Learn how to cook couscous perfectly with this simple recipe. It produces a fluffy, colorful, and perfectly seasoned meal or side dish in under 20 minutes! It’s super easy to customize and packed full of nutrients.
Couscous has to be one of the most versatile and inexpensive dishes I’ve ever added to my weekly dinner roster. Its mild flavor can be seasoned to your liking, and it pairs well with so many different veggies or proteins. It makes the perfect carby side dish that is a welcome change from rice!
Table of Contents
Why this recipe works
- It’s quick. Unlike rice and other grains, couscous rapidly absorbs moisture during the cooking process. I’m often strapped for time in the kitchen, which makes dishes like this so convenient!
- Light and healthy. This dish is low-calorie but high in essential nutrients. It’s the perfect thing to help balance out the family diet.
- Customizable. If you feel like your meals have been getting a bit repetitive, this is a great way to shake things up. Pair it with your favorite cuts of chicken, beef, or even seafood, or keep things vegan with your favorite veggies.
Here’s everything you will need to make this easy couscous dish:
- Couscous. A small wheat-based, granular type of pasta that is excellent at absorbing flavors during cooking. I used pearl couscous, which is the most common kind you can get (and the generic ‘couscous’ in any mainstream grocery store).
- Stock. I prefer chicken stock, but any stock will work well for this recipe.
- Spices. Adjusting your spices will allow you to put your signature stamp on this dish. I use cayenne pepper, smoked paprika, saffron, garlic powder, and onion powder.
- Vegetables. Use the diced vegetables of your choice. I like to add carrots, bell peppers, zucchini, and peas.
- Spinach. Chopped and stirred through before serving for some extra color and flavor.
- Extra virgin olive oil. To assist in non-stick cooking.
- Salt. To taste.
- Butter. I use a little butter while fluffing the couscous to help create a smoother texture.
How to cook couscous
What I love about this recipe is that it’s essentially a one-pan dish. All the delicious flavors get to meld together during the entire cooking process.
Step 1 – Cook the couscous. Add stock to a large pot and bring it to a boil over medium heat. Reduce to a simmer and add olive oil and sea salt. Add the couscous and allow it to cook for 1 to 2 minutes before removing it from the heat. Allow it to sit for 5 to 6 minutes.
Step 2 – Cook the vegetables. While the couscous rests, saute the diced vegetables until tender and set aside.
Step 3 – Season the couscous. After all liquid has been absorbed, fluff the couscous with a fork and add the spices. Mix well to evenly distribute all spices. Stir in the butter while the couscous is still warm.
Step 4 – Heat and serve. Bring the couscous back to the stove, add the vegetables, mix, and cook the couscous for another 1-2 minutes on low heat to let the flavors marry. Top the couscous with chopped spinach and serve.
Recipe tips and variations
- Maintain the 1:1 liquid ratio. Use one cup of water or stock for every cup of couscous, this will ensure a perfect consistency if you need to scale the recipe up or down.
- Toast the couscous. Couscous can be toasted in a large skillet until lightly golden (about 3 minutes) before cooking to enhance its savory, nutty flavor.
- Add some fresh herbs or citrus. If you’re looking for a more aromatic dish, try adding basil, parsley, cilantro or mint. You could also squeeze some lemon juice over it right before serving.
- Prep in advance. This is a great dish to use for meal prepping. I like to make large batches that I can portion off and freeze for convenient, nutritious meals throughout the busy week.
To store: Transfer any leftovers to an airtight container as soon as it cools and refrigerate it for up to 4 days.
To freeze: Place the couscous into freezer-safe, airtight containers and store in the freezer for up to 3 months. Let it thaw overnight in the fridge before reheating.
To reheat: Add to a pot on the stove over low-medium heat. Add a splash of water or stock to prevent it from drying out and heat until warmed all the way through.
I like to serve couscous as a wholesome side dish to some protein of some sort. Here are some favorites-
- Pan seared salmon– The flaky and crisp salmon is perfect to enjoy with mouthfuls of couscous in between.
- Air fryer chicken breast– Lean and healthy; cook this chicken up while the couscous is cooking.
- Air fryer chicken thighs– Same as the chicken breast, but this is a little juicier.
- Peruvian chicken– The green sauce I serve with this chicken is perfect for soaking up leftover couscous pearls.
- Sirloin steak– Nothing beats a well cooked steak.
- Moroccan chicken– This is my family’s favorite dish to pair with couscous.
Frequently asked questions
Yes, it definitely be eaten cold, and it’s commonly used as the base for couscous salads or side dishes.
Yes! Any kind work with this recipe. Moroccan couscous is the most common variety but you could also try Israeli couscous which has a slightly larger pearl shape.
How To Cook Couscous
- 1 1/2 cups couscous
- 3 cups chicken broth
- 1 teaspoon olive oil
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon saffron
- 2 tablespoon unsalted butter can sub for olive oil or oil of choice
- 1 cup mixed vegetables i used zucchini, bell pepper, carrots, and peas
- In a large pot, add the chicken broth and place over medium heat. Bring it to the boil.
- Once boiling, reduce to a simmer, add the olive oil and salt, and mix well. Add the dry couscous and cook for 1-2 minutes before removing from the heat. Allow the couscous to sit for 5-6 minutes or until most of the liquid has been absorbed.
- While this is happening, saute the vegetables in a skillet until tender.
- After the liquid has been absorbed, fluff the couscous with a fork and add the cayenne pepper, smoked paprika, garlic powder, onion powder, and saffron and mix very well. Stir through the unsalted butter until the couscous is coated.
- Add the couscous to the skillet with the vegetables and mix until combined.
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