Hot Girl Summer is only complete with this healthy summer couscous salad topped with garlicky tomatoes, broccolini, red onion, and drizzled with the perfect herby tahini salad dressing. This is the best healthy summer salad recipe for lunch, easy vegetarian meal prep, or as the perfect healthy side dish to bring to a summer BBQ! It’s also the perfect recipe to make if you want glowing skin and a natural cure for bloating.
Did you know I’m not that into salads? I know, I know. As an author of a healthy cookbook and someone who packs as many vegetables as I can into my green smoothies, I get that it doesn’t totally add up. In my recent healthy summer recipe endeavors, I made it my personal mission to create salads that don’t suck, like my copycat Sweetgreen Crispy Rice Salad with Spicy Cashew Dressing and my Strawberry Pistachio Salad with Lemon Poppyseed Vinaigrette. And I figured out what these insanely delicious and actually filling salads have in common! The perfectly herby homemade dressing to tie all the nutritious ingredients together.
This healthy summer couscous salad totally lives up to my strict salad standards – you won’t want to miss it. All the fresh herbs! Garlicky couscous! Sweet bursts of cherry tomatoes and crispy broccolini! It’s truly heaven in every bite and it’s also packed with nutrients (like, you’re eating more nutrients in one meal than most people get in a week).
What makes Hot Girl Summer Salad healthy?
Yes, I nicknamed this couscous salad the Hot Girl Summer Salad – and for a few, good reasons. First, I feel so much less stressed knowing I have a batch of this zesty couscous salad waiting for me in my fridge. And if that isn’t the carefree Hot Girl Summer vibe in salad form, I don’t know what is. Secondly, the ingredients inside are AMAZING for your health AND your hot girl summer aesthetic, like glowing skin and easy de-bloating. Here’s exactly what you can look forward to in every bite:
- Gut health. When you cook and cool couscous, it turns into resistant starch– a prebiotic that your body digests like dietary fiber. It’s SUPERB for gut health (studies also link it to supporting weight loss). Learn more about resistant starch in this podcast episode! Ingredients like mint and couscous also boost digestion and alleviate bloating.
- Glowing skin. Those prebiotic fibers from the cooked and cooled couscous have also been studied for their anti-inflammatory and blood sugar benefits, which help regulate hormones and keep our skin healthy. The fresh herbs we use in this recipe like basil and parsley are great for skin health because they have antibacterial properties and are rich in Vitamin A which are shown to fight acne and reduce wrinkles.
- Immune boost. Resistant starch has also been studied for its benefits on the immune system, which adds up because 80% of our immune system lives in our gut! We dive deep into this gut-immunity connection in this Ask the Doctor episode of my podcast. Garlic and tomatoes are also proven to fight inflammation!
Ingredients in this summer couscous salad
Cherry tomato: adds a burst of sweetness and flavor, plus tomatoes are proven to have more antioxidants after being cooked! In this recipe, we increase the cherry tomato’s richness in lycopene (a powerful antioxidant that is studied for its cardiovascular disease-fighting properties) by roasting it.
Broccolini: this high-fiber type of broccoli is great for digestion and also for reducing risks of cancer and reversing the effects of a poor diet.
Garlic: this deliciously powerful aromatic has been linked to reducing and preventing the four largest causes of death across the world: heart disease, stroke, cancer, and infections.
Red onion: adds fresh, tangy flavor and is proven to help fight diabetes because of it lowers glucose concentrations.
Pearled couscous: a much larger grain than normal couscous that has a pasta-like texture that almost tastes like micro gnocchi, unlike regular couscous that tastes more like grits when coked. It’s whole grain and naturally prebiotic, proven to aid gut health.
Thyme: adds wonderful flavor while adding well-researched mood-boosting benefits to this healthy couscous salad.
Mint: I love using fresh mint leaves in savory recipes for their bright and fresh flavor and IBS-relieving benefits.
Parsley: this fresh herb is often called a superfood because it’s so high in essential oils and antioxidants! If you’re looking for a science-backed way to de-bloat, you’ll love parsley’s digestive benefits.
