Butternut Squash and Chickpea Stew with Israeli Couscous

Butternut Squash and Chickpea Stew with Israeli Couscous

Who says comforting food has to be unhealthy?  This hearty stew is both nutritious and satisfying, and the bright, warm Moroccan flavors will be a welcome surprise to taste buds exhausted by holiday overindulgence.

It’s time for another virtual lunch date with my pals on twitter, and today we’re eating hearty stews.  As I mulled over some stew ideas, my first thought was to create something with beef and butternut squash.  I knew I had a squash on the counter and some tri-tip in fridge and the combination sounded like a great one for stew.  But when my coffee-addled brain realized that I had already cut the tri-tip into steaks and thrown them in some marinade, I decided I’d better rethink my plan.  It was then I realized that I didn’t have a butternut squash sitting on the counter either.

Yes, I think I am going crazy.

Since I liked the idea of a stew featuring butternut squash, I picked one up at the store yesterday.  I decided against buying more beef, figuring it would be more fun (and inexpensive) to create a stew using ingredients I had on hand.  After surveying the contents of my pantry, I grabbed a can of chickpeas, some canned tomatoes and a half-empty bag of Israeli couscous I found stuffed way in the back.  My hearty stew was coming together nicely.

I ran across a few butternut squash and chickpea recipes online and they all seemed to incorporate Moroccan flavors. Since I had half a jar of preserved lemons in my fridge, I decided to follow suit.  Some of the recipes included raisins, but I chose to go with dried tart cherries.  While cherries might seem like an unusual ingredient for a stew, Moroccan tagines often include dried fruit and I love the combination of lemon and cherries.

Butternut Squash and Chickpea Stew Ingredients

The stew turned out to be a great lunch and there’s a good chance I’ll be eating more for dinner.  The bright flavors of preserved lemon and tart cherries contrast nicely with the warm cumin and cinnamon and I absolutely love the added texture of the Israeli couscous.  I found it hard to stop eating, but the soup is healthy enough that I didn’t feel guilty after a second bowl.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!

Butternut Squash and Chickpea Stew with Israeli Couscous

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
2-inch piece of cinnamon stick
4 canned whole tomatoes
1/2 preserved lemon, pulp removed, rinsed, and minced*
1 ounce dried tart cherries (raisins or other dried fruit may be substituted)
1/2 pound butternut squash, peeled and cut into 3/4 inch cubes (about 2 cups)
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup Israeli couscous
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock**
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4-1/2 teaspoon salt (to taste)
chopped cilantro for garnish

Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat.  Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes, or until softened and starting to turn golden.  Add garlic, cumin, coriander, and the piece of cinnamon stick and cook, stirring, for one minute.  Add the tomatoes, crushing by hand as you add them, or crush with a wooden spoon in the pan.  Add all remaining ingredients except for the salt.  Turn up heat and bring soup to a simmer.  Turn heat to low and let simmer, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.  Add salt to taste.  Remove cinnamon stick before serving.  Garnish with chopped cilantro if desired.

Recipe Notes: *Zest and juice of one lemon may be substituted for the preserved lemon.  **I used chicken broth for my stew, but vegetable stock may be substituted to make it vegetarian.  For even more flavor, substitute whole spices for pre-ground:  toast whole cumin and coriander seeds in a dry pan until fragrant, let cool, then grind in a spice grinder, coffee grinder, or mortar and pestle.  All spices may be adjusted to suit your own taste.

Yield: approximately 6 servings

Nutrition Info per serving (1/6 of recipe):  229 calories; 4 grams fat; 42 grams total carbohydrate; 6 grams fiber; 6 grams sugars; 6 grams protein.  Nutrition information is approximate – analyzed through NutritionData.com

Previous Virtual Lunch Dates:

Other Hearty Stews from the ‘Let’s Lunch’ Crew:

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  1. The Teacher Cooks

    I am snowed in here in Atlanta and need to cook. I have most of these ingredients. Will be attempting this tomorrow. Thanks so much!

    5:35 pm  Jan 8th, 2010
  2. Cathy/ShowFoodChef

    I’m really excited about these flavors- love the lemon and cherry combo.

    6:07 pm  Jan 8th, 2010
  3. Sara

    Wow! What an eye catching stew! Those colours are really beautiful together. I think I’ll definitely try and make this next week. Thank you for sharing!

