Couscous with vegetables
Nutrition facts
Serving size 1 cup (173 g)
Servings per container Information is per dry couscous as determined by Nutrient Data Laboratory, ARS, USDA.[1]
Amount per serving
Calories 176 Calories from fat 2
% Daily value*
Total fat 0.25 g 0%
   Saturated fat 0.05 g 0%
   Trans fat 0 g
Cholesterol 0 mg 0%
Sodium 17 mg 1%
Potassium 79 mg 2%
Total carbohydrate 36 g 12%
   Dietary fiber 2 g 1%
   Sugars 0 g
Protein 6 g
Vitamin A 0%      Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 1%      Iron 2%
*Percent daily values are based on a 2,000-calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Couscous (play /ˈkʊskʊs/ or /ˈksks/) is a Berber dish of semolina traditionally served with a meat or vegetable stew spooned over it. Couscous is a staple food throughout Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia.



The name is derived from North African, [Ber[ber languages|Berber]] seksu[2] (meaning well rolled, well formed, rounded).[3]

Numerous different names and pronunciations for couscous exist around the world. Couscous is /ˈkʊskʊs/ or /ˈksks/ in the United Kingdom and only the latter in the United States. In Berber, it is known as Seksu or Kesksu and in Arabic: كسكس‎ pronounced Kuskus. It is known as Kesksu or Seksu in Morocco and Algeria]. Kuseksi in Tunisia, Libya and Kuskusi Arabic: كسكسي‎ in Egypt. Keskesu in Tuareg.[4] In Libya, it is commonly called "Kusksi," though "Kisksu" is also used. In Israel, couscous is known as Hebrew: קוסקוס‎. In Malta, something called Kusksu is similar but much larger in size. At Trapani in Sicily, Cuscusu is served with fish like trout or anchovies. A similar dish known as "Migas de harina" is typical of South Eastern Spain, particularly the regions of Almería and Murcia. it is not used in Israel only in Arbic countrirs.


One of the first written references is from an anonymous 13th-century Moroccan/Andalusian cookbook, Kitāb al-tabǐkh fǐ al-Maghrib wa'l-Andalus (Arabic) "The cookbook of the Maghreb and Al-Andalus", with a recipe for couscous that was 'known all over the world'. Couscous was known to the Nasrid royalty in Granada as well. And in the 13th century a Syrian historian from Aleppo includes four references for couscous. These early mentions show that couscous spread rapidly, but generally that couscous was common from Tripolitania to the west, while from Cyrenaica to the east the main cuisine was Egyptian, with couscous as an occasional dish. Today, in Egypt and the Middle East, couscous is known, but in Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Western Libya couscous is a staple. Couscous was taken from Syria to Turkey in the 16th century and is eaten in most of the southern provinces.

Couscous is a staple of Sicilian cuisine. In Rome Bartolomeo Scappi's culinary guide of 1570 describes a Moorish dish, succussu; in Tuscany.[5]

One of the earliest references to couscous in Western Europe is in Brittany, in a letter dated 12 January 1699. But it made an earlier appearance in Provence, where the traveler Jean Jacques Bouchard wrote of eating it in Toulon in 1630. Couscous was originally made from millet.[6] Historians have different opinions as to when wheat began to replace the use of millet. The conversion seems to have occurred sometime in the 20th century, although many regions continue to use the traditional millet. Couscous seems to have a North African origin. Archaeological evidence dating back to the 9th century, consisting of kitchen utensils needed to prepare this dish, has been found in this part of the world.

In some regions couscous is made from coarsely ground barley or pearl millet. In Brazil, the traditional couscous is made from cornmeal.[7]


Couscous garnished with vegetables and chickpeas

The semolina is sprinkled with water and rolled with the hands to form small pellets, sprinkled with dry flour to keep them separate, and then sieved. Any pellets which are too small to be finished granules of couscous and fall through the sieve will be again rolled and sprinkled with dry semolina and rolled into pellets. This process continues until all the semolina has been formed into tiny granules of couscous. This process is very labour-intensive. In the traditional method of preparing couscous, groups of women would come together and make large batches over several days.[4] These would then be dried in the sun and used for several months. Couscous was traditionally made from the hard part of the durum, the part of the grain that resisted the grinding of the relatively primitive millstone. In modern times, couscous production is largely mechanized, and the product is sold in markets around the world.

In the Sahelian countries of West Africa, such as Mali and Senegal, pearl millet is pounded or milled to the size and consistency necessary for the couscous.[8]

A couscoussier, a traditional steamer for couscous.

