Vegan Moroccan Couscous

Is it “authentic Moroccan?” Probably not… However, this Vegan Moroccan Couscous with Chick Peas is loaded with Moroccan flavor, warm spices, and healthy ingredients. Served alongside your healthy main it’s fabulous, but it also makes a great stand alone vegetarian main dish!

Moroccan Couscous with Chick Peas, Spinach, and Dried Fruit - Moroccan couscous in a black stoneware bowl with lemon and mint a jar of preserved lemons, and fresh herbs.
This Moroccan-inspired couscous is loaded with chick peas, dried cherries, and spinach, making it a hearty side or vegan main dish!

By seeking and blunder we learn.

~~ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, “Germany’s greatest man of letters…”

👩🏻‍🍳 Tamara Talks – About Vegan Moroccan Couscous

I originally wrote this post spring of 2018, and it was a partner post to these Moroccan lamb shanks I did (and haven’t updated) in 2015. Given that this Moroccan couscous has been shared 24,000 times, it was long overdue for an update! So here we go…

Why is this couscous dish “Moroccan?” The major player is the ras el hanout – a Moroccan spice blend. Ras el hanout is a complex, aromatic blend of what I refer to as “warm” spices – cinnamon, ginger, anise, nutmeg… – up to 80 spices may be included. Every blend is different. No need to keep 80 spices on hand, though!

While I do often make my own spice blends like this mole spice blend, and this tajín, I don’t cook Moroccan that often, so I do like to keep a small jar on hand for quick meals like this couscous. There are many good quality commercial blends, and they’re absolutely fine in this recipe!

Apart from the ras el hanout, couscous, dried fruit, chick peas, ginger, and fresh herbs lend a Moroccan-flair to the dish. It’s a perfect dish to play with – try switching out the fruit, the vegetables, add proteins, etc. See the “Ingredients” section below for ideas. While I originally created this recipe as a side dish, it’s a great vegan couscous main dish for #MeatlessMonday too!

🥘 What is Couscous?

Couscous is a quintessential North African staple, and probably originated with the Berbers (an indigenous group found primarily in Libya, Tunisia, Morocco, and Algeria) in the 7th century. The couscous widely available in the US is an “instant” product, and not all that similar to the “real stuff.” It has been pre-steamed and dried, thus it needs only about 5 minutes in boiling water.

Authentic couscous is typically steamed, often atop a pot of stew. It absorbs the flavors of the stew, and is quite delicious. We used to celebrate our anniversary at a Moroccan restaurant in southern California that did amazing, authentic couscous dishes!

Couscous is not just small pasta. I hear that a lot. It is made from crushed durum wheat semolina; pasta is made from ground wheat. It follows, then, that couscous is NOT GLUTEN FREE. The macros will be similar to pasta.

🏝️ What makes This Couscous “Moroccan?”

Couscous is super versatile, but this dish does hit Moroccan flavor notes. Ras el hanout, a spice mix often used in North African cooking, is to Moroccan food what garam masala is to Indian. There is no one recipe. 

Whether you use a commercially prepared ras el hanout, or make your own simple mixture, you’re sure to love this exotic combination of spices. Ras el hanout recipes vary, but typically include spices like cumin, ginger, black pepper, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, and cayenne.

An authentic ras el hanout is made from freshly ground whole spices, and may include more exotic spices like star anise and cardamom pods. You may even find dried caper and lavender in some recipes. 🙂

Moroccan cooks typically reserve this spice mixture for specialty dishes… The flavor is indeed special, and I love incorporating it into simple dishes like my Moroccan Carrot Salad With Lemon DressingRas El Hanout Chicken Kebabs,  and Moroccan Couscous Salad With Grilled Veggies and Chicken. Ras el hanout transforms even the humblest fare!

Of course chick peas, dried fruit, fresh herbs, and almonds are very typical of Moroccan cuisine as well. I love the versatility of this dish!

