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overhead shot of raw couscous in a black bowl

How To Cook Couscous

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Technically a type of pasta and not a grain as some people assume, couscous is one of the easiest things you can cook at home, it’s even easier than rice! Learn how to prepare couscous at home, and start enjoying it with a variety of different meals from salads to stews.

a metal bowl filled with fluffed up cooked cousocus

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Different Kinds Of Couscous

Traditionally made by mixing the leftover hard bits of ground semolina with water and forming into small balls, couscous is traditionally steamed over a meat stew with which it is meant to be served. Nowadays couscous is most often commercially prepared and pre-cooked to make it easier to prepare.

When looking for couscous at the grocery store, there are a few things to know. Most often you will have two or three different options:

  • ‘Regular’ Couscous – also called Instant Couscous, this is the most common type of couscous you’ll see. It is mechanically formed and then pre-cooked and dried to create an extremely quick-cooking product. You can find it plain, or with seasoning packs included.
  • Wholewheat Couscous – made with the whole semolina grain, wholewheat couscous is healthier than the regular wheat version and boasts 5-6 grams of fibre per serving.
  • Israeli Couscous – also called ptitim or pearl couscous, is not true couscous, but more similar in preparation to orzo pasta. Israeli couscous is extruded through a round mould before being cut into small pearl shapes. It is toasted and dried to produce it’s distinctive nutty and chewy texture.
close up shot of a black bowl filled with israeli couscous, also called pearl couscous
Israeli Couscous, also called Pearl Couscous

If you do find traditional couscous at the store, know that it will take much longer then 5 minutes to steam, and is best cooked in a special steamer called a couscoussiére, though any steamer will technically work.

Regardless of which option you’ll choose, we’ll cover each type below so you can cook them all at home without worry.

Do You Need To Rinse Couscous Before Cooking?

No. You do not need to rinse couscous before cooking, just as you don’t need to rinse pasta.

Since couscous is not a grain, you do not need to rinse it to wash away any starch as you would when cooking rice for example.

Cooking Couscous On The Stove Top

Regardless of if you are cooking regular or whole wheat couscous the water ratio remains the same. You’ll need about:

  • 1 cup of couscous
  • 1.5 cups water or broth – chicken, beef, or vegetable stock may all be used as well
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp butter or olive oil for added flavor – optional
Related:  Traditional German Spaetzle Recipe

1. Start by measuring out the required ingredients, and place the dry couscous in a heatproof bowl.

raw couscous prior to cooking in a metal bowl.

2. Bring the liquid along with the butter or oil to a boil on the stove. Once boiling pour the liquid over the top of the couscous. Stir once to ensure all the couscous is submerged, and then immediately cover the bowl with a lid, or large plate. Let the couscous sit for about 5 minutes for both regular and wholewheat couscous.

3. Once the couscous has absorbed all the liquid, remove the lid, and gently fluff up the couscous with a fork to break apart any clumps.

a metal bowl filled with fluffed up cooked cousocus

4. Season the couscous with salt and pepper if you like, then serve with your meal.

Cooking Israeli Couscous

As Israeli couscous is much larger the ‘regular’ couscous, it is cooked more like pasta in simmering water. You’ll need:

  • 1 1/4 cup water or broth – chicken, beef, or vegetable stock may all be used
  • 1 cup dry Israeli couscous
  • a pinch of salt

1. Bring the liquid to a simmer on the stove, and then add the dry Israeli couscous. Cook the pearl couscous just as you would pasta for about 10 minutes or until al dente.

2. The grains will swell slightly and have a chewy texture when done cooking. You’ll have to watch the pot so the Israeli couscous doesn’t burn to the bottom as it absorbs the liquid.

a pot of couscous filled with cooked Israeli couscous.

Serve the Israeli couscous right away as a side for various stews, or cool it and turn it into a cold pasta style salad.

What Do You Serve Couscous With?

Couscous was traditionally served alongside a meat stew with which it was cooked. The small grains of semolina pasta are fantastic for soaking up sauces, and adding texture to any meal.

Besides meat stews and curries though, both couscous and Israeli couscous make delicious pasta style salads, such as this healthy Mediterranean couscous salad.

close up shot of Mediterranean Couscous Salad in a wooden bowl

You can add any number of flavourings to the couscous to suit your personal tastes, and it keeps quite well in the fridge for 3 to 4 days!

This makes it ideal for meal-prep as you can make a large batch and then incorporate the couscous into various lunches and suppers.

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How To Cook Couscous

Learn all about couscous and how to prepare it at home. Israeli couscous is also covered in this cooking guide.
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Middle Eastern
Keyword how to cook israeli couscous, how to prepare couscous, what is couscous?, what is israeli couscous
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Servings 2 cups of cooked couscous
Calories 352kcal
Author Chef Markus Mueller

Ingredients

Regular Couscous

  • 1 cup dry couscous
  • 1 1/2 cups water or broth chicken, beef, or vegetable stock may all be used as well
  • 1 Pinch salt
  • 1 tsp butter or olive oil optional for added flavor

Israeli Couscous

  • 1 1/4 cup water or broth chicken, beef, or vegetable stock may all be used as well
  • 1 cup dry Israeli couscous
  • a pinch of salt

Instructions

Regular or ‘Instant’ Couscous

  • Start by measuring out the required ingredients, and place the dry couscous in a heat proof bowl.
  • Bring the liquid along with the butter or oil to a boil on the stove. Once boiling pour the liquid over top of the couscous. Stir once to ensure all the couscous is submerged, and then immediately cover the bowl with a lid, or large plate. Let the couscous sit for about 5 minutes for both regular and wholewheat couscous.
  • Once the couscous has absorbed all the liquid, remove the lid, and gently fluff up the couscous with a fork to break apart any clumps.
  • Season the couscous with salt and pepper if you like, then serve with your meal.

Cooking Israeli Couscous

  • Bring the liquid to a simmer on the stove, and then add the dry Israeli couscous. Cook the pearl couscous just as you would pasta for about 10 minutes or until al dente.
  • The grains will swell slightly and have a chewy texture. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Serve the Israeli couscous right away as a side for various stews, or cool it and turn it into a cold pasta style salad.

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