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This Instant Pot Couscous Recipe Uses All Your Pantry Staples

Eliza Sullivan
April 18, 2020
Eliza Sullivan
Food Writer
By Eliza Sullivan
Food Writer
Eliza Sullivan is a food writer and SEO editor at mindbodygreen. She writes about food, recipes, and nutrition—among other things. She studied journalism at Boston University.
Toasted Pearl Couscous with Butternut Squash and Kidney Beans
Image by Connie Miller / CB Creatives
April 18, 2020
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Instant Pot recipes are the perfect thing for times like these: when you want wholesome, comforting meals that can come together quickly.

This vegetarian dish from Milk Street: Fast and Slow by Milk Street Kitchen founder Christopher Kimball uses some of our favorite pantry staples to make a delicious meal that has all the comfort of a slow-cooked one without the time spent waiting for it.

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One of our favorite tips in this recipe? It calls for toasting the pearl couscous in olive oil until it's golden brown. That simple step infuses even more flavor into the simple grain, even before you add the flavor base (in this case: onion, garlic, and cumin). We'll be trying this with some of our other favorite grains, too.

The other key components of the dish, butternut squash and canned kidney beans, form a balance of sweet and nourishing that makes this feel like a complete meal. And to stop it from becoming heavy, the dish calls for a topping of fresh lemon juice, dill, and feta cheese for a salty, acidic note.

All together, you'll spend 30 minutes actively cooking, and 20 minutes letting things hang out and get tasty in the Instant Pot. In less than an hour, you can have a dinner of pantry staples ready to go.

Toasted Pearl Couscous with Butternut Squash, Kidney Beans & Feta

Serves 4


  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 cup pearl couscous
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch chunks (about 3 cups)
  • 15½-ounce can kidney beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice, plus lemon wedges to serve
  • 3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • 3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (about ½ cup)


  1. Start: On a 6-quart Instant Pot, select Normal/Medium Sauté. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil and heat until shimmering.
  2. Add the couscous and cook, stirring often, until golden brown, 6 to 9 minutes. Using a large spoon, transfer the couscous to a small bowl; set aside.
  3. Add remaining 2 tablespoons oil, the onion, garlic, cumin, and 1 teaspoon salt, then cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion begins to brown, 6 to 9 minutes. Add 2 cups water and scrape up any browned bits. Stir in the couscous, squash, 1½ teaspoons salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper, then distribute in an even layer.
  4. Fast: Press Cancel, lock the lid in place, and move the pressure valve to Sealing. Select Pressure Cook or Manual; make sure the pressure level is set to High. Set the cooking time for 5 minutes.
  5. When pressure cooking is complete, quick-release the steam by moving the pressure valve to Venting. Press Cancel, then carefully open the pot.
  6. Finish: Stir in the kidney beans, lemon juice, and half of the dill. Re-cover without locking the lid in place and let stand for 5 minutes.
  7. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle with the feta and the remaining dill. Serve with lemon wedges.

Note: Don't skip the 5-minute rest after stirring in the kidney beans, lemon, and dill. The couscous needs the time to finish cooking in the pot's residual heat.

Reprinted with permission from Milk Street: Fast and Slow by Christopher Kimball, copyright © 2020. Published by Voracious, an imprint of Little, Brown Books.
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Eliza Sullivan
Eliza Sullivan
Food Writer

Eliza Sullivan is an SEO Editor at mindbodygreen, where she writes about food, recipes, and nutrition—among other things. She received a B.S. in journalism and B.A. in english literature with honors from Boston University, and she has previously written for Boston Magazine,, and SUITCASE magazine.