    6:40 pm  Jan 8th, 2010
  4. Georgia@GeorgiaPellegrini.com

    I’m completely obsessed with Israeli couscous this week. I’ve had it almost every day. And now you’ve given me one more recipe.

    6:51 pm  Jan 8th, 2010
  5. pam

    These are my favorite kinds of soups, made from found items!

    6:55 pm  Jan 8th, 2010
  6. Jane

    Your Butternut Squash & Chickpea Stew with Israeli Couscous looks like the perfect comfort food as I try to survive the latest Arctic Blast, and I live in the South. Love “virtual lunch date,” what a fun idea!

    7:15 pm  Jan 8th, 2010
  7. the cosmic cowgirl

    wow–this looks great! and i just bought a bag of israeli couscous yesterday–howd’ya know??

    7:50 pm  Jan 8th, 2010
  8. My Year on the Grill

    A vegetarian stew… I’m against it on principle, but it sure looks pretty

    8:07 pm  Jan 8th, 2010
  9. Misty

    That looks wonderfully satisfying!

    8:10 pm  Jan 8th, 2010
  10. eatingRD

    that looks and sounds wonderful! I’m going to have to make that 🙂 I like the combo of savory/sweet with the dried fruit.

    8:16 pm  Jan 8th, 2010
  11. ATigerInTheKitchen

    I love how everything just came together so easily! I envy cooks who can toss random ingredients in a pot and produce something lovely and delicious. Whenever I do that, the end product usually is a little questionable! Lovely pictures, as always, and I can’t wait to try this recipe…

    8:35 pm  Jan 8th, 2010
  12. Cate

    Since I just made a fabulous Morrocan-flavored chickpea-containing soup, and happen to have a spare Butternut squash sitting on my counter, I’m really excited to have this recipe! Now I just need to get my hands on some preserved lemons.

    9:50 pm  Jan 8th, 2010
  13. chef renee

    This is a winner! I’m Inspired for a stew with a twist now, Thank you!

    8:13 am  Jan 9th, 2010
  14. Debbie

    Hi, thanks this looks amazing. As far as I can see, Isreali couscous is not in the recipe. Am I missing something?

    9:54 am  Jan 9th, 2010
  15. Joanne

    I do all sorts of ridiculous things where I convince myself that I have ingredients that then end up nowhere-to-be-found. And then I have to cope after already having set my heart on some recipe that uses them.

    This looks absolutely fantastic though! And I’m so glad you made it. I love Moroccan flavors …they go so well with butternut squash in this stew!

    10:25 am  Jan 9th, 2010
  16. Nicole

    Debbie: You’re absolutely right! I just edited the ingredient list to include the couscous, thanks for pointing it out! 🙂

    11:27 am  Jan 9th, 2010
  17. Sook

    It would be truly comforting to know that something this delicious could also be healthy. 🙂 Looks delish!!

    6:53 pm  Jan 9th, 2010
  18. veron

    Ah, looks fantastic. Something I need on this cold winter night!

    7:38 pm  Jan 9th, 2010
  19. Zibi

    Thanks for sharing this recipe. I just made some for dinner and we loved it. I used dried apricots instead of cherries and it was still great. Next time I will try it in my slow cooker!

    8:20 pm  Jan 9th, 2010
  20. Home With Mandy

    This is so different than the cooking I do. I love it, I think it sounds delicious, looks wonderful too! I need to branch out and give this recipe a shot.

    9:28 pm  Jan 9th, 2010
  21. Phoo-D

    This looks terrific. I have a few neglected jars of preserved lemons that would work wonderfully here and we love Israeli couscous.

    7:49 am  Jan 10th, 2010
  22. Debbie

    I made this last night and it is sooooooo delicious; cooked the couscous separately, not Isreali b/c I am in CV, but it was still nice. We ate it for dinner last night and lunch today! My husband, who despises soup, keeps saying, “this is delicious…more, more…” It sounds funny, but he is Cape Verdean and usually speaks dialect. He loves this soup! Thanks!

    10:14 am  Jan 10th, 2010
  23. Debbie

    okay, stew 🙂

    10:15 am  Jan 10th, 2010
  24. Charles Thompson

    I love that you do the Twitter lunch date – I remember when you did the last one. This stew sounds right up my alley as I really love Moroccan flavorings and I just bought some preserved lemons (will be making my own soon). Stew is also a great dish for this time of year too.

