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Simply Nutritious, Quick and Delicious

Does couscous belong in the grain or pasta family?

Bowl of couscous with slices of red bell peppers and basil

Couscous (pronounced kūs kūs) has made a notable mark in North American cooking. While many believe that it is a type of grain, such as rice or barley, it is actually a type of pasta. (Hint: some grocery stores may stock couscous in the pasta section, but most will often stock it in the grain section, next to the rice).

Couscous is pasta made from semolina flour mixed with water. There are three different types of couscous: Moroccan, which is the smallest; Israeli or pearl, which is about the size of peppercorns; and Lebanese, the largest of the three and about the size of a pea. Since most of the couscous sold in North America is “instant”, which means it’s already been steamed and dried, it’s quick and easy to prepare. Simply pour boiling water over couscous, and let it stand about 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork. 

Couscous has tremendous flexibility in it’s many uses. As a side dish, it can be used as a cold salad or warm pilaf, add protein and vegetables and it becomes a main dish, use it in soups and stews, make it into an oatmeal-like dish for breakfast or a pudding for dessert. Like most pastas, couscous contains mostly starch, but look for whole-wheat couscous for more fiber and other nutrients.


Black Bean and Couscous Salad

½ cup low sodium chicken or vegetable broth

½ cup uncooked couscous

1 ½ Tablespoons vegetable or olive oil

1 ½ teaspoons apple cider vinegar

½ teaspoon ground cumin

1 Tablespoon fresh lime juice

1 can (15 oz.) low sodium black beans, drained and rinsed

½ medium onion, minced

½ red or green pepper, minced

1 cup frozen corn, thawed (or 1/2 cup canned whole kernel corn)

Salt and pepper to taste, if desired

2 Tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)

Wash hands. In a small bowl, bring broth to a boil. Stir in couscous, cover and remove it from heat. Let stand for 5 minutes. In a large bowl, whisk together oil, vinegar, cumin and lime juice. Add beans, onion, pepper and corn; stir. Fluff the couscous well with a fork, breaking up any chunks. Add to beans and vegetables, and mix well. Add salt, pepper and cilantro, if desired. Refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours. Eat within 3 to 5 days.

Yield: 8 servings


Nutrition Facts (per serving): 110 calories, 1 gram fat, 118 milligrams sodium, 21 grams carbohydrate, 5 grams fiber, 5 grams protein


Recipe Source: USDA MyPlate Recipes,


This blog post first appeared in the Pantagraph on February 3, 2021.