What is Couscous?
Couscous (from Maghreb Arabic kuskusu, which is from Tamazight seksu) is a food which consists of grains made from semolina which are about 1mm or 1/16th inch in diameter (after cooking). In the United States couscous is known as a pasta, however in most other countries it is treated more like a grain in its own right.
10 Crave-Worthy Vegan Couscous Recipes
Couscous is made from semolina flour it contains gluten (unlike quinoa which has a similar texture) and it&rsquos one of those things that are so easy to cook, you won&rsquot even believe it. If you haven&rsquot tried any couscous recipes until now, you have no idea what you&rsquore missing! Couscous has many benefits to our health and it&rsquos usually served with some delicious stew or curry on top in order to achieve some finger-licking lunches or dinners.
I fell in love with couscous a while ago and now I sometimes use it even more than rice. It&rsquos so easy to cook with it and it&rsquos so versatile! Couscous is a popular ingredient in the Middle Eastern cuisine and in case you are a fan of this cuisine, then I&rsquom sure you&rsquoll love these recipes too!
Even though there are countless different vegan couscous recipes on the web, you should know that no couscous recipe or salad is complete without a squeeze of lemon juice and some fresh herbs.
I want to inspire you to add this awesome ingredient to your future meals, so here are 10 of my favorite vegan couscous recipes that I always enjoy to make! As you already know, I don&rsquot like to spend a lot of time in the kitchen, especially in the summer when I like my meals light and refreshing, that&rsquos why all these recipes are easy and fast. Of course, they use accessible, budget-friendly ingredients so anyone can recreate these &ndash even if they&rsquore not vegan!
Click on the link titles to access these healthy vegan couscous recipes. Many thanks to all the wonderful food bloggers who created these recipes. You will also find my own favorite vegan couscous recipe below. I hope you&rsquoll try these couscous recipes the next time you need a quick and filling lunch or dinner!
Lemony Herb Couscous
Couscous often gets forgotten about and honestly, I don't know why. It's much easier to make than most grains or pastas and you can take the flavor profile with it anywhere. A simple drizzle of olive oil and lemon juice is our favorite way to serve it, but the possibilities are endless.
How do I cook couscous?
Couscous is amazingly easy to cook. For every cup of dry couscous, simply bring 1 1/2 cups of water or broth to a boil, then turn off heat, add your couscous, cover, and let sit 10 minutes. Easy peasy.
How should I serve couscous?
The best part about couscous is how versatile it is. It can be used in place of any pasta or grain. Replace the chickpeas or add it into this Chickpea Mediterranean Salad or serve it with Chicken Curry!
Filling, fast, cheap and healthy, what's not to love about couscous? Make the most of this speedy after-work staple in Moroccan-style tagines, tabbouleh and more.
Feta & peach couscous
Grab just four ingredients to make this easy, light lunch and enjoy a taste of summer. The combination of peaches, feta, couscous and mixed seeds is moreish
Chicken & couscous one-pot
This one-pot meal is perfect for fuss-free midweek entertaining
Quick turkey couscous
A fresh, speedy couscous recipe for two, topped with pomegranate seeds and roast turkey slices. An ideal store cupboard supper you can plate up in minutes
Grilled aubergine tabbouleh
A vegan tabbouleh with all the flavours of summer. The coconut and tahini dressing adds a creamy, nutty element to this winning couscous
Harissa sticky chicken with couscous
No chickpeas in the cupboard? Use cannellini or kidney beans in this easy chicken dish with fragrant coriander couscous and a spicy harissa paste glaze
How to cook couscous
This versatile grain is ideal as a blank canvas for lots of bold flavours, from one-pot stews to fresh summery salads. Here’s how to cook it to perfection.
- 2 cups couscous (about 12 ounces)
- Coarse salt and fresh ground pepper
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 1/2 cups boiling water
- Put the couscous, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon pepper in a large bowl. Add the olive oil, and stir with a fork to coat evenly.
- Stir one third of the boiling water into the couscous. Cover the remaining water to keep it hot.
- Press the couscous gently with the back of the fork. Cover with plastic wrap let stand for 3 minutes. Repeat with the remaining water in two additions.
- Break up any clumps with a fork or your fingers.
Reprinted with permission from Everyday Food: Great Food Fast by Martha Stewart Living Magazine. Copyright © 2007 by Martha Stewart Living Magazine. Published by Crown Publishing Group. All Rights Reserved.
Martha Stewart Living magazine was first published in 1990. Over the years, more than two dozen books have been published by the magazine's editors.
Martha Stewart is the author of dozens of best-selling books on cooking, entertaining, gardening, weddings, and decorating. She is the host of The Martha Stewart Show, the successful daily syndicated television show.
How to Cook Couscous
Welcome to couscous 101! Learn what it is, how to cook it, and how to serve it. Delicious and easy to make, it'll become a staple in your kitchen!
