How to flavour couscous

This versatile grain is ideal as a blank canvas for lots of bold flavours, from one-pot stews to fresh summery salads. Here’s how to cook it to perfection.

Often thought of as a grain in its own right, couscous is actually made up of tiny balls of semolina, like pasta. It’s traditionally eaten in North Africa. The couscous you’ll find in the shops is ‘instant’, which makes it super easy and quick to cook – basically if you can boil a kettle, you can cook couscous. If you do come across a recipe that says to steam the couscous for hours this is referring to traditional ‘raw’ couscous, and the quick method can just be applied.

On its own, couscous makes a quick replacement for rice or other grains to serve as side dish, but it also can be mixed with a huge range of other ingredients to turn it into salads, stuffings or more interesting sides. Big balls of giant couscous, sometimes referred to as Israeli couscous, are also available – they’re cooked in boiling water like pasta.

Couscous is a versatile ingredient that’s great as a storecupboard standby. Once cooked, it keeps well, making it a good lunchbox option.

How to achieve the perfect fluffy couscous

How to flavour couscous

Cooking couscous is as easy as making a cup of tea, but there are a few secrets to getting it perfectly fluffy:

  • Don’t add too much liquid – as a guide, it’s the same volume of liquid as it is to couscous.
  • Don’t leave it for too long to clump. As soon as the couscous has soaked up the hot liquid, fluff it up to separate the grains.
  • You can toss the uncooked couscous in a drizzle of oil before adding the liquid, which coats each grain in oil and helps them stay separate. Alternatively, add a drizzle of oil as you fluff up the grains.
  • Use a fork to fluff the couscous – stirring it with a spoon can make it go clumpy.
  • Giant couscous isn’t meant to be fluffy, but you do want the balls to separate, so boil them like pasta and then toss in oil or butter to stop them sticking.

How long does it take to cook?

Couscous isn’t really cooked, more rehydrated. Depending on the brand you use, this can take anything from 5 to 15 mins, with an average of about 10 mins. Try a small amount – if it’s soft then you’re good to fluff, but if it’s at all crunchy, cover and leave for a few mins more before fluffing.

What utensils do you need?

How to flavour couscous

All you need to cook couscous is a heatproof bowl with a cover or some clingfilm to cover it with. Giant couscous is boiled like pasta for a few minutes then drained, so all you need is a saucepan and a colander.

Simple couscous recipe

Prep: 10 mins
No cook
Serves 4

  • 200g couscous
  • 200ml kettle-hot water or boiling vegetable stock
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  1. Tip the couscous into a heatproof bowl and pour over the water or stock.
  2. Cover with cling film or a lid and leave for 5-10 mins until the couscous is soft.
  3. Fluff the couscous up with a fork, drizzling with the olive oil, and season with salt and pepper if you like. The couscous is now ready to serve or use.

How long does cooked couscous keep for?

Once cooked, it will keep at room temperature for a few hours or in the fridge for three days. If the couscous has been mixed with other ingredients they might shorten its fridge life. Cooked couscous can be reheated in the microwave if you want it hot, or use it cold straight from the fridge. The same timings stand for cooked giant couscous.

How to flavour couscous

How to flavour couscous

Couscous is massively versatile when it comes to adding other flavours and can be used as a vehicle for lots of other ingredients:

  • Dried spices and herbs can be added to the raw couscous before pouring over the water.
  • The couscous can be ‘toasted’ in butter or oil before cooking to give it a nuttier flavour.
  • Once cooked, couscous pairs nicely with North African and Middle Eastern spices and ingredients. Fresh soft herbs like parsley, mint and coriander, tomatoes, spring onions, garlic, lemon, preserved lemon, olives, chilli, pomegranate, almonds and dried fruits are all good friends of couscous.
  • Another way to add lots of flavour to couscous is to cook it in the same tin as a chicken or piece of lamb has been roasted in while the meat rests. Add the couscous to the sticky tin, pour over the hot water or stock and cover – the couscous takes on a gravy flavour, ideal for serving with the roast.

Alternative options to couscous

Bulgur wheat and couscous are sometimes confused for one another and make a great replacement for each other, especially as bulgur can be cooked in the same way – it just takes longer. In salads, wild and brown rice work just as well, but are cooked differently.

Our top five couscous recipes

1. Chicken & couscous one-pot

How to flavour couscous

This flavoursome one-pot meal is perfect for fuss-free midweek entertaining.

