Brown Butter Couscous with Asparagus and Leeks is a delicious side dish full of springtime flavors. Serve with chicken, steak, or salmon for a satisfying meal.
This post was originally published in April 2020 and has been fully updated.
Brown Butter Couscous with Asparagus
Pearl couscous (also known as Israeli couscous) has wonderful texture and versatility, making it ideal for side dishes and salads.
This dish combines springtime vegetables and couscous with nutty brown butter for a side dish that is dressed to impress.
Why you will love this dish
- Asparagus and leeks pair beautifully together, like in this Asparagus, Leek, and Brie Quiche.
- Brown butter is liquid gold. As the butter melts and slowly turns golden, brown bits form, creating a wonderful nutty flavor that elevates any dish.
- This dish works well with everything from chicken and pork to salmon and shrimp.
- Pearl couscous - These tiny balls of pasta are made from semolina flour. They are quick-cooking and come in tricolor and traditional varieties. I used tricolor in this recipe.
- Asparagus - Fresh is best here. We're roasting it long enough to slightly caramelize it but not soften it completely.
- Leeks bring a very mild onion flavor that sweetens as they cook. Shallots can also be used.
- Thyme pairs wonderfully with leeks. Fresh thyme is great if you have it, but dried can also be used.
See the recipe card for complete instructions and ingredient amounts.
There are several steps in this recipe but none of them are complicated.
- Cook the couscous according to the package directions. For added flavor, use chicken or vegetable stock in place of water.
- When cooked, fluff the couscous with a fork and transfer to a mixing bowl.
- Cut off the tough root end of the asparagus. TIP: Bend a stalk of asparagus until it snaps. It will snap where the tough part ends. Use this piece as a guide for trimming the bottoms off of the remaining stalks.
- Cut the asparagus into 2-inch pieces. Transfer them to a parchment-lined sheet pan. Drizzle with oil and season with salt and pepper.
- Bake at 425 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until the asparagus reaches your desired tenderness.
- Grate Parmesan cheese - about 2 tablespoons - over the asparagus. Transfer the asparagus to the bowl with the couscous.
Leeks tend to have a lot of grit and dirt between their layers, so it's important to clean them thoroughly.
- Trim off the root end and the dark green tops. Remove any tough outer leaves. Slice the leek in half lengthwise. Then, cut crosswise into ½-inch slices.
TIP: Save the root end and dark green leaves to make vegetable stock. Rinse to remove any dirt, dry, and freeze until ready to use.
- Add the leeks to a salad spinner. Submerge in water to rinse well.
- Drain and spin dry.
- Melt 2 tablespoons butter in a skillet over medium heat. Add the leeks and cook for 8-10 minutes until soft. Transfer them to the bowl with the couscous and asparagus.
Browning the butter
- Add 4 tablespoons of butter to the same skillet. Melt and cook until the butter turns golden brown. Brown bits will form at the bottom. These brown bits are flavor!
- Pour the brown butter over the couscous, asparagus, and leeks. Toss to combine. Top with grated Parmesan cheese and serve.
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Brown Butter Couscous with Asparagus and Leeks
- 1 cup uncooked pearl couscous
- 8 spears asparagus
- olive oil
- salt and pepper
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 large leek (or 2 small leeks)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon Kosher salt
- 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Parmesan cheese (grated for garnish)
- Cook the couscous according to package directions. (Note 1) Fluff with a fork and transfer to a mixing bowl. Set aside.
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
- Trim the tough end off of the asparagus and discard. Cut the asparagus spears into pieces 2 inches long. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
- Bake for 8-10 minutes until the asparagus is slightly caramelized but still has some texture. Top with grated Parmesan and transfer the asparagus to the bowl with the couscous.
- Meanwhile, clean the leeks. Trim off the root end and the dark green leaves at the top. Slice in half lengthwise and then slice crosswise into ½-inch slices. Add the leeks to a salad spinner. Rinse well and spin dry.
- In a large skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of butter and add the leeks. Season them with thyme, salt, and pepper. Saute over medium heat until softened, about 8-10 minutes. Transfer to the bowl with the couscous and asparagus.
- In the same skillet, add 4 tablespoons of butter. Melt over medium heat and stir until the butter turns golden brown and brown bits form on the bottom. This will take about 3-5 minutes.
- Pour the brown butter over the couscous and veggies. Toss to combine. Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with grated Parmesan.
- For added flavor, use chicken or vegetable broth in place of water.
- Store leftovers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Nutritional information is an estimate and will vary depending upon the exact amounts and specific ingredients used.