You can use couscous the same way you would use rice or pasta, as a starch over which to serve another dish, especially something saucy. It also makes a great hot or cold side or salad, dressed up with any number of vegetables, herbs and spices. You can even use it for dessert.
Another option is Israeli couscous, which shares some characteristics but is a rather different product. Sometimes called pearl couscous, Israeli couscous is an extruded pasta, similar to many of the familiar Italian shapes. It consists of small spheres of toasted semolina that take a little longer to cook, more like 8 to 10 minutes. The texture is bouncier and less grainlike. It, too, is quite versatile.
A guide to couscous: The history, different types and how to cook with it
To show you the range of both types, here’s a roundup of recipes from our archives.
Couscous Primavera, at top. This fresh and bright dish with asparagus, peas, scallions, carrots and herbs tips the balance in favor of more vegetables than couscous.
Sheet Pan Caponata and Couscous With Goat Cheese. Here’s a great example of what my colleague Daniela Galarza calls “couscous with stuff on top.” In this case, it’s a sweet and tart version of Sicilian eggplant caponata made on a sheet pan. A dollop of goat cheese melts enticingly into the warm dish for creamy luxury.
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Couscous Salad With Smoked Trout and Pepperoncini. As my colleague Ann Maloney says of this main course, “toasted couscous gets tossed in a wonderfully tart and just a tiny bit spicy mixture of extra-virgin olive oil, pepperoncini brine and minced garlic.” Next comes cherry tomatoes, sliced pepperoncini, chopped parsley and your favorite smoked fish.
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Couscous With Lemon, Herbs + Feta. Here’s a quick, affordable and satisfying side that can be tweaked to suit a variety of ingredients or accompany a wide range of dishes.
Roasted Shrimp and Pea Couscous. You only need 25 minutes to put together this meal that combines skillet-toasted pearl couscous with shrimp baked with a light coating of apricot jam. For a similar combination, check out Lemony Shrimp With White Beans and Couscous.
Israeli Couscous Salad With Chickpeas and Herbs. The chickpeas nudge this salad into main course territory, as do the walnuts and sunflower sprouts. You can swap in your choice of fresh fruit depending on the season.
Couscous Salad With Summer Fruit and Arugula. Fresh fruit also shines in this salad that can be a main course or side. It’s loaded with blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, cherry tomatoes and cucumbers.
Moroccan Chicken Couscous. Pull out the Dutch oven for this speedy one-pot meal that is vibrant with turmeric.
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