2. 10-minute couscous salad

How to flavour couscous

This makes a great lunchbox filler for a day out and is equally good at home from the fridge. See our video above for step-by-step instructions on how to make this.

3. Moroccan tomato & chickpea soup with couscous

How to flavour couscous

This filling soup is healthy and packed with the flavours of North Africa: harissa, ginger, lemon and coriander.

4. Roast chicken with couscous & pine nut stuffing

How to flavour couscous

Delicious hot or cold and perfect for a picnic, this stuffed chicken will be a real family favourite.

5. Herby couscous with citrus & pomegranate dressing

How to flavour couscous

This colourful side dish goes beautifully with lamb chops or Middle Eastern-style dishes.

Check out our couscous recipe collection for more inspiration.

Discover nutritious couscous recipes, including vegetarian, vegan, meat and fish options. Try flavour-packed tabbouleh salads and sensational side dishes.

Showing items 1 to 24 of 24

How to flavour couscous

Grilled aubergine tabbouleh

A vegan tabbouleh with all the flavours of summer. The coconut and tahini dressing adds a creamy, nutty element to this winning couscous

How to flavour couscous

Lemony chicken stew with giant couscous

This healthy Moroccan-style one-pot can be slow-cooked and dished up at different times – ideal for busy households

How to flavour couscous

Pea falafels with minty couscous salad

Give falafel a makeover by using a mix of chickpeas and frozen peas, serve with couscous and a dollop of yogurt for a cheap but tasty meal

How to flavour couscous

Seafood tagine

Use a frozen mix of fish and shellfish to make this Moroccan stew, served over a zesty almond couscous

How to flavour couscous

Mint tea couscous

Whip up this quick and easy Moroccan inspired side dish in just 15 minutes – perfect with lamb, chicken or halloumi

How to flavour couscous

How to cook couscous

This versatile grain is ideal as a blank canvas for lots of bold flavours, from one-pot stews to fresh summery salads. Here’s how to cook it to perfection.

How to flavour couscous

Pomegranate chicken with almond couscous

Jazz up chicken breasts in this fruity, sweetly spiced sauce with pomegranate seeds, toasted almonds and tagine paste

This post may contain affiliate links. Read our disclosure policy.

This Lemon Couscous is one of the fastest, easiest side dish recipes! Plus it has a delicious bright flavor that pairs well with just about any main dish, it’s incredibly versatile too.

How to flavour couscous

Easy Lemon Couscous

This simple couscous recipe is just one of those must have recipes! And really after you’ve made it a few times you won’t need a recipe at all.

It’s so straightforward, easy to memorize and also easy to switch things up with other ingredients you have on hand (see ideas below).

With it’s delicious flavor and 10 minutes to finish it will quickly become a weeknight staple!

Pair with chicken, beef, lamb, pork, fish, shrimp, vegetables – options are endless.

Difference Between Moroccan, Israeli and Lebanese Couscous

While all are three types of couscous are traditionally made of durum semolina flour the size and texture are the main differences.

  • Moroccan couscous: This is the smallest type of the three. It cooks the fastest and has a soft, fine texture.
  • Israeli couscous: Also known as Ptitim, giant couscous, or pearl couscous. This type is quite a bit larger than moroccan couscous and takes longer to cook (approximately 10 minutes). It has a chewy texture.
  • Lebanese couscous: Also known as Moghrabeyah, this is the largest of the three types. It’s is about the size of peas and takes the longest to cook (about 15 – 20 minutes). This type also has a chewy texture.

How to flavour couscous

Lemon Couscous Recipe Ingredients

  • Extra virgin olive oil: Standard refined olive oil will work too it just wont have quite as much flavor.
  • Garlic: Only use fresh garlic here.
  • Chicken broth: Vegetable broth works great too.
  • Lemon: Zest before you halve and juice. Use a zester not a grater to zest or you’ll end up with a bitter flavor in the couscous coming from the white pith of the lemon.
  • Salt: Season to taste.
  • Parsley: You can use other herbs here, ideas are listed below.
  • Moroccan Couscous: Note that not all brands require the same amount of liquid. Refer to the back of the package to see if you need to adjust the amount of liquid.

How to flavour couscous

Scroll down below for full recipe with ingredient amounts and print option.

