Fall in love with the enticing flavors and textures of spicy Moroccan chickpea & couscous salad made with nutritious vegan ingredients and no added oil.
This delightful hearty salad is a complete meal that takes about 40 minutes and has room for modification if you happen to have extra veggies or fresh herbs that you want to use up.
Read on, and we'll get you set for Moroccan salad success.
This post contains helpful tips and tricks to ensure success on your first attempt. Below, you'll find a handy table of contents with links. But if you're in a rush, please use the link at the top to jump to the recipe card at the end!
Table of Contents
Why You'll Love This Recipe
This recipe might seem busy, but each element – from the crispy, seasoned chickpeas to the sauteed veggies and quick-soaking couscous are simple.
Making this recipe without oil isn’t a side note – it’s been developed, tested, and eaten without even a drop of olive oil. If you want to add it, feel free.
Going gluten-free? With a simple swap of quinoa for couscous, you can do that without adding to your cooking time.
📋 Ingredients, notes & substitutions
- Chickpeas – Use 6 cups (2 cans) of cooked chickpeas (garbanzo beans). Nutty chickpeas maintain their shape when tossed in seasoning and dry fried. It’s also possible to roast them on a baking sheet in the oven, but it will take more time.
- White wine – Because it's used to deglaze the chickpea pan, you can use the same amount (¼ cup) of dry sherry, veggie broth, or just water. The alcohol in the wine will dissipate, so you are just left with a bit of flavor. It's an enhancement, but you won't miss it if you don't use it.
- Red bell pepper – Red pepper slices add sweetness and color. Slicing them makes a pretty presentation, but don't toss them except into the pan if you forget and dice them.
- Red onion – After peeling the red onion, just cut it in half, lay the halves flat, and slice them into half-moon shapes. Yellow onion or 2 large shallots can be used if you don’t have red onions handy.
- Zucchini – Now, 2 zucchinis (courgette) might seem like a lot, but remember, they reduce after cooking. You don't need to peel zucchinis. Cut them in half, slice them lengthwise into 4 pieces, and dice them into bite-sized pieces.
- Green olives – I will insist or at least strongly persuade you not to leave out the olives. Honestly, I am a black olive girl, but green olives are spectacular in this dish.
- Harissa powder – A spice blend made from fragrant spices with a kick, harissa powder is often used in Moroccan cuisine. Harissa powder is not the same as harissa paste, so stick to the dry spice blend for this recipe.
- Couscous – It's not a grain but a tiny pasta which means that couscous is made from wheat or barley. Whole wheat couscous is available. In fact, it's what I used. It's a great side dish because it only needs to be rehydrated by covering it in boiling liquid (water or broth).
- Lemons – Fresh lemon juice is always the tastiest. However, you can use the prepared kind if lemons are expensive or unavailable. Or use 1 fresh lemon for wedges that you can squeeze over the top at the table.
- Fresh mint – The flavor of mint accentuates the lemon and spices. Another layer of flavor from a green herb. If you don’t have or like mint, a little parsley or cilantro can be used. Or make a mixture if you have extra bits hanging around.
- Prep everything first, including the chopped or chiffonade mint. Mix up the lemon dressing in a small bowl and set it aside. The cooking and assembly happen quickly, so it’s easier to be prepared.
- Add the couscous to a small bowl and then cover it with ¼ a cup of lemon juice and 1 ¼ cup of water. You can add a pinch of salt if you like. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a tight-fitting lid. The liquid will absorb, so you need to fluff it and add the mint before adding it to the salad.
- It’s easiest to dump the chickpeas, cumin, paprika, and salt into a container with a lid and give them a good shake. Be sure to heat your skillet to medium heat before adding the chickpeas, and stir them constantly.
- Deglazing the pan from the chickpea spices is essential as this will pick up the flavors, clear the pan, and make cooking the veggies easier. When you add the wine, use a non-abrasive utensil like a wooden spoon to clean the bottom of the pan.
How to chiffonade mint
The easiest way to chiffonade mint or basil leaves is to stack the leaves flat and then roll them. Slice them lengthwise into stipes.
Frequently Asked Questions
Pearl, Israeli, or giant couscous can be substituted for regular couscous. You can find whole-grain pearl couscous, although it is less common than the smaller kind. Follow the package directions for preparing it.
Besides ras el hanout, suitable substitutes for harissa powder are berbere spice blend or a good quality chili powder. Although slightly different another spice blend, tandoori masala, can be used in a pinch. Stick to dry spice blends for seasoning the chickpeas.
Any kind of yellow or summer squash can stand in for zucchini, as can any color of bell pepper. Additional veggies that go well in this Moroccan-style salad include diced carrots, eggplant, or celery.
Pitted, green olives that are not stuffed are best for this recipe. Grab whatever is available at your local supermarket will probably work fine. Spanish olives, Manzanilla or Gordal, are usually available. French, Picholine olives are also great in this salad.
🍽 Serving and storage suggestions
You can serve this salad in the skillet. Just toss in the toasted chickpeas and the couscous, and garnish with the remaining mint. Otherwise, add everything to a large bowl. Serve the salad warm or at room temperature.
In terms of meal prep, you can toss the chickpeas in spices, prep the veggies, and make the lemon dressing a day or hours ahead of time. That takes the cooking time to about 15 minutes.
Add lemon zest if you want a more robust lemony flavor or golden raisins for a sweeter taste. If you are vegetarian, feta cheese is often served with Moroccan salad, although the green olives add enough umami to compensate. Of course, if you have vegan feta to be used up, by all means, add it.
Moroccan chickpea salad can be served as a main meal or a side dish for your next potluck. Serve it with lemon wedges or extra chili flakes at the table for those folks who like it hot. This is a great recipe to pair with crusty bread or whole wheat pita bread, but not much more.
Store leftover salad in an airtight container in the refrigerator. It will keep for several days. Remove it from the fridge and let it warm up a bit on the counter. Stir it and add a little lemon juice to spruce it up.