Pearl couscous, also known as Israeli couscous, and how to prepare it.

With my foolproof recipe, you can prepare pearl couscous like a pro. The preparation time for pearled couscous is only 15 minutes. Think of this as the simple, delicious side dish of your dreams.

Toasted and cooked Israeli couscous in a patterned bowl with fresh herbs and lemon zest sprinkled on top.

A common ingredient in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine is pearl couscous. This particular type of couscous may be known as Maftoul, Ptitim, Israeli Couscous, or Pearl Couscous depending on where you are in the world.

Compared to the much smaller Moroccan couscous, it is larger (like a pearl), chewier, nuttier, and just as versatile. For a quick and simple weeknight side dish that everyone will love, keep it simple like I do in this recipe with just a little lemon, olive oil, and parsley, or go big and make it the main course.

Use up those end-of-season vegetables and pile on the couscous with tomatoes, cucumbers, herbs, and spices to make a hearty Mediterranean salad. As the weather cools, you can also enjoy it warm in this recipe for Herbed Couscous and Roasted Cauliflower.

Consider using pearled couscous as a base for whatever is in your refrigerator. Only 15 minutes and some imagination are required.

Summary of Contents Pearl couscous in a bowl with a bag of The Mediterranean Dish Pearl Couscous in the background.

Describe pearl couscous

Despite its appearance as a grain, pearl couscous is actually a type of pasta. It is made of tiny spheres of durum wheat semolina flour that have been lightly toasted. It cooks quickly and can be dressed up in a variety of ways or served plain with just kosher salt, making it a practical side dish when you're in a hurry.

There are many flavoring options, but I like to add fresh flat-leaf parsley and lemon zest for some brightness.  

Moroccan couscous versus pearled couscous

Unlike Moroccan couscous (also known as instant couscous), which is tiny and irregularly shaped, pearl couscous granules are larger, uniform-shaped spheres about the size of a pearl and are not considered to be true couscous. While Pearl couscous has always been manufactured, Moroccan couscous has traditionally been made by hand.  

Moroccan couscous is typically fluffy, and as you chew, you can usually feel the texture of each grain. Pearl couscous has a texture more akin to pasta and gets slightly chewy when cooked (similar to orzo).  

Additionally, you treat them differently. While instant couscous is added to boiling water and then removed from the heat so the couscous absorbs the water, pearl couscous must be boiled in water or broth on the stovetop for about 14 minutes. More fluffy and lighter than Pearl couscous

Is pearl couscous free of gluten?

Because pearl couscous is made from wheat, it contains gluten and should be avoided by people who follow a gluten-free diet.  

The gluten-free alternative to pearl couscous is quinoa. But in place of pearl couscous, you can also use short-grain rice, riced cauliflower, or buckwheat groats (despite its name, buckwheat is a gluten-free grain).   

Israeli couscous with fresh herbs and lemon zest in a bowl.

What stores sell pearled couscous?

Our online store has my favorite pearl couscous. I love using our all-natural pearled couscous in salads or to add bulk to soups and stews, like my chicken stew, because it is delicious and so versatile.  

Pearl couscous is additionally available at your neighborhood supermarket. Moroccan and pearled couscous are typically found in the international aisle or close to the rice and beans. If that doesn't work out, try a health food store.   

Requisite ingredients for making pearl couscous

You don't need anything fancy to make a simple recipe for pearl couscous. There are only a few ingredients: couscous, water, and salt for flavor.  

  • Extra virgin olive oil: To toast the couscous, use a few tablespoons of high-quality olive oil. Extra virgin olive oil that is milder, such as our Private Reserve Greek EVOO, Arbequina California EVOO, or Nocellara Italian EVOO, is what I prefer.   
  • Pearl couscous: One cup of uncooked pearl couscous will make about three cups of cooked couscous.  
  • Water: 1 12 cups of water or another cooking liquid (like broth) are required for one cup of uncooked couscous.   
  • Kosher salt: Depending on how salty the broth is, you may not need any salt if you use it in place of water.  

If you'd like, you can add more flavor to the couscous. Here are some ingredients you can add to your couscous to up the ante:

  • Thinly slice an onion, shallot, or garlic clove, or mince a few cloves of garlic, and add them to the saucepan with the extra virgin olive oil. Before adding the pearl couscous to toast, sauté for just a moment.  
  • Bay leaf: While the couscous is toasting, add a whole bay leaf to it.  
  • A cinnamon stick should be added to the saucepan of untoasted couscous, much like bay leaves.  
  • Turmeric or nutmeg: After the couscous is toasty, add a tiny pinch of either turmeric or nutmeg. Before adding water or broth, toss to thoroughly coat the couscous in the spice.

