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Salad | March 24, 2021

Erin and Misty’s Basil Couscous Salad

Couscous, Craisin and Pumpkin Seed Salad with Fresh Basil Dressing, aka Erin and Misty’s Basil Couscous Salad is an all-occasion, any time of year salad. It is always a crowd pleaser and a recipe you will make again and again!

Couscous, Craisin and Pumpkin Seed Salad with Fresh Basil Dressing

Fresh ingredients make amazing salads. This salad is loaded with fresh greens, corn (in season), and basil. I love this salad in the summer, but also love it made with frozen corn in the winter months.

My favorite salads are usually made up of a combination of textures, colors and flavors. This salad has it all! Creamy basil dressing, chewy sweet Craisins, crunchy greens and pumpkin seeds. And the couscous adds its own unique texture to the salad!

Basil Couscous Salad

A stellar salad recipe usually starts or ends with a homemade dressing. This dressing is so good you will want to drink it. I’m serious. It is that good! Tell me I’m wrong in the comments if you don’t LOVE it.

My friend Erin and her sister Misty gave me this recipe years ago. I’m not sure of the origin of the salad, but when they shared the recipe they said “This recipe is one we get recipe requests for every time we make it!” I’ve found the same to be true.

Couscous with greens and Craisins

Update on the original recipe

When I first shared this recipe, it called for packaged “Olive Oil and Garlic Couscous.” It was often difficult to find, (and expensive especially when making a large batch). For a while, I could not find a package of this particular flavored couscous anywhere. Which led me to buying plain couscous and making an adjustment!

I now use plain couscous and cook the couscous in chicken broth. It is so easy to prepare and less expensive than buying pre-packaged!

How to cook couscous

If you are wondering how to cook couscous? All you need are a few simple ingredients and a pan for boiling the liquid. Here are easy directions…

How to cook Couscous:

  • 1 cup chicken broth or water
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup couscous
  • In a medium saucepan, bring the broth or water, olive oil and salt to a boil.
  • Stir in the couscous, cover with a lid, and remove from heat source.
  • Let sit for 5 minutes. Afterward, use a fork to fluff the couscous and break up any clumps.

Seriously, there is nothing easier and quicker than cooking couscous! It makes an easy side dish for any meat, poultry or fish. You will find lots of uses for your couscous!

Couscous, Craisin and Pumpkin Seed Salad with Fresh Basil Dressing

I’ve served this salad for YEARS to hundreds of people. Everyone loves this salad. Women, men, old people, young people. I know you are going to love it too!

Erin and Misty’s Basil Couscous Salad was originally posted in July of 2010 and has been updated with new photos and recipe content.

4.84 from 6 votes

Basil Couscous Salad

Course brunch, Dinner, lunch
Cuisine American
Keyword basil, Corn, couscous salad, craisins, green salad, salad dressing
Prep Time 30 minutes
cooling time for couscous 30 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 8


  • 1 cup chicken broth or water
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 cup cous cous, regular, not pearl
  • 12-15 cups Romaine lettuce, chopped about 1 large or two medium heads*
  • 1 cup Craisins
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan or Asiago cheese
  • 2 cups or 3-4 medium ears fresh white or yellow corn, or frozen cooked, cooled and cut off cob*
  • 1/2 cup toasted pumpkin seeds salted or unsalted

Dressing: (enough for a double batch of salad)

  • 1 cup fresh basil leaves*
  • 1 cup mayonnaise, I like regular but you may use light
  • 1/2 shallot chopped
  • 1 cup buttermilk, shaken or substitute in notes
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar sold near vinegar and salad dressings
  • salt and pepper to taste


For best results- a day before, or at least a few hours before:

  1. Bring chicken broth (or water), olive oil and salt to boil in a saucepan.

  2. Add couscous to pan.

  3. Cover with lid and remove from heat. Let sit for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, remove lid and break up couscous so no clumps remain.

  4. Wash, dry and chop lettuce, set aside in refrigerator.

  5. Cook corn, rinse with cool water. Cut corn off cob and place in refrigerator to cool completely. If using frozen corn, do not thaw, when ready to assemble salad take bag of corn from freezer and use in salad.

  6. Make dressing by mixing all ingredients in blender or by using a hand immersion blender. Refrigerate.

When ready to serve:

  1. Chop lettuce into bite size pieces. Add lettuce and rest of salad ingredients into bowl. Just before serving, drizzle dressing (I only use about 1/2 ) and toss. You may serve additional remaining dressing on

Recipe Notes

  • When I say “large” head of Romaine, I’m not talking about a Costco head of Romaine. Those are Romaine hearts. If you are using Costco Romaine, probably about 4-5 heads will do. I like to use Romain from the grocery with dark green leaves for best color. 
  • It is best to cook both the corn (if using fresh) and the couscous several hours (or the day before serving)  and refrigerate. Also best to use cold lettuce and dressing. 
  • If fresh is not available, frozen corn works well! Do not cook the corn. Do not thaw corn before using. Just toss into salad frozen. The corn will thaw quickly and help keep the salad cool. 
  • This salad works well for make ahead! If using fresh corn, cook and cut off the cob. Wash and chop the greens. Cook the couscous, let cool, break up so no clumps remain. Grate cheese. Store all of the parts of the salad in individual containers in refrigerator. Make the dressing and store in fridge.When ready to serve, toss together all but the dressing.  I like to drizzle the salad with a portion of the dressing, or toss the salad with a small amount of dressing and serve the rest on the side. Always save some of the couscous, raisins, corn and Parmesan to decorate top of salad for best presentation!
  • To make a buttermilk substitute: pour 1 tablespoon lemon juice into a one cup measure. Fill with milk and let sit for at least 5 minutes before using. Alternately, place 1/2 cup of plain unsweetened Greek yogurt into a one cup measure. Fill with milk to equal one cup. Stir and use in place of one cup buttermilk. 

