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Growing up, my twin sister and I had quite different preferences at mealtime. I was the “steak and potatoes” girl who loved anything fresh off the grill and next to a giant salad. Yes, 5-year-old me and 27-year-old me still eat the same! My favorite weekly dishes growing up were pepper steak, grilled chicken drumsticks with apricot glaze, ribs, and of course this Mediterranean-inspired couscous salad. It was the one meal my mom could serve us that we both would go crazy for, and eventually we learned how to make it ourselves.
I have eaten this salad, traditionally made with large pearls of Israeli couscous (aka gluten beads), so many times that replicating the flavor was a cinch! I used Trader Joe’s riced cauliflower which you can now buy fresh or frozen in a bag! My Trader Joe’s only allows you to buy two per purchase, so it is clearly a highly coveted item in Austin, Texas.
This recipe can be made using just one bag of the fresh riced cauliflower, or you can make your own at home. I find the store-bought one to be more uniform in size and firm in texture than anything I can make at home, so it has been a welcome convenience item in my kitchen recently! And no mess with the food processor!
It really serves this recipe well because if you pulse your cauliflower too finely at home, which is pretty easy to do, you will end up with a mushy and unappealing salad. The best way, I have found, to make your own cauliflower rice is to pulse even-size pieces of cauliflower in small batches in your food processor. This prevents the big pieces from getting stuck at the top and the small ones from being pulverized near the blade.
My Mediterranean Cauliflower Couscous Salad is full of bright flavors, crunchy textures, and a delicious medium-bodied vinaigrette that is kicked up a notch with the addition of orange zest. Each little component of this salad has a purpose, so try to stick as closely to the recipe as possible! Because I know at least one person will ask for substitutions, you can certainly substitute dried apricots for the dried Turkish figs and even raisins for the cranberries (but I prefer the tartness of the cranberries MUCH more than the one-note sweetness of the raisins!).
In our house, we serve it as a side dish with a nice and meaty piece of seared white fish or salmon, grilled chicken kabobs, or a quick shrimp sauté for an incredibly flavorful meal full of color and nutrition!
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 3½ cups uncooked riced cauliflower
- ¼ tsp sea salt
- ¾ cup peeled, seeded, and diced cucumber
- ⅔ cup finely chopped parsley, loosely packed
- ½ cup dried cranberries
- ⅓ cup diced dried Turkish figs
- ⅓ cup diced red onion
- 4 green onions, sliced crosswise
- 1 tbsp minced fresh dill
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp + ½ tsp lemon juice
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
- ½ tsp grated orange zest
- ½ tsp sea salt
- ¼ tsp garlic powder
- ¼ tsp dried dill
- Heat olive oil in a large stainless steel pan over medium heat.
- Add riced cauliflower to the pan and season with sea salt. Saute for 5 minutes, tossing only every 2 minutes to prevent sticking, until lightly browned and tender. Ensure you do not overcook the rice or it will be mushy.
- Set the cooked cauliflower rice aside to cool completely. You may do this by leaving it at room temperature for 30 minutes or by scooping onto a plate and placing in the refrigerator until cooled.
- Meanwhile, combine the remaining salad ingredients in a serving bowl. Toss in the cooled and cooked riced cauliflower.
- Make the vinaigrette by whisking all of its ingredients together in a small bowl. Toss gently with the salad until evenly incorporated.