How to Make Couscous

  1. Heat olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat.
  2. Add garlic and saute until fragrant (not toasting and browning or it will be bitter!), about 20 seconds.
  3. Remove from heat, pour in chicken broth, lemon zest, lemon juice and season with salt to taste. Place over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.
  4. Pour in couscous, stir then remove from heat and immediately cover with lid. Let rest 4 minutes off heat.
  5. Add parsley and fluff with a fork. Serve warm.

How to flavour couscous


It’s delicious as is but when you want to switch it up try adding one of these:

Couscous is a quick alternative to rice, and this recipe couldn’t be easier. Parmesan cheese and lemon juice add just the right flavor to this versatile side dish.


Recipe Summary


  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 (10-ounce) package plain, uncooked couscous
  • ⅓ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ⅛ teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • Step 1

Bring 2 cups chicken broth and 1 tablespoon butter to a boil. Stir in 1 (10-ounce) package plain, uncooked couscous; cover and remove from heat. Let stand 5 minutes. Stir in 1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese, 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper. Fluff with a fork, and serve immediately.

Note: For testing purposes only, we used DiGiorno Grated Parmesan Cheese.

Reviews ( 6 )

Loved this recipe! Just made it as a quick lunchtime snack. I used whole grain couscous and it came out delicious!

Loved this recipe. We used French couscous and increase the amount to 12 oz, homemade bone broth, and doubled the cheese and lemon juice. We paired it with a slightly spicy tomato-saffron cod recipe, and it was delicious. The lemon gave the couscous and cheese a nice sharpness that worked so well with the tomato and white wine based sauce for the fish. Will definitely try pairing it with other recipes. Love, love, love this quick and simple recipe.

How to flavour couscous

This easy one-pot recipe for Moroccan Spiced Vegetable Couscous is delicious on its own or makes a flavorful side dish for Oven Fried Chicken or a nice juicy steak!

Why This Recipe Works

  • The aromatic combination of fragrant spicesmakes it a dish that packs a punch.
  • Browning the vegetablesinstead of just softening them adds an extra depth of flavor.
  • Cooking theCouscousin the stock and vegetable mixtureallows the tastes to infuse.

Deliciously Simple Couscous

Don’t you just love a quick and easy dish? I know I do! If you’re looking for a delicious side dish in a hurry, this vibrant recipe is unbelievably tasty, and on the table in just 30 minutes!

Peppadew Peppers

For a wonderful kick of flavor in this dish, I used Peppadew® Piquante Peppers

How to flavour couscous

If you aren’t familiar with Peppadew®, they are amazing little, crispy Piquante Peppers that have a fantastic sweet heat. I love cooking with them and once you try them, you will too!

What is Couscous?

How to flavour couscous

Couscous is often thought of as a grain, but although it may look like a grain, it’s actually pasta. This includes Israel couscous which is just a larger variety of couscous.

Couscous is a healthy alternative to white or brown rice as a cup of it has both fewer calories and carbohydrates.

How To Cook Couscous

Traditional couscous (white or whole wheat) cooks in a flash! Here’s how to do it:

  1. Measure a 1:1 ratio of couscous to water.
  2. Salt the water and bring it to a boil.
  3. Add the couscous, cover the pot, and remove it from the heat.
  4. Let it stand for 5minutes,
  5. Fluff it with a fork.

For this recipe, the couscous cooks in the stock and the spicy vegetable mixture for the best possible flavor.

For Perfect Couscous

This may seem like a no-brainer but read the package instructions. Different brands may vary on the proportions of liquid to couscous.

If the instructions don’t match the recipe you’re making – go by the package and adjust the recipe accordingly.

How To Make Moroccan Spiced Vegetable Couscous

Heat olive oil and add red onions, bell peppers and carrots.

How to flavour couscous

Cook until tender and browned.

How to flavour couscous

Add the garlic and cook another minute.

How to flavour couscous

Mix in the salt & pepper, paprika, ground coriander, turmeric, celery salt, cumin ground cinnamon, and cayenne pepper (if using). Stir-fry until fragrant (about a minute).

How to flavour couscous

Add the frozen peas and cook briefly.

How to flavour couscous

Add the piquante peppers (I use Peppadew), chickpeas, and stock.

How to flavour couscous

Stir in the couscous and chopped parsley to the hot stock. Leave to absorb the liquid (off the heat for about 5 minutes), and fluff before serving.

