What Is Couscous? Everything You Need To Know

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If you spend a lot of time in the kitchen, you already know how important it is to switch up the ingredients that you use for your daily meals. Eating the same dishes every day can get monotonous, so it’s always wise to look for exciting new ingredients and recipes to try. That way, you’ll never get bored with what you eat!

In this post, we’ll fill you in on a grain that can add some life and excitement to simple meals, one that we think is pretty underrated. Today, we’re talking about couscous.

What Is Couscous?

Couscous is made from small, round pieces of semolina, a byproduct of durum wheat. Pieces of semolina look like tiny pearls, and they have a pleasant neutral flavor that pairs well as a side dish with a wide variety of soups, stews, and sauces. 

The grain has been enjoyed in numerous parts of the world for centuries, and it can be prepared in a number of creative ways. It’s a staple food in North African cuisine, and you’ll frequently find recipes for Moroccan couscous and Lebanese couscous. This type of grain contains mostly carbohydrates, but it’s also a reliable source of plant-based protein. 

How Is Couscous Made?

Couscous is made by milling wheat into flour using large steel rollers. During the milling process, larger, coarser pieces of the wheat get separated from the smaller pieces. The larger pieces are called the starch, while the larger ones are categorized as wheat bran and wheat germ. The starch is what’s used to make couscous. 

At a specific point in the process of milling wheat, the starch gets separated from the bran and germ. To make couscous, the starch is ground into a special type of flour called semolina flour. This flour contains quite a few important vitamins and minerals, including significant amounts of vitamin B1, vitamin B3, vitamin B9, potassium, and zinc. 

In some parts of the world, other types of flour are used to make couscous instead of semolina. In some cases, grains like barley or millet serve as the basis for couscous, but using semolina is still the most popular way to make it. 

When it comes to cooking couscous, there are several different styles. However, most of them require that you boil water, stir in the couscous, and then let it sit. Before serving, you’ll fluff it with a fork. 

Types of Couscous

There are several different types of couscous you might find at your local grocery store. The variety you choose can have a major impact on the flavor and texture that you get. Let’s explore the most popular couscous varieties to get you familiar with the unique qualities of each. 

Is Couscous Pasta?

The question of whether couscous is a type of pasta is the subject of intense debate among foodies. Couscous is made using processes similar to those used to produce pasta, but it might be better to refer to the grain as pasta’s cousin. 

Couscous is made with semolina, which sets it apart from most types of pasta and prompts some people to put them in entirely separate categories. In addition, each piece of couscous is smaller than a typical noodle by a wide margin, which is another reason to categorize them separately. 

Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide whether couscous belongs in the pasta family or is in a league of its own. 

Where Couscous Comes From

Couscous is grown and harvested in abundance in several parts of the world. It’s a staple in several parts of North Africa, including Morocco, Libya, Tunisia, and Algeria. Immigrants from these nations to France brought couscous with them, and the grain is frequently enjoyed there as well. 

How Is Couscous Traditionally Cooked?

There are plenty of different ways to use couscous in recipes, and the grain is traditionally enjoyed around the world with a variety of other ingredients. Below are some of the most common pairings for couscous.

What Foods Pair Well With Couscous?

Couscous is an incredibly versatile grain that tastes phenomenal when paired with just about anything. While it’s not very common to see the grain in sweet dishes and desserts, it’s not unheard of, either – as you’ve learned, dessert couscous is a tradition in Morocco. However, the most common pairings for couscous are savory foods like meat and vegetables. 

If you’re looking for simple and affordable ingredients to make with couscous, we recommend any of the following:

Is Couscous Healthy?

Couscous is delicious, but flavor isn’t all the grain has to offer – it’s good for you, too. Let’s explore some of the key health benefits of adding couscous to your plate.

Is Couscous Gluten-Free?

If you have a gluten intolerance or allergy or suffer from an autoimmune disease like celiac, foods made with wheat and barley are probably nowhere to be found in your pantry. For people with even a mild gluten intolerance, glutinous foods can cause a variety of uncomfortable symptoms, including bloating, diarrhea, and fatigue. Avoiding gluten-based foods at all costs is the best way to keep these symptoms at bay if you’re allergic or intolerant.

Unfortunately for our gluten-intolerant friends, couscous is made with semolina, which is a byproduct of wheat. That means the grain isn’t compatible with a gluten-free diet. Luckily, there are plenty of alternatives to couscous that you can still enjoy if you have to avoid gluten. These include quinoa, short-grain rice, and cauliflower rice.

Our Favorite Recipes With Couscous

Looking for ways to add couscous to your weekly menu? You’ll love these recipes!

There’s Plenty to Love About Couscous

Couscous is a versatile, healthy, and easy-to-make grain that is right at home in a variety of dishes. Try adding some to your next stew, serving it with lamb or beef, or using it as the base for a salad or grain bowl. You won’t regret it!