White Bean Couscous Salad
This stunning White Bean Couscous Salad has wonderful flavors and textures with turmeric, white beans, pine nuts, cherry tomatoes and fresh basil, all tossed in a simple lemon vinaigrette. It’s an easy side dish or vegetarian main that’s fresh, colorful and always gets rave reviews!
Just made this couscous salad for the first time tonight, and it is awesome! I followed the recipe exactly. My husband said to bookmark this one, it’s a keeper.— Jan
We love a good pasta salad, and this White Bean Couscous Salad is no exception. It’s perfect for making ahead of time and bringing to potlucks or BBQs. It’s such a crowd-pleasing dish, loaded with flavor and freshness.
Over the years, we’ve enjoyed this couscous recipe, time and time again. It’s really easy, fairly quick and pairs well with a variety of different meals from fish to chicken. For my vegan and vegetarian friends… it also works great served with veggies or pita bread as the main course.
Why you should make this recipe
- Packed with flavor. This couscous salad is loaded with bold flavors and is so tasty. You are sure to love it!
- Great for meal prep. This dish is great enjoyed cold or at room temperature, making it an ideal choice for packed lunches all week long. And the flavors get even better over time!
- Healthy & balanced. With veggies, plant-based protein, and a light vinaigrette, this is plenty satisfying and can be enjoyed guilt-free!
Here’s the lineup of simple, nutritious ingredients you’ll need, to make this couscous salad recipe:
- Couscous. Feel free to use whole-wheat or regular couscous, which is usually found near the rice and grains at your grocery store.
- Turmeric. Adds beautiful golden color and bold flavor to the couscous.
- Pine nuts. To elevate the dish with a lovely crunch and delicious flavor.
- White beans. The recipe calls for Great Northern white beans, but feel free to use cannellini beans, chickpeas or navy beans.
- Cherry tomatoes. While any tomatoes will work, we love the sweetness and juiciness of cherry tomatoes or grape tomatoes, especially when garden-fresh! Quarter large cherry tomatoes or halve smaller ones.
- Basil. Feel free to use dried or fresh basil. We love fresh because it adds a little something special to the salad and increases the flavor profile.
- For the salad dressing. The perfect finishing touch and easy to make with garlic, lemon juice, salt, pepper and olive oil. Add a little lemon zest for an even more intense lemon taste.
How to make this recipe
This couscous salad recipe has a few different components, but overall it’s a breeze to throw together. Here’s the easy method:
- Cook couscous. Place the couscous and turmeric in a large bowl or saucepan and boil 2 cups of water. Pour on the boiling water, stir, and immediately cover the bowl with a lid or large plate. Allow couscous to sit for 10 minutes. Remove the lid and fluff the couscous with a fork. Let cool.
- Toast pine nuts and garlic. Meanwhile, over medium heat, toast the pine nuts and unpeeled garlic cloves in a small skillet for about 5 mins. Toss often and carefully watch because they burn quickly.
- Mix salad ingredients. After the pine nuts have cooled, mix them into the couscous along with the beans, tomatoes, and basil.
- Make the dressing. Peel and mince the garlic and add it, plus all other dressing ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake. Alternatively, whisk the ingredients together in a small bowl. Pour the dressing over the couscous mixture and toss well.
- Serve. For maximum flavor, we recommend letting the salad sit and marinate with the dressing for at least 30 minutes before serving. Enjoy at room temperature or chilled.
- Israeli Couscous (or often called pearl couscous) is not the same as the very small Moroccan couscous. It is a bit larger in size. Although, I haven’t tried it, I think it would work as a substitute for the smaller couscous in this recipe. Quinoa or orzo pasta may work as well.
- Toast the pine nuts carefully. Toast the pine nuts until just when they start to become fragrant, so that you don’t burn them. They cook quickly! It’s best to do this over medium-low heat.
- Olive oil. Use a light tasting olive oil as some extra virgin olive oils can have a bitter taste. Also, once the salad is prepared with dressing, taste and then add salt and pepper, as desired.