Couscous! I’m sure you’ve heard of it, but you might be wondering, “What is it, exactly?” Though it might seem like one, couscous is not actually a grain, but a tiny North African pasta! It’s a fantastic staple to keep on hand in your kitchen – it cooks in under 10 minutes, and you can use it in anything from salads to bowls to simple side dishes.
How to Cook Couscous
How you cook couscous will depend on what type you buy. In grocery stores, you will most often find these two varieties:
- Pearl or Israeli couscous: It’s easy to see how pearl couscous got its name, as it’s shaped into round, pearl-like balls. I cook it like I do other kinds of pasta. First, I bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and then, I add the couscous, cooking for 7-8 minutes, or until al dente. As soon as I drain it, I toss it with a large glug of olive oil so that the pearls don’t stick together.
- Traditional couscous (white or whole wheat): As you can see in the picture below, this variety is even smaller than quinoa! Consequently, it cooks in a flash. To cook it, measure a 1:1 ratio of couscous and water, and bring the water to a boil. When the water is boiling, add the grains, cover the pot, and remove it from the heat. Let it stand for 5 minutes, covered, before you remove the lid and fluff with a fork. Though it’s not totally necessary, I also like to add a bit of olive oil and salt to the boiling water to add flavor and prevent clumping.
Couscous Recipes and Serving Ideas
Once you’ve cooked your couscous, you have all sorts of options for using it! Here are a few of my favorites:
- Make a couscous salad. Try making this one with roasted tomatoes and chickpeas, or substitute whole wheat couscous for the grain in any grain salad. It’s an especially great substitute for millet or quinoa.
- Serve it as a side dish. Below, you’ll find my favorite way to prepare it as a simple side dish. I dress it up with herbs, lemon juice, pine nuts, and olive oil to make a bright, healthy pilaf. It pairs nicely with any protein, vegetable main dish, or soup!
- Top it with a stew. Traditional Moroccan couscous is often served with stewy seasonal vegetables, and I adore this preparation. Find my riff on North African tagine on page 207 of Love and Lemon Every Day!
- Make it a meal on its own! Make the recipe below. Then, top it with roasted veggies like cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, or butternut squash, drizzles of tahini sauce, and your favorite protein to make an easy meal!
More Plant-Based Cooking Basics
If you love this recipe, try one of these plant-based cooking components next:
Couscous vs. Other Grains
Nutritionally, couscous is similar to many rices, grains and pastas. The biggest differences, in many ways, are the presence of gluten and the type of couscous (whole wheat vs. refined). In other ways, couscous is similar to (although maybe just a tad more unhealthy than) most rices, pastas and grains.
For example, white rice is higher on the GI than couscous (ranking as a high-GI food at 72), while brown rice is 15 points lower at 50. Sweet corn comes in at 48, while pearled barley is all the way down at 25. On the pasta side, couscous outranks many popular choices like fettuccine noodles (32), macaroni (50), white spaghetti (46) and whole grain spaghetti (42).
Regarding gluten, most pastas are similar to couscous in that they are able to form precisely because of the presence of gluten. However, rices are typically gluten-free, and grains are a toss-up. Some grains, like buckwheat, amaranth and quinoa, are gluten-free, while others, such as bulgur wheat , barley and rye, do contain gluten.
Because they look (and sort of taste) so similar, couscous is often compared to quinoa. In my opinion, though, there is no comparison.
While the possible benefits of couscous are limited at best, quinoa is a well-researched superfood. For example, quinoa nutrition can help aid weight loss efforts, may help to fight cancer, supports a healthy heart, contains plentiful amounts of antioxidants known as bioflavonoids , helps support digestive health, supports proper bone health and also may reduce the risk of diabetes.
When I have to pick, I choose quinoa every time. After all, what is couscous when you compare it to a powerhouse like quinoa?
11 Couscous Side Dishes for the Ultimate Fall Meal
Couscous is one of the fastest and easiest ways to make a meal complete. A North African staple, couscous is actually made from semolina, a type of wheat, and comes in a variety of forms. You can choose from instant (pour boiling water in and let sit for five minutes – voila!) and the more traditional non-instant that requires more cooking time. Israeli couscous, also known as pearl couscous, is a toasted pearl-shaped nutty tasting gem also made from semolina. No matter what type you choose, if you make any of these 11 types of couscous side dishes for fall, you won’t be disappointed.
1. Israeli Couscous with Saffron, Pine Nuts, and Currants
This is a great make-ahead recipe that has crunch from the pine nuts and a hint of sweetness from the currants (or substitute raisins, if you can’t find them at the store). Saffron adds both flavor and a terrific red hue. Get the recipe here.
2. Israeli Couscous with Apples, Feta, and Mint
Fresh mint, lemon juice, and creamy feta make for a fresh side dish that you can serve for lunch or dinner. Substitute pears instead of apples depending on the season and make extra to serve the next day this recipe makes for great leftovers. Get the recipe here.
3. Sweet and Savory Moroccan Couscous
Moroccan couscous with prunes, raisins, almonds, chickpeas, and seasoned with turmeric, black pepper, cumin, sweet paprika, and salt is a delicious combination that pairs well with grilled meat.
