Smoky spices with a touch of sweetness and healthy veggies make this Israeli Couscous with vegetables and apricots a versatile side dish and delicious comfort food.
Israeli couscous, also referred to as Pearl couscous because of its shape, is not the same thing as traditional couscous. It’s relatively new (created in the 1950’s), it’s more substantial (much larger grains) and more chewy. Simply put, it’s a pasta. It absorbs flavors beautifully if cooked with the method in this recipe and is typically sold as toasted Israeli couscous.
You can boil Israeli couscous like regular pasta and use it in salads. This recipe, instead, blends several spices – smoked paprika, garlic, cloves and cumin – that penetrate the couscous while cooking. Combined with roasted vegetables and apricots, bright fresh chopped spinach and the richness of some butter (or olive oil if you prefer), the result is a deep, flavorful and very tasty side dish.
The dried apricots add great texture and a subtle sweetness. I’ve tried roasting them with the vegetables and boiling them with the couscous. Both ways work fine. Just be careful they don’t burn if you choose roasting (although I like a bit of char on mine).
This vegetarian dish is quick to make and it’s great paired with turkey (instead of stuffing), roast chicken, flank steak or a mild fish.
Tailor to your Taste
- Roast other vegetables such as diced mushrooms, zucchini or red peppers instead of butternut squash.
- Play around with spices you like. For example, try coriander, curry powder, nutmeg, regular paprika, thyme, etc.
- Add some toasted almonds for crunch.
- Substitute dried cranberries for the dried apricots.
- Add some heat with sriracha if you like.
Make Ahead Israeli Couscous
- The couscous can easily be made a couple of hours ahead of serving. To reheat, just add a bit more broth or water and reheat covered in the microwave for about a minute. Toss then serve.
Israeli Couscous with Vegetables and Apricots
- 1 cup diced onions, 1/4 inch (red or white)
- 2 cups spiralized/diced butternut squash (or mushrooms or red peppers or combo)
- 10-15 dried apricots, roughly chopped
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 2 tbsp butter (or oil)
- 1 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 1/2 tsp minced or grated garlic (or 1/2 tsp garlic powder)
- pinch ground cloves
- pinch cumin
- 1/4 tsp sriracha (optional)
- 1 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- 1 cup toasted Israeli couscous (or acini de pepe pasta)
- 2 cups roughly chopped fresh baby spinach
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 450F
- ROAST VEGETABLES & APRICOTS: Place onions, butternut squash (or mushrooms/red peppers) on a pan lined with foil and sprayed with oil. Drizzle on olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Toss to coat evenly. Roast for about 15 minutes or until vegetables are soft and starting to brown.
- MAKE COUSCOUS: While veggies are roasting, heat butter in medium saucepan on medium high. Add smoked paprika, garlic, cloves, cumin, sriracha. Stir and cook for a minute. Add broth and bring to a boil. Add couscous. Once boiling, lower heat to a simmer and cook covered for about 9-10 minutes or until couscous is soft (but still a bit chewy) and most of broth is absorbed (the remaining broth will absorb as it sits). If broth absorbs before couscous is cooked, add a bit more broth or water and continue cooking for another minute or two.
- ASSEMBLE: Add vegetables, apricots and chopped spinach to couscous. Stir well until spinach wilts. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed. Serve immediately or set aside and then warm in microwave for a minute before serving.
Here’s some other vegetarian side dishes you might like: