Couscous (Arabic: كُسْكُس kuskus ; Berber languages:
ⵙⵉⴽⵙⵓ seksu) is a Maghrebi dish of small (about 3
millimetres (0.12 in) diameter) steamed balls of crushed durum
wheat semolina that is traditionally served with a stew spooned on
Pearl millet and sorghum especially in the
Sahel and other
cereals can be cooked in a similar way and the resulting dishes are
also sometimes called couscous.:18
Couscous is a staple food throughout the North African cuisines of
Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia, Mauritania, Libya, Egypt, and
Sicily (to a
lesser extent).:250 In Western supermarkets, it is typically
sold in instant form with a flavor packet, and may be served on its
own as a side or main dish.
2 Origin and history
3.1 Instant couscous
3.2 Local serving variations
5 Similar foods
6 See also
The original name may be derived from the
Arabic word Kaskasa, meaning
"to pound small" or the Berber Seksu, meaning "well rolled", "well
formed", or "rounded".
Numerous different names and pronunciations for couscous exist around
Couscous is /ˈkʊskʊs/ or /ˈkuːskuːs/ in the United
Kingdom and only the latter in the United States. It is sometimes
pronounced kuskusi (كسكسي) in Arabic, while it is known in
Morocco as seksu ; kesksu or (كسكسي ; in
kosksi ' (طعام, literally meaning "food") ; in
Libya kosksi or kuseksi , in
Egypt kuskusi (كسكسي), Sicily
cuscusu and keskes in Tuareg.:919
Origin and history
The origin of couscous appears to be in the region from eastern to
northern Africa where
Berbers used it as early as the 7th
century. Recognized as a traditional North African delicacy, it
is a common cuisine component among
Ibn Battuta (b. Morocco, 1304-1368? AD) stated in his Rihlah
(Travels), indicating what may be the earliest mention of couscous
(kuskusu) in West Africa from the early 1350s:
When the traveler arrives in a village the women of the blacks come
with anlî and milk and chickens and flour of nabaq [lotus], rice, and
fûnî fonio [a type of millet]], this is like the grain of mustard
and from it kuskusu and porridge are made, and bean flour. He buys
from them what he likes, but not rice, as eating the rice is harmful
to white men and the fûnî is better than it.:32
Brown couscous with vegetables in Tunisia
Couscous was traditionally made from the hard part of the durum, the
part of the grain that resisted the grinding of the millstone. 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 that are too small to be finished granules of
couscous fall through the sieve and are again rolled and sprinkled
with dry semolina and rolled into pellets. This labor-intensive
process continues until all the semolina has been formed into tiny
granules of couscous. In the traditional method of preparing couscous,
groups of women came together to make large batches over several
days, which were then dried in the sun and used for
several months. 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.
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 aTaseksut in
Berber, a كِسْكَاس kiskas in
Arabic or a couscoussier 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
couscoussier was probably made from organic materials that could not
survive extended exposure to the elements.
In some regions couscous is made from Farina or coarsely ground barley
or pearl millet. In Brazil, the traditional couscous is made from
The couscous that is sold in most Western supermarkets has been
pre-steamed and dried. It is typically prepared by adding 1.5 measures
of boiling water or stock to each measure of couscous then leaving
covered tightly for about five minutes. Pre-steamed couscous takes
less time to prepare than regular couscous, most dried pasta, or dried
grains (such as rice).
Local serving variations
Couscous with various toppings
In Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, and Libya, 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
Morocco it is also served, sometimes at the end of a
meal or just by itself, as a delicacy called "sfouff". 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 is 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 Tunisia, it is made mostly spicy with harissa sauce and served with
almost everything, including lamb, fish, seafood, beef and sometimes
in southern regions, camel.
Fish couscous is a Tunisian specialty and
can also be made with octopus, squid or other seafood in hot, red,
Tunisia is served on every occasion; it is
also served in some regions (mostly during Ramadan), sweetened as a
dessert called masfouf.
In Libya, it is mostly served with meat, specifically mostly lamb, but
also camel, and very rarely beef, 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".
