Meet my favorite couscous salad, featuring Israeli couscous and colorful summertime produce. This Mediterranean-style salad is light, refreshing, and overflowing with colorful rounds of thinly sliced raw zucchini and yellow squash. That’s right, raw squash! It’s so good.
This salad is a simple, light summer dish full of vegetables, whole grains, chickpeas and feta. I came up with this recipe six years ago for Free People’s blog, and it’s become one of my mom’s go-to potluck dishes. So, I thought I’d update it to meet my current standards.
This salad is just the kind of meal I’m craving during this hot summer weather, and it would be perfect for your Fourth of July parties. If you’re looking for more Independence Day recipes, I’ve got you covered. I’ve listed a few of my other favorite salads below, too!
Squash Preparation Tips
Here’s the thing. Raw squash is quite tasty, totally underutilized, and a nice alternative to cucumber. The trick for this recipe is to slice the squash into very thin rounds, so it offers a tender, lightly crisp texture.
There are a few different ways to accomplish this, starting with the easiest:
- With a mandoline: Mandolines (affiliate link) are sharp contraptions that help you make quick, uniform slices. Please be careful and don’t let your fingers get too close to the blade.
- With a vegetable peeler: Once you have sliced off the tip of the squash, you can hook the center of the peeler on the outer edge of the squash and pull it across. This might take some trial and error at first. It works especially well on skinny squash (thinner than the peeler is wide).
- With a sharp chef’s knife: Simply slice across the squash making your slices as thin and even as possible.
Couscous & Pasta Options
I designed this recipe for pearled (Israeli) couscous, which is basically a small round pasta shape. I prefer to use whole grain couscous, since the regular kind seems to spike my blood sugar levels.
Unfortunately, whole wheat pearled couscous has become harder to find. You might get lucky and find it in your grocery store, or you might want to order it from Amazon like I did.
If you can’t find pearled couscous, I would opt for a different small pasta shape instead of regular (more fine) couscous. Small shells, fusilli and farfalle will all work!
Looking for more fresh summertime salads? Here are a few of my favorites:
- Heirloom Caprese Salad
- Strawberry, Basil and Goat Cheese Salad with Balsamic Drizzle
- Fattoush Salad with Mint Dressing
- Garden-Fresh Corn Salad
- Colorful Strawberry Arugula Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette
Hope your holidays is full of laughs, smiles and good food. Please let me know how you like this salad in the comments!
Mediterranean Couscous Salad
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 15 minutes
- Total Time: 35 minutes
- Yield: 6 servings 1x
- Category: Salad
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Mediterranean
This couscous salad with raw squash and bold Mediterranean flavors is a simple summer side dish. Pack up a bowlful for a weekday lunch or serve with a glass of chilled Pinot Grigio or Sauvignan Blanc for dinner. Recipe yields 6 side servings.
- 1 ⅓ cup whole wheat Israeli couscous (or any other small pasta shape, you’ll need about 3 cups cooked)
- ⅓ cup pine nuts
- ⅓ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 to 4 tablespoons lemon juice, to taste (from 1 to 2 lemons)
- 1 large shallot, finely chopped (about ½ cup)
- 2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
- ½ teaspoon fine sea salt, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas, rinsed and drained, or 1 ½ cups cooked chickpeas
- 1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, quartered
- 4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (½ cup)
- ⅓ cup pitted and thinly sliced Kalamata olives
- 1 medium zucchini, sliced into super thin rounds
- 1 small yellow squash, sliced into super thin rounds
- ⅓ cup (⅔ ounce) chopped fresh basil or flat-leaf parsley
- Cook the couscous until al dente, according to package directions. Drain off any excess water.
- Meanwhile, toast the pine nuts: In a large skillet over medium-low heat, warm the pine nuts until they’re turning lightly golden on the sides and fragrant (be careful not to let them burn). Transfer them to a bowl to cool.
- In a large serving bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, shallot, garlic, salt and several twists of black pepper until combined.
- Add the couscous to the bowl and toss to coat with the dressing. Top the couscous with the toasted pine nuts, chickpeas, tomatoes, feta, olives, zucchini and squash, and basil. Stir to combine.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste, and add an extra tablespoon or two of lemon juice if it needs more brightness. For the best flavor, refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving. This salad will keep well, covered and refrigerated, for up to 4 days.
Change it up: I used whole wheat Israeli couscous for my salad, but any small whole wheat pasta shape will do. Orzo, small shells and farfalle (bow-tie pasta) are all great options. Just cook the pasta in salted water according to the package’s directions and proceed with the recipe. Instead of zucchini and squash, you could use cucumber.
