Pesto Couscous Salad (a 15-minute Vegetarian Pantry Recipe)

Pesto Couscous Salad is easy and quick, perfect for a a quick, hassle free lunch and great lunchbox idea for both kids and adults.
Pesto Couscous Salad, a lunchbox recipe
Pesto Couscous Salad, a lunchbox recipe
Pesto Couscous Salad

Estimated reading time: 5 minutes

A Family Favourite

This Pesto Couscous Salad is a favourite recipe. If truth be told, it didn’t start out as a salad; I made it one day as a quick, warm, all in one lunch with stuff I had in the fridge.

It turned out to be such a big hit that it now makes a regular appearance for lunch (packed or otherwise), for picnics and most certainly, when we entertain. 

In terms of identity, it morphed itself into a salad because it cools down pretty quickly! And when we do need to make a packed lunch, this is always the Plat du Jour, because my kids are strange and don’t like sandwiches!! Unless they’re honey ones!

Homemade Pesto recipe
Homemade Pesto

Pesto Couscous Salad Recipe

There are so many things that make this Pesto Couscous salad special. Firstly, the use of pesto, to flavour the plain old couscous. Then we add depth, texture, colour and more flavour. You can be as adventurous or as conservative as your taste dictates, when it comes to the “filling” for this salad.

Pesto is very strongly flavoured, a little goes a long way, so go easy, if in doubt, you can always add more. Homemade is good, we always have some homemade pesto in the fridge, and that has long been the responsibility of my 12 year old as she really, really loves it!

Click here for our recipe which keeps, so you won’t be making it in the morning on a school day! If you’re going the shop bought route, hey, who am I to judge! But did I mention it only takes 8 minutes? Uh huh.

Peas – always good, sweet, not only a brilliant splash of green but full of nutrients: vitamin K, manganese, vitamin C, folic acid, etc.

Tomatoes – I love summertime for the many varieties of tomatoes available. We always grow a few different types, so take your pick of what you can get and they will lend a touch of sweet and a hint of piquancy to the salad. We all know tomatoes are good for us, raw or cooked, and they don’t have to be a deep red to be a great source of lycopene.

Capsicum (Bell peppers) – another sweet, crunchy addition to the salad, colour is up to you. Amazing vitamin C content!

Olives – as this is a Moroccan/Mediterranean fusion dish, olives are an obvious addition, providing and earthy and savoury depth. Colour is up to you.

Cheese – I love adding either parmesan or pecorino to enhance the pesto. Even mozzarella as everyone loves mozzarella! Feta is of course the choice for many with salads but I personally think it is sooo overdone and overused in recipes! Halloumi or Paneer are great too.

Nuts – pine nuts go very well in this recipe as pesto sauce is made with pine nuts, so there’s a natural affinity. Flaked almonds are also good. The nuts and cheese add to the protein content of the salad.

More Pesto Based Recipes

Turning the Pesto Couscous Salad into an “Adult Version”

Now, the salad as it is, is perfectly fine for an adult, but with a few changes, it can get so much more exciting! My kids are definitely bigger fans of the adult version, so if your child has adventurous tastes, he or she is going to love this one too. So here’s how to change it up:

Use marinated olives, cheese, roasted tomatoes and grilled peppers instead of fresh ones. Whether you fancy making them yourself, or use shop bought ones, it makes no difference.

Marinated vegetables

They last a while in the fridge if you can stop yourself from gobbling them all up! Which means you can use them again later in the week in sandwiches or this same salad again!

If you don’t fancy making them, they should be found easily at Italian delis or at supermarkets in either the fresh deli section or the Italian aisle, labelled “antipasti”. If you’re going for antipasti, artichokes will go amazingly well in this salad too.

Shall we get our aprons on?

♥ If you like the recipe and article, don’t forget to leave me a comment and that all important, 5-star rating! Thank you!

