Lemony Cucumber Couscous Salad

$6.46 recipe / $1.08 serving
by Beth - Budget Bytes
4.87 from 51 votes
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Not a summer goes by without me making this incredible Lemony Cucumber Couscous Salad. It’s so fresh and delicious, quick to make, AND it stays good in the fridge for days. What more could you want from a summer salad?? Plus, it’s a great dish to bring to all those summer potlucks and BBQs, too!

Originally posted 6-19-2013, updated 6-18-2022.

Overhead view of a bowl of lemony cucumber couscous salad with lemons on the side.

What is Couscous?

Couscous is a small, ball-shaped pasta. It cooks really fast, is a fun texture, and is a great way to bulk up salads. The variety used for this Lemony Cucumber Couscous Salad is a larger-sized couscous called pearl couscous, or sometimes Israeli couscous or giant couscous. If you can’t find pearl couscous, you can use regular couscous or even orzo in its place (orzo would be my first choice since it’s similar in size). Regular couscous cooks a little differently, so take a look at this couscous salad (made with regular-sized couscous) for cooking instructions and size reference.

Can I Use Bottled Lemon Juice?

Fresh lemon is key to achieving the powerfully fresh lemon flavor in this Lemony Cucumber Couscous Salad, so I do not suggest substituting the fresh lemon with bottled lemon juice. The lemon zest alone is responsible for most of the lemon flavor in this salad, and, unfortunately, you just can’t get that from bottled juice.

What to Serve with Lemony Cucumber Couscous Salad

This super fresh summer salad is a great side dish for anything you might cook on the grill, or you could serve it with something like Garlic Marinated Chicken, a giant Veggie Sandwich, or Mediterranean Turkey Burgers.

How Are the Leftovers?

I love this salad so much simply because it stays good in the fridge for days. The couscous sort of acts like a moisture regulator, keeping the cucumbers from getting soft or soggy and keeping the salad almost as perfect as it was on day one. So if you’re looking for something to meal prep for lunch this summer, this couscous salad is it!

Close up side view of lemony cucumber couscous salad in a bowl.

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Lemony Cucumber Couscous Salad

4.87 from 51 votes
Lemony Cucumber Couscous Salad is a light, fresh, and vibrant pasta salad perfect for any summer meal. 
Overhead view of lemony cucumber couscous salad in a bowl garnished with lemons.
Servings 6 1 cup each
Prep 10 mins
Cook 10 mins
Total 20 mins

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups pearl couscous ($2.20)
  • 1 fresh lemon ($0.89)
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil ($0.32)
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder ($0.02)
  • 1/4 tsp salt ($0.02)
  • 1 English cucumber ($1.49)
  • 1/4 bunch parsley ($0.27)
  • 1/4 tsp freshly cracked pepper ($0.02)
  • 3 oz. feta cheese, crumbled ($1.23)

Instructions 

  • Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the couscous and continue to boil for about 5 minutes, or until the couscous is tender. Drain the couscous in a colander or wire strainer. Rinse briefly with cool water to cool off the couscous, then allow to drain while you prepare the rest of the salad.
  • Zest the lemon and then squeeze the juice. You'll need about ½ tsp of zest and 3 Tbsp of juice.
  • Add the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic powder, salt, and some freshly cracked pepper to a bowl and stir to combine.
  • Chop the cucumber into quarter-rounds and roughly chop the parsley.
  • Add the cooled and drained couscous to a large bowl along with the cucumber, parsley, lemon zest, and feta. Pour the dressing over top, then stir to combine. Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to eat.

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Notes

If you are substituting regular couscous for Israeli couscous, be aware that the cooking instructions are different. You can find instructions and step by step photos in this recipe post. You can substitute orzo for the couscous without any adjustments.

Nutrition

Serving: 1cupCalories: 250kcalCarbohydrates: 36gProtein: 8gFat: 8gSodium: 265mgFiber: 3g
Read our full nutrition disclaimer here.
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Side view of a bowl of lemony cucumber couscous salad.

How to Make Lemony Cucumber Couscous Salad – Step by Step Photos

A package of pearl couscous.

This is what pearl or Israeli couscous looks like. It cooks exactly like pasta. For reference, check out this couscous salad to see the size of regular couscous. You’ll need about 1.5 cups of pearl couscous for this recipe.

