Couscous with Fresh Cilantro and Lemon Juice

Say it with us: Simple ingredients, cooked perfectly, will always win. This couscous dish is no exception.


  • 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 cups plain couscous
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Recipe Preparation

  • Heat oil in medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add garlic and turmeric; stir 1 minute. Add 1 2/3 cups water, lemon peel, and 1/2 teaspoon coarse salt; bring to boil. Remove pan from heat. Stir in couscous. Cover; let stand until liquid is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Fluff with fork; mix in cilantro and lemon juice. Season with pepper and additional coarse salt, if desired.

Recipe by Jeanne Thiel Kelley,

Nutritional Content

One serving contains the following: Calories (kcal) 208.3 %Calories from Fat 21.5 Fat (g) 5.0 Saturated Fat (g) 0.7 Cholesterol (mg) 0 Carbohydrates (g) 34.5 Dietary Fiber (g) 2.5 Total Sugars (g) 0.2 Net Carbs (g) 32.0 Protein (g) 5.6Reviews Section

Easy dinner recipes: Quick couscous variations

Recipe: Cubed watermelon combined with feta, mint, a little jalapeno and a cumin-lime dressing.

(Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times)

When it comes to versatility, you can’t do much better than couscous. Typically a fine granular semolina pasta, couscous works in both savory and sweet dishes, and can be served hot or cold. Like pasta, add vegetables and/or meat for a main dish, or perhaps fold it in with lightly dressed lettuces or herbs for a salad. Sweeten it and add milk, nuts and/or fruit for a sweet finish to a meal.

A perfect dish for summer, Houston’s couscous combines raisins, tomatoes, almonds and parsley with fresh chopped radish and green onion. The couscous and bulgur wheat salad is brightened with fresh mint and a dash of lemon juice, and comes together in about an hour.

Vertical Wine Bistro’s variation features large, pearly couscous flavored with chopped fresh herbs and garlic and a touch of bright tang from lemon juice and vinegar. It’s rounded out with complex notes from the Moroccan spice blend ras el hanout. The dish is perfect made ahead of time to give the flavors time to marry before serving.

Or try a basic quick couscous recipe as a springboard for your own variation. Though classic couscous can take over an hour for the granules to steam using a couscousier, quick couscous plumps and becomes tender in just minutes when combined with boiling water.

For more ideas, click through our easy dinner recipes gallery and check out our Dinner Tonight page, devoted to recipes that can be made in an hour or less. Looking for a particular type of recipe? Comment below or email me at [email protected]

Total time: 40 minutes, plus cooling time

Note: Adapted from Hillstone Restaurant Group

3/4 cup coarsely chopped radishes

3 tablespoons finely cut green onions

3 tablespoons minced Italian parsley

12 very small tomatoes, such as Sweet 100s

1/3 cup whole roasted, skin-on almonds

About ½ cup whole fresh mint leaves

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, preferably Meyer lemon, more to taste

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, more to taste

Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

1. In a small saucepan, bring 1 1/2 cups water to a simmer. Add the couscous and cook gently until the water is absorbed, approximately 3 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer the couscous to a baking sheet to cool.

2. In another small saucepan, bring the remaining 1 1/2 cups water to a simmer. Add the bulgur wheat and cook gently until the water is absorbed, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and transfer to a baking sheet to cool.

3. In a large bowl, combine the cooled couscous and bulgur wheat. Stir in the radishes, green onions, parsley, raisins, tomatoes, almonds and mint leaves. Add the lemon juice and olive oil, stirring to coat. Season with one-half teaspoon salt and one-fourth teaspoon pepper. Taste and adjust the flavorings and seasonings as desired. This makes about 4 cups salad.

Each of 6 servings: 209 calories 6 grams protein 34 grams carbohydrates 6 grams fiber 7 grams fat 1 gram saturated fat 0 cholesterol 9 grams sugar 206 mg sodium.

