spinach, ¼ teaspoon pepper
Toss to combine and then add mint leaves. Toss lightly to combine again.¼ cup mint
- Serve immediately or cold.
Ever since she taught herself how to cook, Elise has been making simple recipes with fresh ingredients. She believes the best recipes highlight the ingredients by using the best of cooking techniques. She’s an avid juicer and has juiced each and every fruit and vegetable there is. She also creates savory recipes inspired by what’s available in California. Many of her authentic Mexican recipes are passed down from her from mother in law and is a huge influence on her cooking.