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Couscous Bowls with Za’atar Chickpeas and Roasted Cauliflower

Couscous Bowls with Za'atar Chickpeas and Roasted Cauliflower Recipe

There’s just something so intensely satisfying about uncovering new-to-me spice blends, dried herbs that I’ve never heard of and so many colors of sea salt that it puts rainbows to shame. I’m sure it comes as no surprise, then, that my idea of a good time involves choosing a random spice blend from my pantry and then creating a whole meal around it.

Couscous Bowls with Za'atar Chickpeas and Roasted CauliflowerLately, I’ve been borderline obsessed with Middle Eastern flavors and spices. I love how this cuisine pairs warm spices, like cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg, with savory dishes. How citrus is used to infuse bright flavor into each and every meal, and how vegetable-driven many of the recipes tend to be.

For those of you just starting to delve into the world of Middle Eastern cuisine, za’atar is a great spice blend to stock in your pantry. Not only does it consist mainly of spices you probably already have on hand (thyme, oregano, marjoram, sesame seeds and salt, plus sumac—more on that later), but its lemony, herbal flavor is great on just about anything. I love tossing it with vegetables and a bit of olive oil before roasting, but it is also great stirred into hummus or sprinkled atop a bowl of Greek yogurt. You can probably find za’atar at most higher-end grocery stores or order it online, but I chose to make it myself using this recipe.

Sumac, which might prove a little bit harder to locate, is also a great addition to any Middle Eastern pantry. It is made from the dried fruits of sumac trees, and has a fruity, lemony flavor, but with less acidity. Again, most higher-end grocery stores should stock it, but if you’re really in a bind, you can always order it online (as I did, just to save myself the trouble of having to bounce from grocery store to grocery store in search of it). Alternatively, you can always substitute it with a mix of paprika and lemon zest, though the flavor won’t be exactly the same.

Couscous Bowls with Za'atar Chickpeas and Roasted CauliflowerYotam Ottolenghi is a chef who has recently brought Middle Eastern flavors and cuisines into the mainstream, and given that every recipe of his that I’ve tried has pretty much blown my mind, when I saw that he had published a recipe for za’atar roasted chicken in a recent issue of Bon Appetit, I knew I had to co-opt it, veggie style.

In place of the chicken, I chose to toss a head of cauliflower, a can of chickpeas and a thinly sliced red onion with Ottolenghi’s blend of za’atar, cinnamon, allspice, extra sumac, olive oil, and a touch of broth. After marinating the mixture for a few hours, I roasted it all together in one baking pan while preparing a bed of couscous pilaf and a simple parsley tahini sauce to drizzle on top. The dish is then finished off with a spoonful of brown-butter pine nuts that add just a hint of decadence to this otherwise virtuous veggie bowl.


Couscous Bowls with Za’atar Chickpeas and Roasted Cauliflower

Couscous Bowls with Za'atar Chickpeas and Roasted Cauliflower Recipe

Couscous, chickpeas, and cauliflower seasoned with Middle Eastern spices then topped with tahini-parsley sauce and buttery pine nuts. The perfect meal for when you need a change of pace! Adapted from Bon Appetit.

  • Prep Time: 3 hours
  • Cook Time: 40 minutes
  • Total Time: 3 hours 40 minutes
  • Yield: 5-6 servings 1x


For the za’atar chickpeas and roasted cauliflower:

  • 1 medium head cauliflower, cut into bite-sized florets
  • 1 large red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 (14-ounce) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons za’atar
  • 1 tablespoon ground sumac
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cups cooked couscous
  • 1/3 cup sliced green olives
  • 1/4 cup chopped dates, dried apricots, or golden raisins

For the tahini-parsley sauce:

  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

For the toasted pine nuts:

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts


Marinate and roast the chickpeas and cauliflower:

  1. In a large zipper bag, combine the cauliflower, onion, chickpeas, za’atar, sumac, cinnamon, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, vegetable broth and olive oil. Marinate in the fridge for 3-4 hours or overnight.
  2. When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 400°F. Pour the contents of the bag into a large baking pan and roast for 40 minutes, stirring once halfway through.

Make the tahini-parsley sauce:

  1. Meanwhile, toss the cooked couscous with the olive slices and dried fruit. Set aside.
  2. To the bowl of a food processor fitted with the S-blade, add the garlic, parsley, tahini, water and lemon juice. Process until smooth, then season to taste with salt. Set aside.

Toast the pine nuts:

  1. Add the butter in a small pan over medium heat and heat until melted. Add the pine nuts and cook, stirring constantly, until starting to brown, 3-4 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl.

To serve:

  1. Divide the couscous among serving bowls and then top with the roasted vegetables, a drizzle of the tahini-parsley sauce, and a spoonful of the pine nuts.


Prep time includes the hands-off time spent marinating the vegetables.

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  • Reply
    Sam @ PancakeWarriors
    September 21, 2014 at 11:07 am

    Oh I have TOO much cauliflower in my fridge needing some attention! I love middle eastern spice as well – this sounds great! Thanks for sharing!

    • Reply
      Joanne Bruno
      September 22, 2014 at 3:58 pm

      These Middle Eastern spices bring out the earthy flavor of cauliflower super well! I hope you enjoy it!

  • Reply
    Millie | Add A Little
    September 21, 2014 at 12:50 pm

    This is gorgeous and looks so delicious!

    • Reply
      Joanne Bruno
      September 22, 2014 at 3:58 pm

      Thanks so much! It’s a new favorite use of za’atar for me!

