An easy fall side dish that’s bursting with flavor! This Autumn pearl couscous salad is loaded with seasonal favorites like roasted butternut squash, tart cranberries, kale & toasted pecans all tossed in a sweet & tangy vinaigrette!
Allow me to introduce my new favorite seasonal side dish – Autumn pearl couscous salad! She’s sweet, she’s tangy, a little bit savory and full of textures and cozy Fall flavors!
My family loves this couscous salad! First, it’s satisfying and nutritious with an array of seasonal veggies + healthy carbs and fats. Second, it’s 100x better when prepped ahead of time – making it ideal for meal-prepped lunches during the week. And finally, it’s insanely delicious! My favorite part has to be the dressing. It’s made with simple pantry ingredients that comes together quickly and adds an irresistible pop of flavor!
I know you’re going to love tasty fall salad recipe!
Ingredients You’ll Need
Pearl couscous: (Also called Israeli couscous.) You can usually find this in the pasta aisle at most grocery stores.
Butternut squash: You’ll need one small butternut squash for this recipe. (We’ll be roasting the squash to bring out it’s natural sweetness!)
Kale: Use curly green kale or lacinato kale for the best results!
Dried cranberries: Adds tartness to your salad! (We love how plump they get after being mixed with the rest of your ingredients.)
Red onion: Red onions work the best as opposed to white or yellow. (They’re sweeter and won’t overpower the rest of your ingredients.) We like to keep our slices pretty thin.
Pecans: A crunchy finishing touch to our salad! (Try toasting your pecans for a more nutty flavor!)
Olive oil: Used as the base of your vinaigrette. I always suggest using Extra Light Tasting Olive Oil for vinaigrettes and dressings. It’s more mild and won’t muddled your other flavors.
Maple syrup: Use real maple syrup for the best results!
Oranges: Fresh orange juice works the best! You’ll need 3 tablespoons of juice for the vinaigrette (roughly 1-1½ oranges).
Apple cider vinegar: Adds a subtle sweetness and tang to your vinaigrette! (We use apple cider vinegar without the mother.)
Dijon mustard: We use smooth dijon mustard for our vinaigrette! (Whole grain mustard can be used instead, if you prefer.)
Spices: Salt and black pepper are needed to season your vinaigrette!
What is Israeli Couscous?
Israeli couscous (or pearl couscous) is the larger form of it’s more common counterpart, tiny couscous. It’s essentially little balls of toasted semolina flour or wheat flour that closely resembles pasta. (Think teeny tiny pearls of pasta – hence the name.😉) They have a chewy texture and slightly nutty aroma making them the perfect addition to soups and salads – especially this one! We love how beautifully they pair with our sweet roasted butternut, tart cranberries and tangy vinaigrette.
How To Make An Autumn Couscous Salad
1. Prepare the couscous. Bring 1½ cups of water or chicken broth to a boil. Once boiling add the pearl couscous, cover and reduce the heat to low. Let the couscous simmer for 10-12 minutes or until it’s soft and tender. Once done, set it aside to cool completely.
2. Roast the butternut squash. Dice your squash into ½-1 inch pieces and add them to a large bowl. Toss them with olive oil and generously season with salt and black pepper. Spread the squash out on a large baking pan lined with parchment paper and bake at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes (or until tender). Then it aside to cool.
3. Toast the pecans (optional). Arrange the pecans on a baking sheet and toast in the oven at 375 degrees for 5-6 minutes.
4. Make the vinaigrette. Whisk the vinaigrette ingredients together in a small measuring glass or jar.
5. Massage the kale. Add the kale leaves to a large bowl and drizzle a small amount of vinaigrette over the top. Using both hands, gently rub the leaves together for at least 5 minutes. (The kale should soften, shrink in size and turn a bright vibrant green color.)
6. Toss! Once cooled, add the couscous and butternut squash to the bowl with your kale along with the dried cranberries and red onion. Pour your desired amount of vinaigrette over the top and toss until fully coated. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper, if needed.
7. Serve. Serve immediately or cover and let the salad chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes – 1 hour. Garnish each individual bowl with toasted pecans before serving.
This couscous salad is delicious as is but there’s so many options for making it your own! Here are a few of our favorite additions/variations:
Add a sprinkle of cheese! Creamy goat cheese pairs so well with the rest of your flavors!
Swap out the couscous! Try it with cooked orzo, wild rice or quinoa instead!
Replace the kale! Use spinach instead! (There’s no need to massage it – just add it to the salad with the rest of your ingredients!)
Season the squash for extra flavor! Before roasting, toss the squash in warm notes of cinnamon or go the spicy route with add a sprinkle of chili powder!
Swap out the squash! Use roasted sweet potatoes instead!
Use different nuts! Try sliced almonds, toasted walnuts or even candied nuts for a sweeter salad!
Why you’ll love this pearl couscous salad recipe!
- An easy make ahead salad! We actually prefer it after it’s been chilled in the refrigerator. All the ingredients keep well and the flavors are much more pronounced!
- Perfect party side dish! This salad’s sweet and savory flavors pair so well with a variety of entrees! Plus it’s an easy “scoop-able” salad for your guests!
- Full of nourishing ingredients! It’s loaded with fresh seasonal veggies, healthy carbs and cozy Fall flavors!
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Autumn Pearl Couscous Salad with Maple-Cider Vinaigrette
For the couscous salad:
- 1 cup dry pearl couscous (Israeli couscous)
- 1½ cups water or chicken broth (to boil the couscous)
- 1 small butternut squash, peeled and diced
- 2 cups green kale, leaves cut off the stem & chopped
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- ¼ of a red onion, thinly sliced
- Pecans, toasted*
- Olive oil (for tossing with the squash)
For the maple-cider vinaigrette:
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 3 Tbsp maple syrup
- 3 Tbsp fresh orange juice
- 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
- 1 Tbsp dijon mustard
- ¼ tsp salt
- ⅛ tsp black pepper
- Roast the butternut squash. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Add the butternut squash to a large bowl and toss with one tablespoon of olive oil then generously season with salt and pepper.Arrange the squash on your prepared baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes or until the squash is tender. Set it aside to cool once done.
- Prepare the couscous. Bring 1½ cups of water (or chicken broth) to a boil on the stove. Once boiling, add the couscous and reduce the heat to low. Cover and let simmer for 10-12 minutes or until the couscous is soft and tender and all the liquid has been absorbed.Once done, remove from the heat and set it aside to cool completely.
- Make the vinaigrette. While the squash and couscous are cooling, whisk the vinaigrette ingredients together in a measuring glass or jar.
- Massage the kale. Place the kale leaves in a large serving bowl and add a small amount of the vinaigrette. Using both hands, gently rub the leaves together for at least 5 minutes. (The kale should begin to soften, shrink in size and turn vibrant green.)
- Toss. Once cooled, add the butternut squash, couscous, dried cranberries and red onions to the bowl with your kale and pour your desired amount of vinaigrette over the top. Toss until the salad is fully coated then taste and adjust the salt and pepper, if needed.
- Serve. Serve immediately or cover and let the salad chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes – 1 hour. Garnish each individual portion with toasted pecans before serving.