Where Is Couscous From?

By: Bob's Red Mill | February 13 2022

If you're a fan of grain-filled dishes, then you've likely heard of couscous before. Similar in taste and texture to rice, couscous can be used in many of the same ways. And, just as there are several different types of rice, there are also unique varieties of couscous. If couscous isn't yet a staple ingredient in your pantry, we're confident that after reading this article, you'll make some room for it. An excellent entree or side dish, couscous can be dressed up or down to meet your taste preferences. Yet, as unique as this ingredient is, it has an even more impressive history. If you're wondering where couscous is from or simply interested in learning more about it, continue scrolling to discover the answers to these questions and many more. 

What Is Couscous?

Couscous is a grain-based product that is made from semolina, and while many people often confuse it with grain itself, it's actually a type of pasta. Made into a dough that's tossed together until little balls are formed, couscous is a staple food in households worldwide and especially popular in African, Moroccan, Algerian and Tunisian cuisine. A versatile ingredient, couscous can be mixed with nearly anything to create a tasty dish. Fruits, vegetables and meats can be used to create an excellent side or flavorful main dish that will satisfy all types of taste buds. Though it is similar in texture to rice, couscous cooks much quicker, making it the ideal option for nights when you want to create a quick and delicious meal.

Where Is Couscous From?

Marrocan tajine with couscous

While the exact details of when couscous first began are a bit blurry, we know it's been around since the 13th century as many 13th and 14th-century Arabic cookbooks contain couscous recipes. However, several sources dated even earlier than the 13th century elude to using this delicious ingredient and many food historians believe that it arose sometime between the 11th and 12th centuries.

So, where does this superfood come from? It depends on what type of couscous you're enjoying. Most couscous is made from durum wheat; the same grain used to make semolina flour. Durum wheat is most commonly cultivated in a region known as the Maghreb region, which contains countries like Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, Libya, Egypt and much of the Middle East. The invention of couscous is widely credited to the Berbers, an ethnic group indigenous to Northwest Africa. However, instead of "couscous," it's commonly referred to as sekrou or seksu. In the eastern Mediterranean, another unique name for this pasta-like dish is used, called maftūl or maghribiyya. 

Varieties of Couscous

Since couscous is popular in several different cultures, there are many kinds. However, the three most common types of couscous include Moroccan, Lebanese and Israeli, with Moroccan being the most common and often purchased.

So, what sets these types apart from each other? Moroccan couscous is made up of much smaller granules than other types. Its small size means that it cooks quickly and can be prepared in just minutes. Israeli couscous granules are much larger than Moroccan ones, and the tiny orbs of pasta produced have garnered it the nickname "pearl couscous." This type of couscous features a nuttier flavor and chewy texture and takes about 10 minutes to cook thoroughly. Lastly, Lebanese couscous, the least common of the three, is the largest, and its size earns it a longer cooking time.

Though traditional couscous, found in Middle Eastern countries, is typically handmade, making couscous from scratch is a long process that requires a lot of skill. To create a more readily available couscous, the varieties found in grocery stores are made by a machine and processed with steam to ensure that they're easy to create and cook.

Where to Buy Couscous

Because couscous is a traditional Middle Eastern food, it's widely available in many grocery stores and online and is not hard to find. When searching for couscous to purchase, we recommend looking for one made with natural and wholesome ingredients. At Bob's Red Mill, we offer several types of couscous to ensure that your recipes come out just as intended. Golden Couscous, Whole Wheat Pearl Couscous, Tri-Color Pearl Couscous and Traditional Pearl Couscous can all be purchased on our website and delivered directly to your doorstep. To help you better understand which variety of couscous will work best in your dishes, here's an overview of each.

Golden Couscous

Our Bob's Red Mill Golden Couscous is excellent for couscous beginners. Made of par-cooked, coarsely ground durum wheat, it cooks quickly and makes for a fantastic side dish. Or, if you're craving a quick, mellow-tasting breakfast, turn our golden couscous into a cereal. 

