Colorful Couscous, Lentils and Raisins Salad

Couscous, Lentil and Raisins Salad Ronit Penso

Preparing traditional couscous from scratch is a labor intensive task; it requires mixing semolina with oil and water, passing it through a sieve, steaming it in a special pot, mixing it again, and repeating the process once or twice more… No wonder that up until modern times, when the instant couscous was created, this great grain product was not as popular as it is today.

The homemade couscous purists may snub instant couscous, claiming it is not as tasty as the original. They may be right to some extent, just like those who are in favor of fresh homemade pasta versus dried pasta are. However, just as most of us will not start making fresh pasta for lunch, the same goes for instant couscous. It is extremely easy and quick to prepare, and when made properly, it is tasty and highly versatile. So don’t be deterred by the term “instant” in this case.
Combining couscous with legumes is a well known tradition in North Africa and it increases the nutritional value of the dish, creating a high quality protein. Chickpeas are usually used as the main legume, but they take a while to cook, so I’ve decided to use lentils instead, as they cook very quickly, and I prefer their flavor and texture here.
The seasoning and the addition of dried fruits were also inspired by North-African cuisine, and the result is both colorful and flavorful.
The salad is best served at room temperature, as a light dish on its own, or as a side dish. It can be topped with grilled chicken, fish or seafood, or with crumbled Feta or Goat cheese. Try it and enjoy.

* For an explanation on how to extract pomegranate seeds quickly and easily, check under TIPS.

Makes: 6
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes for the lentils, 15 minutes for the couscous

For the lentils:
1 ½ cups green lentils
¾ cup water
For the couscous:
2 cups fine instant couscous
1 Tbs salt
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup golden raisins
3 cups boiling water
For the salad:
2 scallions, chopped
1/3 cup pomegranate seeds (or dried cranberries)
1 tsp cumin powder
Juice from 1 large lemon
¼ lemon, chopped (peel and pulp)
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
2 Tbs olive oil (additional)

1. Mix the lentils and ¾ cup water in a small pot. (Do not add salt – it will prevent the lentils from cooking quickly). Bring to a boil on high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook for 10 minutes, until the water is absorbed and the lentils are soft but still keep their shape. Cover and set aside.
Couscous lentil and raisins salad Ronit Pensocouscous lentil and raisins salad Ronit Penso
2. In a large bowl, mix the couscous, salt, ¼ cup olive oil, raisins, and 3 cups boiling water. Cover with plastic warp. Let sit for 15 minutes, until the couscous absorbs the water and softens, and the raisins are plump. Fluff gently with a fork.
3. Add the cooked lentils and the rest of the ingredients to the couscous and mix well. Taste and adjust seasoning. Add the additional 2 Tbs of olive oil. Mix and serve.
* The salad will keep, in an airtight container in the fridge, for up to 3 days. Bring to room temperature and mix before serving.
P1000462couscous salad ronit penso couscous salad ronit penso

20 thoughts on “Colorful Couscous, Lentils and Raisins Salad

  1. giti says:

    I was very surprised to learn that couscous is a type of semolina, not a type of grain on its own. What is Semolina, that’s another question…
    Even though the recipe looked complicated at first, once I read a bit more I found out it’s something I can actually make myself. I have the lentils, and couscous is easily available, and the rest is gourmet garnishes…
    I hope I understood it right – the couscous doesn’t require any cooking? That too is new to me. I always thought it requires long cooking.


    • Ronit Penso says:

      I’m glad you’ve learned something new here 🙂

      Semolina is made of the hard part of the wheat grain. It has less gluten than wheat flour, which is made by grounding the whole grain. It is also more coarsely grounded than flour, therefore the different texture.

      You understood correctly. Instant couscous does not require any cooking. Mixing it with boiling water is the only thing it needs. I always add oil and salt to the water, as otherwise the result can be too bland.

      So it is indeed an easy dish to make, give it a try! 🙂


  2. judilyn says:

    I never think to use my cous cous until I already have something else started! Must change habit! I almost always have marinated garbanzos in the refrigerator, so a quicky salad could be made with most any bits of veggies or fruits in the refrigerator. And there are ALWAYS bits of veggies or fruits in the refrigerator!! ;->

    Virtual hugs,



    • Tasty Eats Ronit Penso says:

      As you can see in my recipe, I also add some chopped fresh lemon into it, peel and all. It really adds another level of flavor.
      I read somewhere that the white layer in oranges and lemons is actually quite healthy, so that’s an added bonus.


  3. judilyn says:

    From Wikipedia: “The middle layer of the pericarp is the mesocarp, which in citrus fruits consists of the white, spongy “albedo”, or “pith”. The innermost layer of the pericarp is the endocarp.”

    Also found on a random site:

    “Mom was right! What you might have called the “yucky white part” and picked off of your peeled orange sections when you were a kid is actually good for you. So, stop tossing it out with the peel and eat it along with the fleshy and juicy sections of your citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruits, lemons, etc.) It is called the “albedo.” The albedo is a good source of fiber and vitamin C. It is also rich in pectin which has proven to help lower cholesterol.”

    Love how bloggin’ prompts learnin’ ! ;->

    Liked by 1 person

  4. platedujour says:

    Frankly I didn’t know either what semolina was! Good to know these kind of things. I really like couscous and it’s true I heard the real one is very hard to make. I also go for the instant one- you know that I had an opportunity to see how they make a real polenta in Dolomites in the North Italy- it was amazing Ronit, it takes ages and it’s a hard work, I assume making couscous is very similar. Your salad looks delicious and I love the combination of ingredients. Lovely recipe for winter, but not only!


    • Tasty Eats Ronit Penso says:

      Thank you Marta! 🙂
      I’m glad to know I could contribute some information tidbit. 🙂
      Making couscous from scratch is indeed a tedious work – even more so than cooking polenta, as much as it requires time and effort.
      How lucky we are, to have the instant version, even if they’re a bit lesser than the original. 🙂
      This salad is perfect for winter, but it’s also great to have on a summer brunch or picnic. Take your pick! 🙂


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