Getting dinner on the table is no easy feat, but keeping a box of couscous on hand makes it feel a little more manageable. I’m usually super busy on weeknights, but I have a snobby palate and don’t like skimping on dinner. That means I’m always on the lookout for quick and easy meals that will satisfy without taking up a ton of my time. Couscous definitely fits the bill. You can serve it up as simply or elaborately as you like, and it’s ready in just five minutes. Here’s everything you need to know to add this versatile grain to your diet.
What is Couscous?
Couscous is a kind of pasta made from crushed durum wheat. It’s a staple of North African cuisine and has been eaten for centuries. Traditionally couscous is made by hand, then dried and steamed before eating. These days, you can find it dried in grocery stores, often with a seasoning packet to add extra flavor.
How to Use Couscous
Couscous is a dinnertime savior in that it cooks in just 5 to 10 minutes. The basic recipe is simple: Add 1 1/4 cup boiling water, 2 tablespoons olive oil or butter, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to 1 cup of couscous in a bowl. Tightly cover and let sit for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork, and then serve.
If you want to turn your couscous into something a little more exciting, here are some of our favorite ideas.
Savory vegan couscous: Add 1 cup couscous, 2 tablespoons vegan butter, a vegan bouillon cube, and a teaspoon of poultry seasoning to a bowl. Add 1 1/4 cup boiling water, cover, and let sit 5 minutes.
Sesame couscous: Add 1 cup couscous, 1 tablespoon sesame oil, 1 tablespoon chili oil, 1 teaspoon sesame seeds, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 3 sliced scallions to a bowl. Add 1 1/4 cup boiling water, cover, and let sit 5 minutes. Add a dash of rice vinegar before serving if desired.
Lemon-herb couscous: Add 1 cup couscous, 2 teaspoons butter, the juice and zest of 1 lemon, 1 tablespoon chopped parsley, 1 tablespoon chopped basil, 1/4 teaspoon lemon pepper, and 1/2 teaspoon salt to a bowl. Add 1 1/4 cup boiling water, cover, and let sit 5 minutes.
Parmesan couscous: Sauté 4 minced cloves of garlic in 2 tablespoons of butter in a saucepan until garlic is fragrant, about 30 seconds to 1 minute. Add 1 cup of water and 1/4 white wine, bringing to a boil. Pour over 1 cup of couscous, cover and let sit for 5 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese and 1 tablespoon chopped parsley. Garnish with more Parmesan and a generous sprinkle of black pepper.
Fancy couscous (below): Add 1 cup couscous, 2 teaspoons butter, the zest of one lemon, 1 minced clove of garlic, and 1 tablespoon of chopped parsley to a bowl. Bring 1 cup of water, 1/4 cup white wine, and a pinch of saffron threads to a simmer. Add to the bowl. Cover tightly and let sit 5 minutes. Garnish with toasted pine nuts, lemon wedges, smoked paprika, and turmeric.
You can also top your couscous with beans, baked tofu, meat, and seafood to turn it into a heartier meal. The options are endless, so get creative.
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(Photos via Justina Huddleston / Brit + Co)