Make it gluten free: Substitute your favorite small gluten-free pasta for the couscous.
Make it vegan: If you choose to make the salad vegan by omitting the cheese, you might want to add a few more sliced olives to make up for the salty punch of feta.
Make it nut free: Technically pine nuts are seeds, but you can omit them if they don’t work for you or if you’re concerned about cross-contamination.
I have a soft spot in my heart for Central America and your photos made me want to go back and explore more! (Of course, I would probably end up eating too much because the food is so good!)
As for the pasta dish- I’ve just discovered the amazingness of raw zucchini. I can’t wait to try this pasta salad!
Glad you’ve discovered raw squash! I love it sliced super thin.
Laura (Tutti Dolci)
Oh, I love this! Just made a quick raw squash salad last night with zuchhini ribbons, tomatoes, red onion, minced basil, and balsamic vinaigrette. It’s the taste of summer in a bowl!
Your salad sounds fantastic, Laura! I love zucchini ribbons.
So happy you’re back, Kate!! This salad is utterly gorgeous, and exactly what my body is craving these days.
This looks so fresh and yummy! I love chickpeas!
I’ve never been to Central America but I really want to and your pictures made me want to plan a trip even more! And a lovely lovely recipe to celebrate your return.
Pasta salad is the best in the summer! A good trick someone told me once was to put a whole, unpeeled garlic clove in with the pasta or in your case, cous cous as it cooks. Then you take the clove out and mash it through the dressing! It just makes the garlic flavour more warm and subtle. Can’t wait to here more about the trip to Belize!
That’s a fantastic tip, Louisa! Thanks for sharing, I’ll try to remember to do that next time. I love garlic!
Delicious salad you have here…Can’t wait to try. Love the couscous addition. Gives the salad a unique texture and a little grander. I often crave for salads during the summer. So this is really perfect.
Thanks for sharing.
This looks so unique and so good. Love the pictures :)
Lovely…refreshing for hot days of summer, especially!
What a great recipe, perfect for summer!
erin @ yummy supper
Kathryn, Ooh I’ve always wanted to go to Belize. Cannot wait to see the photos you’ll share with us! We’re in Greece right now eating Greek Salads by the boatload. I love that your Mediterranean salad adds even more goodies to the mix. Yum!
Ooh, I’m jealous. Mediterranean food is my absolute favorite! Enjoy your time there, can’t wait to see more of your trip on your blog.
May I Have That Reci
This summer is lite, healthy and perfect for hot summer day like today! Can’t wait to make this!
Sylvie @ GitK
My kind of salad, light, refreshing and full of flavor. Hope you had a wonderful vacation!
I can’t wait to try this. It looks delicious!
Salad looks delic! Where did you get your red and white towels that are seen in the pictures? Love them!
Thanks, Allison! The towels are from IKEA, via eBay. Super cheap!
Wow – saw this on your Instagram and had to make it. What a yummy summer salad! My husband said he could eat bowls and bowls of it – me too! Perfect use of freshly picked zucchini and tomatoes. Thanks for all you do!
I’m excited you made it! Thank you for sharing, Annie.
Lovely, just lovely! I want to eat this up right now – beautiful photos.
I just discovered your blog as it was linked from GrubKit’s blog, and I absolutely love it! I just moved into my first apartment about a month ago and I am having many new cooking adventures with one of my roommates– I will be trying this salad soon!
I was wondering– who makes the fork pictured here? It’s gorgeous!
Welcome, Becky! Glad you found my blog. The forks are vintage, I found them in my grandmother’s box of silverware from generations past. All the more special!
Oh that’s the best!! I love vintage clothes and antiques, and when they’re passed down in families it’s even better. :)
Made it yesterday…LOVEEEE!!!!! And I added artichoke hearts because…well, because I just love them and I think they kinda fit well into the Mediterranean flavors. I am so glad I found your blog <3
I made this two nights ago. The verdict: absolutely delicious and so full of colour. It tasted even better on day 2. We’ll definitely be having this one again and again. Thank you!
Happy to hear that you enjoyed it, Simone!
Made this today….excellent, I added coarsely chopped marinated artichoke hearts…..YUM!
Thanks, Lori! I’m glad you enjoyed the salad. It’s one of my favorites. Artichoke hearts sound like a delicious addition!
I like your recipes… May i share with friends?
I loved this recipe! You’re the queen of dressings.