    8:09 pm  Jan 10th, 2010
  25. Ellise

    I love butternut squash, and if I can find one around here, I’m going to make this with one – I may substitute with potimarron. Beautiful and bright for winter’s gray days, I adore the colors and love that you added dried cherries, too.

    4:14 am  Jan 11th, 2010
  26. TasteofBeirut

    Great recipe; we also cook similar dishes in Lebanese cuisine and our couscous is similar and made with either wheat or semolina.
    I have brought back some goodies from my trip to Lebanon and i am doing a giveaway if you happen to be interested!

    5:15 pm  Jan 11th, 2010
  27. Barbara

    The flavors in this soup are amazing! Printing it out now and I can’t wait to make it!

    8:22 am  Jan 12th, 2010
  28. Steph

    Beautiful photos. Love alot of color in my food..that is definitely an eye catching meal.

    12:52 pm  Jan 12th, 2010
  29. Connie

    Oh, wow! I never thought that squash and chick peas can look so wonderful together. I’m making this soon. 🙂

    11:48 pm  Jan 12th, 2010
  30. Ana

    I’m getting hungry just from looking at the pictures. I think I’ll try this recipe tomorrow for lunch. I love the idea that you use chickpeas…did you know they are a great source of fibre as well as of protein?

    11:48 am  Jan 13th, 2010
  31. Alison @ Hospitality Haven

    You might just be my hero!! I love squash, chickpeas and couscous…can’t wait to try this combo! Thanks!

    1:53 pm  Jan 13th, 2010
  32. Lee

    I’m wondering how the couscous is prepared when served as an addition to the stew like in this recipe. Looks like it is just added. I have made it as a pilaf with onions and broth toasting the couscous in some oil. BTW. The stew is cooking away on my stove and filling the house with exotic warm aromas. Just the thing for a Canadian winter evening.

    3:46 pm  Jan 14th, 2010
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  34. Maxwell

    I have to object on the name you’ve given to the couscous!
    Firstly it is NOT Israeli…couscous originates from Morocco

    I don’t want to turn this to a political debate, would it be too hard to just say “Couscous”?

    4:48 am  Jan 27th, 2010
  35. Elie

    Couscous is 100% Moroccan and NOT Israeli. Please, do not mislead users.

    4:28 pm  Jan 31st, 2010
  36. Maxwell

    Agreed Elie! Thank God somebody understands on this site….

    6:28 am  Feb 2nd, 2010
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  38. Eligia

    This is perfect! My vegetarian boyfriend just tried Israeli couscous for the first time and loved it, and I’ve been looking for an autumn stew to make and serve in sugar pumpkins. Thank you for the answer!

    “Israeli couscous” (in Hebrew ?????? ‘flakes’ ), also called “ptitim”, is a larger, baked wheat couscous-like product similar to the Italian orzo.

    11:56 am  Sep 3rd, 2010
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  40. SueD

    That is really beautiful!

    11:11 am  Oct 26th, 2010
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  47. Matan Arie

    North African Couscous is made from small clumps of Semolina wheat and dates back to the 13th Century at least.
    Israeli Couscous is a toasted pasta made from hard wheat flower. It was invented as a replacement for rice (and originally was the same size and shape as large rice) during the austerity period in Israel (1949-1959) when a wide variety of staple foods were unavailable.
    Israeli Couscous tastes, smells, cooks and looks very different from regular couscous.

    10:37 am  Mar 2nd, 2012
  48. Ojai Olive Oil

    I’ve been in similar situations before. It is not as easy an answer as you thought it is, its something that you’ll have to write out for yourself over time.

    8:19 am  Apr 7th, 2012
  49. Deb Rosiello

    Made this several times, minus the preserved lemons. just printed recipe to make the preserved lemons, yay. can’t wait to make it the ‘right’ way. Sooooo delish.

    12:34 pm  Jun 16th, 2016
  50. Deb Rosiello

    just printed recipe to make the preserved lemons, yay. can’t wait to make it the ‘right’ way all over again. Sooooo delish. love this stew.

    12:37 pm  Jun 16th, 2016
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