Couscous with Pistachios and Apricots

Do you like couscous? I had a particularly good meal at a local restaurant recently that served grilled chicken with a side of couscous that had been tossed with some toasted pistachios and a little harissa. I ate every last semolina granule on my plate. Inspired, we made our own version, with pistachios and some chopped dried apricots, red onions, lemon juice, and parsley. So good! Especially with grilled chicken. It would be good with a Moroccan chicken tagine too. The dried apricots provide sparklettes of sweetness that balance well with the pistachios, lemon, and onions.

Do you have a favorite preparation of couscous? Please let us know about it in the comments.

Couscous with Pistachios and Apricots Recipe

  • Prep time: 20 minutes
  • Cook time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 4-6 as a side dish.

This recipe calls for boxed couscous that is available in most supermarkets in the U.S. This couscous is precooked semolina, which requires only minimal preparation. Cooking raw couscous is a much more involved process, which we do not cover here in this recipe.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 10-ounce box of couscous, about 1 1/3 cups
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 cup shelled raw pistachios*
  • 10 dried apricots, chopped
  • 1/3 cup chopped parsley
  • Optional 2 teaspoons harissa, prepared or homemade (see this Paula Wolfert harissa recipe)

*If you only have access to shelled roasted pistachios, use them and skip step 2 in the method instructions.

Method

1 Place the chopped onion in a small bowl. Pour the lemon juice over the onions, set aside and let the onions soak in the lemon juice.

2 Toast the pistachios in a small pan on medium-high heat until lightly browned and fragrant. (Take care when toasting nuts, they can burn quickly if you don't pay attention!) Remove from heat and place into a small bowl to cool.

3 Put 2 cups of water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Add one tablespoon of olive oil and one teaspoon of salt to the water. Once the salt dissolves, stir in the couscous, turn off the heat and cover the pot. Move the pot off the hot burner and let the couscous steam, covered, for 5-6 minutes.

4 Scoop out the couscous into a large bowl and fluff with a fork. Stir in the harissa, if using. Stir in the pistachios, chopped apricots and parsley. Stir in the red onion and lemon juice. Add one more tablespoon of olive oil, stir well and add salt to taste. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Links:

Cherry Tomato Couscous, from 101 Cookbooks

Couscous with Chickpeas, Fennel and Citrus, from The Kitchn

Lemony Saffron Couscous, from The Shiksa in the Kitchen

Couscous with Pistachios and Apricots on Simply Recipes

 

32 Comments

  1. Carin

    My couscous dish combines walnuts, dried cranberries, feta and spring onion. I make it over Christmas – it’s yummy still warm, or chilled in the fridge.

  2. Nate

    Would you recommend roasted/salted pistachios, or raw ones?

    • Elise

      Raw, so you can toast them yourself. Otherwise use roasted and skip the second step in the method instructions. I’ve clarified this in the recipe, thank you!

  3. Louise

    You had me at harissa. Can’t wait to try this one!!

  4. Robyn Stone | Add a Pinch

    Amazing!!! Must try!!!

  5. Doris O'Neill

    Please indicate a good substitute for dried apricots, since they usually contain sulphites , which can cause severe allergic reactions.

    • Elise

      Hi Doris, if you have access to a Whole Foods I would check there for sulfite-free dried apricots. I would plump them up first by soaking them in a little water though, as my experience with the WF dried apricots is they are quite dry. You could also substitute the apricots for a handful of golden raisins.

  6. Katrina @ Warm Vanilla Sugar

    This sounds soooo good!!

  7. Bob Y

    I chop up a yellow onion and brown it thoroughly. Then add approx 1 tbsp (more or less to taste) curry powder and some garum masala. I use chicken stock and deglaze the pan thoroughly so that the onions and curry fonds are diffused in the stock. Then the usual package instructions. You can stir in some toasted pignolis for some crunch when fluffing the couscous. This makes a wonderful side dish for chicken and lamb. I have to stop myself from eating the whole pan :)

    \\

  8. Kiran @ KiranTarun.com

    Yummy!! I recently made a grilled eggplant couscous salad. It definitely absorbs any good flavors introduced :)

  9. Debra

    I have never made couscous but this inspires me to try.

