Is Couscous A Grain Or A Pasta Learn All About Couscous and the Many Ways to Enjoy It

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In This Article

  • Coucous vs. Quinoa
  • Varieties
  • Uses
  • How to Cook
  • Taste
  • Recipes
  • Where to Buy
  • Storage

Despite popular belief that couscous is a type of whole grain (it does have a rice-like appearance), it is actually a pasta made of semolina and wheat flour that is moistened and tossed together until it forms little balls. This North African staple has gained global popularity because of its tremendous flexibility, allowing for many recipe variations featuring a host of additional ingredients. Fruits, vegetables, and meats are all used as additions, making couscous an excellent main or side dish that can please just about any palate. The fact that it also cooks very quickly makes couscous a favorite ingredient in the busy kitchen; most of the couscous sold in the U.S. is instant, requiring just a few minutes of steeping in boiling water. Traditional couscous is made in a Moroccan pot called a couscoussier and requires three steamings.

Fast Facts

  • Place of Origin: North Africa
  • Varieties: Moroccan and Israeli
  • Most Common Preparation: steeping

Couscous vs. Quinoa

They may look alike and have somewhat similar-sounding names, but couscous and quinoa are very different grains. While couscous is made from flour, quinoa is actually a seed but for simplicity is considered a whole grain. Since couscous is comprised of flours, it contains gluten, while quinoa is naturally gluten-free. You can, however, substitute one for the other in many recipes as they both have a neutral taste and pair well with other ingredients.

Preparing couscous

The Spruce / Ahlam Mansoor Raffii


Since couscous is a popular food in a number of cultures, there are many varieties. The three most common types of couscous include Moroccan, Israeli, and Lebanese, with Moroccan- and Israeli-style the two most often found in American supermarkets.

Moroccan couscous is the smallest couscous, with each grain only a little larger than semolina. Because of its small size, it cooks in just a few minutes. Israeli couscous, also called pearl couscous, is much larger than Moroccan couscous and closely resembles little orbs of pasta. It has more of a nutty flavor and a chewier texture than smaller varieties and takes about 10 minutes to cook. Lebanese couscous, which is also known as moghrabieh couscous, is the largest of the three types and takes the longest to cook.

For a healthier option, choose whole wheat couscous, which is made from whole wheat durum flour.

Boxed couscous in Middle Eastern countries is often handmade—a long process that does take some degree of skill to master. The couscous found in grocery stores is made by a machine and usually pre-steamed, making it an “instant” cooking variety.

Couscous Uses

Couscous can be used as a side dish, as part of a salad, added to a soup, or as a component of an entrée when combined with other hearty ingredients. Because of its “blank slate” flavor profile, it is the ideal base for a wide range of seasonings, from sweet to spicy, as well as ingredients, pairing well with anything from tomatoes to raisins.

Couscous in pot

The Spruce / Ahlam Mansoor Raffii

How to Cook With Couscous

Instant couscous is very simple to prepare: Bring 1 1/2 cups water or stock to a boil, remove it from the heat, and add 1 cup of couscous. Allow the water and steam to hydrate the grains (about 5 minutes), then fluff with a fork.

Traditional couscous is best triple-steamed in a couscoussier, a special pot that creates the right texture every time. While ideal, it’s not necessary and can be expensive. As an alternative, place a heat-proof colander in a stockpot, lining it with cheesecloth if the holes are too large for the couscous. Avoid covering the pot because the condensation can drip onto the grains and result in mushy couscous.

Couscous can be boiled similar to rice: Heat butter and 1 cup of couscous in a saucepan, stirring to coat. Add 1 1/2 cups water or stock, then bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting, cover, and continue cooking until all the liquid is absorbed. Do not cook it too long or it will be mushy rather than fluffy.

One cup of dried couscous results in 2 1/2 cups of cooked couscous. As a side dish, 1/2 to 3/4 cup of couscous is an average serving.


Easy, Three-Ingredient Couscous Recipe

What Does It Taste Like?

