Olive Couscous Salad

When we moved to our current house six years ago, the landscaping required a huge overhaul, and I had romantic notions of filling the backyard with olive trees, their gnarly trunks and branches growing into a graceful bramble shading our yard. I had visions of walking underneath them, basket tucked in the crook of my arm, my free hand harvesting fresh olives. There would be juicy olives and freshly pressed olive oil.

The landscape architect took note, then quickly informed me: Olive trees are too messy.

I sighed. My vision was quickly replaced with something more practical, and requiring less maintenance. I love my back yard, but I would still love to put in some olive trees one day.

As a family, we go through more olives than I ever anticipated. The children love black olives – open up a jar, and they rush to it like candy. We eat olives in salads, appetizers, marinated, plain, pitted or not – and of course, I use the oil in cooking all the time. So when I was invited to participate in this month’s Kitchen PLAY event sponsored by the International Olive Council, I was happy to say yes.

According to new health research published by the International Olive Council, the oleic acid in olive oil has been found to be particularly effective against breast, colon and prostate cancer. The study asserts that eating a Mediterranean Diet could prevent up to 25 percent of colon; 15 percent of breast; and 10 percent of prostate, pancreas and endometrial cancers. With a personal family history of breast and colon cancers, you can imagine how encouraging this statistic is to our family.

I decided to create an Olive Couscous Salad inspired by the Mediterranean flavors I have grown to love. Toss the olives with a gorgeous tricolor couscous in a dressing of lemon and garlic, and you will find yourself with a lovely side dish that perfectly complements a roast chicken or grilled fish. I know this salad will make it to our table a lot this summer as we bring our meals outdoors. I may not be able to dine in a grove of olive trees, but I can surely enjoy them on my plate all year long.

FTC: I have written this post and shared this recipe as part of my participation in the “Add Some Life” campaign in partnership with Kitchen PLAY and Add Some Life by the International Olive Council. I have been compensated for my time and cooking expenses but as always, my opinions are genuinely my own.

Follow Add Some Life on Twitter and Facebook for more inspiration on ways to build a better salad with olives and olive oil.


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Olive Couscous Salad

Yield: Serves 4-6.

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 20 minutes

Wonderfully versatile, this salad works best if given time to soak in the flavors of the dressing. Make it the night before, and by the following day, it will be perfectly chilled and flavorful, and ready to pair with your favorite dishes.


1 cup tri color couscous
2 garlic cloves, mashed
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons white balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
1 1/3 cups black olives
1 1/3 cups green olives
1/4 cup finely diced red onion
1/2 cup cilantro or flat leaf parsley, minced
2-3 tablespoons minced mint
1/4 cup shaved Parmesan cheese


Bring 2 ½ cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan. Salt the water and add couscous. Cover the saucepan and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for five minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, and allow the couscous to sit, still covered, for another 5-10 minutes. Drain any excess liquid and chill until ready to make the salad.

Make the dressing - mash together the garlic and salt. Stir in the lemon juice, mustard, vinegar, olive oil and pepper. Toss the dressing, along with the olives, red onion, cilantro and mint into the couscous. Refrigerate until ready to serve. The salad can be made a day in advance.

Before serving, shave the Parmesan cheese over the salad.

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by Liren Baker on April 16, 2012

29 Responses to “Olive Couscous Salad”

  1. Kiran @ KiranTarun.com April 16, 2012 @ 6:58 am (#

    Love this salad and the use of olives. We love our weekly olive hauling and eating as well :)

    • liren replied: — April 16th, 2012 @ 10:19 pm

      A weekly olive haul sounds lovely, Kiran! Our families would eat well together :)

  2. Italian Notes April 16, 2012 @ 7:30 am (#

    I’ve never seen tri colour couscous, but I guess the recipe will be great with plain grains as well.

    • liren replied: — April 16th, 2012 @ 4:14 pm

      Absolutely! Any couscous will work – as well as orzo, farro, and your favorite grains :)

  3. Ambika April 16, 2012 @ 7:52 am (#

    The salad looks lovely. I always like to use green and black olives in a combination in any dish, they have such similar, but such distinct tastes!

    • liren replied: — April 16th, 2012 @ 10:18 pm

      So true! I love how distinct each variety can be!

  4. Heather | Farmgirl Gourmet April 16, 2012 @ 12:02 pm (#

    All I can say is WOW Liren. Beautiful….just beautiful!

    • liren replied: — April 16th, 2012 @ 10:17 pm

      Thank you, Heather! I’m loving your spicy dressing and can’t wait to try your gorgeous salad!

