Lunchbox – spicy chickpea and apricot couscous

Hey friends and happy #lunchbox day! (I’m a day late, but no one’s perfect).

So you remember that time I swapped the quinoa for couscous and you guys went crazy for it cause it’s so quick and easy and cheap and delicious and because carbs are love and you were just as excited as I was?

Well I’ve only gone and done it again, only this time with the added protein of harissa spiced chickpeas and the sweet sticky goodness that is a dried apricot or two. Or eight. Much like the couscous of my childhood that I mentioned in last week’s lunchbox recipe.

Harissa chickpea couscous-6
Mmmmm harissa chickpeas

One super important point:

If you don’t have harissa paste, don’t panic. And definitely don’t close down this recipe and abort lunchbox prep plans, because I’ve got you covered with a delicious substitute.

Phew, that was close right!?

You should be able to find harissa paste in most supermarkets. However, if you can’t, chilli paste or any chilli-based sauce/relish would also work a treat, so just use what you can find.

Failing that, a pinch of chilli flakes with some olive oil is also good!

The point is, make this recipe your own. It will still be super scrummy and satisfying even if you sub one of the ingredients. There are no rules here. Just good food and good fun.

Harissa chickpea couscous-11
So much food and fun!

Also invited to the couscous party:

Fresh mint because yum.

Ground cinnamon because also yum.

A light crumbling of a stock cube because… well because I had some to use up.

A good grind of salt because always.

And some lemon juice because it’s a fridge fave.

And that’s it! There’s little else to say about this recipe, other than it’s the perfect lunchbox lunch that can be prepped on a Sunday and enjoyed every day of the week for as long as you can make it last!

It would also work really nicely as a BBQ side, with a Moroccan lamb tagine, or as a carb-boost alongside some meat or fish for dinner. Just anything really! Make it, love it, share it.

To the recipe!

Harissa chickpea couscous-9


  • 120g couscous
  • 1 tin of chickpeas rinsed and drained
  • 2 tsp harissa paste* – one tsp for the chickpeas, one tsp for the dressing
  • 1/2 tsp dried parsley
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 vegetable or chicken stock cube (not essential)
  • 8-10 dried apricots, chopped into small pieces
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice – one tbsp for the couscous, one tbsp for the dressing
  • Handful of fresh mint, finely chopped
  • Pinch of salt
  • Olive oil
  • Optional: handful of flaked almonds

*Harissa paste can be found in most supermarkets and can also be ordered online. If you can’t find any, don’t panic! Chilli paste or any other chilli-based sauce/relish would work well as a substitute.

Harissa chickpea couscous-2
As fluffy as a cloud!

Sauce options

Harissa spiced yoghurt | Harissa and tahini dressing | Lemon and honey dressing

Vegetarian options

Cubed feta |Roasted aubergine |Stuffed peppers

Meat and fish options

Grilled chicken, lamb or steak | Pan-fried white fish | Lamb tagine


  1. Preheat the oven to 200 (180 fan) and pop the chickpeas onto a baking tray. Mix 1 tsp of harissa paste, the dried parsley, 1 tbsp olive oil and a pinch of salt in a small bowl and pour over the chickpeas. Use your hands (or a spoon) to coat them in the spice mix and pop in the oven for 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, put the couscous, cinnamon, crumbled stock cube and a big pinch of salt into a heat proof bowl and stir to combine. Pour boiling water into the bowl until it’s about 1cm above the couscous, add 1 tbsp of the lemon juice and stir. Cover immediately with a plate or some cling film and set aside for 5-10 minutes.
  3. To make the harissa dressing, simply combine the remaining 1 tsp harissa paste and 1 tbsp lemon juice with a little pinch of salt and 3 tbsp olive oil. Either pop in a jar and shake or mix with a spoon in a small bowl.
  4. Once the chickpeas are done, remove them from the oven and set aside. Fluff the couscous with a fork, then add the cooked chickpeas, chopped apricot, fresh mint and the dressing, and stir to combine.
  5. Top with flaked almonds and some more mint if you fancy.

Samantha x

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