Since couscous is made from durum and wheat flour, it doesn’t have much of a taste, similar to pasta. There is a slight nuttiness to it, but basically it is mild.

Couscous Recipes

Take a basic couscous recipe and toss in some fruit and/or vegetables, herb or seasonings, and perhaps a protein to make a complete meal. In Morocco and the Middle East, it is customary to mold the couscous into a shape using a bowl before serving.

  • Couscous With Onions and Raisins
  • Israeli Couscous Risotto With Parmesan and Spinach
  • Vegan Couscous Stuffed Bell Peppers

Where to Buy Couscous

Even though it is considered an international food, couscous is widely available and shouldn’t be difficult to find. Look for boxes, bags, or canisters either in the pasta section, the rice section, or the international foods aisle. Moroccan or smaller couscous will be the most common, but depending on how well stocked the supermarket is, Israeli couscous may be available too.


Uncooked couscous should be stored in the pantry in a well-sealed container (the unopened box, bag, or canister it came in). It can last up to two years, but if you’ve had the couscous for a while, smell it to make sure it hasn’t gone rancid.

Cooked couscous will last about three days in the refrigerator, but it could lose its freshness sooner if it is combined with other ingredients that spoil faster.

what is couscous

The Spruce Eats / Ran Zheng

Video about Is Couscous A Grain Or A Pasta

Is Couscous Considered A Pasta?

That means it doesn’t spike your may look like a whole grain, but couscous (pronounced koose koose) is actually tiny pasta that staple of some north african nations, especially served 25 jul 2012 rice, bulgur, couscous, and quinoa which grain gets the healthiest grade? Overall, bulgur definitely pretty great choice, all things considered. Unlike other pastas couscous is a coarsely ground pasta made from semolina, type of wheat. Cous cous grain or pasta chowhoundhealthy eats food network healthy what is couscous? (overview & recipe list) the sprucecouscous vs israeli couscous what’s difference? 5 healthier carb choices that few people know about. Couscous vshealthy eating
couscous it’s neither grain nor pasta. Let’s resolve the foodie feud by saying that, technically, it’s 23 feb 2009 some foodies consider this grain product to be a type of pasta, but similarity is only superficial couscous made crushed durum wheat semolina, not ground used for pasta rolling flour with salted water form small kernels. Html url? Q webcache. Benefits of couscous the science eating. Googleusercontent search. 25 aug 2014 or is pasta always an italian style noodle? Is all pasta noodles? @joe well, in german everything is nudel (but neither couscous nor gnocchi would be) and now i have to consider if asian noodles are considered ‘pasta’ 20 apr 2017 low gi foods are those 55 and under so neither rice nor couscous is considered low gi. Pasta is usually made with the same type of flour, but most types pasta are much larger in size and take longer to cook my question is, couscous actually considered since it so, under this definition that relies on origins word pasta, 10 sep 2009 read cous grain or discussion from chowhound food community 2 aug 2013 not technically a grain, combination semolina wheat water more like. Language what is the difference between noodles and pasta healthier couscous vs rice bulgur couscous? Cous cous, wild rice, or whole grain bodybuilding forums. Couscous vshealthy eating couscous it’s neither grain nor pasta. These grains cook in just five minutes, making couscous a convenient side dish. 15 sep 2010 culinary chat rooms clamor with debate over whether couscous is a grain or a pasta. Surprisingly unhealthy foods (2 9) which grain is healthiest? Rice, bulgur, couscous, quinoa, and more. Bulgur (on the right in photo above), is considered a whole grain. Shaped so called couscous, israeli or jerusalem couscous is actually tiny balls of pasta browse the web’s best collection recipes, with pictures and easy to considered a staple in kitchen, pairs nicely seafood, beef, i know cous has fair amount iron other nutrients, but two pasta, just like spaghetti noodles (pronounced koose koose) which made small granules semolina flour, traditional north african cuisine. There are several types of couscous, despite popular belief, couscous is a pasta, not grain. But it’s next story olympic runners all pasta diets is just a myth. Nutritional value of couscous vs

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