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This couscous recipe comes out fluffy and perfectly seasoned in minutes! Here are the tricks to how to cook couscous.

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If there’s a food that epitomizes an easy side dish, it’s this one: couscous. This tiny pasta is fluffy, flavorful, and takes just 10 minutes to whip up with no actual cooking required (just boiling water!). This traditional Berber food has swept the globe: its ease of preparation and delightful light texture makes it perfect for serving with just about anything. Here’s our favorite couscous recipe and some background on its origin.

What is couscous?

Couscous is a North African pasta with tiny grains made from semolina flour. Its texture looks like grains of rice or quinoa, but’s actually a pasta! It originated with the Berbers of Algeria and Morocco, sometime between the 11th century and 13th century. Today it’s a pantry staple around the world because of its versatility and quick cooking time. It’s a cultural dish of the Maghrebi cuisines in the countries of Algeria, Tunisia, Mauritania, Morocco, and Libya.

Is couscous gluten free? No. Couscous is a pasta made with wheat, so it contains gluten. People with gluten free diets should avoid it or look for special gluten-free couscous.


Types of couscous

There are three major types of foods called couscous: Moroccan, Israeli or pearl couscous, and Lebanese. However, the second two types aren’t technically considered couscous. The recipe below features Moroccan couscous, so it’s not optimized for the Israeli variety (it has a different cooking time). Here’s an overview of the types of couscous:

  • Moroccan couscous has very small, irregular grains and a quick cooking time. It’s the standard variety and labeled “couscous” at the grocery (it typically won’t include the word Moroccan).
  • Israeli couscous (aka pearl couscous) is larger and shaped like balls. It’s technically considered a pasta and not couscous, since the grains are large and shaped exactly the same. It’s always been machine made, whereas couscous is made by hand. The food was actually invented in Israel in the 1950’s when the government needed to feed masses of immigrants.
  • Lebanese couscous has grains that are even larger and a longer cooking time. It’s more difficult to find in mainstream US grocery stores, but may be available at international grocery stores.
Couscous recipe

How to cook couscous

There are several methods for how to cook couscous. It’s tricky to get perfectly fluffy because it can become clumpy when boiled in a small pot. Here’s a no-fail method that results in beautifully fluffy grains every time (or jump to the recipe below):

  • Use a ratio of 1 cup couscous to 1.5 cups liquid. Use water, chicken broth or vegetable broth; broth brings in extra savory flavor notes.
  • Boil the liquid. Boil it in a teapot or a small pot on the stove. Boiling the water separately helps to avoid clumps.
  • Place the dry grains in a skillet with ½ teaspoon salt. Using a skillet makes for more surface area and less chance for clumping.
  • Pour over the liquid and wait 10 minutes, then fluff with a fork. That’s it! You’ll find it’s perfectly fluffy with separated grains: no clumps!

Ways to serve it

Now for the fun part: how to serve couscous! This couscous recipe is for a basic side dish, flavored with lemon and parsley. It goes with just about anything: because it takes just 10 minutes, we find ourselves making it often. Here are a few ways to flavor and serve it:

How are you planning to serve this 10 minute side dish? Let us know in the comments below.

This couscous recipe is…

Vegetarian, vegan, plant-based, and dairy-free.

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Easy Couscous

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5 from 4 reviews

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 0 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 10 minutes
  • Yield: 4 1x


This couscous recipe comes out fluffy and perfectly seasoned in minutes! Here are the tricks to how to cook couscous.


  • 1 ½ cups water or broth
  • 1 cup dry couscous*
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley


  1. Bring the water or broth to boil (in a tea kettle or a small pot).
  2. Place the dry couscous into a skillet with the salt. Pour the boiling water over the entire surface. Wait for 10 minutes.
  3. Fluff the couscous with a fork. Stir in the olive oil, lemon juice, and parsley. Taste and add additional lemon or salt to taste.


*This recipe is for Moroccan couscous, tiny grains of semolina that cook quickly. For Israeli or pearl couscous, go to How to Cook Israeli (Pearl) Couscous

  • Category: Side dish
  • Method: No cook
  • Cuisine: North African
  • Diet: Vegan

More easy side dish recipes

Want more quick and easy sides? Here are a few basics that you’ll find yourself making on repeat:

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Hi, we’re Alex and Sonja Overhiser, married cookbook authors, food bloggers, and recipe developers. We founded A Couple Cooks to share fresh, seasonal recipes for memorable kitchen moments! Our recipes are made by two real people and work every time.

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  1. Mel says:

    I’d purchase homemade
    (from scratch, a lost art) Couscous from an elderly friend in Europe. The texture was sooo different from the boxed product available in Stores or Restaurants. I miss her.

  2. Kendra says:

    I made this for dinner tonight and my husband and I loved it. It went perfect with the baked pesto chicken that I made as well. Thanks for the recipe!

    1. Alex Overhiser says:

      You’re welcome!

  3. Kathy Beech says:

    So, I have decided to try eating more foods based on the Mediterranean Diet. I have never enjoyed couscous in the past but decided to give it a try. Your recipe seemed so simple that I had to give it a go! AMAZING! It came out perfect and I’m using it as a base for several of my lunches for work!
    Thank you so much!

    1. Sonja Overhiser says:

      Thank you so much! We are so happy to hear this and thank you for letting us know! Let us know if you try anything else!

  4. Anonymous says:

    Great information and perfect recipe.

  5. Sonja Overhiser says:

    Let us know if you have any questions!