This Turkish style couscous salad has a great contrast of flavors and textures. It is an awesome side dish to take to a picnic, or dinner party.
A Twist on Tradition
Couscous salad with dates, nuts, and apricots is a slight twist on a typical Turkish dish from the region of Anatolia(a large region of Turkey). The traditional dish uses bulgur wheat, but I felt compelled to improvise when I opened my cupboard and gasp, no bulgur, but plenty of couscous!
Although it's not 100% authentic, it does retain the cultural heritage of the dish. A sweet savory combo that goes well with just about anything. Dates give this couscous salad recipe an interesting taste. Dates lend a sweet note to savory and sweet dishes alike in North African, Turkish, and Middle Eastern countries. I love dates, they are so good for you and taste good too. Last year one of our Fulbright students from Morocco shared an interesting aspect of her culture with me: "In Morocco, it is customary to offer a guest dates and tea upon arrival." This custom has its origins in the country's nomadic past.
History of Dates
Dates were the first exotic fruit to be known in Europe. In antiquity Aristotle called them daktylos, from the Greek word for fingers. In Roman times they were sold in theaters in gilded paper. Dates are indeed an ancient fruit, and an integral part in the cultural development of nomadic cultures. Why? Well, dates travel very well; thus providing much needed energy in long treks. Dates were sacred to the Sumerians and the Babylonians, and also revered by the Egyptians. You can read more on the history of dates at Food & Nutrition. They were also utilized to make an alcoholic beverage called shekar.
What is couscous?
Couscous is not the same as pasta but it is close. It is durum wheat that has been crushed and formed into small granules or tiny spheres. Most grocery stores carry the very small granules that have been pre-cooked and dried. This type can be quickly rehydrated in boiling water and is ready in 5 minutes.
In this couscous salad with dates, nuts and apricots, sweet and savory flavors mix together beautifully as well as texture. Crunchy nuts, and grainy couscous contrast nicely with sweet soft dates and apricots. The creamy yogurt that is served with the dish pairs well with the overall dry nature of the other ingredients and lends the dish a slight tangy touch. It's a great contrast.
Step by step photos to make couscous salad
- Step 1: Gather all your ingredients and have them measured, chopped and ready to go: couscous, water, olive oil, salt, pine nuts, pistachios, shredded carrot, dates, apricots, cilantro and yogurt.
- Step 2: Boil the water with 2 tsp of olive oil and salt in a sauce pan. Once the water is boiling remove from the heat and pour in the couscous and stir a few times. Cover the pan and let sit for about 5 minutes until all the water had been absorbed. Fluff the couscous with a fork and place in serving bowl.
- Step 3: In a skillet on medium heat add the remaining olive oil. Add the pine nuts, pistachios and carrots. Stir until the carrot begins to soften.
- Step 4: Pour the carrot mixture over the couscous and add dates, apricots and fresh cilantro. Serve with plain yogurt on top.
Other salad recipes from around the world
- Gavurdagi - A traditional Turkish salad made with cucumbers, tomato, parsley and walnuts with a tangy sweet dressing made from pomegranate molasses.
- Mediterranean parsley salad: A healthy salad of curly parsley, tomato, red onion and feta.
- Pho Tron: A Vietnamese rice noodle salad with beef, lettuce, mint, basil, sprouts and homemade traditional nuan cham dressing.
- Tabouleh: A refreshing and nutritious Middle Eastern salad with bulgur wheat.
- Portakal salatasi: Turkish style orange and onion salad with Kalamata olives and mint.
- Vietnamese sweet and sour mango salad: This has a nice balance of flavors.
Frequently Asked Questions
This will keep nicely in a sealed container for 5 days.
Yes, you can freeze in an airtight containers for up to 4 months. The texture of the dates, apricots and cilantro will be a lot softer. Freezing the couscous alone would be the best option.
Serve this dish alongside grilled chicken, lamb kebabs or the protein of your choice. Enjoy! BTW, don't forget to share this recipe with your friends and family.
Couscous Salad with Dates, Nuts and Apricots Recipe
- Boil the water with 2 tsp of olive oil and salt in a sauce pan. Once the water is boiling remove from the heat and pour in the couscous and stir a few times.
- Cover the pan and let sit for 5-10 minutes until all the water had been absorbed. Fluff the couscous with a fork and place in serving bowl.
- In a skillet on medium heat add the remaining olive oil. Add the pine nuts, pistachios and carrots. Stir until the carrot begins to soften.
- Stir until the carrot begins to soften.
- Pour the carrot mixture over the couscous and add dates, apricots and fresh cilantro. Serve with plain yogurt on top.
- This dish can be served warm or cold depending on your preference. Add more salt to taste.
How long can I store the couscous salad in the refrigerator?
Originally published June 2016 and updated July 2023.