A warm and hearty Mexican Couscous Salad which can be served as a side or even better as a main dish! Make it as spicy or as mild as you want; great served cold too!
When this year started, I asked myself what I wanted to do to help make Lord Byron’s Kitchen a better site for you, Dear Reader. The one thing that kept coming back to me over and over again was the idea of increasing the number of side dishes.
But, I want the side dishes to be hearty too. Not just boring bowls of lettuce. Yuck! I thought about the home cook, and how he or she would come home at the end of the day and need to eat. I wanted to incorporate pantry items, because we don’t all have time to go buy fresh ingredients everyday.
Lastly, I wanted the recipe to have room for substitutions and omissions without altering the flavour and texture of the recipe too greatly. After all, home cooking should be about working with what you have.
What is Couscous?
There are two very common types of couscous. The first type is Moroccan couscous. This is the type I’m using in this recipe.
It is small in size, and is easily found in most grocery stores. Also, it cooks up very fast because it basically needs to be just re-hydrated in hot water. Sometimes, the package is labeled instant, but you should check the instructions to see if soaking is needed before cooking. For this recipe, use instant. I have used this type of couscous before in my Couscous Green Pea Salad with Almonds and Feta.
The second most common type is Israeli or Pearl couscous. This one is noticeably larger in diameter and in comparison to Moroccan couscous, it requires a little longer to cook. First, it is simmered on the stovetop and then briefly covered until tender. It has more of a pasta-like taste and texture with some springiness. I have used this type in my Israeli Couscous Dried Fruit Salad.
Since couscous is made with crushed semolina, it’s basically a pasta. Therefore, I tend to think of it as a great substitute for rice or noodles, especially since the cooking time is extremely fast, and the price is extremely low!
Substitutions, Changes, and Variations:
There are only two ingredients that cannot be changed in this recipe. Those two ingredients are the couscous and the water. However, you can increase or decrease the amount of couscous, of course, but by whatever amount you change it, the amount of water must be changed too.
If you want only half cup of couscous, then use only half a cup of water. Those ratios must remain the same. Otherwise, you run the risk of your couscous being soggy or over cooked!
You can change the other ingredients at will. Keep the salt and pepper amounts the same so that you won’t have to worry about seasoning. You can increase, decrease, or omit the garlic, onion, jalapeno, corn, and fire-roasted tomatoes.
Try adding black beans or cilantro if you want to make this dish more authentically Mexican. I didn’t have cooked black beans on hand at the time. And, to me, death by means of waterboarding is more appealing than eating cilantro. So, there’s that!
Side or Main Dish?
I would totally eat this as a main, but if you want to serve it as a side, what main would you serve it with? I think a plain grilled chicken breast would be great with this – again, we are going to keep it simple!
But, if you wanted to go all out, might I suggest you serve this Mexican Couscous Salad with my Mexican Dry Rub Grilled Chicken Skewers? That would be a most delicious meal! Now, let’s get to the recipe!
Mexican Couscous Salad
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 large jalapeno, seeds removed and discarded, finely diced
- 1 small red bell pepper, diced
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1 cup canned corn, drained
- 14 ounces canned fire roasted tomatoes, drained
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup instant couscous
- In a large sauce pan with a tight fitting lid, over medium heat, add the olive oil, onion, garlic, jalapeno, red bell pepper, salt, ground black pepper, and cumin. Saute for 5-7 minutes.
- Add the corn, fire roasted tomatoes, and water. Stir to combine. Increase heat to medium-high and bring mixture to a low boil.
- Lastly, add in the couscous. Stir to combine. Place a lid on the pan and turn off the heat.
- Allow couscous to steam for 10 minutes. Do not lift the lid!
- Once down, remove the lid and fluff with a fork. Toss in chopped parsley or cilantro if desired.
- Serve warm or refrigerate and serve chilled.