Get the recipe here.
4. Browned Butternut Squash Couscous
Our recipe for butternut squash couscous is a great way to get some vegetables into your meal and add a little color. Almonds, scallions, and cumin add flavor to the whole-wheat couscous, but you can use any type of couscous you have on hand. Get our Browned Butternut Squash Couscous recipe.
5. Couscous Stuffed Mushrooms
If you’re looking for a wholesome vegetarian side dish, look no further. Use Portobello mushrooms and stuff them with a mixture of couscous (any kind you have on hand), raisins, cinnamon, onion, pine nuts, parsley, and some salt and pepper. Get the recipe here.
6. Israeli Couscous with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes, Parmesan, and Lemon Vinaigrette
Chowhound’s recipe for Israeli couscous is packed with fresh parmesan, roasted cherry tomatoes, and a lemon vinaigrette made with olive oil and any combination of fresh herbs that you have. Get our Israeli Couscous with Roasted Cherry Tomatoes, Parmesan, and Lemon Vinaigrette recipe.
7. Roasted Winter Vegetable Couscous
This is a dish that takes very little effort for a nutritious and filling side dish that has endless variations. Roast some winter vegetables (squash, turnips, sweet potatoes, etc) and flavor with dried herbs. Use whole-wheat couscous to keep it as healthy and protein-packed as possible. Get the recipe here.
8. Cilantro Almond Couscous
A wonderfully simple combination, this couscous pairs beautifully with grilled lamb, fish, or any type of meat. The Middle Eastern flavors are subtle but add some pizzazz to plain old couscous. Get our Cilantro Almond Couscous recipe.
9. Couscous with Kalamata Olives
This Greek take on couscous is a great pairing for roasted lamb or served with a salad. Grape tomatoes, red onions, parsley, feta, garlic, and whole wheat couscous make for a healthy and filling side dish.
10. Mediterranean Couscous Salad
A hummus dressing made from olive oil, white wine vinegar, salt, pepper, and hummus mades for an interesitng addition to this couscous salad. Mix in roasted, salted pistachios, scallions, feta, and red bell pepper for a complete Mediterranean inspired feast. Get our Mediterranean Couscous Salad recipe.
11. Couscous Cakes
These are an easy way to make a side dish that’s a little more interesting than just a pile of grains. Make a couscous cake (similar to a veggie burger) and change up the flavorings, spices, and add-ins. Get the recipe here.
Detailed measurements and instructions can be found on the printable recipe card at the bottom of the page.
Moroccan spice blend
- Spices –Ground cumin, cinnamon, ginger, paprika, allspice, coriander, turmeric, cayenne pepper, cardamom.
- Seasoning –Salt and pepper.
- Moroccan spice blend –Listed above, all ground and whisked together thoroughly.
- Chicken –Breasts boneless and skinless.
- Olive oil –A neutral tasting oil to brown our chicken and veggies in.
- Onion –We want a large onion that cooks down well like white or yellow.
- Garlic –Use as much or little as you like.
- Raisins –Golden raisins as they’re nice and sweet.
- Broth –Chicken broth low sodium or no sodium added.
- Chickpeas –Just an entire can for some great chew and lots of fiber.
- Tomatoes –I used fire roasted tomatoes, they may not be traditional but they pack so much more flavor than regular diced tomatoes.
- Couscous –I used pearl couscous today, more information written below.
- Kale –Rinsed thoroughly and chopped. No need to massage the kale as we are going to cook it down.
Making Real Moroccan Couscous
Rate or Review
Reviews (3 reviews)
This was my first time attempting couscous at home. Thank for the painstaking details: the results were well worth the effort. Due to a lack of time, I made two shortcuts: I skipped the homemade harissa for store-bought, and I didn't attempt steaming the couscous grains. Rather, I simply poured 3 tbsp amounts of the hot, seasoned water to the couscous grains (which I had first rubbed with the olive oil). After each addition of water, I rubbed the grains until the water had been absorbed. After 3 rounds, the couscous was ready. I'm not sure this will work for everyone, but the results were far better than the quick cooking method I've relied on in the past. Many thanks again for sharing this gem of a recipe!
First time I have made traditional couscous - my French friend gave me some meat after they slaughtered a lamb and she'd written 'couscous' on the bag. In fact when she said "I've got some couscous in the freezer for you" I thought she was giving me a ready meal LOL I had no idea what I was letting myself in for when I said I'll find a recipe on the web and why don't you join us?Thank you for posting this recipe!! Not as complicated as it first appears especially if you print it out and laminate it. The evening was a total success thanks to this recipe. The flavours are wonderful, very complex and interesting. The couscous was sooooo much better cooked this way.Many thanks
Absolutely wonderful. A lot of work (as he mentions in the article). I have made this recipe several times over the past few years. Very good this time of year (autumn/winter). Definitely something to enjoy with friends and/or family.