Vegetarian Couscous with Roasted Tomatillos & Corn

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Roasted tomatillos, grilled corn & jalapenos are combined in this easy Vegetarian Couscous recipe! It’s the perfect vegan side dish to pair with Vegan Grilled Veggie Tacos or this delicious Vegan Burrito Bowl! And best of all, it’s made in just 15 minutes!

Bowl filled with couscous, diced tomatoes, cilantro and lime wedges

I love cooking with couscous, it’s versatile and easy to prepare! So what is couscous?

Couscous is a pasta made of tiny steamed balls of semolina wheat flour. The couscous found in supermarkets today is pre-steamed and dried. This makes it quick and easy to cook at home.

Because of the quick cook time, it’s great for making easy side dishes or adding to main dishes. It’s mild in flavor and will take on whatever spices or ingredients you add to it.

Couscous, as seen in this recipe, is North African and different from Israeli Couscous, also known as pearl couscous. They are both made from wheat, yet Israeli couscous is much larger in size and therefore takes longer to cook. It’s great in salads, like this delicious Israeli Couscous Avocado Salad.

The couscous used in this recipe is from Africa, but today I’m putting a Mexican spin on it! Roasted tomatillos and grilled corn add a smokey flavor to the dish, while jalapenos add a little spice! If you’re not vegan, feel free to also crumble a little queso fresco on top!

Overhead shot of cooked couscous in bowl with cilantro, tomatoes and sliced limes

How to make Mexican Vegetarian Couscous

  • Roast the tomatillos. Heat a grill to medium. Place the tomatillos on a piece of foil on the grill.

This is there in case the tomatillos begin to burst on the grill. The foil will make sure you don’t lose any tomatillo goodness.

Remove the tomatillos once they become slightly charred on the outside. Chop the roasted tomatillos and set aside.

    • What are tomatillos? Tomatillos are also known as a Mexican husk tomato. You will find them in the produce section of the grocery store, usually near the peppers.

They do have a husk around them, which you will want to peel off before roasting them. While they’re most often used in salsa recipes, they’re also delicious in a variety of other recipes!

  • Grill the corn. On the same grill over medium heat, place an ear of corn directly on the grill grates. Cook for 10-12 minutes, turning occasionally until the corn kernels start to brown.

Remove from the grill and allow to cool enough to handle the corn. Use a sharp knife to remove the grilled corn from the cob.

  • Prepare the couscous. Add one cup of salted water to a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil on the stove. Remove from the heat and add one cup of couscous to the water.

Cover and let stand for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, remove the lid from the couscous and fluff with a fork.

    • Quick Tip! Vegetable broth or chicken broth (for non-vegetarians) can be used in place of the salted water. While this isn’t necessary, it will add a little extra flavor to the dish!
  • Combine the ingredients. Add the chopped roasted tomatillos and grilled corn kernels to the couscous. Also add diced tomatoes, diced red onion and minced jalapeno.

Finish the dish by seasoning it with lime juice, ground cumin and finely chopped cilantro. Serve warm immediately or place in the refrigerator in a sealed container and serve cold later. This recipe is delicious both warm and cold.

Is couscous gluten free?

Couscous is made from wheat flour, therefore it is not gluten free. Although, you can now find gluten free couscous alternatives, like this one made from corn or this one made from potato.

Is couscous vegan friendly?

Yes, couscous is made with semolina flour and water, making it perfect for those on a vegan diet. All of the other ingredients in this recipe are also vegan.

What is the difference between quinoa and couscous?

Quinoa is a seed and is gluten free, whereas couscous is a pasta, therefore it is not gluten free. Couscous also has a lighter, fluffier texture than quinoa.

What can I add to couscous?

In addition to the ingredients already in this recipe, adding a bit more protein can easily turn this side dish into a meal. Here are a few of my favorite vegetarian & vegan add-ins!

  • Black Beans – drain and rinse 1 cup of black beans from a can and add it right into this dish.
  • Soy Chorizo – remove the soy chorizo from the casing. Crumble and cook the soy chorizo in a skillet over medium heat for 7-9 minutes. Add directly into the recipe.
  • Roasted Sweet Potatoes – Mexican roasted sweet potatoes are a delicious addition to this dish. Try using this recipe for the sweet potatoes, it’s so flavorful and easy to make!

Mexican couscous in white bowl with lime wedges on top

Pair this vegetarian couscous with these Mexican vegetarian main dishes!

  • Mexican Meatballs – made with soyrizo, these vegetarian meatballs were the first thing I paired with this vegetable couscous recipe.
  • Butternut Squash Tacos – these vegan tacos are so flavorful and easy to make in just 20 minutes!
  • Sheet Pan Salmon Fajitas – this one is for the pescatarians out there! These salmon fajitas are delicious served as a fajita bowl on top of this vegetarian couscous recipe.
  • Vegetarian Enchiladas – these are the BEST vegetarian enchiladas ever! They’re filled with creamy corn, cheese and avocado, and they’re so delicious!
  • Spicy Soy Chorizo Quesadilla – this easy vegetarian recipe is made in just 15 minutes!
  • Crispy Avocado Tacos – crispy avocado is added to tortillas with a delicious roasted poblano corn salsa in this easy vegan recipe!
Couscous in bowl with white and gold spoon, topped with chopped cilantro
5 from 1 vote
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Vegetarian Couscous with Roasted Tomatillos & Corn

Roasted tomatillos, corn & jalapenos are combined in this easy Vegetarian Couscous recipe! It's the perfect Mexican side dish, made in just 15 minutes!

Course Side Dish
Cuisine Mexican
Prep Time 15 minutes
Total Time 15 minutes
Servings 4 people
Calories 202 kcal
Author Whitney Bond

Ingredients

  • 2 tomatillos husks removed
  • 1 ear corn
  • 1 cup water
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 1 cup couscous
  • ¼ cup tomatoes chopped
  • ½ cup red onion diced
  • 1 jalapeño seeded & minced
  • 1 tbsp lime juice fresh squeezed
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp fresh cilantro chopped

Instructions

  1. Heat a grill to medium. 

  2. Place the tomatillos on a piece of foil on the grill, turn occasionally for 8-10 minutes. Remove the tomatillos once they become slightly charred on the outside.

  3. Add the corn to the grill, directly on the grill grate, cook for 10-12 minutes, turning occasionally until the corn kernels start to brown, then remove from the grill.

  4. Add the water and salt to a medium saucepan, place on the stove over high heat. 

  5. When the water comes to a boil, remove from the heat and add the couscous.
  6. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, remove the lid and fluff with a fork.

  7. Chop the roasted tomatillos and add to the couscous.

  8. Use a sharp knife to remove the corn kernels from the cob, then add to the couscous.

  9. Add the tomatoes, red onion, jalapeno, lime juice, cumin and cilantro to the couscous.

  10. Stir to combine everything and serve.

Recipe Notes

  • Additions: Turn this side dish into a meal by adding these protein packed vegetarian ingredients.
    • Black Beans
    • Roasted Sweet Potatoes
    • Soy Chorizo
  • Gluten Free: Couscous is not gluten free, yet gluten free couscous alternatives made from corn or potato can be found online or at some grocery stores.
  • Vegan: This recipe is vegan.