Photo credit: Lynda Balslev
Prep Cook Serves Ready In
5 minutes 25 minutes 3-4 as a side 30 minutes

Israeli Couscous Pilaf

A toasty, fragrant, and fresh side dish for any occasion.

Israeli couscous, known in Israel as ptitim, which means “flakes” in Hebrew, is a pearl-shaped, pasta-like product with a delicious toasted wheat flavor. It was invented in Israel’s early years, as an inexpensive starch that was more affordable than pricey rice. Nowadays, it’s a nostalgic comfort food in the Israeli kitchen, but has also grown in popularity abroad and among chefs in the last 30 years. It’s easily found in the U.S., where it’s marketed as Israeli or pearl couscous.

In this recipe, I’ve paired Israeli couscous with warm spices, fresh mint, currants, and toasted pine nuts for a textural, flavorsome dish. It’s an easily adaptable side that’s suited to any occasion. 

Make sure to check out the surprising history of Israeli couscous.

Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups chicken stock
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  • pinch of ground cinnamon
  • generous pinch saffron threads
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped yellow onion
  • 1 cup Israeli couscous
  • 2 Tbsp pine nuts, toasted
  • 2 Tbsp currants
  • 2 Tbsp finely chopped mint

Directions

1. Combine the stock, salt, cardamom, cinnamon, and saffron in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat. 

2. Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté until softened without coloring, about two minutes. Add the couscous and cook, stirring, until lightly toasted, about one minute.

3. Carefully add the stock to the pan and stir to combine. Cover the pan and simmer over medium-low heat until the liquid has been absorbed and the couscous is tender, eight to 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, remove the lid, and fluff the couscous with a fork. Lay a clean dishtowel over the pan, without touching the couscous, and place the lid over the towel. Let stand for five minutes to allow the towel to absorb the steam.

4. Stir in the pine nuts, currants, and mint. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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