Couscous with Chicken, Butternut Squash & Spinach

Nov 24, 2015 | 2 comments

Reflecting the Season

For me, salads are the domain of summer – cool and refreshing when the heat is on. But the minute the temps begin to drop into the 50’s overnight – it’s game on, as my kitchen heats up after a long summer hiatus. The crockpot is dusted off, the oven is recommissioned, and with the return of a simmering pot of soup — Well, what can I say? I LOVE Fall!

This year, we were rewarded with a very long and mild “shoulder season”, the term I like to use when I refer to Fall.  In mid-October, I invited a good friend to my home for lunch to celebrate her birthday.  I wasn’t quite sure what I would prepare, but when the weather forecast predicted temps near 80 – I knew soup was out of the question.  Instead, a salad felt more appropriate, but it needed to reflect the season on the calendar, even if the outside temps did not cooperate.

So what should I make? My initial inspiration came when I spotted a container of peeled and cubed butternut squash at Costco – the first time this season. I like to oven roast it, and use it as a core element in a variety of dishes throughout fall and winter. Then, while perusing Pinterest, I saw a recipe for a summer salad of mediterranean couscous, and the photo became my inspiration and the creative spark I needed. I used a pearled couscous, also called Israeli Couscous, as the base grain, simply because I had some on hand in my pantry.  If I hadn’t, I might have used Quinoa, (a gluten free option), or Farro, as possible alternatives.  Next, I selected chicken for the protein, added dried cranberries, pecans, and baby spinach to incorporate some healthy greens. I created a dressing, relying again on kitchen staples: orange juice, maple syrup, cider vinegar and dijon mustard that make up the base.  A little tinkering, and I am pleased to report the end result marries the flavor profiles of slightly sweet, and a little tangy, with a touch of smokey heat, into a delicious entree salad.  It was a hit at lunch, and the leftovers were devoured by my family as dinner that evening. I love it when I can cook once and eat twice!

Make It Your Own

With Thanksgiving around the corner, this dish might be a creative way to use up some of the leftovers. Consider using cubed turkey in place of the chicken. Another option might be to replace the baby spinach with chopped kale. Kale is a heartier green, and will hold up better than spinach if you wish to eat the salad over several days.  Ultimately, as with all substitutions, it’s a matter of personal preference. Enjoy!

Peeled and cut butternut squashRoasted Butternut SquashCousous salad served for lunch



5.0 from 1 reviews
Couscous with Chicken, Butternut Squash & Spinach
Pearled couscous, chicken, butternut squash, cranberries, pecans and fresh spinach are paired in this satisfying entree salad.
Recipe type: Entree Salad
  • Roast Squash:
  • 2 cups Butternut Squash cubed (I use store bought)
  • 1 Tbs. Olive oil
  • ½ tsp. Salt
  • ¼ tsp. Pepper
  • Dash of - Chipotle Powder (add more if you like heat)
  • 2 Tbs. Maple syrup
  • Salad:
  • 1½ cups Pearled couscous (also known as Israeli couscous)
  • 2 cups Water
  • ½ tsp Salt
  • 1½ cups Chicken - cooked & cubed
  • ¼ cup Pecans
  • ½ cup Dried cranberries
  • 2 cups Baby spinach - fresh
  • Dressing:
  • 2 Tbs. Maple syrup
  • 2 Tbs. Cider vinegar
  • 2 Tsp. Dijon mustard
  • ½ cup Orange juice
  • ⅓ cup Olive oil
  • ½ tsp. Salt
  • ¼ tsp. Pepper
  1. Prepare Squash: preheat oven to 425. Toss all ingredient together, mix well. Spread onto a rimmed baking sheet, in a single layer. Roast turning once, until tender (about 20 minutes). Cool to room temp.
  2. Prepare Couscous: Bring 2 cups of water to boil, add salt and couscous. Cover pot and simmer 8 to 10 minutes - stir occasionally. Remove from heat and cool to room temp.
  3. Prepare Dressing: Combine, Maple Syrup, Cider Vinegar, Dijon Mustard, and Orange Juice. Whisk in ½ tsp salt, and ¼ tsp of pepper. Continue whisking and slowly add in olive oil.
  4. Assemble Salad: In large bowl combine couscous, chicken, dried cranberries, and butternut squash. Pour ½ of the dressing over the salad and gently combine. Reserve the other half of the dressing. When ready to serve add the spinach and the pecans and toss again adding the remaining salad dressing. Salad can be made a day ahead and refrigerated. Can be served chilled or at room temperature.

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