How to flavour couscous

Couscous is a perfect side dish to serve with just about anything. It goes great with any type of protein or roasted veggies. We love making this big batch and using the leftovers for dinner later in the week, which helps save a little time on those extra rushed nights.

How to flavour couscous

Perfect Couscous

Raise your hand if you’re constantly looking for a quick and simple side dish? I know I am!

While we always have plenty of steamed or roasted veggies, I feel like we always have some sort of “starchy” side too.

Our current favs include: rice pilaf, quinoa pilaf, twice baked potatoes, and roasted potatoes. Probably because they go great with just about anything.

During the past year or so, we’ve become hooked on couscous. It takes 10 minutes start to finish to make. Easy right?!

It’s great for when you’re in a hurry or just don’t feel like putting a whole lot of effort into dinner. We all have those nights!

We go through a container of Rice Select couscous every few months. It’s available at most well-stocked grocery stores, so I tend to grab it for consistency purposes. I go with what works.

This recipe is NOT intended for pearl couscous, so make sure you grab the teeny tiny stuff.

How to flavour couscous

How to cook couscous

Because we’re making this from scratch, we’re going to use a few things to really enhance the flavor of the couscous.

SAUTE. First, add either olive oil (for dairy free people like myself) or butter to a large skillet. Once it has melted, add minced shallot and let it cook until it’s translucent.

SEASON. Pour in low-sodium chicken broth along with salt, garlic powder, paprika, pepper, and freshly chopped parsley (the dried stuff works well too, just add half the amount called for below).

BOIL. Bring the liquid to a boil, add the couscous, stir, cover with a lid and remove it from the heat. Let it sit for 5 minutes. Yep, only 5 minutes! Remove the lid, fluff with a fork and it’s ready to be served. The couscous will be perfectly moist and incredibly flavorful.

Note. If you’re feelin’ extra fancy you can always sprinkle in a little grated parmesan or some toasted almonds.

How to flavour couscous

Couscous Tips

You DO NOT need to rinse your couscous before cooking it!

To save on time, buy pre-minced spices!

Be very gentle with your couscous. Do not treat it like rice. It needs to be broken up and fluffed after cooking.

How to flavour couscous

Storing Info

STORE any leftover couscous in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days. Reheat individual servings in the microwave.

To FREEZE cooked couscous let it cool completely before placing it in freezer safe bags or a freezer safe container for up to 3 months. Reheat it in the microwave when you’re ready to eat! We recommend freezing individual servings so that it makes for quick and easy meals in the future

One of the most versatile grains, cous cous is thought to have originated in North Africa between the 11th and 13th century. For centuries, cous cous was a staple starch in countries such as Algeria, Tunisia, Morocco and Libya, although it is now popular across the globe.

Made of crushed durum wheat semolina, cous cous is the perfect accompaniment to flavour-packed stews, soups, salads and tagines.

Read on to discover everything you need to know to make the perfect cous cous.

How to prepare cous cous

Learning how to cook cous cous is relatively easy. Firstly, boil the kettle and pour your cous cous into a heatproof bowl. For added flavour, you can crumble a stock cube over the cous cous before pouring over the boiled water (roughly 1cm).

Next, add a generous drizzle of olive oil (about 2tbsp) and the juice from half a lemon. Stir everything together and cover the bowl tightly with Clingfilm or a plate and leave for 10 minutes. After that, uncover your cous cous and use a fork to fluff up the grains. Once you’ve added any vegetables or herbs and spices, your cous cous is ready to eat!

How to season cous cous

Cous cous is the perfect blank canvas to take on both subtle and bold flavours. It’s also deliciously versatile, and can be enjoyed on its own as part of a minted cous cous salad, or served alongside a tender crown of roast lamb as part of a Moroccan inspired feast. In terms of herbs, cous cous pairs well with coriander leaf, fresh mint or parsley. It can also be spiced up with hot chilli powder, turmeric, or our unique blend of Moroccan Spice Mix for an authentically Middle Eastern flavour.

Now that you know how to make cous cous, why not explore our range of mouth-watering Moroccan recipes?

It would be a great healthy quick lunch for me and DS if only i could flavour it, but have no clue where to start with herbs and spices. How do i make it taste of something?! Gutted i can’t have the ready made stuff from the supermarket as i’m pregnant and would worry about eating it.

stock a good vege one and a good glug of olive oil. I use the liquid stuff(stock I mean) coriander and lemon or lime goes nicely, sometimes I”ll a dash of mint sauice too.

