On your next date night, get a little fancy with this vegan caviar. Pearl couscous is colored pink with help from a sliced beet. Then it’s flavored with lemon and garlic. Serve it on water crackers with a swish of creamy almond cheese.
Light pink vegan caviar is an elegant starter for a romantic dinner. Perfect for Valentine’s Day or a date night dinner at home with your sweetie.
Most of the time when I make a plant-based version of a dish, it’s something I ate before I went vegan. In those cases, I’m basing the flavors and textures on old memories.
That’s where this vegan caviar recipe is an outlier.
In my 30 years as a non-vegetarian, I never ate animal-based caviar. Somehow in all that time, I was never at an event where fish eggs were on offer. And even if they had been, I don’t think I would have been eagerly scooping up a dollop full.
So this recipe is based on looks alone. Israeli couscous in pearl-sized spheres takes center stage.
Fish-based caviar is usually orange or black. But to keep things fun & festive, I went with everyone’s favorite Valentine shade, pink.
While there are packaged plant-based caviars on the market that are flavored with seaweed and salt, my homemade vegan caviar goes in a different direction. Instead, I focused on what tastes good with Israeli couscous – lemon, olive brine, and finely minced garlic.
Even though this dish is super simple to make, it comes off as surprisingly fancy. It seems like something that would be tray passed at a Hollywood party. You get those luxury & romance vibes that are often equated with fish-based caviar.
Finish the look by serving vegan caviar on crackers with a spreadable non-dairy cheese and bright green garnish.
What is pearl couscous?
Pearl couscous is a type of small pasta. Although, people sometimes confuse it for a grain. Unlike regular couscous that’s about the size of quinoa, pearl couscous is bigger & spherical. It’s also known as Israeli couscous.
(Don’t swap out pearl couscous for the smaller variety. It’s not going to give you the effect you want.)
How do you achieve that light pink color?
This pearl couscous caviar gets its pink hue from a freshly sliced beet.
Sliced beet is added to water that’s right out of the tap, along with a cup of dried pearl couscous. Then it’s brought to a boil. While it cooks, it imparts some of that pink hue.
I tried coloring the pasta in a variety of ways. This was the most successful. (If you’d prefer a darker shade, see the directions in the notes section of the recipe box.)
What kind of cheese should I serve with it?
I recommend serving the vegan caviar on a cracker with a spreadable, mild-flavored non-dairy cheese.
I used an unbaked version of my vegan feta cheese. I simply blended blanched almonds with lemon juice, olive brine, extra virgin olive oil, garlic, salt, and water. Then I used it right out of the blender. (To achieve a firmer, feta-like texture, bake it in a ramekin.)
The flavors of the unbaked almond feta with the vegan caviar are especially complementary.
But feel free to use any mild, spreadable vegan cheese. Miyoko’s or Kite Hill cream cheese, or Treeline French-style cashew cheese would be great here.
How to make vegan caviar
Start by peeling a small, strawberry-sized beet. (If your beet is larger, just cut it down to size.) Cut it into several ½-inch thick slices.
Put the peeled & sliced beet into a pot with pearl couscous, water, and salt. Bring to a boil. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until it is al dente.
Drain the couscous in a fine mesh sieve. Remove the beet slices.
Put the drained pearl couscous into a bowl and stir in the following:
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Lemon zest
- Lemon juice
- Olive brine
- Minced or zested garlic
Cover the vegan caviar. Move it to the refrigerator to cool.
The vinegar in the brine will intensify the pink color over time.
When you’re ready to serve it, swipe water crackers with spreadable non-dairy cheese, and a dollop of vegan caviar.
Finish with a green garnish like fennel fronds, chives, or fresh dill leaves.
What to do with leftovers
If you have leftovers of the vegan caviar, it’s great on its own as a cold pasta salad. Mix in cucumbers, tomatoes, vegan feta, artichoke hearts, and sliced olives for a dish that’s similar to my Israeli couscous salad.
- 1 small beet about the size of a large strawberry
- 1 cup pearl couscous also called Israeli couscous
- 1 ½ cups water
- ¼ teaspoon salt + generous pinch
- 1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- ½ teaspoon lemon zest
- ¾ teaspoon lemon juice
- ¾ teaspoon olive brine
- 1 clove garlic zested or minced
- Peel a very small beet. Cut it into roughly half-inch slices. I got about 4 thick slices from one beet.If your beet is larger, cut off a strawberry-sized portion. Then cut it it into several ½ inch thick slices that are about an inch long.
- Put the peeled beet slices into a medium sized pot with pearl couscous, water, and a generous pinch of salt. Bring the pot to a boil. Lower the heat to medium or medium high once it's boiling. Boil the pearl couscous for 8 to 10 minutes, until it's al dente.
- Drain the pearl couscous using a fine mesh sieve. Remove the beet pieces.
- Move the pearl couscous to a medium-sized bowl. Stir in extra virgin olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, brine from a jar of olives, and a clove of minced or zested garlic. Cover the bowl & refrigerate until ready to use. (If any of the pasta has stuck together after refrigerating, just give it a quick stir.)Serve on crackers with a swish of spreadable vegan cheese & garnish of fennel fronds, chives, or dill leaves.