Blushing, thank you!
Made this last night and loved it for a refreshing dinner on a hot summer day. I added a finely diced bell pepper and subbed in a cucumber for the zucchini, because that is what the garden had to offer. I love the way the dressing marinated the thinly sliced veggies while we let it settle in the fridge. I look forward to making this one a regular in our house! Thanks Kate!
Thanks, Heather! I’m so glad you enjoyed the salad recipe. Your garden fresh version sounds marvelous.
Thanks for the great recipe! I made a couple of substitutions, and it turned out great – I used quick barley as the grain and sun-dried tomatoes in place of fresh. The olives, feta and basil really made it pop!
Thanks, Annie! Your version sounds delicious!
This salad has been a hit with my family since I made it from day one!
It’s so satisfying and delicious! Thank you ever so much! :)
Hooray! Glad you all enjoy this one. Thanks, Dallas.
Made it and loved it! As I am currently obsessed with spiralizing my vegetables, I turned the squash into thin noodles. Otherwise I did everything as instructed and absolutely loved this yummy and satisfying salad! :)
Fellow vegetarian cook
This is a great recipe – but I’m having trouble slicing the squash with a peeler. Could you provide more information on how to do that?
Hey Kristen! I’m sorry you’re having trouble. It is a little tricky, depending on the type of peeler you have. I just hooked a bit on the end with the sharp inner blade of the peeler and ran it down to make a skinny round. You could also use a mandoline or just slice it as thin as you can with a sharp knife.
I love israeli couscous and can’t wait to try this! One trick I use for the couscous is to toast it first before adding the water to give it a little bit more flavor. Just boil the water in the microwave or in another pot and set aside. Saute the dry couscous in a pot in some olive oil. When it begins to brown add the hot water and cook as indicated in your recipe – be careful when you first add the water as it will sizzle in the hot pan.
I don’t like Kalamata olives so I used sliced black and it was fine. I also used tabbouleh instead of pasta or couscous. I loved it! Wished I had made a bigger batch!
Your version sounds delicious, Mary.
Hi Kate! Do you have any suggestions for squash/zucchini substitutes?
Hi Sara! The squash/zucchini is really the backbone of this dish, so I’m not exactly sure. Cucumber might be nice if you’ll be eating the salad soon after making it (it tends to lose water quickly). Shaved raw butternut squash might be fun.
I haven’t seen pearled couscous around here (bummer because I’d love to try it!). What do you think about orzo here?
You could use that for sure, slightly different turnout, but should work nicely.
Made this on the 4th, and used pumpkin seeds instead of pine nuts, plus I roasted the garbanzo beans and put a squeeze of honey in the dressing. The added lemon juice was a must. It was delicious – thank you for another great recipe!
Congratulations Kate on your wedding.
I found your blog recently while searching for Mediterranean recipes and have tried few recipes already. First time commenting here to let you know how much I appreciate your time and your work. Your recipes are very plant based and I love the different options you provide to refrigerate or make it gluten free and such which is great when we’ve to feed people with different needs.
Thanks again for everything you’re doing.
God bless you
Thank you, Meena! Welcome to the blog, too.
This is delicious! I made it yesterday for my lunches this week and I am enjoying every bite. I added a fresh squeeze of lemon as I sat down to lunch. I substituted roasted slivered almonds since I didn’t have any pine nuts. Thank you for this great recipe!
You’re welcome, Diane!
Girl, I don’t know how you do it. If anyone else had posted this recipe I would have skipped it but I knew it would be a goodie because it was yours. It totally exceeded my expectations. Thanks for all your hard work! Your blog makes healthy eating a delight.
Thank you for your confidence, Kristi!
Could I use a GF all purpose flour? I have a couple banana bread recipes already but this sounds and looks so yummy. Banana bread with chocolate chips…I’d say that is a winning combination!!
Hi Lovli! Assuming you meant to put this with the banana bread post. :) Yes, GF flour works great here.
Just made this for dinner – perfect salad! Colourful salad, very tasty and filling :) thanks for sharing this recipe
You’re welcome, Claudia!
Just tried making this today. Used Fusilli pasta and it turned out AMAZING! New fave pasta salad . Kate your recipes are seriously awesome!
You’re welcome, Ashley! Thank you for your review.
Delicious! Made it with a mix of zucchini and cucumbers, no pine nuts.
Great side for a meatless Monday dinner, and lasted two more days for lunch!
Thank you for sharing, Vicky! I appreciate your review.