Basil: this herb in the mint family is proven to be an adaptogen, which is an herbal medicine that’s proven to help the body combat stress.
Lemon: brings the perfect zing to this summer couscous salad recipe while adding health benefits for the skin and weight loss.
Tahini: a creamy butter made from sesame seeds that’s rich in essential nutrients and proven to be great for balancing hormone levels.
Raw honey: this natural sweetener is packed with antioxidants and has actually been researched for promoting weight loss.
Fine grain sea salt: this makes the flavors pop and also adds minerals to this recipe!
Can I swap the couscous to make it gluten free?
Pearl couscous is basically mini pasta, and therefore not gluten free. But, you can try making this recipe gluten free by substituting white basmati rice or quinoa for the couscous. I haven’t personally tried this because I’m not strictly gluten free and I really love the texture the pearled couscous gives this recipe. If you choose to try a different grain, I think the cooking times and quantity of the grain will differ. Let me know in the comments if you try it!
Customize Hot Girl Summer Salad
- Serve it on a bed of arugula or spring mix for even more salad bowl vibes (this is my sister’s favorite way to eat Hot Girl Summer Salad!)
- Give this couscous salad a protein boost by adding 1 can of rinsed and drained chickpeas or some shredded rotisserie chicken.
- Top this salad with fresh burrata cheese to elevate this recipe for a summer picnic or BBQ side dish.
How to meal prep this summer couscous recipe
- After cooking everything according to the recipe directions below, divide the couscous, vegetables, garlic, and chopped red onion evenly into 4 individual, tightly sealed containers.
- Feel free to add the dressing on top if you’re going to be eating your meal prep cold. If you plan on heating it up, I’d recommend storing the dressing in a separate container and add after heating, once it’s ready to serve.
- Keep the containers in the fridge for up to 4 days and have healthy lunches on hand all week long.
How to make Hot Girl Summer Salad
- Roast the vegetables. On a parchment-lined pan, add the cherry tomatoes, broccolini, smashed garlic cloves and toss them with a drizzle of olive oil and pinch of sea salt. Roast at 425 F for 12-14 minutes (until just turning brown).
- Meanwhile, make the couscous. Place a large pot over medium heat, and add the pearled couscous, dried thyme, 3 minced garlic cloves, fine grain sea salt, and a drizzle of olive oil. Toast the pearled couscous until just golden. Then, add 3 cups of boiling water, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. If there’s any remaining water, remove the lid to cook it off.
- Make the tahini herb dressing. In a medium bowl, mix together all the dressing ingredients.
- Toss everything together. In a large bowl, combine the cooked couscous, roasted vegetables and garlic, chopped red onion, and dressing. Enjoy this recipe warm or cold!
More summer salad recipes
Enjoy, and tag me if you make Hot Girl Summer Salad on Instagram (@lizmoody)—I can’t wait to see!Print
For the salad:
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes
- 1 bunch broccolini, chopped (about 3–4 cups)
- 4 smashed garlic cloves
- A drizzle of olive oil
- 2 cups dry pearled couscous
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 3/4 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
For the dressing:
- 1/2 packed cup mint, finely chopped
- 1 packed cup parsley, finely chopped
- 1 packed cup basil, finely chopped
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 3 tbsp olive oil
- 3 tbsp tahini
- 2 tbsp honey
- 1/4 tsp fine grain sea salt
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. On a parchment-lined pan, add the tomatoes, broccolini, and smashed garlic cloves. Add sea salt and drizzle with olive oil and toss to coat. Roast for 12-14 minutes, until just turning brown.
- While the veggies roast, make your couscous! In a small pot, combine the couscous, thyme, sea salt, and minced garlic with a drizzle of olive oil, and toast until the couscous is just golden.
- Add 3 cups of boiling water then cover and simmer for 10 minutes. If there’s any remaining water, remove the lid to cook it off.
- Mix together all the dressing ingredients.
- Toss everything together with 1/2 small red onion, chopped. Eat warm or cold. Serves 4. Enjoy!!