Perfect for summer, this Israeli couscous salad with tomato, mozzarella, basil, and parsley is light and delicious. Serve it as a side dish or main course.
Why you’ll love it: The salad is easy to make and perfect for summer meals.
How long it takes: 50 minutes (including the cook/cool time for the couscous)
Equipment you’ll need: saucepan, mixing bowl
This couscous salad encompasses some of the best flavors of summer: flavorful herbs, fresh mozzarella, and juicy tomatoes. The Israeli couscous gives just the right bit of chewy texture. I think you’ll love it!
It’s a perfect way to use your summer herbs. Parsley and basil love the hot summer days and grow prolifically. My herb garden flourishes in pots right outside on my deck so it’s easy to grab a handful whenever I am cooking.
This couscous salad is reminiscent of Italian caprese salads with fresh mozzarella, basil, and tomatoes. I love caprese dishes so much, don’t you? I often make this caprese pasta salad and if I happen to find some great tomatoes, we enjoy caprese couscous stuffed tomatoes. Hot caprese dip is an absolute must-have at family get-togethers.
For this Israeli couscous salad, I take the caprese “trinity” a bit further. I add minced red onion and lots of Italian flat leaf parsley, along with pasta. Pearl couscous has such a great texture and doesn’t fall off your fork like some other pastas tend to do.
Hope you enjoy this Italian style couscous salad with tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, and herbs!
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Pearl (Israeli) Couscous: For more information about this type of couscous, check out the FAQ section below. Pearl couscous can usually be found in the pasta aisle of the grocery store.
- Fresh Mozzarella: Fresh mozzarella cheese is available in different shapes and sizes. Any type will work; larger pieces can be cut to size. Drain off the liquid that the cheese is packed in and pat lightly with paper towels to dry.
- Tomatoes: I chose grape tomatoes for this salad because they have a sweet flavor and when they are halved, they are just the right size. Other types of tomatoes can be used.
- Fresh Basil and Italian Flat-leaf Parsley: Lots of fresh herbs add essential flavor, gorgeous color, and good nutrition to the salad. Fresh basil tends to discolor when it’s chopped, so do that right before adding it to the salad (the discoloration doesn’t affect the flavor).
- Red Onion: There’s not a lot of onion in this salad, just a couple tablespoons of minced onion. Raw onions can have a very strong presence in salads but I do like the flavor and texture they add. Shallots are a good alternative.
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil: A good quality olive oil is essential for this salad because it adds so much flavor to the dressing.
- Balsamic Vinegar: Regular dark balsamic is traditional for caprese salads. White or golden balsamic vinegar is nice because it doesn’t discolor the salad. Choose what you like best.
How To Make Couscous Salad
This is an easy salad to make.
Prepare the couscous according to the package directions. You’ll need one cup of uncooked couscous which makes about 3 cups of cooked. Let the cooked couscous cool until it’s about room temperature, about 30 minutes. It will cool faster if you spread it out on a rimmed baking pan or tray.
Make the dressing: Whisk the olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and seasonings in either a measuring cup or in the large bowl you’re going to use for the salad.
Add the tomatoes, onions, cheese. Once you have the tomatoes halved, the onions minced, and the fresh mozzarella cheese ready, you can add them to the large bowl with the cooled couscous.
Fold in the chopped basil and parsley. Add the dressing if you haven’t already, and gently stir it all together.
That’s it! Your Israeli couscous salad is ready to enjoy.
What To Serve With Couscous Salad
Although this salad makes a fine lunch all on its own, it also works well as a side dish.
Serve it with grilled chicken that’s seasoned with balsamic chicken marinade or Italian chicken marinade. This salad goes well with spice rubbed pork tenderloin, garlic butter steak bites, or air fryer salmon.
According to Bob’s Red Mill, Israeli couscous is a type of pearl couscous which is made from small balls of toasted semolina wheat flour. It originated in Israel in the 1950s in response to a rice shortage. Israeli couscous is boiled in water like pasta.
Regular, or Moroccan couscous, is the smallest type of couscous and is steamed, not boiled. It is very quick-cooking due to its small size. The texture is more like a grain than a pasta but it is made with wheat flour.
All types of couscous are considered pasta. Most are made from durum wheat which is finely ground into semolina flour, mixed with water, and dried.
Make It Your Own
- Choose a different type of pasta. You could actually make this salad with any pasta that you like. Regular couscous, orzo, mini penne, ditalini, or orecchiette are good alternatives.
- Any variety of tomato is fine. Choose the best tomatoes available: large heirloom tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, or whatever looks amazing.
- Use a different kind of cheese. Fresh mozzarella is classic to this type of salad and it comes in various forms. If you prefer, buy mozzarella pearls (you won’t have to cut them in half!). Fresh mozzarella also comes in log form or rounds which can be cut into bite-sized pieces. If you’re not a fan of fresh mozzarella, substitute another kind of cheese such as sharp provolone, regular mozzarella, or farmer’s cheese.
Storage & Make Ahead Tips
- Refrigerate: Leftover salad can be refrigerated up to 3 days but the couscous will absorb some of the dressing. To refresh the salad, add more olive oil and vinegar, as needed.
- Make Ahead Idea: The couscous can be made up to a day ahead. Let it cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate it. You’ll be able to put the salad together in less than 15 minutes if the couscous is already made. If you are planning on making the salad ahead of time to serve later, I recommend that you add the basil and the dressing right before serving.
Interested in a weekly meal plan (it’s free!) that includes this salad recipe? Take a look at my Meal Plan #30. You’ll find a wholesome recipe for each weekday plus a categorized grocery list. Let me do the planning for you this week!
We’ll be adding a new meal plan weekly. If you’re interested, browse all of our meal plans.
- 1 cup pearl couscous, uncooked (3 cups cooked)
- 8 oz. fresh mozzarella balls, halved (see note)
- 1 cup (heaping) halved grape tomatoes
- 1 cup loosely packed fresh Italian parsley, roughly chopped
- 1 cup loosely packed fresh basil, roughly chopped
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar (dark or white, your choice)
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
- Cook couscous according to package directions. Transfer to a bowl and let cool. To cool the couscous more quickly, spread it out on a tray or large platter.
- In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk dressing ingredients: olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper.
- Add mozzarella, tomatoes, parsley, basil, and onion to couscous. Stir to combine. Add dressing, stirring to coat.
- Best served immediately.
- Pearl couscous is another name for Israeli couscous.
- If desired, substitute mozzarella pearls (you won’t need to halve them) or buy a log of fresh mozzarella and cut it into small pieces.
- Italian parsley is also known as flat leaf parsley.
- Make Ahead Tip: If you refrigerate the salad to serve later, add the basil and the dressing right before serving. If you have leftover salad, it can be refrigerated up to 3 days but the couscous will absorb some of the dressing. To refresh the salad, add more olive oil and vinegar, as needed.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition data is gathered primarily from the USDA Food Composition Database, whenever available, or otherwise other online calculators.