Couscous With Chickpeas, Spinach and Mint Recipe (2024)

By Martha Rose Shulman

Couscous With Chickpeas, Spinach and Mint Recipe (1)

Total Time
25 minutes, 2 hours' simmer
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Spinach and chickpeas are a popular combination throughout the Mediterranean. This is one of my favorite couscous tagines. You can also use sturdier greens like chard. If you do use chard, simmer for 10 to 15 minutes rather than the 5 minutes required for spinach.

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Yield:6 to 8 servings

  • 2tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1large onion, chopped
  • Salt, preferably kosher, to taste
  • 2 to 4large garlic cloves (to taste), minced
  • 2teaspoons coriander seeds, lightly toasted and ground
  • ¾teaspoon caraway seeds, lightly toasted and ground
  • teaspoons paprika
  • ½teaspoon cayenne (more to taste)
  • 2cups chickpeas, soaked in 2 quarts water for 6 hours or overnight and drained
  • A bouquet garni consisting of 8 sprigs each parsley and cilantro
  • 2tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1tablespoon harissa (more to taste), plus additional for serving
  • pounds spinach, stemmed and washed thoroughly, or 2 6-ounce bags baby spinach
  • 2 to 4tablespoons chopped fresh mint (to taste)
  • 2 to 2⅔cups couscous (⅓ cup per serving)

Ingredient Substitution Guide

Nutritional analysis per serving (8 servings)

447 calories; 7 grams fat; 1 gram saturated fat; 0 grams trans fat; 3 grams monounsaturated fat; 2 grams polyunsaturated fat; 78 grams carbohydrates; 12 grams dietary fiber; 7 grams sugars; 20 grams protein; 511 milligrams sodium

Note: The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

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Couscous With Chickpeas, Spinach and Mint Recipe (2)


  1. Step


    Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large, heavy soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat and add the onion. Cook, stirring, until it is tender, about 5 minutes, and stir in a generous pinch of salt, the garlic and the spices. Stir together for about half a minute, until the garlic is fragrant, and add the drained chickpeas, 2 quarts water and the bouquet garni. Bring to a gentle boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer 1 hour. Add the tomato paste, the harissa and salt to taste. Bring back to a simmer and simmer 45 minutes to an hour, until the chickpeas are tender. Remove 1 cup of the broth to flavor the couscous.

  2. Step


    Reconstituting and steaming the couscous: In a large microwave-safe bowl combine the couscous and salt to taste. Drizzle the remaining olive oil over the couscous and add the cup of broth you removed from the stew. Stir well, or moisten your fingers and rub the couscous with them to evenly distribute the oil and broth. Add enough water to cover by ½ inch and let sit for 20 minutes, or until all of the liquid is absorbed. Stir every 5 minutes with a wooden spoon or rub the couscous between your moistened thumbs and fingers, so that the couscous doesn't lump. The couscous will now be fairly soft; fluff it with a fork or with your hands. The traditional way to finish reconstituting the couscous is to place it above the simmering stew for 45 minutes. I find, however, that steaming it in a microwave results in perfectly fluffy couscous. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic and pierce the plastic with the tip of a paring knife. Heat at 100 percent power for 3 minutes. Remove from the microwave carefully and allow to sit for 1 minute. Carefully remove the plastic and fluff with forks or a spoon. Cover again with plastic and microwave for 2 to 3 more minutes. Be very careful when you remove the plastic as the couscous will be steamy. You can reconstitute the couscous a day ahead and reheat in the microwave shortly before serving.

  3. Step


    Shortly before serving, stir in the spinach and the mint. Simmer 5 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings. The stew should be spicy and flavorful. Serve the couscous in wide bowls or mound onto plates and top with the stew. Pass more harissa at the table.


  • Advance preparation: You can make this through Step 2 up to 3 days ahead and reheat.



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Cooking Notes


I used canned chickpeas instead of dried (so reduced the cooking time), and kale instead of spinach. Quite tasty even with the substitution.


Try the actual recipe!!!


I made this with Baharat (recipe on NYT Cooking)--or "Ethiopian Berbere" spice from Spices and Tease (which is has a slightly mellower, deeper flavor)--and baby kale. Didn't use any of the other spices (and Baharat includes many of them, anyway). Served the mint with plain yogurt (as thick as Lebne), as a garnish. Excellent.


