Simple Israeli Couscous Recipe with Pesto (Greek Summer Salad)

Quick & easy; ready in under 30-minutes! Israeli couscous salad recipe with flavorful pesto is a delicious Greek side or add a protein & it’s the BEST main dish!

A Israeli couscous salad recipe with pesto in a white bowl with a silver spoon.

It’s fall. Life just got busier. Need dinner fast? This Israeli Couscous Salad Recipe is ready in under 30 minutes.

Okay, you’re right. It’s actually not a recipe. It’s more meal assembly.

I’d like to suggest the perfect strategy for filling the dinner gaps that may arise within a busy week.

Why I Love This Recipe

For me, couscous salad is a tasty and satisfying recipe to have in your back pocket repertoire.

It is easy and fast (less than 30 minutes), with more food assembly than cooking.

It can be made with many pantry and fridge store-bought items.

Start with a few prepared items, then add some fresh, healthy additions to make it your own. This makes it an excellent base for a variety of family dinners.

It’s also a lovely addition to a menu if you are hosting the next girl’s lunch, book club, baby shower, or birthday celebration.

This easy recipe is sophisticated enough and looks fancier than it is. People may think you fussed. 😁

You can also make most of it from scratch. It’s your choice, depending on how crazy busy you are at the moment. Skip the premade version and make my holy grail, tasty pesto recipe.


Here’s what you’ll need to make the recipe.

The Basic Couscous Salad

Israeli Couscous
Pesto, storebought or homemade pesto
Olive Oil or Avocado Oil
Kalamata Olives
Feta Cheese
Fresh Basil
Salt & Ground Pepper

Optional Add-Ins

Grape tomatoes
English Cucumber
Bell pepper
White Beans
Pine Nuts


You can make simple changes to alter this recipe. It is also easy to increase the nutritional value or make it work for a special or restrictive diet. Take these steps below.

Size of Couscous

Pearl couscous is the larger version of Moroccan couscous. You could also substitute pearl with, the smaller and more delicate, Israeli couscous.

If you are celiac, keep in mind couscous is not gluten-free.

Other Pastas

You can also substitute couscous with small-sized pasta, such as small ring or shell shapes, acini di pepe, orzo, or pastina.

Dairy-free Ideas

Basil Pesto is made with basil, pine nuts, garlic, olive oil, and lots of Parmesan cheese, so that version is not for vegans.

But don’t despair. It is easy to make a dairy-free version and still delicious.

Just add a squeeze of lemon instead of cheese. The juice complements the flavors and adds brightness to the sauce that you will love.

There are also many prepared vegan jarred basil pesto sauces available.

Look for options at stores that carry specialty foods, such as Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, Super Target, Byerly’s/Lund’s, Publix, Kroger, and Albertsons.

Gluten-Free Option

If you need a gluten-free option, substitute the couscous for a safer choice. You can use cauliflower rice, regular rice, brown rice, or quinoa.

Add Vegetables

Here is a handful of healthy fat and delicious veggie ideas to add to this dish.

Artichoke Hearts
Grape Tomatoes
English Cucumbers
Bell peppers
White Beans


Is couscous a grain or a pasta?

Couscous is a food often mistaken for grain, but it is actually a form of pasta. It is made from crushed and steamed wheat. The small, granular pieces of couscous are created by rolling moistened wheat flour and then coating it with refined wheat flour. Despite its grain-like appearance, couscous is a member of the pasta category. There are two kinds of couscous: pearl, which is larger, and regular couscous.

What does couscous taste like?

Couscous has a slightly nutty, neutral taste, making it a versatile ingredient for many dishes. Since couscous absorbs the flavors of the dish it is cooked with, it quickly takes on the tastes of the accompanying seasoning, spice, or sauce.

What can I add to couscous to make it less dry?

Adding wet ingredients will improve the moisture content and help make couscous less dry and more flavorful. Consider adding vegetable or chicken broth or water. Additionally, olive or avocado oil, butter, or a vinaigrette can add richness and prevent dryness.

