Pearl Couscous Pilaf

This pilaf has enough flavor to hold its own, but won't overwhelm your main course. It's easy to make and stars tangy Middle Eastern za'atar.
A platter with pearl couscous pilaf and lamb kebabs. Next to it is a bowl za'atar seasoning.

Pearl Couscous is larger than regular couscous.

This pearl couscous pilaf may look different than you expected. Pearl couscous is much larger and cooks slightly differently than regular, tiny little couscous. It’s also called Israeli couscous because it originated there about 70 years ago when rice was in short supply. Either way, it has an amazing texture. Our household loves it, but especially our kid.

It’s a fun change to regular pasta or rice.

I usually make Lebanese pilaf, which is a combination of basmati rice and vermicelli pasta that’s been broken up, when I serve lamb. We wanted something a little different but still complimentary to my Tangy Red Lamb Kebabs. Knowing we had some pearl couscous on hand, I gave it a try…and it was delicious. The kid raved about it and wanted more. Now, of course, I need to share it with you.

Pearl couscous pilaf being stirred in a pot.

It’s always better with broth.

I say this all the time…I rarely cook rice with water. Couscous, rice, barley, and sometimes regular pasta, are better cooked in broth. If you are vegan or vegetarian, go for vegetable broth, by all means. Just not water, please. It’s not just more flavor – it’s a different, and better, texture the way I cook it. Start with oil, sauté it for a minute, then pour as much broth as you would water. You will LOVE the results!

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Pearl Couscous Pilaf

  • Author: Spice (Kate)
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10-15 minutes
  • Total Time: 27 minute
  • Yield: 4 servings 1x
  • Category: side dish
  • Method: stovetop
  • Cuisine: Middle Eastern


This pearl couscous pilaf has enough flavor to hold its own, but won’t overwhelm you main course. It’s easy and quick to make, too!



2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 medium yellow onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 teaspoon za’atar

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 1/2 cups chicken broth, or vegetable broth

1 cup pearl couscous


Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onions and sauté about 5 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic and sauté for another 30 seconds or so.

Add the za’atar, salt, and broth and stir well.

Bring broth to a boil, add the couscous, then adjust heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes, or until the water is absorbed and couscous is tender, stirring occasionally.

Keywords: pasta, couscous, side dish, Middle Eastern

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