Super simple, super flavorful, this vegan pearl couscous with mushrooms will be your new favorite easy vegan side dish recipe.
Pearl couscous–also known as Israeli couscous or ptitim–is one of my favorite things to make for a quick bite to eat. It cooks fast and works well with any veggie or plant-based protein you can imagine.
Pearl couscous is not the same as regular couscous, and it’s more closely related to (though still different!) Italian fregola than couscous found in Maghrebi cuisine.
What is pearl couscous?
It’s a type of pasta made from semolina flour and water. It’s an extruded pasta, similar to the Italian orzo. In short, unlike traditional couscous, which is small and traditionally hand-rolled, Israeli couscous balls are much larger, made by a machine, and then toasted.
In some instances, you can swap the pearl couscous for traditional couscous. However, be mindful of the difference in cooking time. For example, hand-rolled, small couscous only takes 5 minutes to steep. On the other hand, Pearl couscous takes about 12–13 minutes to cook.
I recommend not replacing the pearl couscous with regular couscous for this recipe. Instead, use an Italian fregola or orzo. If using orzo, you’ll likely need to add an extra cup of water and increase the cooking time to 18–20 minutes over low heat.
How to make this vegan pearl couscous with mushrooms:
For this vegan side dish recipe, you only need a handful of ingredients, including:
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Mushrooms, freshly sliced
- Vegan butter
- Pearl couscous
- Fresh thyme
- Fresh parsley
- Lemon juice
I recommend buying whole mushrooms and slicing them up. Fresh mushrooms fry up better than older mushrooms!
Step 1: Start by browning the mushrooms. You want to ensure they get extra golden brown, so cook them in batches and do not overcrowd the pan. Once all the mushrooms are golden brown, transfer them all to a bowl.
Step 2: Then cook up the shallot and add your vegan butter. From there, throw in the couscous and toast it up for a couple of minutes.
Step 3: Return the mushrooms to the pot with the fresh thyme sprigs and add the water. Bring it to a boil, reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes or until the couscous is tender.
Step 4: Once the couscous is finished cooking, stir in the lemon juice and parsley to give the dish a nice brightness.
This goes great with plant-based sausage links, or you could even add a can of chickpeas for a perfect one-pot meal! It’s a nice combination of ultra-savory paired with just a hint of brightness from the lemon and parsley.
Pearl Couscous with Mushrooms
- Medium pot
- 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more if needed
- 12 ounces baby Bella mushrooms, wiped clean and sliced
- 1 shallot, peeled and diced
- 3 tablespoons plant-based butter
- 1 cup pearl couscous
- 3 sprigs thyme
- 1½ cups water or vegetable broth
- 2 tablespoons freshly minced parsley
- 1 lemon, juiced
- Salt and pepper to taste
Brown the mushrooms:
- Heat olive oil in a pot over medium heat. Add the mushrooms in batches if needed, and cook, occasionally stirring, for 8-10 minutes until the mushrooms release liquid and that liquid evaporates. Don’t remove them from the pot until they’re nice and golden brown! Season all over with salt and pepper and transfer to a bowl.
Sauté the shallot:
- Add another teaspoon of oil to the pot if needed. Add the shallot and cook for 1-2 minutes. Melt the butter into the shallot and sauté for 5 minutes.
Toast the couscous:
- Add the pearl couscous and toast for 1-2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Simmer the couscous:
- Return the mushrooms to the pot along with the thyme. Add the water and bring it to a boil. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes or until couscous is tender.
- Stir in the lemon juice and fresh parsley. Taste and season once more. Enjoy with your favorite plant-based protein.