Couscous with Dried Cranberries and Pecans is quick and easy to prepare, full of fall flavors including cranberry and cinnamon, and beautiful on the plate!

(Photo by Rick Souders)

You Will Love This Couscous Salad Recipe

Couscous is a wonderful alternative to rice or potatoes as a side dish. A coarse, ground pasta, couscous granules are made from crushed durum wheat. It takes only minutes to prepare, provided you’re using the instant variety (most packaged couscous is). The grain itself doesn’t have much flavor on its own, and therefore should be prepared with herbs, spices and other ingredients – like nuts, dried fruits and/or sautéed vegetables.

For my Couscous with Dried Cranberries and Pecans, I combine couscous with sautéed onion and celery, along with dried cranberries, toasted pecans, orange zest, thyme, sage and cinnamon.  The resulting side dish is savory with a tad of sweetness and a bit of crunch – and it’s perfect for Thanksgiving!

Cranberry Couscous Salad Ingredients

Here’s what you’ll need to make this easy and impressive side dish:

  • Plain couscous (instant)
  • Butter
  • Yellow onion
  • Celery
  • Dried cranberries
  • Large orange
  • Cinnamon
  • Fresh thyme
  • Fresh sage
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh ground pepper
  • Pecans

Here’s a few variations you can consider, based on your taste and/or what you have available:

  • Use red onion or shallots instead of yellow onion
  • Add or substitute lemon or lime zest
  • Add a dash or two of nutmeg and/or allspice
  • Substitute almonds, walnuts or pine nuts for the pecans
  • Add in some goat or feta cheese crumbles

Couscous vs Quinoa

Quinoa is considered a whole grain (although it’s actually a seed), whereas couscous is make from semolina flour. Quinoa is crunchy and nutty tasting, while couscous is soft and relatively mild. And, Quinoa is naturally gluten free, while couscous is not. You can substitute one for the other in most recipes.

How To Make Couscous Salad with Cranberries and Pecans

Here’s all you have to do to make this fabulous salad:

  1. Cook couscous.
    In a large saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Stir in couscous; cover and remove from heat. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes. Uncover and fluff with a fork. Set aside.
  2. Sauté onion and celery.
    Melt butter in a large skillet or sauté pan over medium heat. Add onion and celery; cook, stirring occasionally, until soft. Stir into couscous.
  3. Combine all ingredients (except nuts).
    Add cranberries, orange zest, cinnamon, thyme and sage to couscous and toss to combine.
    Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Add pecans.
    Just before serving, stir in chopped pecans (this preserves their crunchy texture).

How To Serve Couscous Cranberry Salad

I like to place the salad in a pretty serving bowl to serve. It pairs well with roast turkey (Thanksgiving!) or one of these main dishes:

How To Store this Couscous Salad Recipe

This side dish can be prepared earlier in the day (without the pecans), covered and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before adding nuts and serving.

Cranberry Couscous Salad FAQ

Does couscous have gluten?

Yes, couscous is made from semolina flour, so it definitely has gluten.

What’s couscous?

While it looks like a grain, couscous is actually a pasta, made from semolina flour and water.

What does couscous taste like?

Couscous doesn’t have much flavor on it’s own; it’s very mild, making it the perfect supporting actor to other flavorful ingredients.

What is the couscous to water ratio?

I’ve had the best results using a 1 to 1.5 ratio – for 1 cup of couscous, use 1 1/2 cups water.

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oval dish showing Couscous with cranberries and pecans

Cranberry Couscous Recipe

Couscous with Dried Cranberries and Pecans is quick and easy to prepare, full of fall flavors like cranberry and cinnamon, and beautiful on the plate. It’s savory with a tad of sweetness and a bit of crunch.

  • Prep Time: 5 mins
  • Cook Time: 10 mins
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: 8 to 10 servings 1x

Ingredients

Scale
  • 9 cups water
  • 6 cups plain couscous (instant)
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • Zest of 1 large orange
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme leaves
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
  • Salt, to taste
  • Fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup chopped pecans, toasted

Instructions

  1. In a large saucepan, bring the water to a boil. Stir in couscous; cover and remove from heat. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes. Uncover and fluff with a fork.
  2. Meanwhile, melt butter in a large skillet or sauté pan over medium heat. Add onion and celery; cook, stirring occasionally, until soft. Stir into couscous.
  3. Add cranberries, orange zest, cinnamon, thyme and sage and toss to combine.
  4. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  5. Just before serving, stir in chopped pecans.

Notes

Gluten free: use wild rice (or a mixture of brown and wild) in place of the couscous.

Make ahead: Couscous mixture can be prepared, without the pecans, earlier in the day. Cover and refrierate. Bring to room temperature and stir in pecans just before serving.

  • Author: (From “Fresh Tastes” By Lee Clayton Roper)
  • Category: side dishes, quick and easy
oval dish showing Couscous with cranberries and pecans

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About the author

Hi, I'm Lee.

I am inspired by my mother, Sally’s, love of cooking and entertaining to gather friends and family together over great meals and conversation. In fact, I held my first dinner party at the age of 16. Throughout the years, I haves provided recipes, menu advice and cooking tips to friends seeking uncomplicated and delicious ideas for home entertaining.


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