Savory Turmeric Couscous with Almonds

White bowl with savory turmeric couscous, almonds, raisins and chopped cilantro

Being a really easy thing to make, couscous has been a staple ingredient in my kitchen since college. However, it’s always been rather, well, plain, and typically mixed with vegetables. As I do more Mediterranean meal planning these days, I was looking for ways to bring in different spices and make it its own sturdy dish. That’s how I came up with this savory turmeric couscous.

Making normal couscous a savory couscous

What exactly is a savory dish? Usually one thinks of it as the opposite of sweet, but is that accurate?

These are the times when a visit to Reddit, or for food, Chowhound, to get a diverse set of opinions. And after reading through chowhound’s savory discussion, I’m not any clearer.

I think it’s just one of those things where you know savory when you taste it.

And how to get that flavor? I like to start with a base of sauteed onions, garlic and spices. After a good 8 to 10 minutes over medium low, your onions and garlic will become translucent and just start to brown. This is where more complex flavors start to build.

Adding Lemon Zest and Zaatar to Garlic and Onions

Next, introduce your spice blend. This will “open up” your spices, perfume the other ingredients and also infuse flavor into the olive oil. Let it steep for a few minutes.

This ensures that the flavors of this savory turmeric couscous will be distributed in a uniform way throughout the final product.

In addition to the spices, this mixture also includes the lemon zest and currants. If you don’t have currants on hand, chopped raisins are a perfect substitute. No one will know the difference.

Onions, garlic, lemon zest, currants and spices sauteeing in olive oil

Toasting and Finishing the Couscous

The traditional approach for couscous is to boil water and then add the couscous. What I like to do instead is to add the couscous to the pan, after the spices have opened up, and toast the couscous for a few minutes.

Then add your cooking liquid and simmer for a few minutes before turning off the heat and covering the pan.

Don’t forget to turn the heat off. It doesn’t need a low heat like other grains and pastas. Even a low simmer will likely crust the couscous to the bottom of your pot.

Savory Turmeric Couscous in a Sauce Pan after Fluffing

After about 10 minutes of resting, you are ready to give it a fluff with a spoon. Right before serving, mix in freshly chopped cilantro.

Pairing the Savory Couscous and Other Options

This was a great combo with my Grilled Tofu Shawarma and some Grilled Broccoli and Red Onions for a killer Meatless Monday. I’ve also served it with Cedar Plank Grilled Salmon, which also paired really well.

If you’re looking for something a little sturdier, like a quinoa dish, then this Mediterranean Quinoa might be a good option. If you want something super sturdy, that’s when you step up to wheat berries. Check out this hearty Wheat Berry Salad with Red Peppers. This particular dish is a weekly favorite in our house.

Couscous in a Bowl with Cilantro
Savory Turmeric Couscous with Almonds
Prep Time
10 mins
Cook Time
20 mins

Turn ordinary couscous into a savory dish with Turmeric and subtle Mediterranean flavors

Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Mediterranean
Author: Tony Bailey
  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 1/2 Cup Chopped Yellow Onion
  • 1 Tablespoon Chopped Garlic 3 to 5 large cloves
  • 1 Teaspoon Dukkah optional
  • 2 Teaspoons Turumeric
  • 1/2 Cup Currants or Chopped Raisins
  • 1 Tablespoon Za'atar
  • 1 Cup Couscous
  • 1 Cup Water
  • 1/2 Lemon, Zested
  • 1 Tablespoon Chopped Cilantro
  • 1/2 Cup Chopped Almonds
  1. Heat olive oil in a medium sauce pan over medium heat

  2. Add onion and garlic, simmer over medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Reduce to medium low for 8-10 minutes until onion is lightly browned

  3. Add dukkah, turmeric, currants (or raisins) and za'atar. Continue to cook over medium low for 5 more minutes

  4. Add couscous and cook for about 1 minute to toast it lightly

  5. Add water and bring to a simmer. Stir for about 30 seconds while the couscous absorbs the water.

  6. Add the lemon zest and mix in well. Turn off heat, cover and let sit for 5 minutes. Fluff the couscous and add the chopped almonds and cilantro before serving


  1. Pingback: 5 Benefits of Raisins That Make Them a Surprisingly Good Pre-Workout Snack – The Very Thought Of It! – Health And Medical Review Tips

  2. Michelle Brovitz

    where are the almonds?

    • Tony Bailey

      Ha! Great catch! I’ve updated the recipe to reflect that 1/2 cup of chopped almonds also gets folded in at the end.

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