Overhead close up shot of a couscous bowl with veggies and pesto

Summer Pesto Couscous Bowls

Summer Pesto Couscous Bowls are everything you want in a light summer meal. Pearled couscous, the most flavorful marinated zucchini, fresh mozzarella, cherry tomatoes, avocado, cucumber, and a simple basil pesto! It's a perfect picnic meal, packable lunch, or vegetarian dinner!

Course Main, Main Course, Salad, Side Dish
Cuisine American, Italian
Keyword easy basil pesto, easy couscous salad, easy pesto recipe, easy summer pasta salad, healthy couscous salad, meal prep salad, meal prep summer salad recipe, summer bowl recipe, summer pesto couscous bowls, summer salad recipe, vegetarian meal prep, vegetarian picnic salad
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Servings 4
Author Molly | Spices in My DNA


For the bowls

  • 8 ounces pearled couscous*
  • 3/4 cup mini mozzarella balls
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 cup thinly sliced seedless cucumber
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • basil leaves, to garnish

For the marinated zucchini and red onion

  • 1/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs (I used parsley and thyme, but use whatever you have! Chives would be great too)
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 of a small-medium red onion, very thinly sliced
  • 1 medium zucchini, thinly sliced

For the pesto

  • 1 1/2 cups packed basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup packed flat leaf parsley
  • 2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper


  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil for the couscous. Cook according to package directions. Drain and then rinse with cold water. Let cool.

  2. Make the marinated zucchini and red onions. In a medium bowl, whisk together the white wine vinegar, garlic, herbs, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper, and olive oil until combined. Add the zucchini and red onion and toss to combine. Let them marinate while you prepare everything else. Once they've marinated for a bit, season to taste with additional salt if needed.

  3. For the pesto, add the basil, flat leaf parsley, garlic, lemon juice, pine nuts, parmesan, salt, and pepper to your food processor. Pulse until finely chopped. Scrape down the sides. With the processor running, stream in the olive oil until the pesto comes together. Season to taste with additional salt and pepper, if desired.

  4. To assemble portion the couscous into bowls, and top with a handful of mozzarella balls, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, and sliced avocado. Top with a generous scoop of the marinated zucchini and red onion, as well as a generous drizzle of pesto. Add freshly cracked black pepper and basil leaves to garnish, if desired. Serve with extra pesto!

Recipe Notes

*Pearled couscous is often labeled as Israeli couscous if you're having trouble finding it!
*Orzo or another small pasta would be a great sub for the couscous. Quinoa, farro, or brown rice would be great too!
*For a lower carb option, serve over a bed of greens like arugula or massaged kale instead of the couscous. Or, do half and half!
*To make this more of a picnic style salad, mix everything together in a large bowl before serving (In this case, you may not need all of the pesto. Use it to taste!
*To meal prep these bowls for work lunches, portion the couscous into containers, top with a handful of mozzarella balls, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, and sliced avocado. Top the avocado with a generous scoop of the marinated zucchini and red onion (the oil and vinegar will help to prevent it from browning). Place the pesto in a small dressing-size container and drizzle it on top when ready to eat!