How to Cook Couscous

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Couscous is a grain made from wheat semolina. It often appears in Mediterranean and North African cuisines and is one of the most popular foods in countries such as Morocco, Tunisia and Algeria. It’s a great alternative to pasta, quinoa, or rice, and we’ve grown to love it in our full-time chef’s home! It has a fairly neutral flavor profile, which means you can eat it with just about anything. We love using it as a simple side dish or as a tasty addition to salads. It’s filling, it’s good for you, and it’s ready in under 10 minutes. win!

How is couscous traditionally made?

Before you start cooking couscous, we want to take a moment to share how this dish is traditionally prepared! We love being inspired by recipes from all over the world, and we think it’s important to give credit where it’s due.

This dish is traditionally cooked by parboiling grains. You can (of course) prepare it by pouring boiling water over it as described below, but if you want to go back to the basics, you might be interested in learning how to cook couscous traditionally!

The Moroccan variety is cooked in a special dish called a Couscous, which is very similar to a steamer. The steamer is lined with cheesecloth so none of the grain leaks through the gaps. Then fill the bottom of the pot with water or a broth. When boiling, the steam will cook the grains nicely. The next step is the great couscous secret: Fluff the grains with your hands, not once, not twice, but three times. This couscous cooking tends to be a little messy!

Moroccan Couscous with Israeli (Pearl) Couscous:

The most common type of couscous in supermarkets is the Moroccan variety. It’s a small grain, available in whole grains, and cooks quickly. That’s because the store-bought options are pre-steamed. In this case, the only thing left to do to complete your couscous recipe is to rehydrate the grains with boiling water.

Israeli couscous or pearl couscous is larger than Moroccan couscous. It is named for its pearl-shaped particles. You can also find whole-grain varieties, but this grain usually takes longer to cook due to its size. You can let it simmer on the stove instead of simply pouring boiling water over it. Its texture is closer to pasta than the Moroccan variety.

Service suggestion:

Cooking couscous – no matter what kind – is simple and easy! Now that you’re interested in learning how to cook couscous, you might also be wondering what to make it with. Here are our suggestions:

  • Roasted vegetables: cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, butternut squash, broccoli, or carrots
  • Meat: steak and potatoes, beef kebabs, lamb chops or braised lamb shanks
  • Chicken: air fryer chicken breast or grilled chicken,
  • As a filling addition: Meditteranean Chickpea Salad, Tomato Avocado Salad, or Black Bean and Corn Salad


You can cook couscous a few different ways. Here are a few different variations you can try:

  • basic: The base of any kind of couscous recipe
  • Garlic and Olive Oil: Best served with Garlic Roasted Vegetables
  • Parmesan cheese: for added tackiness
  • Herb Chicken: Serve with chicken dishes
  • Mediterranean Sea: Great with grilled meats or salads

All of these couscous recipe options (plus instructions) can be found in the recipe cards below. They take a bit more time than a basic couscous recipe, but are worth the extra effort!