Spiced Raisin Pearl Couscous

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! Any exciting plans in the works? I’m thrilled about our plans: we are staying in. Ordering Thai delivery from our favorite place in Chicago, which also happens to be wonderfully cheap (thus allowing us to order a ton of different dishes instead of just 2, and feast on the leftovers for days). Esconcing ourselves in a pile of blankets and watching a movie, or an episode of Dr. Who. Or an episode Downton Abbey. There will be snuggling. There will probably be some mushy romantic talk. Maybe I’ll crack out some of the old correspondence from our dating days. In any case, it’s going to be low-key and cozy, which may be my favorite way to spend not just Valentine’s Day, but any evening.

On that note, I have a completely different story for you. It has nothing to do with Valentine’s Day.

Once upon a time, on a cold and dreary Thursday night, I went to Bible study at David and Beth’s house. Though I had already eaten dinner at work before heading over, Beth asked if I was hungry, and if I wanted to eat some of her curry. “Just a taste,” I said (Beth is a fabulous cook and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity). I took a bite, and the culinary corner of my soul was in spasms of joy within seconds. It was so, so good! Curry over a pile of pearl couscous, with wonderful juicy raisins and the rich aroma of garam masala pervading it all.

“I must have the recipe!” I cried.

So based on my friend Beth’s description of how she made the couscous part of this lovely mealtime experience, here’s what happened in my kitchen.


(Serves 5)

1 lb Israeli or pearl couscous + 1 sprinkle each red quinoa, orzo, mini garbanzo beans
(OR substitute couscous for 1 package Trader Joe’s Harvest Grains Blend)
3 1/2 cups chicken broth
1 TBS oil
1 large onion
2 TBS butter
Up to 1 tsp salt
2 tsp garam masala
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup raisins

First, it’s all about choices: you can either use some Israeli style (or pearl) couscous with a smattering of orzo, red quinoa, and baby garbanzo beans, or you can simply pick up a bag of this stuff:

Trader Joe’s Harvest Grains Blend, which my friend Beth gave me based on the enthusiasm of my ravings about her dish. And her incredible generosity. Thanks Beth.

Finely dice the onion.

Heat the oil in a large skillet with deep sides, or a pot. Add the onion and fry for 10 minutes with 1/4 tsp of salt, until browned and caramelized. Add the garam masala . . .

. . . and stir fry for 30 seconds, until fragrant.

Add the chicken broth, butter, and raisins, and bring to a boil.

Add the couscous, quinoa and orzo.

I added the raisins a little later, as you can see–in the instructions I’m having y’all add them with the broth. Maximum plumpness is necessary.

Bring back to a boil, then cover the pan and lower the heat.

Simmer for 10 minutes, stir vigorously . . .

. . . then let it sit for an additional 5 minutes, covered (this will allow the raisins to plump up a little more). Taste and add up to the full remaining 3/4 teaspoon of salt, depending on the saltiness of your chicken broth.

Serve it up!

With cilantro on top, if that floats your boat.

I’ve eaten this as my main dish for dinner (with a side of fresh green beans), as a snack, and under a thick layer of delicious curry.

And you guessed it! Beth’s curry recipe coming on Thursday. It’s possibly my favorite recipe on this blog to date, so you don’t want to miss it.

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12 thoughts on “Spiced Raisin Pearl Couscous

  1. Amy

    I am all over this! Once upon a time, my market didn’t carry Israeli couscous (can you imagine?!), and then they started (I’d like to think because of the fuss I put up), so I stockpiled. It’s my favorite. Garam masala…raisins…mercy.

  2. giselle

    Sounds awesome! I do love pearl couscous. Now if you can take the challenge to find a good recipe with the real couscous OR with quinoa, I’d love you forever. I have never liked the stuff, but I think it’s supposed to be really good for you, so I’d love to find a recipe I like! And ok fine, I love you forever anyway. =)

    1. Jenna Post author

      Giselle, I actually have a great quinoa recipe that I plan on sharing here! I already have pictures of it, it’s just a matter of getting it posted.

  3. ilovecooking

    This couscous looks so delicious, i like the pictures. It reminds of a spicy apple raisin quinoa salad that I tried at a grocery store. It had curry in it. Remembering how that tasted, it makes me want to try this recipe too. Thanks for sharing, and happy valentine’s day!

  4. Kimby

    Now I know what I’m making for supper tonight. 🙂 Thank you! Glad to hear you and the love of your life spent a low-key evening “in” — it sounded wonderful!

  5. Julie M.

    This dish looks perfect! I love the savory sweet combo with the raisins. Now I just need that curry. Bring it on! It sounds like you had a wonderful V-day. 🙂

  6. Amy

    I finally made this!! It’s been sitting in my to-do stack for…well…since February 14th. I knew I’d love it. I didn’t have the Trader Joe’s Harvest blend or red quinoa, so I just did a blend of the pearl couscous and orzo. Wasn’t as colorful, but still very tasty. I had a group over and it all got devoured before I could get a photo. Guess I’ll need to make it again…and find a Trader Joe’s. In the meantime, I pinned it on my “Tried” board 🙂

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