This is the best, most flavorful couscous salad I have ever made. Curried couscous with chickpeas and lots of vegetables, a vegan couscous salad recipe to die for.
I’ve had a strange relationship with couscous for many years. Meaning: I loved it when eaten in restaurants or cooked by someone else and hated it when I prepared anything with couscous myself. So, at one point I just stop buying it, I was sick of buying a whole packet, making one couscous dish which I didn’t like and throwing away the rest of the packet when it expired.
And then, a couple of years ago, we had this amazing tiny portion of curried couscous salad in a restaurant, part of a 8 course menu. It was amazing… So good… Fortunately, I was able to get the recipe or at least a brief version of it and tried my hand with it at home. I have been making that curried couscous salad so many times ever since.
Another amazing recipe I got from the same cook was the recipe for this Jerusalem artichoke soup I posted a few years ago.
Couscous Salad with Chickpeas and Vegetables
And that couscous salad kind of broke the spell with me not being able to properly cook couscous. Nowadays, I would definitely not throw one grain of unused couscous away, we don’t only eat it in form of this salad, but as a kind of tabbouleh or as a side dish for many other dishes, especially dishes with a slight oriental touch.
This particular couscous salad with chickpeas is not the curried couscous salad we had in that restaurant, but a variation of it. I should post that original recipe though someday, it is too good to leave it out.
But this time I wanted a more substantial salad, and adding chickpeas seemed like such a good idea. And it was! We all loved this vegan couscous salad, even the children ate a little without complaining toooo much.
How to make the vegan couscous salad with curry
The secret to enjoying couscous is to properly soak it, at least that was where I always failed years ago when trying to cook something tasty with couscous.
Couscous doesn’t have so much taste on its own, it definitely needs the help of a good, flavorful stock and lots of other spices.
And don’t be tempted to add too much stock when soaking the couscous or to guess the liquid quantity you need for the couscous. I used to think it would not matter that much if I add ¼ cup liquid more or less to the couscous when I soak it. But it does!
If you add too little, the couscous will still have a grainy touch to it and if you add too much liquid it will be too watery. And that is the worst when it comes to couscous – watery couscous. The main reason why I didn’t enjoy couscous before. So, make sure you read the packet’s instructions concerning the amount of liquid you need for the couscous and measure correctly.
How to spice the curried couscous salad
When it comes to spices, they are just as important as soaking the couscous in just the right amount of liquid.
As mentioned above, plain couscous is no joy, so make sure you spice it properly. Use a very good vegetable stock, made from a cube is fine. Actually better than homemade stock in this case, as it has a much stronger flavor, it’s saltier and you can adjust the quantity you use according to your taste.
Buy the best vegetable stock you can afford as it makes all the difference, not only in the case of this vegan couscous salad, but for anything else you make with it, either soups or risotto or whatever.
I always use an organic brand, either dry in the form of a rough powder or as a rather stiff paste. The latter is the best I have ever had. It contains no chemicals whatsoever, it keeps for a long time and it tastes better than any other vegetable stock brand I have ever tried before. It costs about thrice as much as regular organic stock and I can only get it online, but it is so worth it!
And as I don’t use it that often (I almost always make soups with homemade stock) and I only need a little amount of it (it is very concentrated), it lasts for a long time, so the money issue becomes relative.
So, a good stock is important, but you will need more than that to make this wonderful couscous salad with chickpeas.
First of all a good curry paste. I used a rather spicy green curry paste, only a little amount. It gave the vegan couscous salad a wonderful flavor. However, you can use other curry paste you happen to have or like, I have green most of the time, but yellow would be fine as well. Or red, if you can take the heat, red curry paste is too much for us in most of the cases, so I rarely buy it.
You will also need some concentrated tomato paste and some red wine vinegar, which will give the curried couscous salad a nice tangy and fruity touch, some soy sauce for more discrete saltiness, some cumin for that slight oriental touch I was mentioning before and some fresh or frozen herbs.
When it comes to the vegetables you can use, the matter is pretty flexible. I used bell peppers (the color is not important, red and yellow are fine and you can even add some green pepper for a heartier taste). Otherwise, scallions/green onions, finely sliced.
You could also add some raw zucchini cubes, sauteed eggplant cubes or fresh corn. And don’t forget the chickpeas. Canned and drained chickpeas are fine for this vegan couscous salad.
And if you don’t want to keep the couscous salad with chickpeas vegan, you could add some feta cheese on top. It works wonderful with the rest of the ingredients.
Another good addition to this salad, something I would use in the other couscous salad I was mentioning before would be dried cranberries or raisins. So good! If you decide to use raisins, you could soak them in hot water for about 10 minutes first. If you wish though, it is not mandatory, but it makes the salad finer.
How to serve the vegan couscous salad
This couscous salad with chickpeas makes a great light lunch on its own. It tastes great the next day as well, so don’t worry if you have leftovers.
Pack them in a lunch box and take them to work, if you wish. There is not even any garlic involved and that makes this couscous salad a perfect work lunch idea. 🙂
Give the couscous to a bowl. Whisk the green curry paste into the hot vegetable stock and pour the mixture over the couscous. Let stand for 10 minutes or according to the packet's instructions. Fluff the grains with a fork. In a small bowl whisk together the soy sauce, vinegar, olive oil and cumin. Add the mixture to the couscous and stir well. Add some salt and pepper to taste. Drain the chickpeas and give them to the salad. Chop the peppers into small cubes and the scallions into fine rings. Add them to the salad. Taste again and add more seasoning as desired. You might want to adjust the taste with a little more vinegar, some chili flakes and salt and pepper. Sprinkle with the finely chopped parsley and serve as suggested above. The salad keeps well for a couple of days in the refrigerator, covered well. Note: Read the couscous packet's instructions to determine the right amount of liquid you need, this may vary from brand to brand. [nutrition-label id=10434]
Give the couscous to a bowl. Whisk the green curry paste into the hot vegetable stock and pour the mixture over the couscous. Let stand for 10 minutes or according to the packet's instructions. Fluff the grains with a fork.
In a small bowl whisk together the soy sauce, vinegar, olive oil and cumin. Add the mixture to the couscous and stir well. Add some salt and pepper to taste.
Drain the chickpeas and give them to the salad. Chop the peppers into small cubes and the scallions into fine rings. Add them to the salad. Taste again and add more seasoning as desired. You might want to adjust the taste with a little more vinegar, some chili flakes and salt and pepper.
Sprinkle with the finely chopped parsley and serve as suggested above. The salad keeps well for a couple of days in the refrigerator, covered well.
Read the couscous packet's instructions to determine the right amount of liquid you need, this may vary from brand to brand.