This was delicious! Couldn’t find pearled couscous (sad) so used orzo, and took the basil option since the garden’s been plenteous lately. Omitted pine nuts because of allergies and didn’t miss them! My husband and I had it without beans as a side salad for two meals, then I added great northern beans (didn’t have garbanzo) for lunch salads the remaining days. I like it both ways, and the beans added just enough of a different flavor and texture to trick my brain into forgetting that I’d eaten the same salad for 5 days. This one’s a keeper!
Thank you for sharing your variation, Lilian!
This recipe is delicious, thank you! Quick question…how long does this keep in the refrigerator? I live alone and accidentally made way too much!
Having just made it at the beginning of this week, I can attest that it will last for at least an additional 4 days past the day you made it. The zucchini was still crisp on day 5, so I imagine it could go an extra day past that. (I left the feta and olives separate and added them to each serving, not sure how that affected things or not).
It should keep well covered for a few days! Thank you for sharing, Grace.
This is delicious !!! Made it with cucumbers instead of zucchini and it was great. Thanks for a yummy dish Kate.
You’re welcome, Sue!
My family loves this salad! I couldn’t find the pearl couscous so I used whole wheat couscous (about a quarter less) and it was delicious!
Thank you for sharing, Lori! I’m glad you loved it.
I’ve made this twice now. It is delicious! So easy and refreshing and filling. It’s the perfect summer salad to pack for lunch.
Great! Thank you for your review, Jacqueline.
I loved this! I eliminated the feta (I’m PBD), used barley instead of feta, and reduced the oil to 1 Tablespoon. This was 4 generous one-dish meals for me (probably because of the barley instead of couscous).
Thank you for sharing, Deanna! I’m happy you loved it.
Super delicious! I’ve made it with wild rice and Farro too and they both were lovely.
That sounds like a great idea! Thanks for your review, Anika.
My husband and I loved this recipe, and my husband actually requested that I make it again. I used whole wheat Israeli couscous which I found at Whole Foods. I substituted pepitas for the pine nuts because I had them on hand and pine nuts are a bit pricey. They worked great. Thanks for a delicious summer recipe, Kate!
Wonderful! Thanks for sharing, Jan.
I made this recipe and loved it. Full disclosure, I did switch it up a bit. Instead of using couscous I used red quinoa and omitted the feta. I used basil as the herb and cut the entire recipe in half. I will definitely make this again. The only other change I would make would be to use less oil, but that’s a personal preference.
I love the change-up! Thank you for sharing, Rachel.
Made this for my lunches this week with a couple substitutions – quinoa for couscous, and sunflower and pumpkin seeds for pine nuts. It’s delicious!
A great option for lunch! Thank you for sharing, Aimee.
This is my new favorite salad recipe!
Great to hear, Joana! Thanks for your review.
Obsessed with this salad. Works great to make-ahead for lunch meal prep for the week. I have also added already cold grilled salmon from my grocery store’s prepared section to make the salad go longer. So so good! New to your site and look forward to new recipes! Thank you!
could you tell me the equivalente of a “pint” in grams or cups, please? Thank you.
Sorry I don’t have the exact conversion off hand, but should be roughly 2 cups.
Loved this recipe! I used quinoa instead of couscous. I took a scoop of the quinoa mixture out before adding it to the salad to give to my 3 year old son. He gobbled it up! Love finding healthy options that he will eat ❤️
You have been my savior this spring!With a mix of vegetarians with all different tastes in my house. Your recipes have brought us together and every night the fam says this is even better than yesterday! The Quinoa soup, stuffed shells and couscous salad have been particular hits and the chocolate brownies were gone in 5 seconds. Thank you for broadening my repertoire during this eating marathon!!!
Thank you so much for your note, Karen! I’m really happy to hear it. :)
Love this recipe! It holds so well in the refrigerator for lunches! So glad I found this website! Amazing recipes!
Your salads are always surprising and great, and forgiving of substitutes and omissions. I make the orange orzo and the roasted eggplant + tomato orzo all the time. Cooked this one for the first time today, with some of the zucchini spiralized. It’s great. Zucchini holds up so much better in this than the cucumber you’d expect from an ordinary Mediterranean salad. Thanks for another delicious recipe!
Delicious! I use barley instead of couscous for a whole grain alternative and I omitted the pine nuts and feta and this was great on a picnic.
Made this recipe. Was amazing. My teen and hubby loved it. Actually lightly sautéed the tomatoes, shallots, zucchini and garlic. Amazing! Used juice of 2 FULL lemons and added a little garlic powder for increased flavour. Didn’t have pine nuts so used pistachios instead.
