Kitchn Love Letters

This Curried Couscous Salad Is the Only Thing I Ever Want to Eat for Lunch

published Feb 21, 2021
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Credit: Nicole Rufus

Before I made the switch to food media, I was an assistant media buyer at a marketing agency in Los Angeles. If you’ve ever worked at a big advertising or marketing agency, you know one of the perks is seemingly endless catered lunches from clients and sales representatives. As a recent college grad on a very low salary, I lived for that free food. In fact, I even kept Tupperware at my desk to sneak leftovers home for dinner.

Whenever someone brought lunch in from Mendocino Farms (or Mendo, as it’s affectionately called), I did a little happy dance. If you grew up or have lived in Southern California for any extended period of time, it’s highly likely you’ve encountered Mendo. It’s a fast-casual sandwich shop chain beloved in SoCal, known for their fresh sandwiches and salads that are made with locally sourced ingredients.

Their menu includes year-round favorites like Chicken MBP (mozzarella, basil, pesto), as well as seasonal creations like their current Roasted Mushroom Shawarma Wrap. I can’t even begin to count how many Mendo sandwiches I ate while working at that agency. But the one menu item that has the biggest place in my heart isn’t actually a sandwich — it’s their Spicy Curried Couscous.

The Greatest Couscous Dish of All Time

Mendo’s curried couscous dish, which is served cold, is made with chewy pearl couscous, roasted cauliflower and carrots, and a fragrant mix of spices — cumin, coriander, cayenne, curry, and turmeric. It’s got fresh lime squeezed in and a bit of cilantro for a bright, tangy flavor. It’s a delicious blend of sweet and spicy, with a perfectly balanced curry flavor that makes the dish really shine. It tastes even better than it sounds, and even though I ran away as fast as I could from agency life, I will be forever grateful for the sales reps who brought this curried couscous into my life.

When I moved away from Los Angeles in 2019, I immediately went on the hunt for the Mendo recipe so that I could make it wherever I was in the world. Luckily, I didn’t have to search very hard because they posted it on their site! It’s one of my favorite cold sides to turn to no matter the time of year, and I’m thrilled to be able to enjoy it outside of California.

If You’re Making Mendocino Farms’ Spicy Curried Couscous, a Few Tips

  1. Cook your couscous the night before. Since this salad is meant to be enjoyed cold, chilling your couscous in the fridge overnight will save you time the next day.
  2. Always let it chill before serving. While starting with cold couscous wil reduce the amount of chill time necessary, you’re still going to want to place the final product in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. This dish is definitely best served cold.

At Kitchn, our editors develop and debut brand-new recipes on the site every single week. But at home, we also have our own tried-and-true dishes that we make over and over again — because quite simply? We love them. Kitchn Love Letters is a series that shares our favorite, over-and-over recipes.