  10. Stephanie

    HELL YES! (sorry if this is a pointless comment… I just felt a lot of enthusiasm over this recipe. ;)

  11. Jayne

    We love couscous so much here! It’s even easier and quicker to cook than rice. What do you think about using cut up dates in place of apricots?

    • Elise

      Dates may not be as tangy as you might want for this, but it’s worth a try. Let us know how it works out for you if you try it with dates!

  12. mary

    sounds delicious – love the addition of the harissa paste which I adore! quick, healthy and delicious :)
    Mary x

  13. Amanda

    Ah, something so simple should have been being eaten by me a long time ago. So glad you decided to make it! And…any chance of sharing that restaurant name? I live in the area and am always looking for recommendations.

  14. Patricia

    We have couscous quite often This summer have prepared this recipe several times and is always a hit! Very fresh in flavor.

    http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2013/06/skillet-supper-pearled-couscous-tomato-spinach-feta-recipe.html?ref=search

  15. Reima

    I grew up loving and eating couscous all the time! The funny thing was, the main way my mom cooked it for us growing up and how I made it when I could turn on the stove, was making it like a dessert! I cooked it in milk, pinch of salt, and added sugar to it! Just recently I started making couscous the ‘meal’ way. And I love this dish! It looks so good! I’ll have to make it tonight! Thank you! :)

  16. Nessa

    Love these flavors!

  17. Walter Underwood

    I have a couscous recipe I use for backpacking. It is pretty lively, with chili powder, but otherwise similar to this, with nuts, onions, etc. I added dried apricots and it got twice as good. Of course, these were dried Blenheim apricots, but still, it was a huge difference.

    The original recipe is from Sara Kirkconnell (http://www.trailcooking.com/).

  18. Marry

    The first time i tried couscous, it blew my mind because i could not put my finger on the spice they used. It was garam masala, THE couscous spice…at least that’s what they told me. I tried it with other dishes, but it only seems to work with couscous! I really like to make some again but i’ve grown gluten intolerant, unfortunatly. As for your recipe, it sounds delicious. I love pistachios! Perhaps one could also make a pistachio paste and mix it in with the harissa…but then you’d lose a lot of texture i guess.

  19. sheila

    I am so making this. I do have a favorite couscous salad it has mangoes, black beans, spinach, and a few other goodies tossed with a spicy lime cilantro dressing. So dang good. My kids love it too, so it’s good to have on hand for quick snacks or lunch. Also goes perfect with grilled meat.

  20. Judy

    Do you think I could substitute quinoa for the couscous?

    • Elise

      Quinoa has its own unique flavor. You kind of have to experiment with it to see what works well with it flavorwise. For example, milk and quinoa? A gorgeous match, but who would guess? I have not made quinoa with apricots and pistachios, so I don’t know how it would taste. If you do experiment with it, please let us know how it turns out for you.

      • Judy

        I tried it last night. I followed the recipe other than the cooking time for the quinoa, and I substituted sriracha sauce for the harissa. It was fantastic, a definite keeper. Thanks!

  21. Lee

    I served this amazing couscous recipe with pork chops rubbed with spices and then grilled with sliced peaches and a side of asparagus. Awesome combination! Thanks Elise for all your great ideas! Keep them coming.

  22. Natasha (@NatashasKitchen)

    I’m so making this :), I love the combination of pistachios and apricots. Thank you.

  23. Marjy

    I made this with sorghum since gluten and I are no longer friends, and while it did take longer, it worked out very well. Great recipe!

  24. Jennifer

    I made this last night and used a wild rice blend instead of couscous. I’ve been making couscous so much lately that I thought I’d use rice to give myself a break. I also didn’t have any harissa. But the recipe was wonderful anyway! The apricots play nicely with the salty pistachios.

  25. Chantel

    Elise, do you chop up your pistachios for this dish? Or just leave them whole?

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