- Make ahead. This is delicious when eaten straight away, but it’s even better after the flavors marry and mingle. If you have the time, let the salad sit for at least 30 minutes to 1 hour. If you are planning to make it a day or two ahead of time, keep the tomatoes and pine nuts separate until you’re ready to serve. This way they will remain crisp.
Frequently asked questions
Couscous is a unique and tasty way to enjoy pasta! Contrary to popular belief, it is not a grain or a seed; it’s a form of pasta made from a dry mixture of semolina flour and water that’s rolled in very tiny irregular pieces. Because the pieces are so small, they cook quickly.
There are many different ways to incorporate couscous into a salad. This particular salad recipe is made with a combination of turmeric-seasoned couscous, tomatoes, white beans, pine nuts, basil and a lemon garlic vinaigrette.
According to Live Eat Learn, quinoa is the healthier choice because it is packed with proteins, fiber, and loads of micronutrients. However, for lower calories, couscous wins. One cup of prepared couscous has 176 calories, compared to 216 calories in brown rice and 222 in quinoa. See the nutritional information in the recipe card for a nutritional breakdown of this specific recipe.
No, according to Beyond Celiac, despite its rice-like appearance, couscous is made from semolina, which is a granule of durum wheat. Therefore, it is not gluten-free.
While we love this as-is, it’s a very easy salad to customize to your taste preferences and/or ingredients that you have available. Here’s some options:
- Cheese. Try adding in about 1/2 to 1 cup cheese. Feta cheese, shaved parmesan or goat cheese would all be delicious.
- Herbs. Feel free to substitute the basil with other types of fresh herbs such as dill, fresh mint, parsley or chives.
- Nuts. Instead of pine nuts, try slivered almonds or chopped walnuts.
- Other add-ins. Kalamata olives, cucumber, red bell pepper, red onion or other favorite vegetables would all be delicious.
This is great served as a vegan main course with pita bread, but its also wonderful as a side and there are so many options when it comes to pairing this dish! Here are some of our favorite ideas:
- Steak, Pork Chops
- Chicken. Baked Chicken, Grilled Chicken, Rotisserie Chicken
- Fish. Grilled Salmon, Salmon Patties, Parmesan Baked Cod or Salmon Croquettes
Store leftovers in a covered bowl or airtight container, in the fridge, for up to 4 days. We do not recommend freezing this recipe.
If you try this recipe, let me know! Leave a comment and if your family loves it as much as mine does, be sure to give it a five star ⭐️ rating! Also, tag @kimscravings on Instagram with a picture of your creation. Be sure to subscribe to our mailing list to receive more healthy delicious recipes straight to your inbox.
White Bean Couscous Salad
- 1½ cups couscous
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 2 cups boiling water
- 1/2 cup pine nuts
- 1 (15 oz) can white beans, such as Great Northern, rinsed and drained
- 1 pint (about 2 cups) cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
- 1 tsp dried basil or 3/4 cup fresh basil, shredded
For the dressing:
- 3 garlic cloves, unpeeled
- 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice, about 1 large lemon
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- ground pepper, be generous
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil*
- Place the couscous and turmeric in a large bowl and pour on the boiling water, stir, and immediately cover the bowl with a lid or large plate. Allow couscous to sit for 10 minutes. Remove the lid and fluff the couscous with a fork. Let cool.
- Meanwhile, over medium heat, toast the pine nuts and unpeeled garlic cloves in a small skillet for about 5 mins. Toss often and carefully watch because they burn easily. After the pine nuts have cooled, mix them into the couscous along with the beans, tomatoes, and basil.
- For the dressing: Peel and mince the garlic and add it, plus all other dressing ingredients in a jar with a tight-fitting lid and shake. Pour the dressing over the couscous mixture and toss well. Let couscous sit with dressing for at least 30 minutes before serving. Serve at room temperature or chilled.