A no-cook summer classic, herbed couscous recipe

One of my favorite ways to enjoy fresh herbs and produce straight from the garden is this herb couscous recipe. It’s quick, easy and delicious and you can easily customize it to suit your tastes and available produce. Plus there’s no need to heat up the oven or stand over the stove.

fresh herbs for couscous

Recipe for Herb Couscous

WHAT YOU NEED: Herb Couscous Ingredients

  • two cups of couscous
  • 3.5 cups of very hot water
  • 1-2 red bell peppers (or other sweet pepper), finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup of frozen or fresh peas
  • 1 tablespoon of good quality olive oil
  • 4 ounces of feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1/2 cup of kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
  • salt and pepper
  • fresh herbs like basil, mint, thyme, dill, tarragon or thyme, finely shredded, chopped or chiffonaded

How to make couscous with herbs

FIRST – put the couscous in a large, heat-proof bowl. Add a teaspoon of salt, the peas and the chopped pepper.

SECOND – pour the hot water into the bowl, stir to combine ingredients, then cover tightly with a lid or plate. Wait at least 5 minutes, longer is fine.

THIRD – remove the cover and make sure all the liquid is fully absorbed. Add olive oil. Fluff the couscous with a fork.

FOURTH – add the feta, olives and herbs. Gently fluff or toss the couscous to combine all the ingredients.

Notes on making herb couscous

The hot water will cook the peas and peppers but they will still be fairly crisp in this preparation. If you prefer more tender vegetables, saute the peppers in olive oil before adding to the couscous. When using fresh peas, blanch them in boiling water for one minute before adding to the couscous.

You can use as many, or as few, herbs as you like. The best herbs for this recipe are tender, leafy herbs. The heat from the couscous will wilt them slightly, releasing their flavor into the dish. Tougher herbs like rosemary need to be very finely minced.

Classic Herb Combinations
  • tarragon and dill
  • mint, basil and dill
  • Greek or Italian oregano, basil and mint

If you use mint,  spearmint is best, as discussed in spearmint versus peppermint.

I use a large handful of herbs for this recipe so the herbs can really shine. If you’re not sure about adding herbs to food, go slowly. Try one or two herbs, in modest quantity and taste the dish. You can always add more herbs. This couscous recipe is a great way to learn about the flavor of herbs and how they work in combination.

What about vegetables and the other add-ins?

Great question! This couscous recipe has a distinctly Mediterranean vibe from the feta, olives and herbs. If that’s not your vibe, feel free to omit the olives or cheese. You can sub in another firm, wet cheese, like queso fresco if you prefer, or a hard cheese like parmesan. Avoid cheeses with a high melt factor.

Not a fan of bell peppers? Leave them out and sub in another crisp vegetable if you prefer.

Other great additions include:

  • cherry or grape tomatoes
  • sliced or julienned squash or zucchini (sauté briefly before adding)
  • steamed shelled edamame or other green beans

how to make couscous with ehrbs

Herb Couscous

The great thing about this recipe is that it is infinitely customizable. You can pack it full of herbs and vegetables or keep it simple. Just remember that some vegetables need to be blanched or sautéed first, as the hot water won’t be able to fully cook them.

The herb couscous is great as a side dish or the main course. I like to serve it with grilled chicken breasts or poached fish but it’s fabulous by itself. And it’s delicious straight out of the fridge, so make a double batch and enjoy the leftovers for lunch or for a second meal. (Leveraging leftovers is one of my favorite tips for making weeknight cooking easier, by the way.)

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