Fragrant Easy One Pot Ground Lamb and Couscous combines Middle Eastern spices with dried fruit, spinach, and chick peas in the ultimate quick and healthy one-pot meal! Ground lamb recipes provide all the flavor of lamb in a fraction of the time!
👩🏻🍳 Tamara Talks (Recipe Inspiration)
One. Pot. One. Plate. Rocks. I love a dish loaded with flavor, fresh ingredients, healthy nutrients, and balanced macros... all in one pot! When you sit down to enjoy a generous serving of ground lamb and couscous, you can relax knowing you have only one pan to wash up! And you're getting a really well-balanced meal in the process. I'd say it's a win-win...
By its very nature, ground meat/poultry are great options for quick weeknight meals. Their small surface area means they cook quickly. Ground lamb is my favorite ground meat/poultry due to its bold flavor. It really shines in a one pot dish!
🍛 What is "Middle Eastern" Cooking?
Middle Eastern cuisine features so many amazing flavors and ingredients - warm spices like cinnamon, cumin, coriander, sumac, smoked paprika, allspice, thyme; fresh ingredients like cilantro (coriander), mint, dill, lemons, spinach; pantry staples like pomegranate molasses, orange blossom and rose water, preserved lemons, harissa, chick peas, olives and olive oil, and dried fruit. My mouth is watering just thinking about the myriad possibilities! See How to Infuse Your Food with Middle Eastern Flavors for more...
Wheat and rice form the backbone of Middle Eastern cooking. You'll encounter bulghur wheat, couscous, and rice, and less typically, grains like barley, freekeh (immature green wheat), and corn. Beans and pulses (chick peas, fava beans, lentils, split peas) make up a large portion of the Middle Eastern diet, making it a nutritious option for vegetarians.
Lamb and mutton are the favored meats, but chicken is also quite common. Consumption of pork is prohibited in both Islam and Judaism, so you're not likely to see many pork-based Middle Eastern recipes.
What countries/regions are included in "Middle Eastern?" Historically, the region refers to the "Fertile Crescent," the area adjacent to the Tigris, Euphrates, and Nile rivers. The cuisine is diverse while having much in common, and includes both Arab and non-Arab cuisines: Arab, Iranian/Persian, Greek, Armenian, Israeli, and Turkish. For more on Middle Eastern flavors, see Traditional Flavor Profiles: Middle Eastern Herbs and Spices.
Here is a quick look at the ingredients in the recipe – it’s handy to use at the grocery store or as a summary of what you need. Skip to the recipe for quantities.
- olive oil
- ground/minced lamb - If you hate lamb, by all means use beef, chicken, etc.!
- chick peas
- dried apricots - Dried cherries, dates, cranberries, dates, etc. work well too!
- fresh spinach
- dried couscous (see tips!)
- fresh mint or cilantro, chopped pistachios or toasted almonds, lemon wedges, to garnish
This recipe is a perfect example of how I use my pantry and flavor profiles. All of the non-perishable items (couscous, spices, dried fruit, chick peas) are items I keep on hand. When I run low, my husband adds them to the grocery list app on our phone (OurGroceries).
I keep ground lamb in my freezer, and I use large quantities of fresh baby spinach, so I almost always have it in my refrigerator. I tried to limit the ingredients to those commonly found in our "regular" markets.
🔪 Step by Step Instructions
- Prep the ingredients - Mis en place is always important IMHO. For this recipe, you'll want to mince the garlic, chop the onion, open the can of chick peas (or measure out your pre-cooked dried chick peas), and prepare the garnishes. You can measure the spices and couscous as you go.
- Sauté the aromatics - Sauté onion and garlic with olive oil in a large cast iron skillet or saute pan (use one with a cover that fits) over medium heat until fragrant and beginning to soften - only 30-60 seconds. Don't burn the garlic!
- Cook the lamb and add the spices - Add minced lamb. Break it up (I like to use a potato masher). Add the cumin, cinnamon, turmeric, coriander, and cayenne. Continue cooking until the lamb no longer shows any pink, and the pan has very little or no liquid.
