Couscous is a versatile and delicious grain dish that is quick and easy alternative to rice, making it a go-to option for busy individuals or those looking to add some variety to their meals. Whether you’re a seasoned home cook or a beginner in the kitchen, this step-by-step couscous recipe will help you master perfect couscous!
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What is Couscous?
While it looks more similar to rice or a grain, couscous is actually a type of pasta.
More specifically, it’s a granular semolina pasta made from crushed durum wheat. Commonly used in North African and Middle Eastern cuisines, it has gained popularity worldwide as a versatile and easy-to-prepare grain.
Couscous has a light and fluffy texture and mild, nutty flavor.
It pairs well with a variety of ingredients and can be easily seasoned or customized to suit different tastes and preferences.
Uses for Couscous
- A Faster Alternative to Rice. Its quick cooking time (mere minutes) makes it a great option for busy individuals who want a nutritious side without spending too much time in the kitchen.
- In Soups and Curries. Couscous can bulk up soups, stews, and curries.
- With Proteins. Couscous is especially good with roasted meats.
- For Salads. Mix couscous with vegetables, herbs, and spices to create flavorful salads (like this Couscous Salad), or side dishes.
Overall, couscous is a popular and accessible grain that adds a delightful texture and taste to a wide range of dishes.
Whether you’re looking to explore Mediterranean flavors (like this Moroccan Couscous with pine nuts), or simply want to incorporate a new ingredient into your cooking repertoire, couscous is definitely worth a try.
Health Benefits of Couscous
Couscous is not as nutrient-dense as whole grains like quinoa or brown rice, but it has some notable health benefits:
- Energy Source. Couscous is a good source of carbohydrates, which are an essential energy source for the body. Carbohydrates provide fuel for the brain and muscles, helping to support physical and mental performance.
- Fiber Source. Although not as high in fiber as whole grains, couscous still contains a decent amount of fiber. Fiber aids in digestion and helps maintain a healthy weight by increasing satiety. It can also contribute to heart health.
- Plant-Based Protein. Couscous is a good option for vegetarians or vegans looking to add plant-based protein to their diet. While it may not provide as much protein as legumes or animal products, combining couscous with other protein sources can help meet your daily protein needs.
- Rich in Vitamins and Minerals. Couscous contains several essential vitamins and minerals, including B-vitamins such as thiamin, niacin, and folate. These vitamins are involved in various bodily processes, such as energy metabolism, nervous system function, and red blood cell production. Couscous also contains minerals like magnesium, phosphorus, and selenium, which are important for bone health, muscle function, and antioxidant defense.
- Low in Fat and Cholesterol. Couscous is naturally low in fat and contains no cholesterol. A low-fat diet can help manage weight, reduce the risk of heart disease, and promote overall cardiovascular health.
Types of Couscous
There are many different types couscous, but the types you’ll see most often in your grocery stores are Moroccan, whole wheat, and Israeli:
- Moroccan Couscous. Moroccan couscous, sometimes known as regular couscous, is the most widely available type. It consists of small granules made from semolina wheat. Regular couscous has a light and fluffy texture when cooked and is versatile enough to be used in a variety of dishes (like Crockpot Moroccan Chicken, Moroccan Meatballs).
- Whole Wheat Couscous. Whole wheat couscous is made from whole wheat semolina instead of refined semolina. It retains the bran and germ, making it a more nutritious option. Whole wheat couscous has a slightly nuttier flavor and a denser texture compared to regular couscous.
- Israeli Couscous. Israeli couscous, also known as pearl couscous or ptitim, has larger and rounder granules compared to regular couscous. It has a slightly chewy texture and a more substantial mouthfeel. Israeli couscous is often used in salads, pilafs, or as a side dish.
How to Couscous on the Stove
- Couscous. Tasty and oh-so-quick! I like to purchase whole wheat couscous when I can find it.
- Water. The couscous-to-water ratio is critical. It’s 1:1.5 (1 part couscous to 1.5 parts water).
- Boil the Water Then Add the Couscous. Make sure your saucepan can hold the couscous and water without boiling over.
- Stir and Remove from Heat. Stir to incorporate and then immediately remove pot from heat and cover. You don’t boil the couscous. Just steam it!
- Let Rest Covered for 5 Minutes. Let couscous rest off the heat. This steams it.
- Fluff with Fork. ENJOY!