  5. Patty April 16, 2012 @ 2:15 pm (#

    Another wonderful way to enjoy olives! Thanks for sharing your recipe;-)

    • liren replied: — April 16th, 2012 @ 10:19 pm

      Thanks, Patty!!

  6. Ricki April 16, 2012 @ 7:48 pm (#

    My own diet is gluten free, but I’ve still got to make this salad!! I bet it would be equally spectacular with quinoa or oat groats. Your photography is simply stunning!

    • liren replied: — April 16th, 2012 @ 10:20 pm

      Definitely, try with a gluten free option – the dressing would surely work! And thank you for your kind words – I’m so pleased you enjoy the photography :)

  7. Sandra's Easy Cooking April 17, 2012 @ 9:50 am (#

    Such a flavorful and satisfying salad! I could have this every day!!! Looks stunning!

  8. Jen Laceda @ Tartine and Apron Strings April 17, 2012 @ 10:52 am (#

    me, too! i still dream of having olive trees in my backyard! oh wait, we moved back into a condo (darn the harsh Canadian winter shovelling) and i have no garden / backyard / terrace / patio! Nothing! We are on a lookout for a town house or house with a small yard, though…so maybe one day!

    love olives! this looks like a fantastic couscous recipe!

  9. amy@currylime April 17, 2012 @ 11:10 am (#

    I adore olives. Many thanks for giving me yet another way to use them :-)

  10. Magic of Spice April 17, 2012 @ 12:51 pm (#

    I am a bit olive obsessed, so this is all good to me! Fantastic dish…love, love that fresh spring look!

  11. Denise April 17, 2012 @ 1:04 pm (#

    I love the combination of couscous and olives and this is such a gorgeous looking dish: it’s on my to-try-list for sure!

  12. Priscilla - She's Cookin' April 17, 2012 @ 2:22 pm (#

    I love the tangled beauty of olive trees, too (didn’t realize they were messy though) … and the simplicity of this salad with bright Mediterranean flavors!

  13. Cathy @ Savory Notes April 17, 2012 @ 6:43 pm (#

    This sounds amazing! The only thing the Bf and I can agree on, is our love for olives. And messy schmessy… I still would’ve demanded olive trees. :P

  14. Suzanne April 18, 2012 @ 8:44 am (#

    Simple and delicious food and your photos are making me want to reach in and grab one of those olives. Your landscaper was right, as I grew up in So. Cal. those olive trees are really messy, but I can see why you would want some of them with all the olives you consume :)

  15. Dramatic Pancake April 18, 2012 @ 11:45 am (#

    I think my fiance goes through a jar of olives every week. Might have to try putting them in this lovely salad where they can really shine!

  16. meatballs & milkshakes April 23, 2012 @ 1:42 pm (#

    Beautiful photo! I made a similar recipe recently and love couscous with olives!

  17. Rowena @ Apron and Sneakers April 24, 2012 @ 4:51 pm (#

    I have 3 olive trees, two are big, the same age as the time we moved in to our house, 11 years and the other one, the same age as my son which was given to him as a present on his christening. We have yet to plant another one for our daughter. I agree with the landscaper. It’s a mess! The leaves and olives fall and stain. We never gathered the olives all these years but keep on thinking of doing so. You’re right. olives are one of the healthiest food we can eat. I always have jars at home. Love this recipe!

  18. Pallavi April 25, 2012 @ 5:26 am (#

    WOW… that’s one beautiful looking couscous salad! Is that Israeli cuscous that you have used in this recipe? I used to live in the Middle East and have seen such a huge variety of olives. The red ones (unlike back and green) are very big in size. I used to love them pickled. I will definitely try this recipe, thanks for sharing!

  19. Pallavi April 25, 2012 @ 5:28 am (#

    WOW… that’s one beautiful looking couscous salad! Is that Israeli cuscous that you have used in this recipe? I used to live in the Middle East and have seen such a huge variety of olives. The red ones (unlike back and green) are very big in size. I used to love them pickled. I will definitely try this recipe, thanks for sharing!

  20. Heather August 21, 2012 @ 3:04 pm (#

    This salad is one of the most beautiful things I have ever seen. I have a slight (fine…. not slight at all) obsession with olives. I think I put some type of olive in about 90% of my meals and eating them out of the little plastic Whole Food’s tubs is my idea of perfect snacking. I’m definitelly adding this to next week’s meal plan!

  21. Aggie August 25, 2012 @ 10:02 am (#

    Oh my…I just saw this on Pinterest, this will be making an appearance at one of my (olive lovin’) family get togethers!

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