Properly cooked couscous is light and fluffy, not gummy or gritty. Traditionally, North Africans use a food steamer (called a كسكس kiskas in Arabic or a couscoussière in French). The base is a tall metal pot shaped rather like an oil jar in which the meat and vegetables are cooked as a stew. On top of the base, a steamer sits where the couscous is cooked, absorbing the flavours from the stew. The lid to the steamer has holes around its edge so steam can escape. It is also possible to use a pot with a steamer insert. If the holes are too big the steamer can be lined with damp cheesecloth. There is little archaeological evidence of early diets including couscous, possibly because the original couscoussière was probably made from organic materials which could not survive extended exposure to the elements.

Instant couscous

The couscous that is sold in most Western supermarkets has been pre-steamed and dried, the package directions usually instruct to add 1.5 measures of boiling water or stock and butter to each measure of couscous and to cover tightly for 5 minutes. The couscous swells and within a few minutes it is ready to fluff with a fork and serve. Pre-steamed couscous takes less time to prepare than regular couscous, most dried pasta, or dried grains (such as rice).

Local variations

Couscous with raisin and onion topping

In Libya, Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia, couscous is generally served with vegetables (carrots, potatoes, turnips, etc.) cooked in a spicy or mild broth or stew, and some meat (generally, chicken, lamb or mutton).

In Libya, it is mostly served with meat, specifically beef, lamb, or camel. In Tripoli and the western parts of Libya, but not during official ceremonies or weddings. Another way to eat couscous is as a dessert; it is prepared with dates, sesame, and pure honey, and locally referred to as "maghrood".

In Tunisia, it is made mostly spicy with harissa sauce, it is served with almost everything, including lamb, beef, camel, and poultry. Fish couscous is Tunisian specialty, it can be also made with octopus in hot red spicy sauce. Couscous in Tunisia is served on every occasion; it is also served sweetened as dessert called masfouf, mostly during Ramadan.

In Morocco and Algeria it is also served, sometimes at the end of a meal or just by itself, as a delicacy called "seffa". The couscous is usually steamed several times until it is very fluffy and pale in color. It is then sprinkled with almonds, cinnamon and sugar. Traditionally, this dessert will be served with milk perfumed with orange flower water, or it can be served plain with buttermilk in a bowl as a cold light soup for supper.

In Egypt, couscous is eaten more as a dessert. It is prepared with butter, sugar, cinnamon, raisins, nuts and topped with cream.

Couscous is also very popular in France, where it is now considered a traditional dish, and has also become popular in Spain, Portugal, Italy, and Greece. Indeed, many polls have indicated that it is often a favorite dish.[9] Although introduced in France by the pieds noirs (people of European descent who used to live in Algeria), many couscous restaurants are now owned by people originating from Algeria. In France, Spain, Italy, and Portugal, the word "couscous" (cuscús in Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian) usually refers to couscous together with the stew. Packaged sets containing a box of quick-preparation couscous and a can of vegetables and, generally, meat are sold in French, Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese grocery stores and supermarkets. In France, it is generally served with harissa sauce, and in Italy, it can be served with marinara sauce.

In North America, Australia, and the United Kingdom, couscous is available most commonly as either plain or pre-flavoured, quick preparation boxes. In the United States, it is widely available, but largely confined to the ethnic or health-food section of larger grocery stores.

There are recipes from Brazil and other Latin American countries that use boiled couscous molded into a timbale with other ingredients. In Northeastern Brazil and among the diaspora of its population in other Brazilian regions, cuzcuz (Portuguese pronunciation: [kusˈkus] locally, kuʃˈkujʃ in Rio de Janeiro, kujsˈkujs in São Paulo), a steamed cake of couscous and corn flour (a mixture called fubá, pronounced Portuguese pronunciation: [fuˈba], said to be of African origin from the slave trade), is a popular meal, served in many forms: With sugar and milk, with varied meats, with cheese and eggs, and so on. In Mexico, there are two dishes called the couscous taco (taco de cuscús) and couscous burrito (burrito de cuscús), which consists of the addition of couscous to a traditional taco or burrito respectively, similar in fashion to a Moroccan pita.


Couscous is among the healthiest grain-based products. It has a glycemic load per gram 25% below that of pasta. It has a superior vitamin profile to pasta, containing twice as much riboflavin, niacin, vitamin B6, and folate, and containing four times as much thiamine and pantothenic acid.[10][11][12]

In terms of protein, couscous has 3.6 g for every 100 calories, equivalent to pasta, and well above the 2.6 g for every 100 calories of white rice. Furthermore, couscous contains a 1% fat-to-calorie ratio, compared to 3% for white rice, 5% for pasta, and 11.3% for rice pilaf.[13]

