Israeli Couscous with Spiced Sweet Onions

If I were a good blogger, I would be sharing an amazing recipe with you all for pumpkin pie. Or pecan pie. Or brined turkey. I mean, it’s Thanksgiving week! However, I’ve never claimed to be a ‘good blogger.’ In fact, I only recently became comfortable with even using the word ‘blogger’ in reference to myself.

It’s been rough, folks. And exciting. And weird. And wonderful. There may be no going back.

Anyway, I came across this recipe for Israeli Couscous on The Novice Chef Blog, and let me tell you–it was love at first sight. She calls it ‘Warm Couscous Salad,’ but for some reason I can’t bring myself to think of it as a salad. Thus, I renamed it, made a few modifications, served it hot, and I bring it to you today.

It is delightful. Delicious. Delectable. Devilish.

Except not devilish at all, because it’s very healthy–Wikipedia tells me that couscous is “among the healthiest grain-based products,” beating out pasta hands down.

Devilish? Healthy? I love making a statement and immediately contradicting it. It keeps everyone on their toes.

I love this as a side dish, and served it with salmon. I also love this as a main dish, topped with a couple hard boiled eggs or some fried tofu. And if you’re of the meat-needing persuasion (Dave, I’m talking to you), toss in some cubed leftover Thanksgiving turkey or ham. Hah! I totally just redeemed myself by working in the holiday at hand.

Whether main dish or side dish, I would pretty much love this concoction under any circumstance, whatever its name, and however ugly its past was. I’m an all embracing person, and I embrace this couscous dish.


(Serves 6)

2 cups Israeli couscous

2 TBS olive oil

3 large sweet onions

1/2 tsp salt

1 TBS brown sugar

1 TBS balsamic vinegar

1 tsp turmeric

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

salt and pepper to taste

2 pints cherry tomatoes, halved or quartered

cilantro, to garnish

First, slice up your onions.

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium high, and when hot, add the onions and 1/2 tsp of salt.

Cook for about 15 minutes, or until the onions are starting to get translucent.

In the meantime, get some salted water boiling in preparation for the couscous.

Once it boils, add the couscous and cook for about 7 minutes.

You want the couscous to feel like al dente pasta in your mouth–as soon as that happens, drain it and rinse with some cool water.

Back to the onions!

Once the onions are translucent, add the brown sugar, balsamic vinegar, turmeric, cayenne pepper, and a few more pinches of salt. I apologize for the disturbing picture. If you scroll down quickly you won’t have to look at it long.

Thankfully, no one ever said that pretty = delicious. This butt ugly sauce will soon make your taste buds sing a small anthem, and you’ll forget all about its brown gloopiness.

Stir it around and continue to cook on low heat for another 10 minutes.

See? No more brown ugly sauce. It’s magically transformed itself, and is now golden and gorgeous.

Don’t forget to add generous amounts of black pepper!

While the onions are making your house smell like a spiced paradise, quarter or halve the cherry tomatoes.

After the onions have cooked for those 10 minutes, add the cherry tomatoes and cook for 5 more minutes or until the tomatoes are heated through, but still retaining their shape.

Then ask your Nikon D5000, “why do you freak out when intense reds are in the picture? Do you really have to wig out like you do? Can’t you just balance the dang colors for me? I don’t have time for this!” Then the Nikon reminds you of all the amazing pictures not involving reds it has allowed you to take, and you make up with tears, hugs, and promises to never fight again.

I love my camera, and I can’t let our relationship stay on the rocks for more than two minutes at a time.

Adjust the seasoning to your taste.

It may seem like a lot of onions for not a lot of couscous–but don’t worry. When it comes together and you take that first bite, it will all make sense.

Combine the couscous with the onion/tomato mixture, and top it all with some cilantro.


I resurrected this clear bowl that I had originally bought to float some candles in.

Then I didn’t touch it for 4 years, and it languished beneath my popcorn bowl, ignored and weepy.

I think this bowl has now found its purpose in life.

Let’s have a bite, shall we?

Click here for printer-friendly version: Israeli Couscous with Spiced Sweet Onions

35 thoughts on “Israeli Couscous with Spiced Sweet Onions

  1. Wendi

    This is going on my list of post Thanksgiving dinners. And really, even though I contributed to the onslaught of holiday pie posts, I thank you for doing something different. Because there’s just so much sugar, butter, and eggs that I can consume in a single holiday.

  2. Carol Ann Hoel

    What a delicious looking dish! I may prepare this for our Thanksgiving table. We are going to my brother’s home for the holiday. If I don’t get the ingredients in time, I’ll make it later, maybe for Christmas. This recipe is definitely a winner! I love the clear bowl, too. Lots of great photos. Thank you for sharing…

    1. Jenna

      Thanks Carol Anne! If you make, let me know how you liked it. Now that I think about it, it does have Christmasy colors–red tomatoes, green cilantro . . . =)

  3. Tracy

    This looks wonderful! I’m going to have to agree with Wendi…I think this dish is a breath of fresh air after all of the calories & sugar I’ll have consumed on Thanksgiving!

  4. Twinky

    So, what kind of store carries Israeli couscous? …or is it a staple item at Walmart?? It does look scrumpdillyicious, however I will be taking a broccoli salad for Thanksgiving up to June and Mike’s. I confess I am getting WAY behind in all the great recipes I should make that you have posted…. SOME day!! …famous last words….

    1. Jenna

      I think any regular grocery store would carry this–but I could be wrong. My Israeli couscous are left over from the natural foods store in Delaware, and I haven’t actually looked carefully for them at Dominicks. Let me know if you are able to find them easily or not.

    1. Jenna

      Thank you Kay! I hope you and your family have a great Thanksgiving as well. If you’re in charge of the food, I’m sure it will be a feast fit for a king. =)

  5. Circe

    Your feature picture for this post took my breath away, the photos are gorgeous, and it looks easy and healthy. Finally I have a use for that box of couscous in my cupboard.

    1. Jenna

      Thanks Circe! Just make sure it’s a box of Israeli couscous and not regular couscous. You can try this with regular couscous but it will be pretty different (I would cut up the onions and tomatoes a lot smaller and maybe even halve the amount of onions). Israeli couscous is a much larger grain that looks like a lentil as opposed to the super tiny granules of ‘regular’ couscous.

    1. Jenna

      Good to know–I will now put it under the ‘pasta’ section of my recipes by category page. Thanks!!
      What about ‘regular’ couscous? Is that also a pasta?

      1. giselle

        No, regular couscous is the grain you were talking about.

        The recipe does look great though, and who cares if it’s pasta?? I’ll be making it soon. You haven’t disappointed me yet! 🙂

      2. Twinky

        Here is the wikipedia link on couscous that I found quite informative! Israeli Couscous is mentioned way down at the bottom in the listing of similar products. It almost sounds to me like any of these could be called a type of pasta since they are grain-based-just rolled into little pellets rather than long sheets or extruded, but hey! I’m no expert by any stretch… they all sound yummy!

  6. Pingback: Lemony roast hen couscous | Riigg

  7. Joanne

    You could totally mix turkey into this. Thus making it a thanksgiving leftover recipe! Man you are so seasonal. I love it. 😛

    This does seriously looks delicious. Bursting with flavor. is it heretical if I say I’d rather eat this on Thanksgiving than turkey?

  8. Robin

    This looks and sounds delicious! I’m going to have to give it a try to verify the taste but I’m pretty sure it will be as good as it looks. 🙂


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