home cooked dinners by the season

Jerusalem Chicken and Couscous

Jerusalem Chicken and Couscous


Many nights, about 45 minutes seems to be the amount of time I prefer to take to cook a weekday dinner. I guess I am a bit more patient than the average person who spends about 27 minutes according to Michael Pollan in his book Cooked. And then you have the research that shows the more time you spend cooking dinner the healthier it will be. Is it possible to have both speed in the kitchen and healthy cooking? I think so.

In this Middle Eastern inspired recipe, using pounded chicken breasts for quick and even cooking is one strategy. Another is using sauteed onions and robust spices like curry powder, cinnamon and cayenne pepper. Israeli couscous cooks in just 10 minutes, finishing just about the same time as the chicken breasts and nicely absorbing the warm and mildly spicy flavors of the seasonings. The sweet dates go well with the curry or you can substitute dried apricots or currants. If you have the time, roasting the almonds gives them a deeper flavor and I’ve included a quick method in the notes. Cilantro is optional (I’ve made it both with and without) but does add it’s characteristic touch of refreshing flavor and a fleck of color.

Jerusalem Chicken and Couscous
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 4 servings
  • 2 boneless and skinless chicken breasts (about 1 pound)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt
  • Fresh ground black pepper
  • 1-1/2 cups thinly sliced onion (1/2 large onion)
  • 2 teaspoons sliced garlic (1 large clove)
  • 1 teaspoon curry powder
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • ⅛ teaspoon (or more if you like it spicier) cayenne pepper
  • 1-1/2 cups Israeli couscous
  • 2-1/4 cups water or chicken broth
  • ½ cup pitted dates, halved
  • ⅓ cup coarsely chopped unsalted whole almonds (roasted for a deeper flavor - see notes)
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped cilantro (optional)
  1. In between wax paper or in a sealed plastic bag, pound chicken breasts to about ¾-inch thick. Cut each breast in half, lengthwise, to make 4 fairly equal pieces; season both sides with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat in a large skillet (with a fitted lid). Add chicken and quickly sear just until browned, about 2 minutes then turn and repeat with other side; remove. Add additional 1 tablespoon olive oil to skillet then add onions and cook and stir until softened and lightly browned, about 5 minutes; add garlic, curry, cinnamon and cayenne and cook and stir just to release flavors, about 1 minute. Add couscous and cook and stir just until lightly colored, about 2 minutes. Add water and dates and stir. Return browned chicken to skillet in a single layer and bring to a simmer; reduce heat to a low simmer and cook just until couscous is softened, water is absorbed and chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with chopped almonds and cilantro.
To roast almonds:
Heat 2 teaspoons olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat; add almonds and cook and stir until slightly darkened, about 2 to 3 minutes); remove from heat and allow cooling.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Roast almonds on a baking sheet until slightly darkened, about 10 minutes; remove from heat and allow cooling.


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16 thoughts on “Jerusalem Chicken and Couscous”

  • Linda — absolutely delicious! Such tasty, yummy comfort food. Wouldn’t make it without the almonds — perfect finish/texture. Thanks.

  • This sounds delicious. Do you know if Israeli couscous is gluten free? If not, could you recommend a substitute for Paul

    • It is not gluten free. So I would recommend trying it with quinoa or basmati rice as a substitute. Thanks for the great question.

  • I saved this recipe when I first saw it and finally got the chance to make it. It is a wonderful, flavorful dish. Perfect combination of sweet and savory. Healthy and pretty quick to make. Raves from my husband. Thank you Linda for another interesting and healthy recipe.

  • Hello, Wanted you to kmow that we really enjoyed this meal! Very yummy and very easy to make. Served it with a kale caesar salad. Perfect meal for a blustery trick or treat night! One of the adults who came to the door with her kids said to me “OMG what are you cooking, it smells delicious!”
    Thanks for the recipe!

    • It’s so good to hear from you and I’m thrilled you enjoyed the Jerusalem chicken! It’s become a favorite of my family’s too.

      Thank you for letting me know.

    • I love hearing this, Liz. And I agree this recipes smells so incredible when you are making it with the spices perfuming the air. A Kale Caesar sounds like the perfect accompaniment. You are welcome. Thank you for checking in.

  • Made this last night. I love entrees that can be prepared in just one skillet, and this was really delicious, too. I doubled the amount of cayenne and opted for the cilantro. It was just as good the second time around for lunch today.

    • Thank you for letting me know you enjoyed this recipe and for letting me know your ingredient additions. Comments like yours make my day and help me to decide what kind of recipes to develop for the future based on what my readers enjoy.

      I hope all is well with you and again, many thanks!

    • Thank you for letting me know you enjoyed this recipe and for letting me know your ingredient additions. Comments like yours make my day and help me to decide what kind of recipes to develop for the future based on what my readers enjoy.

  • Finally made this tonight and I really enjoyed it. Quick, tasty, and easy to clean up afterwards – the trifecta. I didn’t have couscous so I substituted a quinoa & brown rice mix along with a little bit of chicken broth which worked really well with the flavors. Fortunately, there’s enough leftovers for lunch tomorrow!

  • Want to let you know I made this tonight. It was fantastic and best of all my ‘no fruit’ eating husband ate every single morsel not knowing there were dates in the dish! What a win win.
    Thank you Linda!

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