📋 Ingredients Notes

  • olive oil
  • shallot – Red or sweet onion are great substitutes for a shallot, but any onion will do. About 1/4 cup finely minced is great!
  • garlic
  • fresh ginger – I keep a jar of minced ginger in my refrigerator, and it’s a great time saver.
  • ras el hanout – Ras el hanout is a complex, aromatic blend of what I refer to as “warm” spices – cinnamon, ginger, anise, nutmeg, etc. You can purchase ras el hanout on Amazon, and find it in many markets. You can also make an easy ras el hanout at home.
  • smoked paprika – Smoked paprika comes in “mild” and “hot.” We prefer hot, but the choice is yours!
  • ground cumin
  • broth – Choose a good veggie broth if you follow a plant-based diet!
  • cooked chick peas – Canned are fine, but be sure to rinse and drain. If you like to start with dried chick peas, they must be cooked first. See FAQ below for more.
  • dried fruit – Dried apricots, cherries, dates, prunes, raisins, and currants are all good choices.
  • sea salt and several grinds pepper
  • greens – I use baby spinach leaves, but baby kale and arugula are also good options. You need very tender greens that will wilt in the hot couscous.
  • couscous –Dried couscous available in the US is typically parcooked. Be sure to check the package for exact amount of liquid (some may vary)! If you prefer to use Israeli couscous, you will need to adjust the liquid, and simmer until tender before adding the baby spinach.
  • preserved lemon – Adding some finely minced preserved lemon is a special treat. On photo day, I had just finished a batch, and I minced up the peel of one lemon to add in at the end.
  • toasted nuts – Sliced or slivered almonds, or pistachios are great options!
  • fresh herbs – We like mint, cilantro, or parsley.

🔪 Step by Step Instructions

Step one - Add aromatics to a pan over medium-high heat.
  • Sauté the aromatics – Add olive oil to a medium saucepan on medium-high heat. Add the ginger, garlic, and shallot. Saute until onion is soft, transparent, and beginning to get some color (5 minutes or so).
Step 2 - Add the spices and salt and pepper.
  • Add the spices – Add ras el hanout, smoked paprika, cumin. Stir 1 minute or so. Add salt and pepper.
Step 3 - After adding broth or stock, add chick peas and dried apricots. Bring to a boil, and simmer.
  • Simmer the chick peas and fruit – Add the broth or stock. Add chick peas and dried apricots (or other dried fruit). Bring to a boil. Simmer 3-4 minutes to combine flavors.
Step 4 - Add couscous and baby spinach. Cover and steam.
  • Finish the dish – Add couscous and baby spinach. Cover and remove from heat. Allow to sit 5 minutes (or time specified on the package). Check for seasoning.
  • Serve – Garnish with chopped fresh herbs, toasted sliced or slivered almonds, and minced preserved lemon peel (if you’re so inclined!).
Vegan Moroccan Couscous with Chick Peas, Spinach, and Dried Fruit - A close up of vegetarian Moroccan couscous with almonds, chick peas, fruit in a black bowl with fresh herbs and lemon half.

❓ FAQ

Can I use dried chick peas?

I regularly use my Instant Pot/pressure cooker to cook my chickpeas, but I keep canned beans of several varieties on hand – chickpeas (aka garbanzos), cannelini, and black beans. I prefer the taste and texture of the cooked from dried chickpeas. If using canned, you’ll want to rinse away the starchy liquid.

I can’t find ras el hanout! What can I use?

If you can’t find ras el hanout, and don’t want to make your own, substitute 1 teaspoon cumin, 1/2 teaspoon coriander, 1/4 teaspoon allspice, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon.

🍲 Variations

  • I’ve made this vegan Moroccan couscous with dried cherries (in the photos), dried apricots, dates, raisins, even Craisins… See what you’ve got in your pantry?
  • Sautéed zucchini works well in place of the spinach, while orange mint, cilantro, parsley, and spearmint make great additions.
  • Olives make an occasional appearance as well. All that to say, this is a great dish to “make your own” by adding what you love!

💭 Tips

Check the ratio of liquid required by your specific package for 1 cup couscous, and adjust if necessary. 

Broth or stock provide more flavor, but water is fine too!

🌡️ Useful Stuff

Note: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases at no additional cost to you. This helps to offset the costs of maintaining my blog and creating awesome content! 😊

Signature in red and green with chiles and limes.

A white bowl of vegan couscous, a wooden spoon, and on a wood cutting board.

Vegan Moroccan Couscous with Chick Peas

Moroccan Couscous with Chick Peas, Spinach, and Dried Fruit is loaded with Moroccan flavor, warm spices, and healthy ingredients. Served alongside your healthy main it’s fabulous, but it also makes a great stand alone vegetarian main dish!
4.67 from 39 votes

Click to rate!

