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Cool Cooking with Couscous

For quick and simple side dishes, salads and even entrées, look no further than couscous! A favorite during hot weather, couscous cooks so quickly, you’ll hardly heat your kitchen. For many recipes, you simply pour boiling water over the couscous, let it sit for a few minutes and then stir to fluff. Although perfect for the novice cook, experienced chefs around the world often prepare some truly amazing, elaborate couscous dishes.

Couscous isn’t a grain but is actually tiny bits of dried pasta made from the endosperm, the starchy white part of the hard Durum wheat berry. The softer wheat semolina is called Farina and that is where cream of wheat comes from. Remember, neither farina nor couscous is the same thing as bulghur, which is cracked whole wheat.

Couscous can be made from either whole wheat or refined (white flour) wheat. The whole wheat version has nutritional advantages — similar to choosing whole wheat pasta over white pasta. The most commonly available couscous is the refined version, but you can seek out the whole wheat variety. One thing to note is that couscous contains both wheat and gluten! This is critical information for people with allergies and sensitivities.

A native of North Africa, couscous was traditionally served topped with meat or vegetables. It’s popular around the world, from Morocco to Sicily, Algerian, Tunisia and France. While Moroccan couscous is used for most dishes, you can also find Israeli couscous, which is about 2-3 times larger, about the size of a peppercorn and it takes a little longer to cook, about 10 minutes. Lebanese couscous is larger still and takes about 25 minutes to cook.

Here are some of our favorite ideas, tips and recipes for serving couscous:

Got a quick couscous idea or a favorite recipe? Let me know.