- Heat the broth/stock - Add the broth/stock, chick peas, dried apricots, and salt. Bring liquid to a boil. Add the spinach to the pan, and stir it in a bit to encourage wilting.
- Cook the couscous - Add the couscous, cover the pan, and remove from the heat. Allow the dish to remain covered at least 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Serve with desired garnishes.
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💭 Tips and FAQ
What type of pan should I use? Because the couscous needs to absorb liquid while covered, you need to plan ahead. Use a pan with a lid that fits well. I like to use my red cast iron skillet with a lid that fits tightly.
I don't care for lamb. What else can I use? While I specify ground/minced lamb, but you can certainly sub turkey, chicken, beef, or pork.
What other dried fruit can I use? The dried apricots are amazing, but so are dried cherries, golden raisins, dates, dried figs, etc.
Are there good substitutions for the spinach? Keeping it "one pot" necessitates plenty of green food (if "healthy" is important). I chose spinach because it just wilts in at the end. However, I have used diced zucchini (or other summer squash), bell peppers, and eggplant. Saute them with the onion. Make it your own with what you have on hand or regularly purchase, and whatever produce is fresh and in season!
Easy One Pot Ground Lamb and Couscous requires par cooked couscous that does not need cooking time. Proceed carefully in making substitutions like orzo and Israeli couscous! I think you could cook either one separately and stir in at the end, omitting the liquid.
How do I know if my lamb is "lean?" Most ground lamb is not fat rated. I am very familiar with the lamb at both of my regular markets. I can tell by how much white shows in the ground lamb, and by how little grease is in the skillet. If you have more than a coating of grease in the pan, you will want to drain it off. Otherwise, it will affect the liquid ratio.
My hope is that this "recipe" will become more of a "template," and that you'll be coming up with combinations that you and your family love... Looking for more weeknight mains that feature couscous? Try my Moroccan-Style Chicken Couscous. It's another flavorful, quick, and healthy recipe.
If you love ground lamb, don't miss perusing my Ground Lamb Recipes page!
P.S. It's pretty amazing the next day for lunch... Just ask Mark (hubby)!
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon garlic, minced
- 1 small red or yellow onion, chopped
- 1 pound lean ground/minced lamb (see notes)
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp turmeric
- ½ tsp coriander
- ¼ tsp cayenne, more or less to taste
- 1 cup broth/stock
- 1 can chick peas, rinsed and drained
- ¼ cup dried apricots, diced (see notes)
- ½ teaspoon salt (or to taste)
- 5 ounces fresh spinach, large stems removed and coarsely chopped
- fresh mint or cilantro, chopped pistachios or toasted almonds, lemon wedges, to garnish
- 1 cup dried couscous, (see notes)
- Saute onion and garlic with olive oil in a large cast iron skillet or saute pan (use one with a cover that fits) over medium heat until fragrant and beginning to soften. (Only about 30-60 seconds depending on heat level).
- Add minced lamb. Break it up (I like to use a potato masher). If there is more than a coating of grease, drain it off!
- Add the cumin, cinnamon, turmeric, coriander, and cayenne. Continue cooking until the lamb no longer shows any pink, and the pan has very little or no liquid. (See notes).
- Add the broth/stock, chick peas, dried apricots, and salt. Bring liquid to a boil.
- Add the spinach to the pan, and stir it in a bit to encourage wilting.
- Add the couscous, cover the pan, and remove from the heat.
- Allow the dish to remain covered at least 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork. Serve with desired garnishes.
This recipe requires a "par-cooked" couscous (quick cooking). This is the type most typically found in US markets. If you substitute a different type of couscous, prepare according to the package instructions (still use broth rather than water), and omit the liquid from the rest of the dish. Stir in the couscous at the end.
Most ground lamb is not fat rated. I am very familiar with the lamb at both of my regular markets. I can tell by how much white shows in the ground lamb, and by how little grease is in the skillet. If you have more than a coating of grease in the pan, you will want to drain it off. Otherwise, it will affect the liquid ratio.
Macronutrients (approximation from MyFitnessPal): 553 calories; 33 g protein; 58 g carbohydrates; 21 g fat.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 553Total Fat: 21gCarbohydrates: 58gProtein: 33g