Time to add a little pizzazz to your grain game! This quick and easy Moroccan Couscous is a refreshing change of pace to the standard side.
Couscous is a healthy, versatile side that you can serve with anything from roasted vegetables to chicken to lamb.
This recipe cooks in 15 minutes, and a few simple touches like subtle spices, golden raisins, and pine nuts make it taste special enough to serve at a holiday meal.
What is Moroccan Couscous Anyway?
First, let’s start with couscous.
While it resembles a tiny grain of rice or quinoa, couscous is a pasta. It’s made from semolina (semolina is a flour made from durum wheat and is used in most traditional pastas) and water.
Because it is so small, couscous cooks in a matter of minutes, making it a fabulous choice for a last-minute side. Since it cooks on the stovetop, it keeps your oven free for other endeavors.
Couscous is a staple dish in many North African countries including Morocco, a country I dream of visiting one day.
One of my most vivid post-college memories is of a friend cooking a Moroccan themed dinner for a big group. She piled spiced couscous high on a large platter, topped with chicken and vegetables, and we ate it on the floor, scooping our servings from the communal plate (those were the days!).
That meal made quite the impression. I’ve been smitten with Moroccan food and flavor since.
How to Make Moroccan Couscous
Fortunately, we don’t need to visit Morocco to enjoy a serving of couscous. This recipe takes inspiration from Moroccan cuisine and ingredients but is mild enough to serve with a wide variety of mains.
- Couscous. Quick-cooking, tasty, and (I can’t help myself here) super cute! I like to purchase whole wheat couscous, because like other whole grain options, it’s higher in protein and fiber than its white counterparts. If you can’t find it, regular couscous works well in this recipe too.
- Shallot. Starting the recipe by sautéing a shallot gives the entire dish a more robust, complete flavor.
- Golden Raisins. A popular ingredient in Moroccan cooking, raisins (I love golden raisins here) give the couscous bits of sweetness and make it more texturally interesting.
- Pine Nuts. Another classic ingredient in Moroccan cuisine, pine nuts add pops of nutty intensity and crunch. You only need a small amount, but I know pine nuts are pricey. Feel free to swap them for another nut like pistachios or almonds. Be sure to toast your nuts first for maximum flavor and a superior texture.
- Lemon, Garlic, and Parsley. Three traditional Moroccan ingredients, they give the couscous freshness and life.
- Cumin. Moroccan cuisine is especially renown for its spices. This recipe keeps the spices fairly mild so that the couscous pairs well with a variety of dishes. A touch of cumin is all you need.
- Toast the pine nuts in a single layer on a baking sheet in the oven at 350 degrees F until golden. Watch them carefully, as they burn easily. Transfer the toasted nuts to a bowl.
- Sauté the shallots in the butter, then add the spices and broth. Bring the mixture to a boil. Remove the skillet from the heat, and add the couscous. Cover and let it sit.
- Fluff the couscous with a fork, then stir in mix-ins. ENJOY!
What to Serve with Moroccan Couscous
This couscous is an all-around side that goes well with any of your favorite proteins, including meat, seafood, and vegetarian options.
- Meat. Try this couscous as a side with grilled chicken, Slow Cooker Moroccan Chicken, or these Moroccan Turkey Meatballs.
- Seafood. Keep things simple by pairing this couscous with Grilled Salmon in Foil. It’s also yummy topped with grilled or sautéed shrimp.
- Roasted Chickpeas or Veggies. Both roasted chickpeas and roasted vegetables are delicious vegetarian options. This Roasted Frozen Broccoli or even cinnamon Roasted Butternut Squash (omit the rosemary) would be nutritious and delicious.
Make-Ahead and Storage Tips
Couscous also saves and reheats well, making it a fantastic make-ahead option for a party. Not a planner? It takes all of 15 minutes to cook, so you can save it for the last minute too if that’s more your style.
- To Make Ahead. Up to 2 days ahead of time, prepare the couscous as directed, cover, and refrigerate it. Serve it warm or at room temperature.
- To Store. Place leftover couscous in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- To Reheat. Gently rewarm leftovers in a large skillet on the stove over medium-low heat. Add a squeeze of lemon juice to brighten the flavors. You can also reheat this dish in the microwave.
- To Freeze. Let the couscous cool completely, then store it in an airtight freezer-safe storage container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
Recommended Tools to Make This Recipe
- Baking Sheets. These are ideal for toasting the nuts.
- Versatile Saucepan. This one is a very useful size for cooking grains and with proper care can last a lifetime.
- Citrus Juicer. The BEST way to juice any citrus fruit. You’ll be amazed how much juice it can squeeze from every lemon.
For a recipe that will surprise and delight, all with very little effort on your part, this Moroccan couscous does not disappoint. If you try it, please leave a comment and let me know what you think!
- 1/4 cup pine nuts - or swap pistachios or slivered almonds
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter - use coconut oil or vegan butter to make vegan
- 1 small shallot chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 cups low sodium vegetable broth - or chicken broth
- 1 cup whole wheat couscous
- 1/3 cup golden raisins
- ¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon olive oil - use the good stuff here!
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the pine nuts in a single layer on an ungreased, rimmed baking sheet. Toast in the oven until fragrant and lightly golden, 5 to 7 minutes, stirring once halfway through. Keep and eye on them and DO NOT WALK AWAY during the last few minutes to make sure those precious pine nuts do not burn. Immediately transfer to a bowl to stop their cooking and to make sure the hot pan doesn't burn them once they are out of the oven.
- In a large skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook for 3 minutes, until they begin to soften. Add the salt, pepper, and cumin and cook 30 seconds. Pour in the broth. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil.
- As soon as the liquid begins to boil, remove the pan from the heat. Stir in the couscous, cover, and let sit for 10 minutes.
- With a fork, fluff up the couscous. Add the raisins, parsley, lemon juice, olive oil, and toasted pine nuts to the pot, then stir the ingredients together to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired. Enjoy hot.
- TO STORE: Place leftover couscous in an airtight storage container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
- TO REHEAT: Gently rewarm leftovers in a large skillet on the stove over medium-low heat. Add a squeeze of lemon juice to brighten the flavors. You can also reheat this dish in the microwave.
- TO FREEZE: Let the couscous cool completely, then store it in an airtight freezer-safe storage container in the freezer for up to 3 months. Let thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
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