Cooked couscous draining in a colander.

To cook the couscous, bring a pot of water to a rolling boil, add the couscous, and then continue to boil until the couscous is tender. Since the couscous is small, it cooks very quickly (about 5 minutes). Drain the couscous and then rinse briefly with cool water to bring the temperature down. 

Zested and juiced lemon.

While the couscous is cooking and cooling, prepare the rest of the salad. Start by zesting and juicing one lemon. You’ll need about 1 tsp zest and 3 Tbsp juice.

Lemony dressing in a bowl with a whisk.

To make the lemony dressing, whisk together 3 Tbsp lemon juice, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1/4 tsp of garlic powder, 1/4 tsp of salt, and some freshly cracked pepper. If you’re a garlic lover, you can mince up a clove of fresh garlic instead of garlic powder. I decided that I wanted the salad to have just a hint of garlic flavor, so I added a touch of powdered garlic instead of fresh.

Chopped parsley and cucumber on a cutting board.

Roughly chop ¼ bunch parsley (about ½ cup chopped) and slice one cucumber into quarter-rounds.

Salad ingredients in the bowl, not mixed.

Transfer the cooked and cooled couscous to a large bowl, then add the chopped parsley and cucumber, and about 3 oz. crumbled feta.

Dressing being poured over the salad.

Pour the prepared dressing over the salad ingredients in the bowl.

Finished lemony cucumber couscous salad in the bowl with a large spoon.

Stir the salad until everything is evenly mixed and coated in dressing. You can give it a taste here and adjust the salt, pepper, or any other ingredients to your liking.

Overhead view of lemony cucumber couscous salad in a bowl garnished with lemons.

And now you’re ready to eat! Or, you can chill it until it’s time for dinner. The flavors get even better as it chills and once it’s cold the salad is extra refreshing!

Close up side view of a bowl of lemony cucumber couscous salad.

Seriously, this Lemony Cucumber Couscous Salad is my favorite summer treat. Sometimes I add a grilled chicken breast on top and make it a meal. A dollop of hummus is also good in there!

Lemony Cucumber Couscous Salad is a light, fresh, and vibrant pasta salad perfect for any summer meal. BudgetBytes.com
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  1. The flavor and especially the texture on this are awesome! It’s the perfect balance of everything – fresh and zesty, crunchy with a bit of bounce and chew from the couscous. And it really does hold up well in the fridge, too. (Beth, you weren’t kidding about the cucumbers staying nice and crisp – sorcery!) I’m definitely making this the next time it’s unbearably muggy out.

  2. I wanted to make something healthy for my picky 5 year old and she LOVES this salad. She is anti-sauce for anything, but this is flavorful without being “saucy”. She did insist on adding sunflower seeds, but they work well with the salad. So happy. Thank you!

    1. Getting a 5-year-old to eat couscous salad is a HUGE MOM WIN. Congrats!!! When Danger was 5, I couldn’t get him to eat anything without lying about it. He thought salmon was orange chicken for years. LOLOLOL!!! XOXO -Monti

  3. This is fabulous. This will be part of my regular rotation. What a great summer salad!!

  4. So easy and delicious! I added cashews and garbanzo beans for protein. Great summer lunch, dinner, or side.

  5. This is a lovely summer side dish. I had never had pearl cous cous before and I’m officially obsessed. Amazing texture. I made with turkey burgers and it’s a delicious combo. Will absolutely make again!

  6. This salad is delicious–like restaurant quality. So light, lemony and delicious for a muggy hot summer day. We added halved cherry tomatoes and a side of salmon. I looked forward to leftovers even as I was putting it away! Definitely going in our regular rotation.

  7. Will this stay good for three days (cooking Thursday night, serving on Sunday)? I know you said it stays good for days.. just wondering if three days is pushing it. 

  8. Hi! I’m enjoying the recipes. 

    Typo in the instructions; step 1:

    “Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add the couscous and continue to boil for about minutes, or until the couscous is tender.”

    The number of minutes is missing.

    It does say five minutes in the step-by-step

    Thanks, and take care,

    A

  9. Delicious salad, have already made it twice as the fam keeps asking for it
    Thanks

  10. Does the salad still taste delicious without the feta? I recently had to start a dairy and soy free diet because my baby has MSPI.

    1. That’s probably just going to depend on your individual preferences. :)