Vertical Wine Bistro’s Israeli couscous

45 minutes, plus chilling time. Serves 6 to 8

5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

1 white onion, finely chopped

1 tablespoon ras el hanout

1 (8.78-ounce) package Israeli couscous

Chicken or vegetable broth (typically 2 cups broth per 1 cup couscous, or as the package directs)

1/2 red onion, finely chopped

1 green onion, sliced thin

1/4 cup diced red bell pepper

1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon

1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint

1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar

5 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1. In a large saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-low heat. Add the white onion and ras el hanout and sweat until the onion is translucent, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the couscous over low heat and stir for 3 minutes, then add the broth. Raise heat to bring to a boil, and cook until the couscous is tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Spread the cooked couscous onto a shallow rimmed pan to cool, stirring occasionally.

2. In a large bowl, combine the red and green onions, bell pepper, tarragon, mint, cilantro, parsley, lemon juice, vinegar, garlic and remaining oil along with the couscous, gently mixing with your hands to separate the couscous and fold together the ingredients. Taste and adjust the seasoning as desired.

3. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours to give the flavors time to marry. Remove from the refrigerator at least 2 hours before serving to come to room temperature, and stir once more before serving.

Each of 8 servings: 213 calories 4 grams protein 29 grams carbohydrates 2 grams fiber 9 grams fat 1 gram saturated fat 0 cholesterol 2 grams sugar 218 mg sodium.

NOTE: Adapted from Vertical Wine Bistro the restaurant suggests adding freshly grilled chicken, scallops or shrimp. Ras el hanout can generally be found at cooking supply stores, as well as gourmet markets, many well-stocked supermarkets and online.

Total time: 20 minutes

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided

Additional broth, soup or stew (for serving)

1. Put couscous in a sauté pan. Add salt and 2 tablespoons of the oil. Pour boiling water over couscous, return just to a simmer, remove from the heat and cover tightly. Set aside off the heat until the couscous is just tender, about 12 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Transfer to a large bowl.

2. Sprinkle the remaining oil over the couscous, tossing lightly with a fork and rubbing the couscous between your fingers if necessary to remove any clumps. Slowly add 6 tablespoons broth, tossing lightly. Serve hot, with more broth for moistening the couscous at the table.

Each serving: 404 calories 10 grams protein 59 grams carbohydrates 4 grams fiber 14 grams fat 2 grams saturated fat 0 cholesterol 0 sugar 395 mg sodium.

Related Video

Herbed Couscous with Lemon is awesom , and I don't even like couscous! I used the Tri-color couscous and it makes a lively presentation.

Great recipe for a different couscous. I added more herbs and used less olive oil. You can easily vary the herbs depending on what you are making it for. Careful of mint as it is a strong flavor and will over ride the others!

Super tasty for such a small amount of effort.

This is a great recipe - try adding cumin & garam masala as couscous is cooking. I also added golden raisens & almonds. PIstachios would be great too.

While I am sure this is delicious, it is NOT vegetarian. It is listed as part of the "Exotic Vegetarian Dinner"-I subsitiuted vegetable broth and it was good, but it should not be lsited as part of a vegetariuan meal as written

Very good - pairs well with the Slow Cooked Moroccan Lamb recipe recommended below. I like to use Israeli couscous (look for it in the Kosher section of your supermarket). The grains are larger, similar to acini de pepe pasta. I think the finer grained couscous tends to get mushy. Also added lemon zest and extra juice on advice of others. Can't have too much lemon or herbs in this dish.

Use Trader Joe's Harvest Grains Blend which has Couscous, Orzo, Baby Garbanzo Beans and Red Quinoa - worked well. Did not have basil, so used fresh marjoram, mint and cilantro. Served with Slow Cooked Morocaan Lamb.

Second time i made this dish and this time i added more herbs, lemon juice and olive oil (as in quantity) and it made a great difference. This is a really easy and quick dish to make, even my 2 year old loved it.

Great side dish. You can play with the herbs you use to better complement whatever you're serving it with. And to the cook whose couscous came out soggy, try using equal parts water and couscous. It will always come out fluffy.