  • Reply
    September 21, 2014 at 3:09 pm

    Wow, this sounds and looks absolutely delicious! I can’t wait to try it. Thanks for making the veggie version and posting it for us to try.

    • Reply
      Joanne Bruno
      September 22, 2014 at 3:59 pm

      Not a problem! I love seeing how I can change up meat recipes to make them veg-friendly.

  • Reply
    Lori @ RecipeGirl
    September 21, 2014 at 5:55 pm

    This is my kind of dinner – so delicious!

    • Reply
      Joanne Bruno
      September 22, 2014 at 4:00 pm

      Thanks Lori! I think you’d really love it. 🙂

  • Reply
    Ordinary Blogger (Rivki Locker)
    September 21, 2014 at 7:45 pm

    Yotam Ottolenghi has fueled an obsession with Mid-East seasonings for me too. This looks wonderful. I enjoy zaatar and am always looking for more ways to use it. Thanks for sharing.

    • Reply
      Joanne Bruno
      September 22, 2014 at 4:00 pm

      That man is a GENIUS with spices and veggies. You will love this!

  • Reply
    Liz @ Floating Kitchen
    September 21, 2014 at 11:54 pm

    This looks delicious. I love anything with za’atar! Sooooo good!

    • Reply
      Joanne Bruno
      September 22, 2014 at 4:01 pm

      It’s such a great spice, right?! I’m always looking for new ways to use it!

  • Reply
    September 22, 2014 at 7:53 am

    This looks delicious! Have you ever tried Israeli cous cous? I love the larger pearls — definitely a bit chewier, but I think better than the small cous cous! Try it!

    • Reply
      Joanne Bruno
      September 22, 2014 at 4:01 pm

      I have tried it! It’s a favorite, for sure, and could probably be substituted here in place of the couscous by just extending the cooking time!

  • Reply
    Alexis @ Hummusapien
    September 22, 2014 at 8:46 am

    I love how different this sounds! I had zaatar french fries at my fave restaurant the other day (drool) and I’ve been craving zaatar ever since! This is just perfect. Pinned!

    • Reply
      Joanne Bruno
      September 22, 2014 at 4:02 pm

      Oooo za’atar french fries are something I need to try!

  • Reply
    dishing up the dirt
    September 22, 2014 at 3:57 pm

    Joanne! You’ve done it. I’m SO making this. Seriously, everything about this dish screams my name and I just so happen to have every ingredient (down to the pine nuts!) on hand. Thanks for this glorious recipe!

    • Reply
      Joanne Bruno
      September 22, 2014 at 4:02 pm

      Haha thanks girl! I definitely think you would enjoy this. Let me know what you think if you try it!

  • Reply
    September 22, 2014 at 7:26 pm

    Oh, now, that is an interesting combination. Adding this to the weeks menu…thanks!

  • Reply
    September 23, 2014 at 8:08 am

    Really need to make this asap! I haven’t even tried za’atar yet because I wasn’t sure what it was. These are all of my favourite flavours 🙂 Also, za’atar is kind of fun to say!

  • Reply
    October 8, 2014 at 8:09 am

    When I saw this recipe, I knew I HAD TO make it. I mean, dreid fruits and olive couscous with roasted red onion, chickpeas and cauliflower, zaatar, tahini/parsley sauce, this is just too perfect to be true! I had it for lunch today and it was as delicious as expected! I just cut down the proportions fot the sauce : even though I only made half of it, I now have a full jar of dressing (which, really, does not bother me! I’ll be using it in my other salads 🙂 and I found it was too thick to my taste so I had to double the quantities of water (if not more). But I had an awesome lunch all the same, I’m definitively keeping this recipe in mind! Thanks for sharing!

  • Reply
    March 2, 2015 at 10:37 pm

    Tried this tonight, and my wife and I loved it. Thank you, and can’t wait to try your other recipes.

  • Reply
    Kim A.
    February 10, 2016 at 12:17 pm

    We made this last weekend and it was wonderful! Makes great leftovers.

  • Reply
    Kim A.
    February 10, 2016 at 12:18 pm


  • Reply
    December 8, 2016 at 10:07 pm

    Wow. I almost NEVER follow recipes to the T, because frankly, they are generally wrong. However, this had such a crazy variety of ingredients of things that I had, so I did it and didn’t question it.


    I used dates for the fruit and almonds instead of pine nuts. Everything else was exactly as told. I am thoroughly impressed.

    It’s hard enough to find a good recipe of top, healthy ingredients. It’s even harder to find a recipe that has the perfect measurements to boot. Way. to. go.

    • Reply
      December 9, 2016 at 9:38 am

      Glad you enjoyed them!

  • Reply
    March 22, 2017 at 9:32 pm

    We make this often and love it. The sauce is thick, but wonderful. The combined flavors are lovely

  • Reply
    October 29, 2017 at 7:46 pm

    I loved this, especially the sauce. I omitted the raisins to accommodate a picky eater, and I skipped the pine nuts to accommodate my own pickiness — otherwise I followed the recipe to the letter. Can’t go wrong with roasted cauliflower, and oh my goodness that lovely parsley sauce!

    • Reply
      Katie Trant
      October 30, 2017 at 4:53 am

      That’s the great thing about cooking, you can always adapt to picky eaters. Glad you enjoyed this recipe!

  • Reply
    November 14, 2020 at 12:13 am

    Delicious and has a lovely aroma! I didn’t have tahini on hand so I used a yogurt base for the parsley sauce. Also substituted pomegranate seeds for the raisins. I’m sensitive to salt flavor and will cut back on it for the marinade next time, however my family thought the salt level was fine. Served this with a side of roasted carrots with carrot top pesto and dukkah.

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