I don’t think I ate couscous until I moved to London, but soon realised that couscous can be so versatile! It can be a brilliant side dish, which goes with practically anything or you can mix a few fresh ingredients in and you can turn it into a main meal.
The trick is to know how best to cook couscous without making it too soggy or too dry. After that it’s really easy to add to recipes. So today, I wanted to share with you my favourite tips on cooking couscous at home.
These days I use microwave or boiling water to cook my couscous, but sometimes, when we travel or stay somewhere else, I need to use a hob. That’s why I’ve included all the different options, depending on what situation you are in.
- Boiling water from a kettle method (from a kettle)
- Boiling on a hob method
- Boiling in a microwave
Preparing couscous by the no cook method
I was debating with myself, whether to share with you this option first, because why would you use any of the other methods if you know that this one works just fine!
So, here we go…
Boil water in the kettle, put your couscous in the bowl, top up with boiling water and add about 1 inch extra water on the top. Cover with a lid or a plate and leave for 5-10 minutes. Fluff up with a fork and add any extra flavours you like.
What’s the ratio of water to couscous?
This depends on how soft you want your couscous to be and what are you adding your couscous to. But if you want a fluffy, light and not too soggy couscous that you just mix into some vegetables and herbs, this is what I do:
Measure enough couscous for the amount of people you are cooking for. I usually use a handful as a measure per person. Add this to a bowl. When you are adding your boiling water, add extra 50% more than the amount of the couscous.
For example if you add your couscous to a tall glass, you can visually divide it into half and then add that as a extra level. If you are not sure, use a pencil to mark it on the outside of the glass. It’s basically 1.5 times more water or stock than the couscous, as the couscous absorbs the water.
Do you have to boil couscous?
No, not necessarily, but you need to give it a time to cook. So if you are using my ‘boiling water’ method and you simply pour boiling water over the couscous, you need to cover the bowl and then give it at least 5 minutes, so that the water has chance to soften the couscous.
Do you need to rinse couscous before cooking?
I never do this, but if you like, you can rinse couscous. It won’t harm it.
What can I add to couscous?
I normally keep the couscous plain, when I cook it and then add my flavours after that. But what I found taste really nice is to add a teaspoon of butter, pinch of salt and some freshly milled pepper to the couscous as I’m making it.
Other lovely ingredients you can choose to add in to spice up your couscous are fresh or dry herbs like basil, lemon, pine nuts, toasted almonds or sundried tomatoes.
If you choose to prepare the couscous on the hob by boiling in the saucepan, you have a little bit more options than when you use boiling water from a kettle. You can add vegetable, beef or chicken stock cube to the water to start flavouring the couscous as it’s being cooked.
Again, butter, oil, salt, milled pepper or even spices like mild chilli or curry powder can turn a plain couscous into a delicious meal.
Afterwards, couscous makes great side dish to meats and you can use it as base for a salad.
Is couscous better than rice?
Couscous is made from semolina flour, which is a white type of flour. Since there are so many types of rice, like wholegrain, wild or black rice, which are very nutritious, I’d happily argue that wholegrain rice is better than couscous.
But if we were to compare it with white rice, I’m not sure there is much difference, in terms of nutritional value.
Does cooked couscous go bad?
It’s best to make just what you need for immediate use. If you don’t use up everything, make sure that you place the couscous into a container with a lid (or cover the saucepan) and keep in the fridge. Leave the couscous to cool down completely, before putting it in the fridge and use within 2-4 days (the sooner the better).
If you keep couscous at room temperature for a long period of time, the spores present in the couscous (similarly like in a rice) produce toxins which can lead to food poisoning if eaten.
This means that if you are having friends round for a garden party and you serve a couscous salad as a side dish for your barbecue, it’s best to throw any leftovers in the bin at the end of the day as the toxin spores start to develop after few hours.
How much couscous do you need for one person?
I usually measure couscous by hand – a generous handful of couscous per person. Couscous will expand a little and you could end up with too much if you over do it.
If you want to use proper measures, than this is about 1/4 cup per person.