Culinary Arts

7 Ways to Cook Couscous: Healthy Couscous Recipes

Written by MasterClass

Aug 23, 2019 • 2 min read

A staple Algerian, Moroccan, Tunisian, Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean ingredient, couscous is a healthy alternative when rice or pasta fatigue sets in. Whether served as a standalone side dish or combined with vegetables for a healthy salad, the durum wheat semolina packs fiber and protein in each serving.

Learn more about couscous with our complete ingredient guide, or read on to learn how to cook couscous below.



How to Cook Couscous in a Rice Cooker

Cook couscous in a rice cooker on the “white rice” setting.

  1. Use 1½ cups liquid per cup of couscous, so the couscous doesn’t dry out in the rice cooker.
  2. If using water rather than broth, add a pinch of salt—and other seasonings, if desired—to your couscous.
  3. Another way to cook couscous, beloved by backpackers and college students alike, is to use a tea kettle or other water-boiler—just pour the boiling water over the couscous (don’t forget the salt!).

How to Make Couscous in the Microwave

You can cook couscous in the microwave by simply boiling the broth in the microwave instead of a saucepan, and adding it to the couscous.

  1. Pour one cup of broth into a microwave-safe dish with a nonmetallic object (such as a wooden spoon or chopstick).
  2. Heat the water in one-minute intervals, stirring between intervals, until it gives off steam, about four minutes for one cup.
  3. Pour boiling water over one cup couscous.
  4. Add butter and oil.
  5. Stir to moisten, cover with a plate or plastic wrap, and let couscous steam for 10 minutes. Fluff and serve.

4 Creative Ways to Cook With Couscous

  1. Vegan couscous recipe. Although most couscous recipes use chicken broth, it’s super easy to make a fully vegan couscous dish. Instead of chicken broth, use vegan vegetable broth or water seasoned with salt, black pepper, and/or ginger, garlic, and spices. (Plain water leads to bland couscous.) Use olive oil instead of butter to add fat, and serve with a vegetable stew—traditionally, eggplant, zucchini, carrots, squash, and tomato.
  2. Couscous salad recipe. Couscous is also delicious cold—use it as the grain base for a picnic- or lunchbox-friendly salad. Try cold couscous mixed with Israeli couscous, quinoa, or other grains, and top it with fresh cherry tomatoes, basil, chickpeas, lemon juice, and canned tuna, or leftover grilled salmon.
  3. Sweet couscous pudding recipe. Sweet couscous makes a delicious dessert or breakfast—add almond milk or orange juice to couscous made with plain hot water and season with cinnamon, sugar, and orange zest. Top with nuts and dried fruit.
  4. Crispy couscous recipe. Try a couscous tahdig, the Iranian rice dish with a crispy bottom. Prepare one cup of couscous using your preferred method. Heat olive oil and/or unsalted butter in a medium nonstick pan. When the butter melts, turn the heat down to low and add couscous and a simple tomato sauce, using the back of a spoon to press it into the pan evenly. Cover the pan and steam for an additional 10-12 minutes, or until edges are lightly brown, and flip onto a plate.

Quick and Easy Couscous Recipe

Prep Time
15 min
Total Time
25 min
Cook Time
10 min
  • 1 cup instant dry couscous
  • 1½ cup low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth (or water plus ½ teaspoon salt)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  1. In a medium saucepan, bring broth, salt, butter, and oil to boil over high heat.
  2. Remove from heat.
  3. Stir in the couscous, cover tightly with a lid, and let sit for 10 minutes.
  4. Use a fork to fluff.

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