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.

A wooden bowl filled with lemon Israeli couscous with a serving spoon inside and some lemon halves in the background.

Lemon Israeli Couscous

5 / 6 votes
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.
David Leite
CourseSides
CuisineAmerican
Servings8 servings
Calories175 kcal
Prep Time20 minutes
Cook Time25 minutes
Total Time45 minutes

Ingredients 

  • 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

Instructions 

  • 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.
Memorable Recipes by Renee Behnke

Adapted From

Memorable Recipes

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Nutrition

Serving: 1 portionCalories: 175 kcalCarbohydrates: 29 gProtein: 6 gFat: 4 gSaturated Fat: 1 gMonounsaturated Fat: 3 gCholesterol: 1 mgSodium: 223 mgFiber: 3 gSugar: 2 g

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe?Mention @leitesculinaria or tag #leitesculinaria!
Recipe © 2009 Renée Behnke. Photo © 2009 Angie Norwood Browne. All rights reserved.

Recipe Testers’ Reviews

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.

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.




About David Leite

I count myself lucky to have received three James Beard Awards for my writing as well as for Leite’s Culinaria. My work has also appeared in The New York Times, Martha Stewart Living, Saveur, Bon Appétit, Gourmet, Food & Wine, Yankee, Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post, and more.


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Recipe Rating




8 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    I have made this Lemon Israeli Couscous several times, most recently last night. It makes a wonderful side dish due to its versatility and simplicity. Just switch out the herbs, if you like, depending on what you are serving. Last night I served it with the Maple Glazed Salmon. I used fresh dill in place of the mint and fresh parsley. The dill, parsley and lemon really brightened up and complemented that already wonderful salmon dish! I am anxious to try it as a main course adding some Moroccan spiced grilled shrimp (sprinkled with Moroccan Spice Rub).

  2. 5 stars
    It`s Easter Sunday and so glad I found this to serve along side the Middle Eastern spiced pulled lamb shoulder from my Pit Barrel Cooker (smoker) stuffed in pita bread with tzatziki. We just harvested English peas and our mint parsley are growing great, unfortunately I`m all out of homemade stock right but making this anyway.THX

      1. This is delicious and went really well with our meal, plus I found some stock in the garage freezer! THX for the recipe a total keeper.

  3. 5 stars
    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.