Another hit. Thanks, Kate! My toddler especially loved this and asked for another helping :)
That’s amazing! Thank you for sharing, Sophie.
Great flavors. Very satisfying and visually beautiful as well.
This is FABULOUS – thank you! I made it with farro, but I would have used couscous if I had it.
Addendum to my review — I usually find summer squash to be totally boring, and I’m always looking for ways to make it better because we get a lot of it through our CSA. And this was, by far, one of the best ways I’ve ever eaten it. Thanks for giving me squash-hope! :)
Made this one again tonight! Subbed farro for the couscous and it came out great! What an awesome summer recipe!
A great substitutions, Elisabeth! Thanks for sharing.
Love this – it is the perfect lunch recipe! I made it with a chickpea and lentil risoni from Trader Joe’s to add some extra protein. The lemon adds the perfect brightness to this light and summery dish.
This is so good. I probably over-did it with the salt and lemon juice, but those are just my flavors. :) I couldn’t get zucchini or squash, so I used a cucumber. I also left out the onion this time, and didn’t have fresh garlic for the dressing. I used quinoa instead of pasta or couscous. It’s delicious with extra olives. It’s also true that it gets better each bowl, the longer it sits. I’m about to go get more!
Could you please elucidate a little for us regarding your comment on pine nuts and cross-contamination? Are you referring to omitting a potential allergen? To me, in the culinary realm, cross-contamination is more germane to inadvertently including something such as bacteria, or like garlic on your knife blade transferring to the next thing you cut.
Sorry – biochemist here.
Hi Jefferson, Depending on where the pine nuts were produced if in a facility that also produces nuts. I hope that helps!
Hi there, Would you be able to substitute quinoa for the couscous. Thanks! Roberta
Hi, You could try it. Although a small pasta would be better. I hope you like it!
A lovely salad! I made this with just zucchini and added yellow bell pepper. I subbed green olives for kalamata, and I used dried herbs. I cheated on the dressing using bottled vinaigrette to save time and dishes. It was very good this way as well. The
Thank you for sharing Monika! I appreciate your review.
This was fantastic! Used orzo and it worked great. Using a mandolin to slice the zucchini and squash made this a very simple and delicious side to our meal.
That’s great to hear, Rachel!
I just made this and am having a hard time not sitting down with the whole bowl and a fork….I can’t imagine how much better it will be after sitting over night! SO good, thanks for posting!
You’re welcome, Erin! Thank you for your review.
I am shocked by how tasty this is. I used Trader Joe’s “Harvest Blend” grains instead of whole wheat couscous (it’s what I had in my pantry), and it came out so tasty I can’t stop eating it. And can I just say that I keep coming back to this website for more recipe ideas. Keep ’em coming!!
That’s great, Amber! I appreciate your review.
This recipe was fantastic and super easy to make!! Used vegan feta and regular white Israeli couscous, and it was enjoyed by vegans and non vegans alike. Made a large serving without needing to double it and was filling on its own. This is a perfect light summer recipe for when you have way too much zucchini in the garden and I’ll definitely be making it again!
I’m excited you plan to make it again, Claire! I appreciate your review.
Hi Cookie and Kate! I recently found your website as we are trying to greatly decrease our intake of meats and fish. I have made a few recipes and they’ve all been delicious. I made this one last night and it was fabulous! My husband felt it was a little heavy on the garlic, so I will probably cut back a bit on that, or use a little less shallot next time. But will certainly be making it again! Thanks for all your wonderful recipes ✌️❤️
You’re welcome! I’m glad you came to the blog. I can’t wait to hear more of what you try.
I’m definitely going to make this!
Just a few comments…. You can quickly toast any nut, believe it or not, in your MICROWAVE! I read a RD article about little known things to use the microwave for….. And toasting nuts is one. It works great too! I’ve done it several times with walnuts.
Also, a tsp or so of any mustard will emulsify the dressing so it doesn’t split, maybe you could update the recipe to include that?
I found your site totally by luck, I googled easy tzatziki and your recipe had the most reviews….! I’m afraid that I’m going to live on your site! Every recipe I’ve read so far, including this one, sound so amazing!
Btw, if one can’t find whole wheat Israeli couscous, even the non whole wheat has 4 gr of fibre per serving. Also, Israeli couscous is NOT the same as pearled couscous… I only know because I read a recipe that explained it, and pearled couscous has less fibre than white Israeli couscous, believe it or not!