From the first time I made this everyone has loved it. I do usually increase the mint to 1/2 cup as that is my favorite herb. This is a regularly made dish in our house now.

Outstanding, we served it with grilled butterflied leg of lamb with lemon dressing. I did add the zest of one lemon to the herb mix, and I think it needed it. I was conscious of the comment to add more salt, and I decided not to add it, and I did not find the dish lacking for leaving it out

This was a bland dish! And mushy too, but it might have been the couscous I used. Italian instead of French, whiter and softer. Definitely needed more olive oil and onion and the idea of the pickled lemon was a good one.

great recipe, simple, fast, and goes great with everything. Exchanged the mint for oregano since I didn't have mint. Will definitely make again.

Absolutely delightfull with Thai green curry shrimps. I also mixed in grated lemon peel, raisins and cashew nuts.

Is wonderful. Had left over the next day and needed to add the herbs and the lemon juice again: Is best to eat it all the same day:

I made this as a side dish to the Morocan Slow-Cooked Lamb, and it was the perfect accompaniment. Pair it with something spicy and flavorful. The herbs and lemon add nice fresh flavors to otherwise plain old couscous.

We liked the dish. Some reviewers have commented on "blandness" of dish. We added preserved lemon to the dish and that added a nice flavor kick.

Yummy! I doubled the recipe with the following modifications: I use a tomato basil couscous (use it for the color, the flavor is nonexistent). I substituted the water and used all chicken broth. Added a can of diced (drained) tomatoes with the uncooked couscous. I only had basil and parsley, so omitted the mint and added the juice of 1 whole lemon plus the zest. Fabulous version of couscous and so quick and easy!

After reading other's reviews that it was a bit bland, I too used the juice & the zest of a whole lemon. Didn't have mint, but substituted fresh oregano from my garden, and used all chicken broth for the liquid instead of part water. In the end, it was delicious, and will make it again.

I thought this dish sounded delicious, but it was so bland. I ended up adding the juice of a whole lemon and some lemon zest too but still really couldn't taste it. The onions and garlic disappeared as well. This needs a zingier dressing! I wouldn't make this again without some serious ingredient modification!

I served this with Mahimahi with Onion, Lemon, and Capers (from this site), and it was perfect - light, easy, and delicious. I used more herbs than were called for, and added lemon zest, salt, and pepper. A great, versatile recipe!

Fantastic!! Serve it under the Chile Glazed Salmon, also from this site. A great mix of flavors.

I had no couscous at hand and made this with quinoa. The taste was bright and summery. I used it to accompany grilled lamb kebabs that had been simply but lenghtily marinated in olive oil, honey, lemon, wine, salt&pepper, and fresh mint. I added wine to the marinade and reduced it to a sauce to pour over the quinoa and lamb. Delicious.

I found the dish rather plain, but I added some minced raisins (golden and regular) and a few chopped almonds. Good base dish to use as a shoehorn to add your own ingredients.


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Recipe Summary

  • Marmalade:
  • ¼ cup fresh orange juice
  • ¼ cup port or other sweet red wine
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1 cup vertically sliced red onion
  • 1 teaspoon grated orange rind
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • Dash of black pepper
  • Sauce:
  • 1 ½ cups chopped fresh cilantro
  • ½ cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • ¼ cup finely chopped seeded jalapeño pepper (about 2 large)
  • ¼ cup fresh lime juice
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • Couscous:
  • ¾ cup water
  • ¼ teaspoon grated lemon rind
  • ¼ teaspoon grated orange rind
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon chile paste
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon curry powder
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup uncooked couscous
  • Halibut:
  • 1 tablespoon curry powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 4 (6-ounce) skinned halibut fillets (about 1 inch thick)
  • Cooking spray
  • 2 cups gourmet salad greens

To prepare marmalade, combine first 4 ingredients in a small nonaluminum saucepan. Bring to a boil cook until reduced to 1/2 cup (about 5 minutes). Add onion and 1 teaspoon orange rind cook 5 minutes. Sprinkle with 1/8 teaspoon salt and dash of black pepper set aside.

