How to Cook Couscous

By TBSP Kitchens
Created March 10, 2017
If you’re new to couscous, check out our tips on how to make the perfect couscous dish. MORE+ LESS-

Worried about cooking couscous? Don’t be…it’s easy. Here’s how!

First off, did you know couscous isn’t a grain? Many people think it is, but those little granules are actually a type of pasta, made from semolina flour.

Couscous is a traditional staple of North and West Africa and the Middle East, but it is eaten in many other parts of the world, too. It’s a great companion to meat, stews and veggies of all kinds.

Traditionally, couscous is steamed, but that takes some time. We're going to show you easy ways to get couscous ready to serve quickly — in ten minutes or less.


There are several different kinds of couscous:

  • What we think of as the standard couscous, made from semolina wheat.
  • Whole wheat couscous, which uses the whole grain.
  • Israeli couscous (also called Middle Eastern couscous or pearl couscous) which is larger and pearl-shaped. Technically, Israeli couscous is closer to orzo pasta, but we'll be ignoring that little detail and learning how to cook it anyway.


The secret to making fluffy couscous every time is all in the couscous-to-water ratio. If you’re making traditional wheat or whole-wheat couscous the general rule is to use 1 – 1/2 cup of water for every 1 cup of couscous. For cooking pearl couscous, you want to reduce the water to 2/3 cup for every 1 cup of couscous. Keep in mind that 1 cup of dry couscous will turn into 4 servings after you cook it, so don’t overdo it!


What you need to make wheat or whole-wheat couscous:

  • Water
  • Couscous

Directions for cooking wheat or whole-wheat couscous:

  1. Use a ratio of 1-1/2 cups of water per 1 cup of couscous. (Multiply as needed for larger volume.)
  2. Bring the water to a boil either on the stove or in the microwave.
  3. Pour the couscous into the boiling water, cover, and let sit for 5 to 10 minutes.
  4. When the granules have absorbed all the liquid, fluff the cooked couscous with a fork and serve.

You can add flavoring to the water before boiling, if you’d like. Any of these work well:

  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons butter

Or, instead of adding flavor to the water, substitute vegetable or chicken broth for the water instead!

Couscous is a great side dish to serve with proteins such as:

  • Salmon or other fish
  • Stir-fried vegetables with tofu
  • Pork chops
  • Chicken
  • Beef steaks

To amp up your couscous as a side or even a main dish, add ingredients such as:

  • Parmesan cheese
  • Cooked peas
  • Cracked pepper or lemon zest
  • Herbs like dill, rosemary, or thyme
  • Pine nuts, raisins or dried currants


Unlike regular wheat couscous, where the couscous absorbs a measured amount of water, Israeli couscous cooks in a pan of boiling water just like pasta. The water is then drained before serving.

Directions for cooking Israeli couscous:

  1. Fill a medium saucepan 2/3 full of water.
  2. Add some salt and a little olive oil, and bring the water to a boil.
  3. Add 1 cup of Israeli couscous to the boiling water and let simmer for about 8 minutes, until the couscous is al dente.
  4. Drain the couscous before serving it or adding other ingredients.

Serving suggestions:

  • Toss Israeli cousous with some butter and Parmesan cheese for a cheesy side dish.
  • Or use it like pasta, as a foundation to display a gorgeous red sauce or other toppings.
Couscous is one of the easiest dishes to make and one of the most delicious to enjoy!