And if you make the recipe, share it on any platform and tag me @azlinbloor, and hashtag it #linsfood

Lin xx

Pesto Couscous Salad, a lunchbox recipe

Pesto Couscous Salad (15-minute Pantry Recipe)

Pesto Couscous Salad is easy and quick, perfect for a a quick, hassle free lunch and great lunchbox idea for both kids and adults.
4.97 from 30 votes
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Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Fusion
Keyword: couscous, pantry recipes, pantrystaple
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes
Servings: 4 (2-4)
Calories: 297kcal
Author: Azlin Bloor


  • 200 g couscous
  • 1 Tbsp butter salted
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 250 ml boiling water
  • 3 heaped tsp pesto
  • 2 handfuls fresh or frozen peas/petit pois
  • 2 medium tomatoes chopped
  • ½ capsicum bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 apple chopped
  • 1 handful olives
  • 2 Tbsp pine nuts
  • cheese of your choice to crumble over like feta, parmesan or even mozzarella


  • Heat the butter in a saucepan on medium high heat and fry the couscous for about 2 minutes until lightly fragrant.
  • Add salt and stir to mix.
  • Take the saucepan off the heat and leave to cool for a minute to reduce the splattering when pouring the boiling water.
  • Pour the boiling water onto the couscous in the pan, stir and cover with a lid. Stand a little away from the pan in case the couscous does splatter, you don’t want to get burnt.
  • Leave to stand, covered, undisturbed for 5 minutes.
  • In the meantime, “cook” the peas in the microwave for 60-90 seconds, depending on whether you’re using fresh and on your oven wattage.
  • After the 5 minutes, ad the pesto in and using a fork (not a spoon), gently fluff up the couscous thoroughly. TIP: Using a spoon will result in clumps.
  • Leave to cool while you get breakfast ready.
  • Toss in the vegetables very gently.
  • Scatter the nuts and cheese over, pack in lunchbox, along with some cucumbers and other slices of fresh vegetables like carrots.


Calories: 297kcal | Carbohydrates: 49g | Protein: 8g | Fat: 8g | Saturated Fat: 2g | Cholesterol: 8mg | Sodium: 700mg | Potassium: 339mg | Fiber: 5g | Sugar: 7g | Vitamin A: 1125IU | Vitamin C: 30mg | Calcium: 23mg | Iron: 1mg
Did you make this recipe?Mention @azlinbloor and tag #linsfood!
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41 thoughts on “Pesto Couscous Salad (a 15-minute Vegetarian Pantry Recipe)”

  1. Enricoh Alfonzo

    this is perfect for the days my family has to fast! plus my cousins are vegetarians so will share with them. amazing photos

  2. Leigh Anne Borders

    These are some great ideas for lunches. I have to take mine daily so I am going to make some of these this week! Looking forward to a chagne from a sandwich!

  3. Katy {ashadeofteal}

    I love Pesto, yet I never seem to cook with it. Your recipe looks delicious and makes we want to start cooking with pesto more.

  4. This looks very good! The pictures are fabulous! I want to try it…never had this before and I am always looking for something new!

  5. Karlyn Cruz

    I want to try this, what a colorful meal! My son will surely love this lunch box recipe.

  6. I love this, always looking for more lunch time recipes and I am so glad you didn’t add spice. Everyone always feels the need for it and I can’t stand spicy food haha

  7. Elizabeth O.

    Pesto is one of my favorite sauces especially since it goes so well with pretty much anything, from pasta to bread. I think this recipe is lovely and it’s perfect for the summer too.

  8. I have never had anything like this before but it looks very good. I am always up to try new things, especially when it comes to food. I will have to try this out.

  9. I have so many basil plants that I will have to make some pesto and then try this recipe! It looks delicious and I really like couscous. I wonder if quinoa would work just as well?

  10. I have never tried couscous – though I do have some at home that I recently bought to try. But I do love pesto – so this must be awesome!

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