Saffron Couscous

Need a quick & easy side dish for dinner this weekend? Of course you do!

Everyone always talks about quick meals for weeknight dinners: the dreaded “30 minutes or less!” And I can understand it: after a long day of work, traffic, kids and errands, energy can be in short supply, even for the most ardent home cook. Most of the time, I enjoy taking my time while cooking: I put music on the stereo, pour myself a glass of wine, and settle into the rhythm of scrubbing and chopping, stirring and tasting. But I get busy, like everybody else, and I often find, especially as Spring brings back the nice weather and the longer daylight hours, that my busiest times are weekends. Farmer’s markets, gardening chores, hikes & bikes, drinks with friends, birthdays and holidays and Spring projects galore: if I don’t already have a few options in the fridge come Friday night, I am likely to survive on toast with jam all weekend long.

That’s where this little gem of a side dish comes in: quite literally 10 minutes from box to belly. With yesterday’s roasted chicken, this will be dinner; on top of some farmer’s market baby spinach, tomorow’s lunch. And by 3:00 pm on Sunday, I’ll be polishing it off as an afternoon snack. So simple, so quick, yet so much jazzier than plain old couscous from the box. I know you’ve got some dusty old saffron threads tucked in the back of the spice cabinet: bust ’em out and give this one a whirl.

Adapted (slightly) from Saffron Couscous in Your Organic Kitchen by Jesse Ziff Cool


Saffron Couscous


  • 1 cup stock, chicken or vegetable
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 tsp salt (if using a commercial stock, cut salt in half)
  • large pinch saffron threads, crumbled (about 1/8 tsp)
  • 1 cup couscous (I use whole wheat)
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced on the diagonal


  1. Combine stock, butter, cranberries, salt and saffron in a small saucepan. Bring stock to a boil over high heat, stirring until butter dissolves. Add couscous, stir to wet evenly, then cover tightly and remove from heat. Let sit, covered, until couscous has absorbed all the stock, about 5 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small skillet, toast the pine nuts over medium heat until fragrant and lightly browned, 2 – 3 minutes.
  3. Fluff couscous with a fork. Add pine nuts and scallions. Toss, taste, and adjust seasonings as necessary.

Serves 2 – 4.


  1. Regular (non-whole-wheat) couscous gives a prettier, saffron-yellow color, but I prefer the flavor, and whole grain benefits, of whole wheat.
  2. Substitute raisins or dried cherries for the cranberries.
  3. Add a pinch of cayenne or aleppo pepper to spice things up.


Best enjoyed fresh, but will last in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.


Year round.


  1. So yummy – I’m not a big fan of saffron either. I had something VERY similar to this for dinner, in a VERY similar bowl and I’ll be posting it this Sunday, so odd… Kale might be interested to know that I made it with cumin seeds 😀

    • Based on the cookbook picture, that is what the original recipe called for; I’m just a cranberry girl. (Besides, local cranberries I can find. Local raisins? Not so much. Not that the pine nuts or couscous are local either – but, every little bit counts!)

  2. This dish looks tasty. Couscous never seems to turn out very well for me, but these flavors sound like they would bring a nice about some nice liveliness. It is nice to have some good recipes in the arsenal to make when the pantry is close to bare.

  3. Yum – this looks delicious! I love simple sides like this, and often turn them into a main course with a bit of greens and protein. So quick and easy! I’ll have to give this one a try (love the addition of dried cranberries or cherries) but will probably use quinoa, seeing as I’m on a bit of a quinoa kick lately.

    So glad I found your blog – now following!

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