Couscous is a dish that originated in Africa, but it’s become popular around the world. There has been a bit of a debate about what couscous is – is it a type of grain like rice, or is it pasta?
It doesn’t look like it, but couscous technically is a type of pasta! It’s made of small balls of semolina, the same type of flour used to make most types of pasta.
We’ll explain more about what couscous is, how it’s made, and answer a lot of common questions in this article.
What is couscous?
Couscous is a dish that originated in North Africa but has become popular around the world, including in the United States.
Couscous is made of tiny steamed balls of semolina flour, which is a type of flour used to make pasta. (Semolina flour is a coarsely ground version of durum wheat, a type of flour high in protein and gluten.)
How is this dish made? First, semolina is moistened and tossed with finer ground wheat flour until small pieces of dough form. The small dough pieces are then dried and are then quickly steamed. When you buy couscous in stores, it might be labeled as “quick cooking” or “instant”, which means it’s been partially steamed to shorten the cooking time at home.
Is couscous a pasta?
Many people mistake couscous for a grain similar to rice, or a pseudo-grain like quinoa (a pseudo-grain is something that resembles grains nutrition-wise, but is something else – in quinoa’s case, it’s a tiny seed).
However, couscous is technically a pasta – it’s just in really small pieces!
Some stores sell couscous in the pasta aisle, while others might stock it in the grain aisle next to rice since it’s often mistaken as a grain.
How is couscous served?
Couscous is often served as a side dish or as a replacement for grains. It can be prepared simply with butter and salt and can be cooked in broth to add more flavor.
In Morocco, couscous is served on a communal platter where it’s formed into small balls and dipped into broth or stew.
You can also use couscous as a stuffing, in cold salads, and a variety of other dishes.
Couscous is made with semolina, a type of flour made from durum wheat. Because it’s made from wheat, it’s not gluten-free.
If couscous is made with vegetable broth instead of chicken broth and doesn’t contain butter, it’s vegan-friendly.
Couscous is made from wheat, which is not a Paleo-friendly food.
Couscous is high in carbs because it’s made from wheat, so it’s not keto-friendly.
Couscous is a type of pasta, not a type of grain like rice. It’s often mistaken as a grain but is actually tiny pieces of pasta dough.
Couscous is often mistaken as a whole grain, but it’s typically made from non-whole-wheat flour so it’s not a whole grain. Couscous contains slightly more nutrients than refined all-purpose flour, but it’s not considered as healthy as whole grains.
For a healthier option, you can choose whole wheat couscous which is made from whole wheat flour.