Time to add a little pizzazz to your grain game! This 15-minute Moroccan Couscous recipe is easy, versatile, and absolutely scrumptious.
Why You’ll Love This Easy Side Dish
- Versatile. You can serve this recipe with so many of your favorite dishes. This couscous recipe pairs well with anything from Roasted Broccolini to Grilled Cod or Chicken Kabobs. It’s the ideal back-pocket recipe for a healthy, delicious side dish!
- Fast. This classic Moroccan-style couscous recipe is fast! There’s only 5 minutes of prep time and 10 minutes of cook time, meaning this couscous can be on your table in just 15 minutes. Once you know how to make couscous from scratch, it’ll be your busy weeknight go-to!
- Simple Yet Special. The couscous ingredients are uncomplicated, but this recipe makes them extraordinary (just like my Roasted Vegetable Salad)! A few simple touches, like subtle spices, golden raisins, and pine nuts, make it taste special enough to serve at a holiday meal.
5 Star Review
“Just made this tonight. The meal was as good as anything found in a restaurant.”— Peg —
What Is Couscous?
Couscous is a staple dish in many North African countries including Morocco, a country I dream of visiting one day.
- While it resembles a tiny grain of rice or quinoa, couscous is pasta.
- It’s made from semolina flour (semolina is a flour made from durum wheat and is used in most traditional kinds of pasta) and water.
Because couscous is so small, couscous recipes cook 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.
How to Make a Moroccan Couscous Recipe
- Couscous. Quick-cooking and tasty! I like to purchase whole wheat couscous when I can find it. Like other whole-grain options, it’s higher in protein and fiber than its white counterparts. (Try this Avocado Couscous Grapefruit Salad next.)
- 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, golden raisins (also in this Moroccan Chickpea Salad) give the couscous recipe 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. (I also love pine nuts in this Slow Cooker Wild Rice Pilaf.)
- Lemon and Parsley. Fresh lemon juice and herbs are what you can add to couscous for flavor! These two traditional Moroccan ingredients give this easy couscous recipe freshness, color, and life.
- Cumin. Moroccan cuisine is especially renowned 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. Watch them carefully!
- Cook the Shallots, Spices, and Broth. Bring the pot to a boil before removing it from the heat.
- Steam the Couscous. Fluff, add mix-ins, and ENJOY!
- 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. Adding a squeeze of lemon juice is how you revive couscous. 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.
Meal Prep Tip
Up to 2 days ahead of time, prepare this couscous recipe as directed, cover, and refrigerate it. Serve it warm or at room temperature.
What to Serve with This Couscous Recipe
- Meatballs. Top your couscous with Moroccan Meatballs and Oven Roasted Vegetables for a superb meal.
- Seafood. Pair couscous with Grilled Salmon in Foil, Grilled Shrimp Seasoning, or Grilled Swordfish.
- Pork. Grilled Pork Chops and Baked Pork Tenderloin would be tasty.
- Chicken. Couscous is good with all types of chicken recipes. Try Crock Pot Moroccan Chicken or Grilled Chicken Thighs.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Baking Sheets. These sizes are ideal for spreading out and 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 at how much juice it can squeeze from every lemon.
Recipe Tips and Tricks
- Toast the Nuts. Be sure to toast your nuts first for maximum flavor and a superior texture. It’s worth it.
- Don’t Get Burned! When you’re toasting the pine nuts, keep a very close eye on them. Nuts LOVE to burn and will go from toasted to scorched in no time.
- Use the Good Stuff. When it comes to simple recipes like this Moroccan couscous, quality matters. Use good-quality olive oil, fresh herbs, and freshly squeeze lemon juice. You’ll be glad you did!
- Liquid Matters. Don’t be tempted to mess with the water and couscous ratio. If you use too much liquid, you’ll end up with soggy couscous. With too little liquid, the couscous will be hard. Measure the liquid and couscous to ensure you’re using the correct amount of each.
- 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
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
- 2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth or chicken broth
- 1 cup whole wheat couscous
- 1/3 cup golden raisins
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon olive oil use the good stuff here!
- Preheat the oven to 350°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 an 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 them 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 for 30 seconds.
- Pour in the broth. Increase the heat to high and bring it 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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Frequently Asked Questions
Typically, pearl couscous needs to simmer and be cooked more like regular pasta noodles, (rather than removing it from the heat and leaving covered to steam). For best results, consult the package direction of your pearl couscous and adapt the cooking time and method accordingly. For more guidance, see this Israeli Couscous Salad recipe.
Sure! While I have not tried this personally, I imagine it would be a delicious adaptation. Note the cooking time and method will need to be adjusted based on the cooking directions for your quinoa (you can reference my How to Cook Quinoa post for tips).
As far as calories go, couscous and most varieties of brown rice are fairly comparable. Both contain similar amounts of protein and fiber too. However, if you’re looking for a healthy change of pace from your usual side of brown rice, couscous is a great alternative to try (as is farro).
Absolutely! Try it in a Mediterranean couscous salad by cooking it and letting it completely cool. Toss in fresh herbs like basil, mint, or cilantro, fresh veggies like tomatoes, red bell peppers, or cucumbers, and chickpeas, olives, and garlic. Add cheese like feta if you please. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice and lemon zest for the finishing touch.
You’ll know your couscous is done when it is tender and the liquid is absorbed. If you follow the steps for how to cook couscous in this recipe, it should turn out perfectly.