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.