I did not like that spices' combination at all... surprisingly, because I usually love chickpeas in any shape or form, especially in middle eastern dishes! I actually ended up throwing it out. I know, it's a drastic ending, but I really couldn't eat it.


I made this without the harissa and using canned chickpeas, cutting the prep time way down. I thought it turned out great; my husband added hot sauce at the table. I'll definitely use this for company...too many steps just for our dinner; it will be especially great for my vegan friends!


I added used powdered coriander and added some root vegies, cauliflower and dried figs. Also used quinoa instead of couscous. Great vegan meal.


I don't have one either. I do it on the stove. It's very fast. The proportion is 1 cup cous cous to 1 cup liquid, pinch salt, 1tsp butter or olive oil. Bring your water, salt, and butter or oil to a boil. Add in cous cous, stir and cover, remove from the heat, let sit 4-5 min. Uncover and fluff with a fork.


Also used canned instead of dried chickpeas. Omitted caraway seeds and cayenne (as didn't have).

Instead used fresh tomatoes (instead of paste) and eggplant (salted/sweated). No spinach either (figured it may be too much). Chopped up parsley & cilantro to cook with everything else and garnished with mint. Was delicious despite parting from the original recipe!


My family loved this! Used Bulger instead of couscous and spicy harissa (what we had) and served with cilantro lime crema. My kids used the leftovers to make burritos. It was a hit!


Cooking the spinach in the sauce made it all very watery. Next time ill cook the spinach separately, squeeze out the water and then add to the chickpeas.


Substituted canned chickpeas for dried and substituted other spices I already had for coriander, but mine came out really watery. I wouldn’t have minded because the broth was delicious except that it didn’t seem proportional to the amount of chickpeas and spinach I had.


Delicious! Our favorite version saves time by subbing chicken/vegetable broth for half/all of the water, and uses 4 cans of chickpeas instead of dried. I also add a 28oz of crushed tomatoes with the chickpeas at the 30 minute mark. The use of broth and canned chickpeas reduces the cooking time to about an hour. For quicker couscous: boil 2 c. of liquid (water and/or broth), melt in 1 Tbsp. butter, remove from heat, stir in 2 c. couscous, let sit for 5 min, then fluff and enjoy


Add tomato paste with aromatics. Add canned tomatoes with 30 min to go. Add mint at the table. Preserved lemon if possible, wedges at table if not.


good but quite thin. any tips on how to thicken this stew?


A big hit with my vegetarian teen! Skipped the caraway seeds at her request and subbed parsley for cilantro- also to please her. It was a great winter dish! Mint would have been nice - it looked awful at the market so we passed.


Followed the recipe as written. Found it to be not very flavorful and the stew broth was quite thin. If I were to repeat, I’d double the spices, make with chicken stock and use half the liquid. While it was a hearty dinner, the leftovers went in the freezer and it’s unlikely I’ll make a second time.


Absolutely delicious. Used canned chickpeas but did everything else pretty much as spec'd and could not have been happier. It's a bit of an unusual combination of flavours, but it works wonderfully. We served it with roasted harissa kabocha, onions, and pepper with vegan sour cream/mint/lemon as a cool sauce, and it was FAB.

Mel G-S

2 quartz of water is way too much - this recipe looked more like soup when I was finished. I would recommend skipping this step entirely or adding water as needed.

Peter Bailey

A soup, not a stew. Good, though.


This might benefit from either lemon or preserved lemon if you have them. I used canned chickpeas. It was good


I used another way to make the couscous, which is from another delicious recipe--"Tunisian Pepper and Potato Couscous" from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison. You remove the appropriate amount of broth (2:1), warm 2 T. of olive oil in a separate pot and add the (raw) couscous to it, stirring for about a minute. Turn off the heat, pour in the broth, shake the pan to even everything out, then cover and set aside for 7 minutes; fluff with fork.


Broth seemed quite bland at the 1 hour mark, and I ended up about tripling the amount of caraway and coriander seed and doubling the tomato paste. Went easy of the spice for my wimpy friends with lots of harissa to pass for the pepper-heads. Made my own harissa by adding coriander, cumin, and caraway to sambal olek. Yummy.

Lori B

You can make boxed couscous, substituting the broth for the water. Won't be quite as good, but acceptable.

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Couscous With Chickpeas, Spinach and Mint Recipe (2024)


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