This pearl-like Israeli couscous is cooked in chicken stock for extra flavor and tossed with peas, mint, parsley, and lemon zest. A simple, yet elegant, side dish.
Israeli couscous is different from the North African version, which has a more fine-grained, fluffy texture. Also known as Middle Eastern couscous, Israeli couscous has larger, pearl-like balls that cook up with a chewy texture that is similar to pasta.–Renée Behnke
*Can I make couscous in advance?
The couscous continues to absorb liquid after cooking, so will be at its best made not more than an hour in advance. You may need to add a little more stock or water to keep it from clumping together. Reheat gently over low heat before serving.
Lemon Israeli Couscous
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/3 cup finely chopped yellow onion
- 1 1/2 cups Israeli couscous*
- 2 cups homemade chicken stock or top-quality canned chicken broth or more if needed
- 1 cup frozen petite peas
- 3 tablespoons finely chopped mint leaves
- 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon minced flat-leaf parsley leaves
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes, until tender and aromatic. Stir in the couscous and cook for 2 to 3 minutes longer, until evenly coated with oil and lightly toasty in aroma. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Cover, decrease the heat to low, and simmer for 12 to 14 minutes, until tender.
- Stir the peas, mint, lemon zest, lemon juice, parsley, and extra-virgin olive oil into the couscous, then season to taste with salt and pepper. Cook the couscous, stirring, over medium-low heat until the mint and lemon are aromatic, 2 to 3 minutes longer. The couscous should be tender and the mixture fluffy, not soupy. If it’s too dry, add a few tablespoons more stock or water. Originally published July 14, 2009.
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Recipe Testers’ Reviews
There’s nothing I’d change about this recipe. I loved the pasta-like texture of the lemon Israeli couscous. The flavors of the mint, lemon, and parsley melded beautifully and were in perfect balance. This held up well as a leftover side dish for the next evening’s dinner (with grilled salmon and sautéed squash).
Be sure to make your own stock, or, if short on time, use a high-quality, store-bought stock or broth. The quality of your stock will definitely affect the flavor of this dish.
You’ll cook this lemon Israeli couscous only once before you’ll be making it with your eyes closed. I followed the recipe exactly as written, and it came out just wonderful.
“Looks can be deceiving” is right—there’s more flavor here than meets the eye. The sharp lemon juice is great against the sweet peas, and the lemon zest and mint provide an irresistible aroma. It’s a wonderful side for almost any dish.
This was one of those incredibly simple, absolutely delicious recipes. While it’s suggested in the recipe that it would make a good side dish, I think it’s perfect for lunch on its own. I wouldn’t change a thing, except that you could definitely add more veggies, and I’m sure it would be delicious. I love the lift in flavor from the lemon, and Israeli couscous is one of my favorite grains.
Aroma. Texture. Taste. These three elements combined to make a wonderful side dish. I didn’t make any changes to the recipe, and in the future, the only thing I’d do differently is double it. While simmering, the aroma sets the stage for what’s to come. I had to stop myself from lifting the lid and having a small sample.
Mint can be overpowering at times, and the lemon seems to offset this, giving a bright, fresh flavor. A rich chicken stock also adds a great deal of depth to the finished dish. I like the way the Israeli couscous sort of “pops” when you bite into it. I was afraid that the leftovers would stick together in a big clump, but they didn’t—even the next day, the couscous had a nice texture, and the peas gave a subtle sweetness that I noticed even more. I can’t wait to try this with fish.
This lemon Israeli couscous is amazing. I’ve never had this type of couscous before, but rest assured, I’ll be eating it more often. There’s an addictive flavour that’s not quite pasta, not quite couscous, and not really risotto, but the ideas are all there. There’s an alluring, almost whole-grain bread nuance to the couscous grains. The lemon definitely keeps things bright, and the mint and peas give it a garden-fresh flavour. It’s an excellent side for any type of lamb.
Israeli couscous is a fun grain with a great mouthfeel. This is a vibrant dish that pairs wonderfully with rich salmon. It has a strong lemon flavor—but that’s the point. I highly recommend making this recipe as is before tweaking it to personal preference or the strength of your ingredients. For me, the couscous cooked faster than the 12 to 14 minutes the recipe stated: It was tender after only 10 minutes.
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Though this was a simple recipe, I was still impressed. It retains all of the flavors of couscous, it’s moist, and has a nice chew. Cooking it in chicken broth definitely adds flavor, and the peas and parsley give it a nice sprinkle of color.
At first, I thought it was a bit too soupy, but after letting it sit in the pot for a few minutes, the couscous absorbed the liquid and became just right. My only gripe is that eight servings yields very small portions. I really like that it’s not a finicky recipe—once you get the hang of the ingredients, you can pretty much eyeball the amounts to taste.