Couscous has grown in popularity over the past few years, so you shouldn't have too much trouble finding it in most major supermarkets. The first stop in a grocery store should be in the rice and/or grains aisle. This is where couscous is usually stocked at most grocery stores.
If you can't find couscous there, next try the ethnic food section. Some stores group ethnic foods altogether or separately in different aisles. If you still can't find couscous, check the pasta aisle. It really shouldn't be there because couscous isn't really a pasta, but some supermarkets think it is best suited for that aisle. Finally, if all else fails, try the internet. You can find a wide variety of grocers online who sell all different types of couscous and at competitive prices.
What is Couscous?
Couscous is a food made of small, steamed balls that are made of wheat semolina. It originated in the North African region of the Sahara desert. It is a staple food in many Northern African countries including Morocco, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, and Algeria. It is often served alongside a stew, sauce, or meat. In some cultures, it can be served for breakfast or cooked with juice and fruit for a sweeter dish.
How to Make Couscous
Traditionally, fresh couscous is made by hand. Course semolina flour is mixed with water. By moving the hand in a circular motion over a sieve, the movement creates small beads. When the balls get pushed through the sieve it helps to standardize their size. The fresh couscous is then steamed and is ready to eat. Most couscous in stores is instant couscous and has been made by a machine. It is still mixed with water, stock, or other liquids to steam cook it.
Types of Couscous
Since couscous is a popular food in a number of cultures, there are many varieties. The three most common types of couscous include:
- Moroccan couscous: This is the smallest couscous, with each grain only a little larger than semolina. It cooks in just a few minutes.
- Israeli couscous: This is also called pearl couscous. It is much larger than Moroccan couscous and closely resembles pasta. It takes about 10 minutes to cook.
- Lebanese couscous: This type is also known as Moghrabieh couscous. It is the largest of the three types and takes the longest to cook.
Cooking with Couscous
While couscous is often thought of as a side dish or an accompaniment to thick, hearty meat stews, there are other ways to use couscous in the kitchen. You can use it as a filler in meat patties, a base for salads, an alternative to pasta, or a replacement for rice in recipes like stuffed peppers. Like rice or pasta, couscous will absorb the flavors of the liquid and spices you are cooking with. Couscous is a great pantry staple to have on hand because it is long-lasting, inexpensive, cooks in a matter of minutes, and is so versatile.