Foolproof Oven-Baked Israeli Couscous and Pastrami

This versatile and easy-to-make couscous and pastrami is the perfect Shabbos or Yom Tov grain side. Make it with the grain of your choice, dress it up with veggies if you want…and the couscous is baked in the oven for no-fail perfection!

israeli couscous and pastrami

Every Friday night, no matter the weather, no matter the type of guests at my table, potato kugel must be served. But sometimes, if I have extra guests or I’m simply in the mood for something more, I also like to make a grain side dish. I usually turn to rice, and my jambalaya is a popular Friday night dish amongst my boys and nephews. But lately I’ve been a little bored of rice, so I opted for Israeli couscous to change things up a bit, and the addition of cubed pastrami makes this a great Yom Tov side dish as well.

Really, this dish is one of those super quick and easy dishes you can play around with. Want to go a little more healthy? You can totally use quinoa, brown rice, or even be daring and use farro! I’ve made it with all the above. You can even add some roasted onions, mushrooms, peppers and zucchini to the mix. 

I shared this a few weeks ago on my Instagram Stories, thinking that since it’s so simple I did not need to post an actual recipe. However, I got dozens of DMs asking for the exact recipe — so here it is! 

chopping pastrami

I used to think the only way to make Israeli couscous or rice was on the stovetop, but it NEVER seemed to come out right. Either the grain ended up mushy or it was too hard and crunchy. So I kind of gave up and every time I came across a delicious-looking rice dish in a magazine or cookbook, I sighed wistfully but turned the page. But then I discovered the method of baking grains in the oven. Game-changer!! No more hovering over the pot wondering if it needs more water. No more cleaning burned grains off the bottoms of my pots!

Almost all grains cook using a 1:2 ratio (1 cup grain to 2 cups water; 2 cups grain to 4 cups water, etc.), so you just have to double the measurement of grain to know how much water to put in. (Farro is an exception, as it requires a 3:1 ratio.) The baking times will vary depending on the grain you are using. Quinoa, Israeli couscous and white rice bake much faster (about 25-30 minutes) than brown rice or farro (40 minutes-1 hour). 

sauteed pastrami

Note that when baking (or cooking) grains there are so many variables that go into the cook times. Some types or brands of rice are starchier than others. The temperature of your oven can make a difference, as can the humidity in your house. Because of all these factors, it’s hard to pin down an exact baking time, and you should definitely check on it before taking it out and adjust accordingly. The benefit of baking it over cooking it is that’s it’s still a lot harder to ruin it. 

For the pastrami, I like to get a chunk from my butcher and dice it myself, or you can often buy prepackaged chunks of pastrami in the meat department of your grocery. If you can’t get a chunk, the next best thing is vacuum-packed deli slices. The cubes of meat in the dish will obviously be much thinner, but it certainly works. I love using my chef’s knife when dicing the pastrami and any vegetables I decide to add. I came across this knife a few months ago and fell in love with it! 

One of things I love about grain dishes is that they can easily serve a crowd and the amounts are simple to change. This recipe is great doubled or even halved. You can make this directly in an oven-to-table dish or bake the couscous in a disposable 9×13 and transfer to a serving dish. It really is very versatile. 

You can make this dish 2-3 days in advance and warm it well covered until heated through. 

israeli couscous and pastrami
5 from 1 vote

Foolproof Oven-Baked Israeli Couscous and Pastrami

This versatile and easy-to-make couscous and pastrami is the perfect Shabbos or Yom Tov grain side.
Print Recipe


  • 1 cup Israeli couscous
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 small chunk of pastrami (approx ¾ lb.), cubed
  • 1 tsp oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Place water and couscous in 9×13. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes, or until all water is absorbed.
  • Heat oil a small frying pan. Sear the meat cubes for about 10 minutes until crispy around the edges.
  • Add pastrami to couscous. Add salt and pepper to taste. Mix together to combine.


You can also roast or saute vegetables (onions, peppers, mushrooms, zucchini, etc.) and add it in with the pastrami.

Recipe by Faigy Murray |

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One Comment

  1. 5 stars
    I saw this recipe on your Instagram feed and have been making it ever since. So simple and easy but gourmet enough for shabbos, yom tov, or that special occasion!

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