This easy Moroccan Couscous Salad with Raisins recipe is one of my go-to crowd-pleasers. It is so simple to make, which is surprising given its complexity in flavour. A little orange zest, some fresh herbs and balancing of sweet, salty and citrus can go a long way!
This is one of my favourite autumn dishes. It makes a great side dish to accompany a big meal gathering, or it can also be had as a meal on its own with the addition of some chickpeas for protein. This recipe was one of the first recipes to appear on my website back in 2013 and was inspired by my cooking teacher(s) – the 1st season of Master Chef Australia. A variation of this recipe appeared in the winner, Julie Goodwin’s cookbook. I love how simple this Morrocan Couscous Salad is to make, despite the complexity in flavour!
What is Couscous?
Couscous is made from a type of wheat called semolina that is a staple in North African, including Moroccan cuisine. If your a cook in a hurry than couscous may be your new best friend. It takes only 5 minutes to make, and no stove-top required.
Health Benefits of Couscous
Is Couscous Better For You Than Rice?
Couscous is going to offer more nutrition than white rice. It contains a high amount of selenium providing over 60% of our recommended intake. Couscous is made of wheat and is therefore not suitable on a gluten-free diet, whereas rice is naturally gluten-free. One cup of cooked couscous provides 175 calories, 34g of net carbohydrates and 6g of protein. One cup of cooked brown rice provides 220 calories, 42g of net carbohydrates and 4.5g of protein.
Glycemic Index of Couscous
Couscous is a good choice for diabetics or those who are watching their blood sugar levels. Although couscous is a medium glycemic index food, meaning it will have a moderate effect on blood sugar levels, it is not too dissimilar to brown rice or basmati rice. When you consider the glycemic load (1 cup cooked vs 1 cup cooked, ie the amount of the food you will actually eat), the blood sugar effect is quite similar.
The addition of fat (oil) to the preparation process, as in this recipe, helps to lower the glycemic index due to the slowing of gastric emptying. Glycemic index values vary depending on the brand and starch structure of the grains, see as follows:
- Brown Rice: 50 – 62
- Pearled Couscous: 52
- Basmati Rice: 52 – 58
- Couscous: 65
- Jasmine Rice: 109
Couscous vs Quinoa
Couscous and quinoa are interchangeable in many recipes. Quinoa offers more texture as it is higher in fibre and protein, and therefore will also offer more nutrition than couscous. Quinoa has a glycemic index of 53 (compared to couscous at 65) so is an even better choice for those watching their blood sugar levels. The pros of couscous are the cooking time, 5 minutes versus 30 for quinoa, and also the cost, couscous is one of the more inexpensive grains available. One cup of quinoa provides 220 calories, 35g net carbohydrates, and 8g of fibre.
Tips On Making Moroccan Couscous Salad with Raisins
How To Cook Couscous
For each cup of dry couscous, use 1 1/2 cups of hot water or vegetable stock. Couscous is as simple as pour and cover. A flat bottom bowl is ideal for even cooking, but any bowl will do. Cover the dry couscous with the measured boiled water or vegetable stock, stir once and cover with a plate or wrap and let steam for 5 minutes. For added flavour, salt, and oil or butter can be added to the couscous once it is cooked.
How To Make Fluffy Couscous
The couscous grains tend to bind together during the steaming process. To ensure your couscous is light and fluffy, make sure to not let it steam for longer than 5 minutes and overcook it. As soon as it is finished steaming remove the lid and fluff the couscous with a fork to separate the grains.
Substituting Israeli Couscous
Israeli couscous, also known as pearl couscous, is a healthy alternative and has a lower glycemic index than regular couscous thanks to its larger surface area and starch structure. The texture is more similar to pasta and it does require a cooking process similar to pasta. For 1 cup of Israeli couscous, you will need about 1 1/4 cups of water. Boil the couscous for about 10 minutes, covered. When it is finished it should have a texture similar to barley, or al-dante, with a little bit of bite.
Notes On Making Moroccan Couscous Salad with Raisins
Substituting with Apricots
Not a fan of raisins? This dish tastes great with dried and chopped up apricots. Purchase sulphur free apricots which will also be a brownish purple, adding colour contrast to the dish. I have also served this dish with chopped-up dates which also tastes delicious.
Adding Chickpeas For Protein To This Moroccan Couscous Salad
This side Moroccan Couscous Salad can easily be made into a meal by adding some chickpeas. Option to use a can of BPA free chickpeas, drained and rinsed. Add these at the end along with the feta and raisins, no need to cook them. For an even bigger flavour pop, lightly roast the chickpeas at 400F for 20-30 minutes on a baking tray with a small amount of salt and olive oil.
Making It A Vegan Moroccan Couscous Salad
This dish tastes just as great without the feta. To substitute for the salty flavour, add about 1/2 cup of chopped and pitted olives in place of the feta.
What More Couscous Recipes?
Try these delicious favourites:
- Curried Chickpea Roasted Cauliflower Couscous
- Weeknight Favourite Ginger Lentil Stew with Couscous.
- Serve this Moroccan Smokey Eggplant Dip with a side of couscous
Did you make this Easy Moroccan Couscous Salad with Raisins recipe? Please let me know how it turned out for you! Share it on Pinterest and leave a comment below. I would love it if you shared a picture of your recreation on Instagram so I can take a look, and be sure to tag me @theconsciousdietitian.
Want More Plant-Based Recipes?
Check out this meal-plan below made by a Registered Dietitian for more recipes like this. A simple one-week vegan meal plan, formatted so it easy to follow with tips on how to maximize a plant-based diet, and includes over 30 nourishing drinks and healthy snacks recipes.
Easy Moroccan Couscous Salad with Raisins
- 1/4 cup raisins
- 1 cup vegetable stock organic
- 1 cup couscous dry
- 1 tbsp olive oil extra virgin (+ 2 tsp extra)
- 1 onion chopped
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 2 tsp curry powder
- 2 oranges finely grated zest only
- 1 tbsp maple syrup
- 1 orange segmented or chopped into 2 inch cubes
- 2 tbsp fresh orange juice
- 1/2 cup crumbled feta organic
- salt to taste
- black pepper ground
- 1/2 cup parsley chopped (optional)
- Bring the vegetable stock to a boil in a small saucepan. Remove from heat and add couscous. Stir to ensure all the couscous is covered. Cover and let sit for 5 minutes.
- Add 1 tbsp olive oil to the couscous and fluff with a fork. Set aside.
- Heat 2 tsp of olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add onion and cook for about 2 to 3 minutes. Add garlic, curry and orange zest and cook for a further 1 minute.
- Remove from heat and stir through maple syrup. Add this mixture to the couscous.
- Next chop the orange segments and add them, along with the raisins, orange juice and crumbled feta, to the couscous mixture.
- Season with salt and pepper to taste. Option to serve with a garnish of fresh chopped parsley.
Make it vegan by omitting the feta cheese, replacing this with chopped olives for added savouriness.
Make it a main by adding one can of drained and rinsed chickpeas along with the feta and oranges. Recipe Adapted from Julie Goodwin Cookbook - Master Chef Australia.
Rachel Dickens, The Conscious Dietitian, is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She graduated with her Masters in Nutrition and Dietetics in 2010 from Griffith University. She strives to provide evidence-based nutrition information with a focus on plant-based nutrition, and share some of her favourite seasonal recipes and sustainable eating tips.