Laab Couscous Salad

Laap CousCous Salad

Ingredients from laab combined with couscous and some veggies to create a tasty twist on pasta salad! This time of the summer I love to make pasta salad and I am always looking for bright fresh versions. Laab – a traditional meat salad from Laos, is in my opinion, one of the most bright and fresh tasting foods. I figured I could use these flavors in a pasta salad to achieve that bright fresh vibe I was looking for!

The inspiration for this recipe

Laab is a meat salad, so I thought it wasn’t really that far of a leap to add some pasta and call it a pasta salad. But what pasta? I decided couscous because it would mimic the shape of the laab in the salad. This would give the resulting salad a nice overall texture and look. Some of the veggies that would typically be on the side go right in the salad. Add a hint of soy sauce and olive oil and the flavors of the two dishes really came together as one! I also used turkey even though pork is more common. I was in the mood for turkey and I often use it for laab at home.

Make the rice powder first

Toast up some rice for about 45 minutes in a pan and then blend it into a sand texture.

make the rice powder

Mix the warm laab ingredients together

My technique when making pasta salads is to always dress the pasta when it is hot – like you would if you were making regular hot pasta. This way the flavors can absorb into the noodles better. We are doing the same with this laab couscous salad. Only add the ingredients that are enhanced with a little warmth. Here is the couscous, cooked turkey, shallots, lime, fish sauce, rice powder, and chili flakes.

couscous, turkey, shallots

Mix in the cold couscous salad ingredients

After the couscous salad cools down, add in the remaining ingredients -peppers, scallions, mint, cilantro, and cucumber. I used fresno peppers instead of bird eye chilies, because I wanted the laab couscous salad to not be burning hot. If you have a high heat tolerance, you could add the birds eye peppers. My version was hot with all the chili powder and fenso peppers, but it was manageable for me and most guests.

all the laap ingredients ready to go in the couscous salad

You can tell this laab couscous salad is going to be bright and fresh tasting just looking at it!

laap couscous salad

Serve the laab couscous salad

Serve the laab couscous salad with extra rice powder and chili powders on top.

laap couscous salad

This would be so good next to some grilled chicken or a hot dog!

laap couscous salad

Twists on laab couscous salad

Like I said I used ground turkey in this laab couscous salad when pork is more common for laab. A more authentic version would also have you chopping the meat up by hand, and leaving some skin and organs in the mix. That is what gives traditional laab such a unique texture. For more on traditional laab, this is a great recipe!

If you like these flavors, check out these wings I made inspired by laab

Laab Couscous Salad

Ingredients from laab combined with couscous and some veggies to create a tasty twist on pasta salad.
Prep Time30 minutes
Cook Time1 hour
rest time2 hours
Total Time3 hours 30 minutes
Servings: 6 servings
Calories: 276kcal


  • 1/4 cup medium grain rice
  • 1 pound ground turkey or pork
  • 1 cup large couscous
  • 2 shallots sliced thin
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder I used a mix of Thai and Korean
  • 5 limes juice of, plus more
  • 1/2 an english cucumber diced
  • 3 scallions diced
  • 2 fresno chili peppers diced
  • 25 mint leaves diced
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro chopped
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil


  • Put the rice into a dry frying pan over medium heat. Cook low and slow, tossing and stirring occasionally, until the rice is deeply toasted. About 40 minutes Allow to cool, then grind in a coffee grinder or mortar and pestle until it becomes the texture of fine sand.
  • Bring water to a boil and season with salt and pepper. Add the couscous.
  • Bring a frying pan to high heat and add the turkey or pork with a little oil. Season with salt and cook on high for about 8-10 minutes to brown on the edges and cook through.
  • Strain the couscous and add it to a bowl with the turkey. Mix in the shallots, fish sauce, soy sauce, and lime juice. Add in about a tablespoon of the rice powder.
  • Allow this mixture to cool for 2 hours in the fridge.
  • Add in the cucumber, fresno chilis, scallion, and herbs. Add a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Toss to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. I added more lime and a splash of soy sauce to mine. You may want to add more heat or more fish sauce too. Or even more salt. Some oil can help too if it feels dry.
  • Serve and top with more chili powder and rice powder.


Calories: 276kcal | Carbohydrates: 38g | Protein: 23g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Trans Fat: 0.01g | Cholesterol: 42mg | Sodium: 454mg | Potassium: 412mg | Fiber: 4g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 478IU | Vitamin C: 24mg | Calcium: 46mg | Iron: 2mg

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