Whole Wheat Pearl Couscous

Care to boost the nutrition of your meal by filling your plate with whole grains? Whole Wheat Pearl Couscous is a delicious way to do so. Made with toasted wheat flour, when cooked, these couscous pearls produce a great texture and nutty flavor.

Tri-Color Pearl Couscous

Level up this week's menu items by adding tri-color pearl couscous to the list of ingredients. Delicious and daring, our Tri-Color Pearl Couscous features red and green colors derived from natural tomato and spinach. Use it to create a mouthwatering side dish or replace traditional pasta. 

Traditional Pearl Couscous

Our Traditional Pearl Couscous is a conventional variety often called for in recipes. Its quick cook time of just ten minutes and small size make it easy to work into any cuisine. So enjoy it just as you would pasta or rice to spice up this week's dinner.

How to Store Couscous

couscous in a jar

The way you store couscous largely depends on if it's uncooked or cooked. Uncooked couscous will remain fresh for a long time if stored in a well-sealed container in the pantry. On the other hand, if you've had your couscous for a long time and suspect that it may have spoiled, we recommend smelling it to ensure that it hasn't gone bad before using it in your meals.

Cooked couscous will last up to three days in the refrigerator when stored in an airtight container. But, when combined with other ingredients that spoil quickly, it may not last that long. 

How to Use Couscous

Couscous can create several different types of dishes ranging from salads to vegetable bowls. To help you begin creating mouthwatering couscous-filled meals, we've rounded up a list of our favorite couscous recipes.

Moroccan Couscous

Moroccan Couscous

If you're a fan of herbs and spices, you're bound to love this Moroccan Couscous recipe. It's loaded with flavorful ingredients like garlic, onion, cumin, ginger, coriander, cardamom, turmeric and cinnamon and will have your taste buds going wild. Though all of these spices can be added individually, we recommend substituting them with one tablespoon of a Moroccan spice blend if you're running short on time or don't have them all on hand. A simple yet flavorful recipe, this couscous dish is easy to make and out-of-this-world delicious.

Couscous with Chicken Sausage and Mixed Veggies

Craving a meal with a bit of substance? We suggest whipping up this Couscous with Chicken Sausage and Mixed Veggies. An easy-to-make meal, this recipe only calls for five ingredients: Traditional Pearl Couscous, chicken broth, frozen mixed vegetables, sausages and unsalted butter. It is an excellent dish when served alongside a salad and packed with whole grains, protein and nutrients. Eat it with your family and friends, or enjoy it as a weeknight meal on your own. Everyone who tries this dish is sure to love it.

Fresh Cherry and Pepita Golden Couscous Salad

Though there are many ways to make couscous, one of our favorites is by turning it into a delicious salad. This easy-to-make Fresh Cherry and Pepita Golden Couscous Salad is the perfect accompaniment to entrees like grilled meat and veggies. Easy to customize, you can change the ingredients of this salad as needed to ensure that it meets all of your nutritional needs. 

Now that you know a little more about couscous, it's time to see what all of the hype is about. Start cooking with couscous by choosing from one of the recipes above or visit our online recipe book to create a delicious dish of your own. Or, if you're curious to learn even more about this superfood ingredient, check out our articles: Is Couscous Healthy? Top Couscous Nutrition Facts and Best Vegetarian Couscous Recipes to Make at Home. We can't wait to see the many flavorful recipes you come up with. From the Bob's Red Mill family to yours, we wish you the best on your couscous cooking journey! 

Do you love cooking with couscous? We'd love to hear more about the many couscous-based recipes you create in the kitchen. Share your favorites with us in the comment below.


  1. Rhysis Cupps
    This comment isn’t intended for publication, just to alert you to a typo above: “… if you've had your couscous for a long time and suspect that it may have spoiled, we recommend selling it to ensure that it hasn't gone bad before using it in your meals.”. Selling.
    1. Elisabeth Allie
      Ha ha, thank you!

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