To prepare sauce, combine cilantro and next 9 ingredients (cilantro through peeled garlic) in a blender or food processor process until smooth.

To prepare couscous, bring 3/4 cup water and next 9 ingredients (water though minced garlic) to a boil in a medium saucepan gradually stir in couscous. Remove from heat cover and let stand for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

To prepare the halibut, combine curry and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Rub the fillets with curry mixture. Lightly coat with cooking spray. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add fillets, and sauté 4 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork. Place 1/2 cup salad greens on each of 4 plates, and top each serving with 1 cup couscous. Arrange fillets on top of couscous, and top with 2 tablespoons marmalade. Spoon 1/4 cup sauce around plate.

Perfectly Cooked Couscous– This recipe calls for pearl couscous. Ensure to cook it perfect, every bead separated, light and fluffy. What works for me is 1 cup couscous cooked in 1 ½ cup (not 2 cups) liquid. Gummy, soft or overcooked couscous will ruin the salad.

Do Not Prep Ahead – To make life easy, many times we do prep work ahead of time. Not for this salad. Chopping tomatoes and cucumbers and storing it in the fridge overnight or few days may not be great idea. Resist the temptation of prepping ahead. Chop the veggies just before you make the salad. It’ll have that wonderful freshness and crunch intact in it.

Best Quality EVOO – Salad dressing is flavor enhancer for the dish. Using the best quality EVOO will make the salad taste it’s best.

Cook Your Chickpeas-Though you can use canned chickpeas, cooking your own chickpeas from scratch gives better tasting chickpeas, hence better tasting salad. Chickpeas cooked at home are perfect in texture, holds it shape, tastes richer and creamier.

Serve It Same Day After Few Hours – Once you toss the salad and dressing together, leave the salad at room temperature for few hours. Couscous will soak in all the flavors from the dressing. Salad tastes better after few hours the same day.


  • Watermelon Feta Salad
  • 3 Bean Salad
  • Fresh Spring Salad
  • Mexican Quinoa Salad
  • Greek Pasta Salad
  • Summer Corn Salad

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Delicious Summer Couscous and Chicken

July 25, 2008— -- Celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck joined "Good Morning America" to whip up some simple and savory dishes. Check out his recipes for chicken kabobs and a perfect couscous salad.

Chicken Kabobs With Lemon and Thyme


2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves

1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 large boneless, skinless, chicken breast halves

2 lemons, each cut into 4 wedges

In medium nonreactive bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, shallot, thyme, garlic, lemon zest, salt, and pepper. Place in large, heavy-duty sealable plastic food-storage bag.

Using a fork, pierce each chicken breast all over several times to help the marinade penetrate. Cut each chicken breast into 8 large equally sized chunks. Put the marinade mixture in the plastic bag add the chicken, seal the bag, and move the pieces around to coat them thoroughly. Put the bag in the refrigerator for about 1 hour.

Preheat the grill. Meanwhile, thread the chicken chunks onto 8 skewers, including a lemon wedge in the middle of each skewer.

Grill the kabobs until the chicken is nicely brown and cooked through, 8 to 10 minutes, turning the kabobs once. Serve on a bed of Couscous Salad (recipe follows).

Yield: Serves 4

Recipe Courtesy Wolfgang Puck

Couscous Salad


2 cups (500 ml) good-quality canned chicken broth

10 ounces (300 g) dry instant couscous

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon

1/4 cup (60 ml) extra-virgin olive oil

1 lemon, zested and juiced

1 small red onion, cut into small dice

1 large cucumber, peeled, seeded, and cut into small dice

1 red bell pepper, halved, stemmed, seeded, deveined, and cut into small dice

1 bunch green onions, trimmed and finely chopped

1/4 cup (60 ml) chopped cilantro leaves

Freshly ground black pepper

In a saucepan, bring the chicken broth to a boil.

Put the couscous in a large, heatproof bowl. Stir in the salt and cinnamon. Pour the boiling broth over the couscous, stir briefly, cover the bowl, and leave it at room temperature for 5 minutes. Uncover the bowl and, with a table fork, fluff the couscous to separate its grains. Leave it to cool completely to room temperature.