Preparing pearl couscous

Pearl couscous is very simple to make, especially if you require a filling side dish at the last minute. For two reasons, I prefer to toast the couscous before cooking it. First, it really brings out the nutty flavor of the couscous. Second, toasting keeps the couscous from getting mushy as it cooks.

This is how you do it:

  • The couscous is toasted. 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil are heated to a medium-high temperature in a pan. When the couscous is a nice golden brown, add 1 cup of pearl couscous and stir it around. It won't take more than a minute or two.  

    Isreali couscous toasting in a non-stick skillet.

  • Get the pearl couscous ready. Boil 1 12 cups of water in a kettle or separate pan, then add it to the pan containing the toasted pearled couscous. To taste, season with kosher salt. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a low setting. Cook the couscous covered for approximately 14 minutes, or until it is tender and the liquid has completely evaporated. Take the food off the heat You can now serve the pearl couscous exactly as it is.  

    Cooked pearl couscous in a skillet.

  • Optional: Increase the flavor To brighten up my couscous, I like to add some freshly chopped parsley and lemon zest, but since it has a fairly neutral flavor, you can season it however you like (see the ideas above).  

    Pearl couscous in a patterned bowl with fresh herbs and lemon zest.

Dressing up pearl couscous

I adore plain pearl couscous because it's a simple side dish with no frills. In accordance with how busy my day is, I can modify this recipe. If I have some extra time, I can give cooked couscous a little extra flavor, but if not, I just keep it simple.

Here are some suggestions for times when you want to add something extra:

  • Replace the water with your preferred broth. Pick a low-sodium option to avoid an overly salty meal.
  • Use herbs You can easily alter the flavor of your pearl couscous by adding fresh flat-leaf parsley, cilantro, dill, mint, or chives (as I did in this recipe).  
  • Use spices Similar to Moroccan couscous, pearl couscous has a mild flavor that pairs well with more robust ones. After it has been cooked, you can add cumin, paprika, or garlic powder for flavor.  
  • Insert lemon zest To add some vibrant citrus flavor to cooked couscous, I enjoy zesting an entire lemon and gently tossing it with the grain. If you prefer, you can also use lime zest in this recipe.
  • Add some dried fruit. Prunes, figs, dates, apricots, raisins, and other dried fruits that can be chopped into smaller pieces work well.  
  • Add nuts For some crunch, add some of your favorite nuts that have been lightly toasted to the cooked pearled couscous. It would be interesting to add walnuts, pecans, pine nuts, and almond slivers to couscous.   

Serving concepts

One of my go-to quick side dishes is pearled couscous because it's so adaptable. Here are some examples of applications for it:

Pearl couscous storage techniques

For up to four days, keep couscous in the refrigerator in an airtight container. To reheat, transfer the pearl couscous to a stovetop saucepan with a little water, and heat through.   

Before putting it in a freezer-safe container, let it get to room temperature first. For three to four months, it will freeze. Thaw it overnight in the refrigerator before using.  

Try these recipes for pearl couscous.

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  • To toast the couscous, heat 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a medium saucepan until it is barely shimmering. The pearl couscous should turn a nice golden brown when you add it and toss it around to toast.
  • Boil the couscous: Place the toasted pearl couscous in a saucepan with 1 1/2 cups of boiling water. Use kosher salt to season. Turn the heat to low after bringing to a boil. Cook the pearl couscous covered for approximately 14 minutes, or until tender. Take the food off the heat
  • Enjoy the seasoning Taste and modify salt to your preference. Finally, toss in the optional parsley and lemon zest before serving.
  • Is pearled couscous free of gluten? No, pearl couscous contains gluten and should be avoided by people who avoid foods with gluten.  
  • Serving suggestions: Add it to soups to add bulk and try it in a Mediterranean couscous salad, toss it with pesto. Or, m Make mouthwatering dinner bowls with pearled couscous as the foundation. I enjoy these simple roasted cauliflower bowlsbowls of roasted cauliflower
  • What to keep it in: For up to four days, keep cooked couscous in the refrigerator in an airtight container. Move the pearl couscous to a stovetop pan with a little water to reheat.   Before putting it in a freezer-safe container, let it get to room temperature first. For 3 to 4 months, it will freeze successfully. Thaw it overnight in the refrigerator before using.  
  • To find premium Mediterranean ingredients like grains and couscous, extra virgin olive oils, organic spices, and more, visit our Shop.
Calories: 108.1 kcal Carbohydrates: 22.2 g Protein: 3.7 g Fat: 0.2 g Salubrity of Fat 0.04 g PUFA: Polyunsaturated Fat 0.1 g Single-Unsaturated Fat: 0.03 g Sodium: 7.2 mg Potassium: 61.2 mg Fiber: 1.5 g Sugar: 0.02 g Vitamin A: 210.6 IU Vitamin C: 3.3 mg Calcium: 12.1 mg Iron: 0.5 mg
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