Is Couscous Gluten Free?

By: Bob's Red Mill | March 1 2022

Couscous, a delicious cross between pasta and rice, is a popular menu item. And while you may be interested in trying this enticing dish, if you suffer from food allergies, then you'll likely want to learn more about it first. As more and more individuals choose to begin a gluten free diet, traditionally gluten-based foods are being adapted, making finding gluten free meals more effortless than ever before. If you're interested in learning more about couscous and if it falls on the list of gluten free foods, continue reading. In this article, we'll cover what couscous is and how it's made, as well as gluten free couscous alternatives that you can begin cooking with today. 

Does Couscous Contain Gluten?

Is couscous gluten free? Simply put, traditional couscous is not gluten free. Couscous is typically made from semolina, aka wheat, which is one of three grains that contain gluten—barley and rye being the other two. However, even though couscous is made directly from a gluten-containing grain, it's commonly mistaken for a gluten free ingredient in restaurants. So, the next time you're searching for a gluten free option and happen to see couscous on the menu, we'd recommend opting for a different dish. While couscous does contain gluten, that doesn't mean that it's terrible for you. In fact, couscous has several benefits. As a source of plant-based protein, many vegetarian dishes are often made with couscous to boost nutrition. It's tasty, easy to make and most people can enjoy couscous as long as they don't have an allergy to it.

Gluten Free Alternatives to Couscous

Cauliflower rice in a bowl

Now that you know that couscous contains gluten, you might be wondering how you can turn couscous-based recipes into gluten free ones. Luckily there are several gluten free alternatives to couscous that you can use to create mouthwatering dishes. To help you find the ideal substitute for your recipe, we've rounded up a few of our favorites.


Plain quinoa makes for an excellent substitute for couscous. Similar in look, taste and texture, it's an easy way to recreate many couscous recipes. When substituting couscous for quinoa, you'll want to ensure that the type of quinoa you're purchasing is certified gluten free. At Bob's Red Mill, our Organic Quinoa is handled exclusively in our dedicated gluten free facility and tested for gluten free integrity.


Though sorghum isn't an identical substitute for couscous, it is pretty close. Sorghum has a similar round shape, slightly larger than the typical couscous granule. Additionally, its hearty and nutty flavor will add a bit of zing to your dishes. When cooking with sorghum, we recommend reviewing the rest of the ingredients in your recipes beforehand to ensure that the flavors complement each other.

Short-Grain Rice

Naturally gluten free, short grain rice is easy to swap into any couscous dish. Though it has a slightly stickier texture, its similar shape and adaptable nature make it easy to recreate your favorite recipes in a gluten free fashion.

Riced Cauliflower

Riced cauliflower is an excellent option if you're looking for a low-carb and gluten free alternative to couscous. In recent years, riced cauliflower has grown in popularity, making it much more accessible and widely available. In addition, its neutral flavor and similar texture mean that it will work well in nearly any couscous recipe.

Naturally Gluten Free Grains

Instead of re-creating a couscous-based recipe, you might want to opt for another type of dish altogether. Grains and grain-based ingredients like brown rice, risotto rice and buckwheat are naturally gluten free and can be safely enjoyed by individuals with celiac disease. That being said, when ordering these dishes at a restaurant, it's necessary to ensure that safe gluten free preparation processes were followed. Cross-contamination, unique recipes and improper labeling are ways that a gluten free dish can quickly turn into a gluten-containing one. We recommend asking about the ingredients and preparation process before selecting a gluten free item from a restaurant menu. 

Gluten Free Couscous-Like Recipes

Whether you're following a gluten free diet or cooking for someone who is, having an abundance of gluten free recipes on hand is an excellent way to ensure that you always have something to cook up. To help you create a weekly menu worth drooling over, we've rounded up four of our favorite gluten free dishes that are similar to couscous sans the gluten.

Easy Quinoa Pilaf

Easy Quinoa Pilaf

When putting together a dinner menu, finding appetizing sides is arguably one of the most crucial steps. Sides are an excellent way to complement a tasty meal and can turn a good meal into a great one. Because of its quick-cooking time, couscous is a "go-to" side for many dinner hosts. However, it's not ideal when cooking for individuals with a gluten allergy. If you're searching for a gluten free side that tastes similar to couscous, we recommend following this recipe for Easy Quinoa Pilaf.

Easy to make and overflowing with flavor, this quinoa dish is sure to be a hit. Our Bob's Red Mill Organic Quinoa Grain maintains the same quick-cooking nature as couscous and is packed full of protein, fiber and flavor. Plus, it's almost irresistible when mixed with various vegetables and spices.

Honey Lime Millet Salad


One of our favorite ways to prepare couscous is turning it into a delicious salad. Whether you're following a gluten free diet, or simply hoping to add variety to your menu, several gluten free options can be used to create a salad with a similar texture—millet being one of the most common. Though often confused with a grain, hulled millet is a seed that cooks quickly and has a sweet, mild and nutty flavor. It is an excellent alternative to couscous and rice in pilafs and can create a flavorful salad like this Honey Lime Millet Salad.

An ideal way to bring all of your favorite flavors together, this summer-inspired salad is loaded with fresh produce like peppers, corn, zucchini, tomatoes and fresh herbs. Complete with a tangy, homemade dressing, it's a fun and unique dish to surprise your gluten free guests with. 

Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Sage Pesto

Though couscous may have a rice-like texture, it's a pasta-based dish. The wheat flour used to create couscous provides a rich and filling nature that pasta enthusiasts love. If you're craving a pasta-like dish sans gluten, then we have just the recipe for you. This warm and inviting Sweet Potato Gnocchi With Sage Pesto will help you create a gluten free dish that everyone will be talking about.

Though traditional gnocchi is combined with gluten-based ingredients, this sweet potato gnocchi is made by combining sweet potatoes with our Gluten Free 1-to-1 Baking Flour. The sweet potato gnocchi is then tossed into a unique pesto made with sage, parsley, basil and hazelnuts. 

Roasted Asian Style Vegetables with Quinoa

Roasted Asian Style Vegetables with Quinoa

The next time you're tasked with making a gluten free dish that's overflowing with a fluffy and chewy texture, we recommend substituting couscous for quinoa. Though quinoa is considered an ancient grain, like millet, it's a seed that is entirely gluten free. Fluffy in nature, quinoa shares a similar texture, size and shape to couscous and can be combined with nearly all of the same things. So, to create a quinoa-based dish that gluten free and non-gluten free guests will enjoy, try making this Roasted Asian Style Vegetables With Quinoa recipe.

A delicious combination of sweet and spicy flavors, it's packed with plant-based protein from the quinoa and overflowing with nutrients from roasted veggies. The ideal warm meal to cozy up with on cold evenings, this recipe is one that the entire family will enjoy.

Though couscous is not a naturally gluten free food, it's a healthy part of any diet unless you have celiac disease or a gluten allergy. In fact, couscous's nutritional information is pretty impressive. To learn more about the health benefits of couscous visit our article: Is Couscous Healthy? Top Couscous Nutrition Facts. From everyone at Bob's Red Mill, we wish a day full of whole foods and happiness.

Know of another gluten free couscous alternative that we didn't mention? We'd love to hear about the gluten free ingredients you use to create mouthwatering recipes. Share your favorite couscous alternatives with us in the comments below.

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