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Course Vegan or Vegetarian
Cuisine Moroccan/North African
Servings 4 servings
Calories 264 kcal

Ingredients
  

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 shallot - chopped (see notes)
  • 1 tsp garlic - minced
  • 2 tsp fresh ginger - grated
  • 2 teaspoons ras el hanout - see Notes below
  • ½ teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 ¼ cup broth or water - see notes
  • 2 cups cooked chick peas
  • ½ cup dried apricots - chopped (dried cherries, dates, etc.)
  • ½ tsp sea salt and several grinds pepper - to taste
  • 6 cups baby spinach leaves
  • 1 cup dried couscous - see Ingredients in post
  • sliced or slivered almonds - toasted
  • fresh herbs - mint, cilantro, parsley, chopped
  • minced preserved lemon - or a squeeze of fresh lemon juice

Instructions

  • Add olive oil to a medium saucepan on medium-high heat. Add the ginger, garlic, and shallot. Sauté until onion is soft, transparent, and beginning to get some color (5 minutes or so).
  • Add ras el hanout, smoked paprika, cumin. Stir 1 minute or so. Add salt and pepper.
  • Add the broth or stock. Add chick peas and dried apricots (or other dried fruit). Bring to a boil. Add couscous and baby spinach. Cover and remove from heat. Allow to sit 5 minutes (or time specified on the package). Check for seasoning.
  • Garnish with chopped fresh herbs, toasted sliced or slivered almonds, and preserved lemon or a squeeze of fresh lemon juice as desired.

Notes

* If you can't find ras el hanout, and don't want to make your own, substitute 1 teaspoon cumin, 1/2 teaspoon coriander, 1/4 teaspoon allspice, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon.
* Red or sweet onion are great substitutes for a shallot. About 1/4 cup finely minced is great!
* Check the ratio of liquid required by your specific package for 1 cup couscous, and adjust if necessary. 
Macronutrients (approximation from MyFitnessPal.com): 264 calories; 9 g protein; 38 g carbohydrates; 9 g fat.

Nutrition

Calories: 264kcal | Carbohydrates: 39g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 9g

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.

Did you make this recipe? Please leave a comment and/or star rating! Email us with any questions: tamara@beyondmeresustenance.com

Share this post!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating




This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

49 Comments

  1. This looks incredible, I plan to make a batch of this tomorrow for my lunches at work. I can’t eat couscous so tend to substitute quinoa, do you think that would be ok in this recipe? Have you ever made a batch of this and stored it, how long do you think I can keep it for? I’m trying to meal prep for the first time and it’s all a bit complicated! Thank you for posting the recipe 🙂

    1. I’m sorry to be just now seeing your question Kate! I got a little off-track with a holiday… Yes, I think it will be fantastic with quinoa. It will keep several days in the refrigerator and still taste great. Let me know how it turns out, as it may help another reader!

  2. Thanks from The Netherlands! I used baharat instead of ras al hanout, worked out great. My husband loved it too!

  3. In the list of ingredients you say to include a chopped shallot but no onion. In the directions you say to add the onion. Is it a shallot or onion in this dish?

    1. I apologize for the lack of clarity. I have used onion and shallot interchangeably in this recipe. My first choice is shallot, but a red onion (or even a sweet onion) are great substitutes. I’m editing the recipe. I hope you’ll give it a try!

  4. Question: Are the chickpeas and couscous (I was thinking of using larger grain Israeli couscous) precooked before adding to this recipe? I use dried chickpeas in lieu of canned, and I was going to presoak them overnight.

    1. Hi Sharon! You will want to start this recipe with cooked chick peas. I prefer to start with dried ones too. I typically pressure cook them and then keep them in 2 cup portions in my freezer for quick dishes like this one.

      I see no reason to not make this with Israeli couscous – I think it would be great! You’ll want to adjust the liquid in the recipe to your package instructions as per my recipe notes. Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you give it a try!

  5. Dissapointed! This was very bitter… could be 5 minute saute of garlic is too long or way too much cumin, and not enough broth to hydrate coucous (1-1/4c). Wont make this recipe again.

  6. This sounds delicious! We eat a lot of moroccan food and I love the addition of dried fruit and nuts to so many of the dishes. My 3 year old will love the chickpeas in this, too!

  7. I’m a sucker for Moroccan cuisine and this looks and sound incredible! I’m going to have to make this soon!

  8. Yum! This sounds delicious. A little bit out of our usual comfort zone but we’re always up for trying something new. And I love that I already have most of the ingredients!

  9. I’ve not heard of Ras El Hanout before, but you better believe I’m going to try it! The ingredients and flavors of this dish sound AMAZING!

  10. I can practically smell those amazing spices! I love simple dishes like this that are packed with flavor.

  11. Yum! This sounds delicious. A little bit out of our usual comfort zone but we’re always up for trying something new. And I love that I already have most of the ingredients!

  12. I’ve not heard of Ras El Hanout before, but you better believe I’m going to try it! The ingredients and flavors of this dish sound AMAZING!

  13. This sounds delicious – I love the dried fruit! I would definitely make a big batch of this to have for weekday lunches – this would be a desk lunch to actually look forward to!

  14. I love Moroccan spices and chickpeas – this sounds so delicious. Love how easy it so too! Saving for later. Gotta try this one..