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

Couscous

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 cooking required. That’s right: all you have to do is boil 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. Make it Moroccan-style or season simply with lemon as a quick side for chicken, fish or vegetarian mains. 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.

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. Here’s an overview:

  • 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.

The recipe below features Moroccan couscous: so avoid the Israeli or pearl variety here! It’s an entirely different product with a different cooking time. Got it? OK, let’s get to cooking this beautiful tiny pasta.

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 an alternate 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!
Couscous

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.

More easy side dish recipes

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

This couscous recipe is…

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

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Couscous

Easy Couscous


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

Description

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


Ingredients

Scale
  • 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

Instructions

  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.

Notes

*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

Keywords: Couscous, couscous recipe, what is couscous, how to cook couscous

About the authors

Sonja & Alex

Meet Sonja and Alex Overhiser: Husband and wife. Expert home cooks. Authors of recipes you'll want to make again and again.

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