Dont put all the flavours in one batch though

Message withdrawn at poster’s request.

when you cook it, add a big knob of butter, then add lots of salt and pepper, olive oil, lemon juice if you want. lots and lots and lots of parsley and mint chopped up fine,then whatever you want, pinenuts raisins etc

Dry fry pine nuts until slightly browned, mix with the cous cous and a few raisins. Good with chicken & salad.

Califrau most of the ready ones are full of cack. i would not give them to my kids

Lemon juice, parsley, petit pois, grated carrot is my 4yo dd’s favourite combination.

Or with tinned mixed beans, garlic, chopped cherry tomatoes and spring onions?

Good knob of butter when you’re making it, then season with sea salt and black pepper.

finely chopped red pepper
sometimes finely chopped mild green chilli
finely chopped onion or shallot
juice of a lemon or a lime
chopped fresh coriander
EV olive oil

ummm . Sprinkle a little Marigold Swiss Vegetable Bouillon powder on it before pouring on the water. Not v sophisticated but does make it taste of something not too disgusting.

You can actually buy cous cous seasoning in pots at Tesco – next to herbs and spices.

Otherwise it’s really nice with roasted peppers mixed in, and some flavoured oil if you fancy it.

Also v quick. But is one of my shameful cooking secrets.

a little bit of tomato puree, mush it all the way through – also (already suggested I think) lemon juice, olive oil and black pepper

– look at kisir/tabbouleh recipes and substitute couscous for the bulgar

What are you serving it with jingleboo? It’s usually the sauce that adds the flavour (or at least that’s how they do it in Morocco). It needs something with it, a nice spicy tagine, a vegetable stew, somehing like that.

Or make it into a salad with lots of seasoning, olive oil, lemon juice, corriander, chickpeas, cut up salad veg, chunks of cooked sweet potato or butternut squash, a sprinkling of cinnamon and cumin, and a handful of raisins.

Oh and it may be frowned upon here on MN, but I always add some salt to the water, just like I would for rice or pasta.

My dp makes lovely cous cous. he uses veg stock. and then adds chopped tomato, cucumber, spring onions and seasons. it is gorgeous and healthy!!

Just make it with marigold stock then add some olive oil. Any chopped veg is nice in it if you can be bothered – as well as suggestions here, peppers, spring onions, red onion, sultanas, roasted veg, tomatoes. I also like it mixed with salad

How to flavour couscous

Couscous is a North African dish made from tiny steamed balls of semolina flour. Though we think of it and cook it as a grain, couscous is actually a type of pasta. It’s one of the easiest, fastest, most versatile side dishes you can make. And it’s especially wonderful with stews or saucy main dishes. Depending on which brand you buy, you’ll find that there’s some variation on the suggested proportions of liquid to couscous.

What you’ll need to make couscous

How to flavour couscous

How to make couscous

To start, bring the cooking liquid (preferably a flavorful chicken or vegetable broth) to a boil in a medium pot. Add a drizzle of olive oil, a pat of butter, and a little salt.

How to flavour couscous

Next, add the couscous. (I use 1-3/4 cups liquid to 1-1/2 cups couscous.)

How to flavour couscous

Take the pan off the heat, cover, and let the couscous steam for 5 minutes.

How to flavour couscous

When you lift the lid, the grains will appear flat in an even layer. Use a fork to fluff it up and break up the clumps for light and fluffy couscous. For a traditional Moroccan feast, try pairing this couscous with my Moroccan chicken tagine.

How to flavour couscous

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How to flavour couscous

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I’d love to know how it turned out! Please let me know by leaving a review below. Or snap a photo and share it on Instagram; be sure to tag me @onceuponachef.

Perfect Couscous

Couscous is made from tiny steamed balls of semolina flour. Though we think of it as a grain, it’s actually a type of pasta.


  • 1¾ cups low sodium chicken or vegetable broth (or water)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1½ cups (10 oz) couscous


  1. In a medium saucepan, bring the water (or broth), salt, butter, and oil to a boil. Stir in the couscous, cover tightly with a lid, and remove from heat. Let the couscous steam for 5 minutes. Use a fork to fluff the couscous and break up any clumps. Serve warm.
  2. Freezer-Friendly Instructions: The couscous can be frozen for up to 3 months. When ready to serve, reheat it in the microwave until hot.

Nutrition Information

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