Couscous with Pistachios and Apricots

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.

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


  • 1/2 cup chopped red onion
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 10-ounce box of couscous, about 1 1/3 cups
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin 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.


1 Soak chopped onion in lemon juice: 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 pistachios: 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 Cook the couscous: 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 Combine ingredients to make salad: 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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  • Amy

    Made this today! It’s so yummy. Not really a fan of apricots,but tasted good in the recipe.


  • Shirley

    I once tried the boxed couscous after tasting the Israeli couscous. Wow, I’d never buy the boxed stuff again. The taste difference is amazing with that nutty and chewy flavor. The only preparation difference is that you cook the Israeli couscous a little longer. It is now available in most grocery stores and I love the larger little pearls. I use it in salads where I first encountered it in a huge store in Houston, TX.

  • Rachel Frantz

    I would substitute the pistachios with sunflower and/or sesame seeds and the apricots with ground lamb and/or beef (or small cubes) sautéed in garlic oil with black pepper and cumin. I would reduce the salt to 1/4 teaspoon. I would also brown half a small yellow onion in butter in the pan I before adding the water for the couscous. Serve the meat over the couscous.

    • Jamie

      while that sounds really delicious, it sounds like it would be a completely different recipe altogether…

  • Chantel

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

    • Elise Bauer

      Hi Chantel! We used them whole, but you could chop them if you wanted to.

  • 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.

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • Judy

    Do you think I could substitute quinoa for the couscous?

    • Elise Bauer

      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!

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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 (

  • 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! :)

  • Patricia

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

  • 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.

  • 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 Bauer

      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!

  • Kiran @

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

  • 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 :)


  • Doris O'Neill

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

    • Elise Bauer

      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.

  • Nate

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

    • Elise Bauer

      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!

  • 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.