This couscous salad with fennel and almonds combines good-quality tuna, salty caper berries, peppery arugula, crunchy shaved fennel, and sliced almonds with couscous to make a supremely satisfying meal.
You could, of course, serve couscous plain, dressed with a little oil and lemon juice, even a smattering of aromatic spice—cinnamon, nutmeg, and so forth—to go with pretty much anything. But, inspired by the way they cook it in Sicily, you can throw in salty caper berries, a good tin of oily—almost meaty—tuna, and sweet aniseed-y fennel. This makes for a vibrant centerpiece more than substantial enough to serve on its own.–Skye McAlpine
Couscous Salad with Fennel and Almonds
For the couscous
- 1 2/3 cups store-bought or homemade vegetable broth
- 1 3/4 cups couscous
- 4 tablespoons olive oil or more to taste
- 3 tablespoons sliced almonds plus more for serving
- 10 to 12 caper berries or 2 tablespoons capers rinsed and drained, or more to taste
- 1 medium bulb fennel stalks and feathery fronds trimmed
- 1 3/4 cups (14 oz) good quality canned tuna in oil
- Couple handfuls arugula (1 to 2 cups)
- Juice of 1 lemon or more to taste
- Flaky sea salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
Make the couscous
- In a small saucepan, bring the vegetable stock to a boil.
- Place the couscous in a large heatproof bowl. Pour the boiling stock over the couscous and stir to combine. Cover and let soak until the liquid has been fully absorbed by the couscious, 10 to 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, if using caper berries, slice them in half. Very thinly slice the fennel.
☞TESTER TIP: If you have a mandoline or hand-held slicer, now’s the time to break it out for paper-thin fennel slices. Alternatively, using a sharp knife, cut the trimmed fennel bulb in half lengthwise and then place the halves, cut side down, on your work surface, and slice them as thinly as possible into half circles.
- Use a fork to fluff the couscous and generously douse it with 2 tablespoons of oil. Stir in the almonds, caper berries or capers, and fennel and toss to thoroughly combine.
- Add the tuna and its oil, using a fork to gently flake any chunks and mix it throughout the couscous. (You can cover and refrigerate the couscous at this point for up to a day.)
- Just before serving, lightly toss the couscous with the arugula, lemon juice, and 2 tablespoons oil, and season with salt and pepper. Taste and, if desired, add more oil and lemon juice and sprinkle with additional almonds. Serve immediately.
Make It Your OwnThis couscous is highly adaptable to individual whimsy – or the contents of your fridge and pantry. Add a flourish of color with sliced cherry tomatoes or julienned red pepper. Brighten the whole shebang with a handful of chopped parsley, cilantro, or those feathery fennel fronds you trimmed from the bulb. Sprinkle with plump raisins. Or come up with something different and let us know in a comment below what worked for you!
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We’d love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
Recipe Testers’ Reviews
As a Sicilian girl, this salad made me so happy on so many levels!!! It captures the true essence of Sicily–bright, fresh, and simply beautiful. Like sunshine in a bowl! It’s a perfect meal for a hot summer’s day when you don’t feel like cooking, not to mention it comes together so incredibly fast.
It’s also a perfect example of how good quality ingredients can make a simple dish an outstanding one. Be sure to use good quality tuna! I used Italian tuna in olive oil (which also eliminated the need to add any extra olive oil to the salad). I assure you that flaked tuna in water will not yield the same results.
I sliced my fennel on a mandoline to get nice thin, even slices, which were beautifully delicate. My husband said he would have liked some red onion in this salad, but I really enjoyed it just as is. Totally a keeper!
I have to admit I have not had couscous in so long. I normally don’t care for the small grain but this recipe jazzed it up appropriately. I was looking for something lighter for dinner, and this really fit the bill. Not to mention it came together in less than 30 minutes.
I feel like this is also an easy recipe to adjust with ingredients you have on hand or may want to use instead. I could see this working with raisins, roasted peppers, or bunches of herbs like parsley and cilantro. I might have to start incorporating more couscous into my meals!
I did use a bouillon cube. I used more caper berries since the berries are so small and I love the taste.
It was 104 degrees outside when I made this dish and I think it’s going to be a new summer go-to. It was fast to throw together, had amazing flavors, and felt like a complete meal. The fennel, oiled tuna, and arugula really made this feel like a classy dish that would be great for company with a crisp white wine.
We had leftovers for lunch the next day and they were even better.
Potato, macaroni, and . . . couscous—now the triangle of salad carbs is complete! Keep this recipe under your belt as it’ll come in handy when you need a quick dinner—just 15 minutes!—that’s light but satisfying.
The arugula adds a rich aroma, the sharp caper berries wake up the salad, and the crunch of the fennel and almonds is wonderful in the tender couscous. And you’ll love the ease of opening just a couple of cans of tuna for lean protein. And allow yourself to add “or more” after any of these ingredients, or throw in whatever else you feel like. I’ll definitely use more sliced almonds and lemon juice next time (the zest will also go in—I mean, why not?) and may add dandelion greens (also very Mediterranean) and cherry tomatoes if I have them on hand.
It’s a fairly inexpensive meal for six, so I treated us to imported tuna fillets from Italy and added the olive oil the fish was packed in. Another thing that didn’t go to waste was the fennel fronds. Chopped and scattered over the top, they fancied up the salad nicely.
This is a delicious and easy salad I will make again and again. There’s a great variety of textures and flavors and it’s so much more than the sum of its parts.
I used a fork to break up the initial clumps of couscous but I then used clean hands to gently break it apart into its grains and this seemed more effective than the fork.
I’m not the biggest fan of fennel, so I split it in half from top to bottom and then turned the cut side down and cut thin slices from both halves. This mixed into the salad very well and wasn’t too aggressive. It dispersed nicely without any oversized pieces.
I used Genova brand yellowfin tuna in olive oil, the salted variety. My only changes are I needed the juice from 2 full lemons to give it the brightness I wanted, and there can ALWAYS be more capers in everything.
We found the best way to serve this (to ensure it was easy to store leftovers without wilting the arugula) was putting arugula on the bottom of each bowl, and putting the couscous over the top and letting them be mixed as eaten.
I found it held up for several days in the fridge with no loss in flavor or texture. It’s perfect to make ahead as long as the arugula and couscous components are kept separately and I could see this as the perfect way to liven up desk lunches at work.
Originally published August 27, 2020
If you make this recipe, snap a photo and hashtag it #LeitesCulinaria. We'd love to see your creations on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter.
This humble little recipe was a big win, being wonderfully easy yet delicious and satisfying. The perfect meal for a quick summer dinner. I was happy to be reintroduced to fennel, an often overlooked but always surprisingly wonderful vegetable. As an added bonus, the leftovers held up well in the refrigerator, needing just a little squeeze of lemon juice to be refreshed.
Coming together in no time, this dish is highly adaptable to your liking. For me, that meant significantly upping the amount of almonds, lemon juice, and arugula. Be sure to use a good quality olive oil packed tuna and you’ll be good to go.
Paired with some sourdough toast, it made for a complete and filling meal. The flaky nuts add a welcome crunch. After testing as is, I would definitely add more capers and almonds. Also feel this dish benefited from a generous extra squeeze of lemon juice and lots more arugula.