What to Serve with Couscous

Below are ideas of what you can pair with your couscous pesto salad.

Protein Ideas

If you prefer to have protein with every meal, you are in luck, tofu, most meats, and seafood pair well with this couscous recipe.

Choose from your favorites, such as, chicken, salmon, tofu, shrimp, beef, Moroccan lamb skewers, meatballs, etc. Then serve alongside your salad, chop it up, and fold it into the bowl.

If you are tight on time, buy a rotisserie chicken or prepared meat to cut up and toss in! Easy and yummy, too.

Other Sides

If you serve the salad as the main dish, you could pair it with Moroccan bread, such as khobz, pita bread, or a good crusty baguette.

To add something heartier, consider roasted vegetables, a sweet potato, vegetable, or chicken soup.


And finally, here is the no-recipe, recipe!

Love this Israeli Couscous Salad Recipe? Leave a 5-star 🌟🌟🌟🌟🌟 rating & a review in the comments section further down the page. I love hearing from you!

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A Pesto Couscous Salad Recipe in a white bowl with a serving spoon.

Israeli Couscous Salad

  • Author: Cindy Munson
  • Total Time: 40 minutes
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x


Delicious and ready in under 30-minutes! A quick and easy side dish. Or add a protein, such as chicken, tofu, or shrimp and this salad is the BEST lickety-split main dish! Enjoy!




1 box couscous

1 jar pesto, storebought or homemade pesto

2 tablespoons olive or avocado oil

1/21 jar kalamata olives, rinsed, halved lengthwise

salt, to taste, I use 1/2 tsp

freshly ground pepper, to taste

feta cheese, to taste

1 bunch fresh basil, sliced

Optional Add-Ins






grape tomatoes, halved

English cucumber, chopped

bell pepper, diced

white beans


pine nuts


Prepare the dry couscous in boiling water, according to the directions on the package. Cook; stir occasionally; until al dente, about 10 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water.

Meanwhile, make a homemade pesto recipe or use prepared pesto. Chop or slice any add-ins you are planning to use.

Combine rinsed couscous, pesto, oil, basil, and olives in a large bowl. Fold in any optional add-ins. Season with salt and pepper. (Olives are salty, so be sure to taste as you salt.) Mix gently. Garnish with feta and basil. Serve immediately.

The salad can also be made ahead and refrigerated. If chilled, I like to spray or drizzle Avocado oil on the top and gently fold in to “refresh” and moisten it.


Couscous. Israeli couscous can be trickier to achieve the desired firmness than pasta. The liquid amounts of most brands I have tried have yet to suggest enough liquid. You may need to pay closer attention while cooking couscous than pasta and might want to adjust liquid amounts. Follow the directions on the package, but adjust if necessary. I typically use a 1 2/3 cups liquid or broth to 1 cup couscous ratio.

Storing. Couscous salad is best made fresh but holds up well for 2 days. You can also improve the moisture level by adding more pesto. If you are making it ahead, simply keep the pesto dressing separate from the couscous.

Serves 4 as a meal or 6 – 8 as a side.

  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Category: Salad
  • Method: Boiling
  • Cuisine: Greek

Keywords: Israeli couscous, couscous, salad, salad recipe, pesto, feta cheese, basil, capers

Recipe Card powered byTasty Recipes

Nutrition Label. The nutritional values listed are an approximation based on the ingredients in the recipe card. Actual amounts may vary.

A Israeli couscous salad recipe with pesto in a white bowl.

Give this yummy Pesto Couscous Salad Recipe a try next time you are in a hurry!

If you love it, thanks so much for rating the recipe in the comments below. 😃 Be sure to subscribe or follow me on social media for more inspiration!


Nutrition. Any statements regarding dietary information are to be used at your discretion and should not be used to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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2 comments on “Simple Israeli Couscous Recipe with Pesto (Greek Summer Salad)

    1. Thank you, Nancy! Yes, yes, it was I, the hostess. Dang. And now you know my secret shortcut. 😂🤦‍♀️ Glad you gals enjoyed it!

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