Simple 3-Ingredient Couscous

Couscous cooked in a pot
The Spruce
Prep: 5 mins
Cook: 10 mins
Total: 15 mins
Servings: 4 servings
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
144 Calories
0g Fat
30g Carbs
5g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 4
Amount per serving
Calories 144
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 0g 0%
Saturated Fat 0g 0%
Cholesterol 0mg 0%
Sodium 89mg 4%
Total Carbohydrate 30g 11%
Dietary Fiber 2g 6%
Total Sugars 0g
Protein 5g
Vitamin C 0mg 0%
Calcium 13mg 1%
Iron 0mg 3%
Potassium 75mg 2%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)

The word couscous is derived from Arabic, but the dish is typically considered part of North African cuisine which includes Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria. Still, it also plays a large role in Middle Eastern dishes.

But what is couscous exactly? Is it a grain? Is it a type of pasta? The short answer is that it is pasta. Basically, it is little balls of semolina. Or in the case of Israeli couscous, it is comprised of slightly bigger balls of semolina. But it's not to be confused with pastina, which is the smallest type of pasta made with wheat flour and is typically used in soups. Most grocery stores stock couscous with the grains and rice instead of the pasta section, so that is where you'll most likely find it. It's often used in the ways you'd use rice or quinoa (or another grain) with stewed meats and vegetables, served as a side dish, or as a base for a salad. In some countries, such as Egypt, couscous is infused with sweet flavors. When couscous is cooked right, it's fluffy and soft.

Making couscous by hand, as has been done since ancient times, is seriously labor-intensive and not necessary in this day and age. The versions sold in Western stores are machine-made, pre-steamed, and dried to allow for very quick cooking. In fact, five minutes is about all it takes for the tiny grains to steam once your liquid has come to a boil. You can cook couscous in water, but using chicken or vegetable broth is the most common flavor enhancement.


Watch Now: Easy, Three-Ingredient Couscous Recipe

"One of my absolute favorite ingredients is couscous. And there is no way you can go wrong with this recipe. I used vegetable broth instead of water for more flavor. It’s very healthy and quick, and you can store leftovers in the fridge for a few days." —Tara Omidvar

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A Note From Our Recipe Tester


  • 1 3/4 cups water, or chicken or vegetable broth

  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, less if using salted broth

  • 1 1/2 cups couscous

Steps to Make It

  1. Gather the ingredients.

    Ingredients for couscous
    The Spruce
  2. In a saucepan, bring water or broth to a boil.

    Water in a saucepan with couscous and salt
    The Spruce
  3. Add salt and stir. Add couscous and cover the pan. Remove from heat and allow to sit for about 5 to 6 minutes.

    Couscous boiling in a saucepan
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  4. Allow the couscous to absorb the water and then fluff with a fork. Couscous should be light and fluffy, not gummy.

    Fluffy cooked couscous in a saucepan
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  5. Serve as the base for a stew or as a side dish. Enjoy!

    Couscous in a bowl with pomegranate seeds and mint
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How to Store Couscous

You can keep couscous in the refrigerator, covered, for up to three to five days, depending on what else is cooked with it. Reheat with a few tablespoons of hot water or broth on the stovetop over low heat or in the microwave until it's hot all the way through.

Couscous can also be frozen. Take room temperature couscous and spread it out on a baking sheet in an even layer—this will prevent clumping from occurring while it freezes. Slip the sheet into the freezer and once the couscous has frozen, transfer it to a zip-close freezer bag or another sealed container. You can then reheat it in the microwave if you like, or cook the frozen couscous in a hot skillet with a little bit of olive oil and water until it's hot and fluffed up again.

What Can I Add to Couscous?

The possibilities are limitless as it pertains to couscous. It absorbs flavors well, but also has its own flavors and textures to bring to a dish. In North African cuisine, cooked couscous is usually the base for a stew with plenty of vegetables and some lamb or even chicken. But it also can be made into a dessert, common in Egyptian cooking, with cream, sugar, cinnamon, and raisins. Couscous makes a great side dish mixed with plenty of fresh parsley and some toasted pistachios for a satisfying crunch.