Similar products

  • Attiéké, a variety of couscous that is a staple food in Côte d'Ivoire and is also known to surrounding areas of West Africa, made from grated cassava.
  • Wassa wassa, is another variety of couscous made in northern Togo made from yams.
  • Berkoukesh are pasta bullets made by the same process, but are larger than the grains of couscous.
  • Fregula, a pasta from Sardinia, consists of pellets that are larger than couscous and toasted.
  • Kouskousaki (Κουσκουσάκι in Greek or Kuskus in Turkish), a pasta from Greece and Turkey, that is boiled and served with cheese and walnuts.
  • In Brazilian cuisine, the "cuscuz marroquino" is a version, usually eaten cold, of the "couscous". Brazilian cuscuz is usually made out of corn meal, rather than semolina wheat. Another festive moulded couscous dish, containing chicken, vegetables, spices, steamed in a mould and decorated with orange slices is called "Cuscuz de Galinha".
  • In Lebanese cuisine and Palestinian cuisine, a similar but larger product is known as maftoul.
  • "Israeli couscous" (in Hebrew פתיתים 'flakes' ), also called "ptitim", is a larger, baked wheat product similar to the Italian orzo.[14]

See also

Berber flag.svg Berbers portal


  1. ^ Couscous, dry - NDB No: 20028 United States Department of Agriculture National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. Retrieved December 18, 2007.
  2. ^ DALLET Jean.-Marie : Dictionnaire kabyle-française, Paris, SELAF, 1982. p. 709.
  3. ^ CHAKER, Salem : Couscous : sur l’étymologie du mot
  4. ^ FOUCAULD Charles de : Dictionnaire touareg-français, Paris, Imprimerie Nationale, 1950-52, p. 919
  5. ^ John Dickie, Delizia! The Epic History of the Italians and Their Food (New York, 2008) pp. 15, 115, 264f.
  6. ^ See numerous books describing couscous as boiled millet:,cdr:1,cd_min:Jan%203_2%201,cd_max:Dec%2031_2%201922&num=10#q=millet+couscous&hl=en&tbs=bks:1,cdr:1,cd_min:Jan+3_2+1,cd_max:Dec+31_2+1922&ei=vGxCTdLYEcPbgQeFnc2JAg&start=0&sa=N&fp=64aa18c4243f0c16
  7. ^ Receitas
  8. ^ Sivak MN. Starch: Basic Science to Biotechnology. Academic Press, 1998, ISBN 0-12-016441-8, p. 132
  9. ^ "Notre Temps" Study conducted on January 11 and 12, 2006 for the magazine Notre Temps based on face-to-face interviews with a sample of 1,000 people representative of the adult French population, stratified by age, sex, profession of the head of household, region and type of municipality.
  10. ^ "Couscous, cooked". -- Nutrition Data. Retrieved 2010-09-20. 
  11. ^ "Spaghetti, cooked, unenriched, without added salt". -- Nutrition Data. Retrieved 2010-09-19. 
  12. ^ "Rice, white, long-grained, parboiled, unenriched, cooked". -- Nutrition Data. Retrieved 2010-09-19. 
  13. ^ "Calories in Rice Pilaf". LIVESTRONG.COM -- Nutrition Facts, and Healthy Alternatives. Retrieved 2010-09-19. 
  14. ^ The Canadian Living Test Kitchen. "Discover Couscous". Canadian Living Magazine. 

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Couscous — mit Kichererbsen und anderem Gemüse Couscous mit Kamelfleisch un …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • couscous — c.1600, from Fr. couscous (16c.), ultimately from Arabic kuskus, from kaskasa to pound, he pounded …   Etymology dictionary

  • Couscous — Cous cous (k??s k??s ), n. A kind of food used by the natives of Western Africa, made of millet flour with flesh, and leaves of the baobab; called also {lalo}. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Couscous — er en nordafrikansk ret, mere specifikt en marokkansk melspise med fårekød …   Danske encyklopædi

  • couscous — → cuscús …   Diccionario panhispánico de dudas

  • couscous — ► NOUN ▪ a North African dish of steamed or soaked semolina, usually served with spicy meat or vegetables. ORIGIN Arabic …   English terms dictionary

  • couscous — [ko͞os′ko͞os΄, ko͞os ko͞os′] n. [Fr < Berber kuskus < Ar < kaskasa, to grind, pound] a N African dish made with crushed grain, often semolina, usually steamed and served as with lamb or chicken in a spicy sauce …   English World dictionary

  • Couscous — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Couscous (homonymie). Couscous Marocain avec pois chiches, courgettes, carottes et potiron, ainsi que la marqa (bouillo …   Wikipédia en Français

  • couscous — 1. couscous [ kuskus ] n. m. • 1649; coscosson 1534; ar. kouskous 1 ♦ Semoule de blé dur. Fam. Pédaler dans le couscous. 2 ♦ Plat originaire du Maghreb, composé de semoule roulée en grains, servie avec de la viande ou du poisson, des légumes et… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • couscous — /koohs koohs/, n. a North African dish consisting of steamed semolina, served with vegetables and meat. [1590 1600; < F < Ar kuskus, kuskusu /em> Berber seksu] * * * ▪ food       North African dish of semolina and accompanying foods. The semolina …   Universalium

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