By Gourmantine | June 8, 2011

Photo: I-M Photography

If I look at my most used ingredients for quick and even “emergency” weeknight meals, I do not know where I’d be without couscous. It’s versatility, lightness and being on the healthy side, makes it the first choice for both cold and warm dishes. 

Traditionally served with stewed vegetables and meat with plenty of spices, couscous (more precisely semolina grains) can be adapted for anything from salads to desserts. Now, the most widely available, “instant couscous” has already been pre-steamed and can be ready within minutes. Unfortunately ,due to the quick preparation some of the best couscous qualities are lost along the way, but when combined it can nevertheless make an excellent dish.

I have heard some people who have tasted plain “instant” couscous for the first time say, that they found the taste of it to be a bit bland. Preparing couscous in traditionally it is steamed up to three times and seasoned along the way. This helps to develop additional depth in its taste, a step that is skipped while preparing “instant” couscous.

Photo: I-M Photography

Hence, to make the quick and easy alternative taste impeccable, you should keep a few things in mind:

* Using stock is absolutely obligatory and if you don’t have any and just about to consider using water, well, just make couscous some other day. My preference is using chicken stock, as it gives the best results, but vegetable one will do just fine.
* Even when preparing couscous as a side dish I always add a drop or two of lemon juice. It helps to “awaken” and brighten up the taste.
* Herbs are essential. If you think you have added a lot of fresh herbs to couscous, just add a little more. Cilantro and couscous are, in my humble opinion, a match made in heaven and it’s always number one choice for both salads and warm dishes. If you don’t like cilantro, well, try to give it another chance; otherwise parsley, basil and mint work well just as well. You can always play with the combination of herbs and slightly manipulate the taste of the end dish.

This particular salad is very quick and easy to prepare and any additional ingredients such as grilled eggplant, zucchini or oven-roasted bell peppers can be included. It can be served as a simple salad for a lunch or dinner, but prepared in small glasses can make an elegant canape for a party!

Here are a few more couscous recipes for you to try:

Ground Turkey Patties with Couscous

Cauliflower and Chickpea Stew with Couscous

Harissa Couscous and Roasted Sweet Potato



Quick and Healthy Couscous Salad with Shrimp Recipe

Servings: 4
Calories: 300 per serving
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes


  • 250 ml chicken stock
  • 150g instant couscous
  • 5-6 tbsp olive oil
  • 200 g shrimp
  • 3 garliccloves, peeled and lightly crushed
  • 200 g cherry tomatoes
  • 1 cucumber
  • 2 lemon, juice
  • A large bunch of cilantro
  • Salt and freshly grounded pepper, to taste


1. Boil the stock and pour over the couscous, cover with cling film and leave to set for 10 minutes.

2. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the pan add the garlic and let it cook for a 2-3 minutes till it starts to brown. Discard the garlic, add the shrimp to the pan and cook them for a few minutes.

3. Remove them from the pan and place on the paper towel to absorb the excess oil.

4. When the couscous has set, add a few tablespoons of olive oil and juice of one lemon and use your fingers to break any lumps that may have formed. This will give a lighter texture to the salad.

5. Peel the cucumber and cut lengthwise. Scrape the seeds out and dice it up. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half and add together with the diced cucumber to couscous.

6. Stir in the chopped cilantro, season with salt and pepper and more lemon juice as needed.

7. Now, gather all the strength to not eat it directly and let it stand for at least 20 minutes. This will allow for deeper flavor to develop.

8. Serve with a few shrimp on top.

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