• Side Dishes
  • How to Cook Couscous

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    Learn how to cook couscous perfectly every single time with these top tips. Perfectly fluffy, it’s ready to serve in minutes and is great for weeknight dinners and meal prep.

    cooked couscous in a bowl with lemon slices

    Couscous is such a versatile side dish, and when you know how it’s so quick and easy to cook perfectly! It’s a great alternative to rice, and its nutty and slightly sweet flavor works wonderfully in salads.

    Grab my step-by-step guide to learn how to make couscous from scratch perfectly every single time to use in your favorite recipes.

    Be sure to try my Mediterranean Couscous Salad!

    Why you will love this perfect couscous recipe!

    • Quick & easy: There’s nothing complicated about this North African side dish. Just add water/liquid and seasonings.
    • Simple ingredients: There’s nothing fancy you need for this simple side dish.
    • Versatile: Cooked couscous is a great side dish to serve with so many mains, from stir frys, to protein bowls, curries, to grilled chicken, seafood and meats.
    close up image of pearl couscous in a bowl

    Ingredients for making couscous

    • Water: Couscous is added to boiling water to cook. You could also use a vegetable stock or chicken broth to add extra flavor.
    • Salt: Salt is optional, but it’s a great way to season the couscous as it cooks.
    • Butter / oil: Again, this is optional, but I find that a little butter or oil helps to add a rich flavor.
    • Couscous: This recipe is for cooking pearl couscous, even though Israeli couscous is cooked similarly. Couscous contains lots of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, as well as a good amount of protein. It’s a staple in our pantry.
    • Herbs & spices (optional): You can season the cooked couscous with more fresh herbs like dill, parsley, thyme, cumin, or black pepper just before serving. You can also add a drizzle of lemon juice.
    ingredients for making couscous

    How to cook couscous

    • Bring water to a boil in a small saucepan.
    • Add salt and butter or olive oil, if desired.
    • Stir in pearl couscous. Cover with a lid and reduce heat to low and simmer for 8 – 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
    • When the water has evaporated, remove from the cooktop and fluff with a fork.
    process images of making couscous on the stovetop

    How long does cooked couscous last?

    Once you have cooked the couscous, let it cool completely before storing it in an airtight container in the fridge. It will keep well for 3 to 4 days. The cooked couscous can be reheated in the microwave, or you can enjoy it cold in salads.

    Can you freeze it?

    Yes! Cooked couscous freezes really well. Once cooled, spread it out on a baking sheet and freeze it solid. Once hard, use a fork to break up any large lumps and then transfer them into portions in freezer bags. Frozen couscous will keep well for up to 4 months. It can be thawed at room temperature or reheated straight from frozen.

    close up image of perfect couscous in a black bowl

    Is couscous gluten-free?

    Couscous is made from semolina flour, which is a part of durum wheat, so it is not gluten-free. Even though it looks like a grain, it’s actually more of a pasta. If you have gluten intolerance, quinoa is a great alternative.

    What do you serve pearl couscous with?

    Couscous is a great way to beef up a salad and it’s delicious when served mixed with some roasted vegetables. It makes for a wonderful side dish for stews, chicken, seafood, and meats. Try it with:

    TIPS FROM NELI’S KITCHEN

    Recipe Notes and Tips for the Best Couscous recipe

    • There’s no need to wash or rinse the couscous before cooking it as it doesn’t contain starch.
    • The butter/oil is optional, but it will help the grains to separate so it’s recommended.
    • Add the couscous to boiling water, and then take it off of the heat to avoid it overcooking.
    • Fluff with a fork to separate the grains so that they don’t clump together.
    cooked pearl couscous and lemon slices in a black bowl

    More Kitchen Tips!

    If you found this basic couscous recipe helpful, I am sure you will also love my other cooking guides & tips:

    How To Cook Couscous

    Learn how to cook couscous perfectly every single time with these top tips. Perfectly fluffy, it's ready to serve in minutes and is great for weeknight dinners and meal prep.
    Prep Time 2 minutes
    Cook Time 10 minutes
    Total Time 12 minutes
    Servings 4 servings (2 cups)
    Calories 170kcal

    INGREDIENTS

    • 1.5 cups water
    • ½ teaspoon salt, optional
    • 1 teaspoon butter or olive oil, optional
    • 1 cup pearl couscous

    INSTRUCTIONS

    • Bring water to a boil.
    • Add salt and butter or olive oil, if desired.
    • Stir in pearl couscous. Cover with a lid and reduce heat to low and simmer for 8 – 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

    TIPS & NOTES

    • There’s no need to wash or rinse the couscous before cooking it as it doesn’t contain starch.
    • The butter/oil is optional, but it will help the grains to separate so it’s recommended.
    • Add the couscous to boiling water, and then take it off of the heat to avoid it overcooking.
    • Fluff with a fork to separate the grains so that they don’t clump together.
    • Yields approximately 2 cups.

    NUTRITION

    Calories: 170kcal | Carbohydrates: 33g | Protein: 5g | Fat: 1g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 3mg | Sodium: 308mg | Potassium: 71mg | Fiber: 2g | Vitamin A: 31IU | Calcium: 13mg | Iron: 1mg
    Course Side Dish
    Cuisine American
    Keyword couscous side dish, easy couscous recipe, tips for cooking couscous
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