In another large bowl, stir together the olive oil, lemon juice and zest, red onion, cucumber, bell pepper, and green onions. Add the cooled couscous and toss until thoroughly mixed. Stir in the cilantro leaves. Taste and adjust the seasonings with more salt and pepper, if necessary. Serve at room temperature.

Southwest Couscous Salad Ingredients

  • Near East® Couscous Roasted Garlic & Olive Oil: Made as directed in the package instructions with vegetable or chicken broth instead of water.
  • Tomatoes: Cherry or Grape tomatoes, halved or quartered.
  • Cucumbers: I like using English cucumbers, diced.
  • Black Beans: I use canned beans for convenience. Rinsed.
  • Bell Peppers: Red bell peppers are shown here but you can use whatever bell pepper you prefer (or a combination).
  • Corn: I love frozen corn because it is readily available all year round. I simply thaw it while I prep the salad. Canned roasted corn is also a great addition to this salad.
  • For the Cilantro Lime Vinaigrette: Lime juice (from fresh limes), honey (you can use maple syrup or sugar as well), fresh garlic, ground cumin, salt, ground black pepper and fresh cilantro.

Near East Couscous provides the perfect canvas for this Southwest inspired salad and for many other side dishes that are convenient and easy to make. Near East products always help me bring the flavors of different world cuisines to my table – with very little effort. That is always a plus!

This Southwest Couscous Salad can be made ahead which makes it a great dish to bring to potlucks, picnics or any type of party. Although the salad can be eaten as soon as it is ready, the flavors actually develop and get even better if you allow it to sit for 15 to 30 minutes before serving.

Lemon Infused Israeli Couscous Recipe

Did you know couscous is a pasta? No it is not an ancient grain as many have come to believe. But it is super easy. And ridiculously delicious!

Couscous is made from semolina wheat and comes in multiple forms. There is organic, Moroccan, whole wheat, multicolored, and my personal favorite…whole wheat Israeli couscous.

Israeli couscous tends to have a nuttier flavor because it is actually toasted before it is packaged. Which results in a deeper and earthier flavor that is more reminiscent of a grain than a pasta.

Personally, the idea of couscous to me always sounded great but the end result always ended up being just blah. I always used to get Moroccan couscous. Which is small and round and can be dry and…blah.

It was not until we are at a friend’s wedding many years ago that I tasted Israeli couscous that actually was AMAZING.

It was creamy, yet each individual grain still fell away. And it was delectably cheesy.

What’s the secret I wondered as I shoveled spoon after spoon of the delicious little, edible marbles into my mouth.

Parmesan cheese of course. And butter. Perfect.

So naturally I had to come home and re-create it. And lighten it up a bit. I decided to add in a bit more flavor components into it to really make the flavors pop.

It was a ridiculously simple recipe and I served it with anything from my plank salmon, to my lemony chicken. Personally, I never needed a side dish for it. I could eat it right out of the pot as a meal.

The best part was it can be frozen easily and also used in salads, soups or even as a binder in crab cakes or fish cakes.

It starts out with a tablespoon of butter, 1 shallot and the zest of half a lemon.

Over medium heat, we are going to melt the butter and let the butter get infused with the flavors of the shallot and the lemon zest. Give this about 3 minutes. Again, you are sweating the aromatics not browning them.

Throw in a cup of your Israel couscous and toss everything together, ensuring your couscous is covered by the shallot and butter mixture. Essentially you are toasting them a bit. Do this for about 2 minutes.

Pour in 1 and 1/4 cups of chicken broth, stock or water. I find the chicken stocks and broths give it a more savory flavor. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook, covered for 10 minutes.

Fluff with a fork. This will ensure you have light and fluffy individual grains. Sprinkle in 1/4 cup of Parmesan cheese and mix with a fork. Taste for seasoning.

Serve in a bowl with some more lemon zest, chopped parsley and nice shredding of Parmesan cheese on top.