- To Store. Let the couscous cool before storing in an airtight container. Refrigerate cooked couscous for up to 5 days.
- To Reheat. Add the couscous and a small amount of water or broth to a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 1-2 minutes until reheated.
- To Freeze. Freeze cooked, cooled couscous in a freezer-safe storage container for up to 3-6 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
Ways to Use Couscous
- Salads. Try this Avocado Couscous Grapefruit Salad! Add a scoop of couscous to any salad for a boost of filling fiber and nutrition. Even swap it with the quinoa in this Quinoa Salad. This Roasted Vegetable Salad with chickpeas would be perfect for a scoop of couscous. Make it a Mediterranean couscous salad with yummy picks like cucumbers, lemon juice, tomatoes, and olives.
- Bowls and Sides. The possibilities are endless! Top couscous with favorites like creamy feta cheese, and all the veggies! Enjoy it as a side with Greek Crockpot Sloppy Joes.
- Curries. Couscous makes a perfect base for curries like Chickpea Curry, Green Curry, or Coconut Curry.
- Stir Fries. Couscous can make a great swap in stir-fries. Serve couscous with Teriyaki Chicken Stir Fry, Tofu Stir Fry, or any of these other stir fry recipes.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Wooden Spoons. The best wooden spoons.
- Measuring Cups. Perfect for getting the couscous-to-water ratio.
Couscous Tips and Tricks
- Liquid to Couscous Ratio. Follow the recommended ratios of couscous to liquid. Typically, it’s 1 cup of couscous to 1 1/2 cups of water or broth. However, check the instructions on the package as ratios may vary. Accurate measurement ensures the couscous cooks evenly and absorbs the right amount of liquid.
- Fluff. After the couscous has cooked and steamed, use a fork to fluff the grains gently. This separates the grains and prevents them from clumping together. Fluffing also helps to create a light and fluffy texture.
- Use Flavorful Liquid. Instead of plain water, consider using vegetable broth or chicken broth to cook the couscous. The flavored liquid adds an extra layer of taste to the grains, enhancing the overall flavor of the dish.
- Add Seasoning. To infuse more flavor into the couscous, add seasonings or spices to the cooking liquid. For example, you can include fresh herbs like parsley, cilantro, or mint, or use spices such as cumin, paprika, or turmeric. This step ensures that the couscous absorbs the flavors as it cooks.
- BONUS: Toast the Couscous. Before adding the liquid, you can toast the couscous in a dry pan for a few minutes. This step enhances the nutty flavor of the couscous and adds a subtle richness. Just be careful not to burn it; gently shake the pan while toasting to prevent uneven browning.
- Let it Rest. After cooking the couscous, allow it to rest for a few minutes before serving. This rest period allows the flavors to meld together, and the grains will further absorb any remaining liquid.
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- 1 cup couscous
- 1 1/2 cups water or vegetable or chicken broth
- 1 tablespoon olive oil or butter optional
- Pinch kosher salt optional; omit if using broth
- In a medium pot, bring the water or broth to a boil. Once it’s boiling, if you’re using olive oil or butter or salt, add now.
- Add the couscous to the boiling water. Stir to make sure it’s evenly distributed.
- Immediately remove pot from heat and cover tightly with a lid. Let sit off the heat, covered, for 5-10 minutes, until the couscous has absorbed all of the liquid.
- With a fork, fluff up the couscous to separate the grains.
- TO STORE: Let the couscous cool before storing in an airtight container. Refrigerate cooked couscous for up to 5 days.
- TO REHEAT: Add the couscous and a small amount of water or broth to a microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 1-2 minutes until reheated.
- TO FREEZE: Freeze cooked, cooled couscous in a freezer-safe storage container for up to 3-6 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
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Frequently Asked Questions
1 cup of uncooked couscous yields roughly 3 cups cooked.
No, rinsing couscous is generally not necessary. Unlike some other grains, couscous does not require rinsing to remove excess starch or impurities. Most commercially available couscous has already been pre-steamed and dried, which eliminates the need for rinsing.
Couscous is a type of granular semolina pasta made from crushed durum wheat.
Traditionally, couscous is made by rolling moistened semolina wheat into small granules, which are then dried and steamed. However, in modern times, instant couscous has become widely available, which requires minimal preparation and cooking time.
*Health benefits of couscous found on healthline.com.