Warm couscous salad filled with fresh veggies and bright mandarin oranges is still delicious served at room temperature or chilled. This makes it the perfect side dish for any easy dinner or potluck party during warm weather.
Everyone needs a flexible side dish that can be served warm, room temperature, or even chilled because a recipe like this comes in so handy for easy dinners, potlucks, or warm weather entertaining.
This warm couscous salad with oranges and fresh veggies is absolutely delicious served immediately while it is still fresh from the saucepan.
You can let it sit and come to room temperature on a buffet table for a party or even make it ahead the day before and serve it chilled from the fridge.
Since it is completely vegetarian and vegan friendly, there's nothing to spoil on a hot afternoon.
But pair it with your favorite grilled chicken, shrimp, or spicy pork and it is an amazing part of an easy weeknight meal!
Why This is the Best Recipe
When it comes to easy side dishes, I think this is the best couscous salad recipe because:
- Fresh and Healthy: Loaded with veggies and oranges, there's only a couple tablespoons of olive oil in the entire recipe.
- Zesty Flavor: The dressing is made from orange juice and cilantro and the red onion gives it a bit of a kick, so it pairs really well with more savory main dishes.
- Quick to Make: The whole recipe takes just about 20 minutes total to assemble, chop the veggies in advance and it would be a 10-minute dish.
- Make-Ahead Friendly: You could make it fresh at dinner time or ahead and it can be served at any temperature.
- Vegetarian and Vegan Friendly: Know you've got friends coming and want to have something that meets their dietary needs? They'd be thrilled to find this as part of your menu.
You only need a few items to make this easy couscous salad:
- Israeli Pearl Couscous: This grain is very similar to pasta but is made from whole wheat flour and is less refined than traditional pasta noodles. The Israeli pearl couscous is a larger shaped ball than the tiny regular couscous and has a much more palatable texture.
- Orange Juice
- Red Bell Pepper
- Green Bell Pepper
- Red Onion
- Fresh Cilantro
- Canned Mandarin Oranges
- Olive Oil
How to Make It
To serve the side dish warm, it is important to prep the veggies before you cook the couscous.
This way, you can toss the salad together quickly and serve it immediately while the couscous is still warm.
Finely dice the green bell pepper and red bell pepper and add them to a large mixing bowl.
Finely dice the red onion. You could add it directly to the other veggies but if you struggle with heartburn from raw onions like my husband and I do, I have an excellent trick for you!
How to Prevent Heartburn from Raw Onion
Fill a measuring cup with ice and then add water. Add your finely diced red onion to the ice water and let it rest for at least 5 minutes.
Drain the onions through a strainer, discard the ice cubes, and then proceed adding them to the salad.
The ice water helps take the edge off the raw onion and helps to prevent heartburn.
For really sensitive people, this may not work completely but it has definitely worked for my own sensitive stomach.
Cook the Couscous
Add the orange juice and water to a large saucepan and bring it to a boil over high heat.
Add the couscous and salt and stir.
Cook the couscous in the orange juice for 10 minutes or until the couscous is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed.
Definitely stir the couscous as it cooks because it will become quite thick. You don't want it to burn or stick to the bottom of the pot.
Once the couscous is finished cooking, scrape the entire batch, sauce and all, into the mixing bowl with the prepped veggies.
I wanted you to be able to see the finished texture clearly, so I added it to an empty bowl for the photo:
Drain the can of mandarin oranges and add the fruit segments to the salad.
Gently fold all the veggies and fruit together with the cooked couscous.
Sprinkle the chopped fresh cilantro over the top, add a pinch of salt and pepper, and stir again.
Serve immediately while it is still warm.
Make Ahead Tips
If you want to make this easy couscous salad ahead of time, you can actually just let it sit on the counter and come to room temperature if your meal is in just a couple of hours.
If you want to make it the day before, store it in the fridge in a covered dish so it stays fresh.
Do not try to reheat the salad, if you make it ahead plan to serve it chilled or at room temperature.
The couscous will definitely thicken and clump as it sits. If you want a looser texture, add a tablespoon or two of orange juice and gently stir to loosen the grains.
This warm couscous salad with oranges would make a delicious meatless dinner on a hot day.
You could also serve it as a side dish with grilled chicken, pork, fish, or shrimp.
I think a spicy main dish like my seasoned grilled tilapia or spicy shrimp would pair perfectly with the sweet dressing on the couscous.
But, my oven baked salmon has a savory-sweet spice topping that would be a great fit, too.
More Pasta Salad Recipes
If you want a pasta salad to serve as a side dish or main dish for a light dinner, you may also enjoy these easy recipes:
Warm Couscous Salad with Oranges
- 2 cups orange juice
- 2 cups water
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 2 cups Israeli pearl couscous
- 1 red bell pepper finely diced
- 1 green bell pepper finely diced
- ½ small red onion finely diced
- 1 8 oz can mandarin orange segments drained
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 tablespoon fresh cilantro minced
- 1 sprinkle salt & fresh cracked pepper
Prepare the Salad
- Add the chopped red bell pepper, green bell pepper, and red onion to a large mixing bowl. Set aside while you cook the couscous.
Cook the Couscous
- Add the orange juice, water, and the salt to a large saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the couscous and stir to combine.
- Cook the couscous for 10 minutes or until tender. As the couscous cooks, continue to stir occasionally since the liquid will be absorbed by the grain and the mixture will become quite thick.
Assemble the Salad
- Once the couscous is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed, scrape the warm couscous into the bowl of prepared veggies. Stir the couscous and peppers together.
- Drain the mandarin oranges and add them to the bowl. Gently fold them in.
- Drizzle the olive oil and sprinkle the fresh cilantro over the top. Add a pinch of salt and pepper to the bowl and gently stir together.
- Serve the couscous salad warm immediately or cover it and let it sit and come to room temperature. It is also delicious served chilled.
- NOTE: If the couscous salad clumps together too much as it sits, you can rehydrate the dressing by adding a tablespoon or two of orange juice and gently stirring it all together again.
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