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Vegan Couscous with Za’atar Vinaigrette

This vegan couscous recipe is a simple side dish ready in 10 minutes. With a unique za’atar vinaigrette, parsley & sliced almonds!

I’m so excited to share this simple couscous recipe with you! It features two ingredients I’ve never used before on the blog–couscous and za’atar. This recipe is the perfect side dish to accompany a dinner or can be eaten on its own as a vegan couscous salad.

Although I’m not stranger to couscous (it’s an easy swap for pasta), I’ve actually never experimented with za’atar before. This spice is incredibly tasty and easy to use, and it really adds a ton of flavor to the couscous salad.

If you’re short on time or just want an easy recipe, this couscous dish is for you!

What is couscous?

Pasta and couscous may look different, but they come from the same durum wheat flour. Whereas pasta is a flour mixture that is rolled out and then cut, couscous is a combo of semolina and durum wheat tossed together to form tiny balls.

[Read about other creative pantry swaps you can make here.]

The nutritional properties of couscous and pasta are very similar. Both are carb-rich sides or mains.

There are a few varieties of couscous. The one I used in this recipe is Moroccan couscous, which consists of tiny grains. It takes about 5 minutes to make.

The larger variety is known as Israeli or pearled couscous, and it cooks up in about 10 minutes. Most of the couscous varietals you’ll find are instant, so they cook very quickly.

Although pasta tastes best when coated in sauce, couscous is delicious with veggies, spices and herbs. It’s really versatile and can stand alone as a side dish or make a nice addition to salads or soup.

couscous with zaatar vinaigrette in white bowl with silverware

How to cook couscous

It could not be any easier to whip up a batch of couscous. The cooking time depends on the variety, but all you really need are the couscous and water.

For the small Moroccan couscous, combine the couscous with the recommended amount of water (1/3 cup couscous and 1/2 cup water), add a pinch of salt and bring to a boil. Cover, remove from the heat and let stand for 5 minutes. Then fluff with a fork.

For the large Israeli couscous, combine the couscous and water in a pot (1 cup couscous and 1 1/2 cup water). Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce heat to simmer. Simmer for 8-10 minutes.

How to add flavor to couscous

Since couscous is made with just water, it can be pretty bland. You can spice it up with a recipe (like the one to follow) or add a few elements to the cooking process to make things tastier. Here are a few suggestions to add flavor to couscous:

  • cook it in vegetable stock
  • add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt to the cooking water
  • sauté garlic and olive oil in the pot, then cook the couscous in the same pot
  • add herbs to the cooked couscous
  • add your favorite spice to the cooked couscous, like chili powder, turmeric, curry powder or cumin
close up pic of couscous with parsley and zaatar vinaigrette

What is za’atar?

Za’atar may sound intimidating, but it’s really just a simple Middle Eastern Spice that adds big flavor. Quite simply, za’atar is a mixture of oregano, cumin, sumac, sesame and sea salt. Some varieties include dried lemon or orange peel as well.

The mixture of spices comes together to create a tangy, nutty and almost floraly taste. It’s really really delicious, and I encourage you to go out and buy a bottle to make this recipe.

You can also sprinkle it on veggies before roasting or add it to other grain salads.

couscous with parsley, sliced almonds and zaatar vinaigrette in a white bowl

How to make Vegan Couscous with Za’atar Vinaigrette

I love the simplicity of this recipe, including the fact that it’s made with just a few simple ingredients and only takes 5 minutes to whip up the couscous. I used the small Moroccan couscous for this recipe.

ingredients for vegan couscous with zaatar vinaigrette

To make the couscous bring water to a bowl in the pot, then add the couscous. Remove it from the heat and fluff with a fork.

Next, make the dressing. Whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, za’atar seasoning in a small bowl.

Next, toast slivered almonds over medium heat in a skillet. You don’t need any oil to get the golden brown color on the almonds.

Lastly, mix together the couscous, parsley and za’atar vinaigrette and top with toasted slivered almonds and enjoy!

What to serve with Vegan Couscous

This vegan couscous recipe makes a perfect side dish. Here are a few options to serve with it:

Hopefully you make this and love it! Share your couscous creation with me on Instagram at @nutritionalanat.

Vegan Couscous with Za’atar Vinaigrette and Toasted Almonds

A delicious vegan couscous with a za'atar vinaigrette, parsley and toasted almonds.

Course Side Dish
Servings 6
Calories 315 kcal
Author Natalie Rizzo, MS, RD

Ingredients

  • 1 box couscous about 10 ounces
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoon za’atar seasoning
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds

Instructions

  1. Cook the box of couscous according to package instructions.
  2. While the couscous is cooking, whisk together the olive oil, lemon juice, za’atar seasoning and salt in a small bowl. Set aside.
  3. Heat a small skillet over medium heat and add the almonds to the pan. Toast for 3-4 minutes or until golden brown.
  4. Add the fresh parsley and vinaigrette to the couscous and top with sliced almonds.
Nutrition Facts
Vegan Couscous with Za'atar Vinaigrette and Toasted Almonds
Amount Per Serving (0.75 cup)
Calories 315 Calories from Fat 126
% Daily Value*
Fat 14g22%
Saturated Fat 2g13%
Sodium 103mg4%
Potassium 155mg4%
Carbohydrates 39g13%
Fiber 4g17%
Sugar 1g1%
Protein 8g16%
Vitamin A 112IU2%
Vitamin C 4mg5%
Calcium 39mg4%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

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I’m Natalie Rizzo, an NYC-based Registered Dietitian.

My mission is to help everyday athletes fuel their fitness with plants.

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