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.
🌡️ Useful Stuff
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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)!
Easy One Pot Ground Lamb and Couscous
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon garlic - minced
- 1 small red or yellow onion - chopped
- 1 pound lean ground/minced lamb
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- ½ teaspoon coriander
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne - more or less to taste
- 1 cup broth/stock
- 1 can chick peas - rinsed and drained
- ¼ cup dried apricots - diced (see notes)
- 5 ounces fresh spinach - large stems removed and coarsely chopped
- 1 cup dried couscous - (see notes)
- fresh mint or cilantro, chopped pistachios or toasted almonds, lemon wedges - to garnish
- Saute onion and garlic with olive oil in a large saute pan (use one with a cover that fits) over medium-high heat until fragrant and beginning to soften.
- 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. (See notes).
- Add the broth/stock, chick peas, and dried apricots. 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.
NOTE: Macronutrients are an approximation only using unbranded ingredients and MyFitnessPal.com. Please do your own research with the products you’re using if you have a serious health issue or are following a specific diet.
Paula Zugmaier says
I’ve made this recipe three times now and we just love it! The last time, I had about 1/2 cup of leftover steamed carrots in my fridge so I threw those in and I also had a small amount (maybe a cup?) of leftover coconut milk that I added and they were excellent additions! I’ll probably continue those adds as the carrots added a bit of sweetness and the coconut milk made the sauce a bit creamier. I used couscous for my husband and I but made it the next time for my daughter and I served it with Jovial’s grain free cassava orzo (GF) and it was just as delicious! I do frequent our local Aldi store and they sell ground lamb. That initiated my looking for ground lamb recipes. When I saw this one, I realized I had some garbanzo beans, dried apricots, fresh spinach and all the spices called for in my pantry and decided to try it. So many different flavors and such a refreshingly different dish!
Tamara Andersen says
Thank you for taking time to write Paula! These are great variations, and very helpful to others making the recipe... I'm glad you enjoy the recipe; it is one of our favorite quick dinners!
Paula Zugmaier says
I’ve made this twice now and we just love it! I used dried apricots both times and won’t change that. The second time, I had a small bowl of leftover steamed carrots in my fridge so I threw those it and they were a great add—little bites of sweetness. Also had a small amount of coconut milk leftover from something else (about 1/2 cup?) and threw that it—added a nice creaminess to it. I served it over some herbed couscous that I made separately. I can’t wait to make this for my daughter’s family —she is on a GF diet so I’ll let her choose what she wants it served over—but she is excited to try it!
Tamara Andersen says
I'm so glad to hear this, and your variation sounds awesome! Thanks for taking time to provide feedback!
Jim Bryant says
Great meal. I used Birdseye frozen couscous with spinach and lemon - fantastic product. I just threw it in frozen and simmered for 5 min then stirred them in. I drained the lamb fat then used chicken stock and red wine sparingly to deglaze the skillet and adjust the liquid. Diced a quarter of a red bell pepper just for color,
You found some clever and tasty shortcuts! Thanks for taking time to share them... another reader may really appreciate this information!
I had never used lamb or these particular spices together before today but I really enjoyed the outcome. It made my mouth happy! Next time I'll add a few more apricots or I might even venture to try another fruit but I loved the mix of textures & tastes in this recipe, which was also easy to follow. Came out perfect! Thanks for helping me expand into new flavors.
Tamara Andersen says
This makes me so happy! Thanks for taking time to provide feedback. I always hope that my recipes inspire people to expand and experiment. Yay!
Yummy dish. I did drain fat after cooking the lamb and I;m glad I did. I used prunes since I had on hand, rather than apricots and I know prunes are often used in Moroccan dishes. Added a nice sweetness.
The couscous didn't end up softening up enough so had to add some more hot water and cook further. Next time I would cook couscous seperately and then add. I also added some airfried carrots which were sweet and also made for a complete meal with plenty of veggies! Big hit and will make again! Needed some salt.
Thanks for your feedback Lynn! And you made some great substitutions!
I'm allergic to wheat so can't do couscous. Would subbing with millet work in this dish?
Hi Vicky! I am guess it would, though I can't guarantee it. You can either adjust the amount of liquid, and add the millet and cook according to the package instructions, or you can cook the millet separately (in broth) then combine with the lamb mixture before serving. Either way should work... let me know how it goes!
Jasmine Kimmitt says
I love this dish so much!! I use lean ground beef (93/7) and craisins because I have both in hand. I also had some near East herb couscous in the pantry that I used for it. This is the second time I’ve made this and my husband told me we needed a double batch next time. Even my 2 year old devoured it!
Wow! That makes my day! Thanks so much for taking time to let me know you loved it. Thank you Jasmine!
Michael Cain says
Sorry to say, this dish was a disaster for me. It came out, the only way I can describe it is mush. The only substantial substitution I made was orzo for couscous. Also, when a recipe says lean ground lamb , that is not something you can discern unless it is ground from a butcher so not draining the fat gave me pause but I followed the recipe.
Finally, it's not a big deal, but chefs have agreed with me, unless you're going to stand over the skillet sauteing garlic equals burning garlic.
I am really sorry you had a bad experience with my recipe Michael. Thanks for taking time to write. I will attempt to address each of your points:
1. I don't know how long you cooked the orzo, but the type of couscous readily available in the US doesn't actually get cooked. It just absorbs the hot liquid (hence remove from the heat). Orzo typically requires boiling for 9-10 minutes, making it difficult to substitute in this recipe.
2. While most ground lamb is not fat rated, it is possible to discern by the amount of white fat visible in the package. Also, I know the markets where I shop, and I know how little residual grease is in the pan. I will try to come up with a better way of specifying the lamb.
3. I always saute my garlic (albeit briefly) as it removes the raw taste. I guess that's a matter of opinion, but it only requires about 30 seconds before the lamb joins it in the pan.
This is a popular recipe on my blog, and the comments have been pretty favorable. I will add a note to drain the fat (thank you). I'm guessing the main problem was the orzo. I think you could cook the orzo, drain it, and add it in cooked, but you would want to omit the broth. Thanks again.
I made this recipe after doing a search for Middle Eastern ground lamb dishes. It worked out wonderfully. The only substitution I made was to use quinoa to make it gluten free for my wife. Thank you for a wonderful recipe.
I'm so glad Jerry! Thanks for taking time to write!
I made this in the instant pot..... came out awesome . Used about 1 1/2 c chicken stock. I used dates and golden raisins for the dried fruit....also added the mint and 1tsp mint sauce mixed with 2 tsp honey. Followed your instructions.... sprinkled couscous over top. pressure cooked 8 minutes and manually depressurized. Served with naan and tzaziki. Wonderful ! Thanks for a great recipe
Wow! That sounds fabulous! I'm so glad the recipe worked out in the IP for you... and I'm glad you liked the results!
Ground lamb, couscous, chickpeas, wonderful seasonings. What more could you ask for? Easy cleanup? Check. Great left over for lunch the next day? Check.
I guess this one is a "keeper" then?