35 thoughts on “Erin and Misty’s Basil Couscous Salad

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Recipe Rating

  1. I miss Erin… but am happy to be the littlest sis of those two above-mentioned ladies. I've never tried it but I guess I'm obligated to now.

  2. Thanks for your great site. The photo looks like it has sunflower seeds or pine nuts in the salad. I have pumpkin seeds, but they have a rather strong flavor. Which nuts work best with this salad? Btw, my claim to fame is as sis-in-law to the Celeb Laurie of Amazing Choc Cake fame.

  3. Kelly, you will love this salad!
    Anon- the seeds in the photo are roasted punmpkin seeds. I loved the crunch. To eat alone, the flavor was a little strong, but perfect on the salad. You could sub any of the seeds you mentioned. Lucky you to be related to Laurie! Love her. Thanks for sharing!

  4. I made this salad for dinner this week. It is sooooooo good! The dressing is just delicious and fresh tasting. I can't wait to make it again. Everyone in my family enjoyed it. Thanks so much for sharing so many wonderful recipies. I look forward to your new posts each week! Love all your recipies. Thanks again!

  5. made this tonight for a bbq side dish, and it was so fresh and fabulous! the texture is amazing (such a great combo of crunchy, chewy, etc) and the creamy basil dressing just makes your mouth water like it's crying with happiness!

  6. I had this salad at a friend’s house last year and didn’t have the courage to make it until now! Fantastic salad!

    1. Joanna,
      I’m glad you finally made it! This is one of the salads I have served over and over again and every time receive recipe requests. Thanks for reading ABK!

  7. Do you think I could substitute Greek yogurt for the mayo with success? Trying to cut down the calories in the dressing.

    1. Hi Maurine,
      I have not tried it. It would also change the flavor a bit, but I think it may work in this recipe. If you try it, I suggest making the dressing a full day ahead of time so the dressing has time to thicken a bit. Let me know if you try it! I substituted greek yogurt for sour cream this weekend in a dip and the results were amazing!

      1. Thanks for your help. We made it today to go with our grilled chicken for Labor Day. Such a yummy salad, we all loved it. The dressing turned out good substituting Greek yogurt. I don’t know how it compares to the taste with mayo, but it thickened nicely and tasted good so it worked for us! Thanks again!

        1. Maurine, So good to know! I’m going to give the Greek yogurt a try next time! Thanks for reading and coming back to give feedback 🙂

  8. I made this salad for a very special dinner party. I thought it was wonderful and like Brooke I wanted to drink the dressing. There is no better compliment as to the dinner guests asking me for the recipe. The special guest is headed to Geneva Switzerland for several years representing the LDS church at the UN. She asked for the recipe to take with her for entertaining special guests at her home in Switzerland. Thank you so much.

    1. Thank you Nena! Wow, what a compliment, I passed this along to Misty and Erin, who originally gave me this recipe. They are not sure where it originated, but we sure love it. Thanks for reading ABK and for your thoughtful comment!

    1. Bonnie,
      This salad will serve 12-14 as a large side. I love the combination of flavors and the crunch of the pumpkin seeds! Be sure to check out my tips on the best way to prepare and serve this salad to avoid stress on the day of the shower. I’m sure this recipe will impress.

  9. 5 stars
    I had a friend bring this to a party and the flavors and crunch of the sweet corn along with the to die for dressing this was such a yummy salad. One that I have thought about over the years and love it just as much as the first time I had it. You can’t go wrong with any one of these recipes.

  10. 5 stars
    This salad is awesome! My husband and I made it for dinner tonight and ate the whole thing just the two of us! So yummy!

  11. My mom made this salad for my nephews baby blessing and it was SO good!! Everyone was raving about it. I asked her for the recipe and made it for Sunday dinner with friends over. My new go to salad recipe! Thanks Si!

  12. 5 stars
    This salad has it all! Yummy ingredients, texture and most importantly taste! The creaminess of the dressing with all the flavor of the components just works. I am ALWAYS asked for the recipe whenever I take this to a gathering. Don’t hesitate. This salad is the one to make for that baby shower, that family get-together or just to eat and enjoy by yourself.

  13. 5 stars
    I love this salad! The dressing is delicious and all the elements come together really quickly. I sometimes swap the couscous for orzo.

  14. can’t wait to make it but wondering about the basil. It says 1 cup, is that packed, chopped etc. I don’t use fresh herbs much so am unsure. It had a * by it but didn’t see any notes. THanks so much! Love your recipes!

  15. 4 stars
    I don’t love making salads because there are so many steps but this was so good! Also loved using frozen corn! Made that step so much easier.