Israelis typically serve it on occasions and holidays. It was brought
by Maghrebi migrants from Tunisia, Algeria,
Israel. The Israeli foodstuff called ptitim or "Israeli couscous" is a
toasted pasta with several shape variations, including the more common
pearled "couscous", and the original rice-grain shape, which was
nicknamed "Ben-Gurion rice". Unlike other large types of couscous,
which are rolled and coated, ptitim is actually an extruded paste that
is molded and baked or toasted, giving the product a chewy texture and
a unique nutty flavor. Its appearance resembles large couscous, and
the product was named "couscous" by Osem, its original producer in
Israel, and "Israeli couscous" in the US and worldwide.
In Egypt, couscous is eaten more as a dessert. It is prepared with
butter, sugar, cinnamon, raisins, and nuts and topped with cream.
Couscous is also very popular in France, where it is now considered a
traditional dish, and has also become common in Spain, Portugal,
Italy, and Greece. Indeed, many polls have indicated that it is often
a favorite dish.
Couscous is served in many Maghrebi restaurants
all over the world. In France, Spain and Italy, the word "couscous"
(cuscús in Spanish and Italian; cuscuz in Portuguese) 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 and Italian grocery stores and
supermarkets. In France, it is generally served with harissa sauce, a
style inherited from the Tunisian cuisine. Indeed, couscous was voted
as the third-favourite dish of French people in 2011 in a study by TNS
Sofres for magazine Vie Pratique Gourmand, and the first in the east
In North America, Australia, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom,
couscous is available most commonly either plain or pre-flavoured in
quick-preparation boxes. In the United States, it is widely available,
normally found in the ethnic or health-food section of larger grocery
There are related recipes in Latin America, where a corn meal mix is
boiled and moulded into a timbale with other ingredients. Among them,
cuscuz (Portuguese pronunciation: [kusˈkus]), a popular recipe
usually associated with Northeastern
Brazil and its diaspora, a
steamed cake of corn meal served with sugar and milk, varied meats,
cheese and eggs or other ingredients.
In Palestine, maftoul is considered as a special type of couscous but
made from different ingredients and a different shape. It is larger
than North African couscous, but is similarly steamed and often served
on special occasions in a chicken broth with garbanzo beans and tender
pieces of chicken taken off the bone. Maftoul is an
derived from the root "fa-ta-la", which means to roll or to twist,
which is exactly describing the method used to make maftoul by hand
rolling bulgur with wheat flour. Maftoul is a special dish in
Palestinian cuisine and not every cook knows how to prepare it. In
fact, there is an annual Maftoul Festival which involves a competition
held in Bir Zeit every year.
Fish couscous in Trapani
Couscous with fish soup is a traditional dish in Trapani, Sicily.
Serving size 1 cup (173 g)
Servings per container Information is per cooked wheat couscous as
determined by Nutrient Data Laboratory, ARS, USDA.
Amount per serving
Calories from fat 2
% Daily value*
Total fat 0.25 g
Saturated fat 0.05 g
Trans fat 0 g
Cholesterol 0 mg
Sodium 8 mg
Potassium 91 mg
Total carbohydrate 36 g
Dietary fiber 2 g
Sugars 0 g
Protein 6 g
*Percent daily values are based on a 2,000‑calorie diet. Your daily
values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.
Wheat couscous has 3.6 g of protein for every 100 grams.
Furthermore, couscous contains a 1% fat-to-calorie ratio.
Couscous is distinct from pasta, even pasta such as orzo and risoni of
similar size, in that it is made from crushed durum wheat semolina,
while pasta is made from ground wheat.
Couscous and pasta have similar
nutritional value, although pasta is usually more refined.
cooked by boiling and couscous is steamed.
Burghul or bulgur is a
kind of parboiled dried cracked wheat of similar size to couscous,
cooked by adding boiling water and leaving for a few minutes to
Attiéké is a variety of couscous that is a staple food in Ivory
Coast and is also known to surrounding regions of West Africa, made
from grated cassava.
Berkoukes are pasta bullets made by the same process but are larger
than the grains of couscous.
In Brazilian cuisine, the "cuscuz marroquino" is a version, usually
eaten cold, of the "couscous". Brazilian cuscuz is usually made out of
cornmeal 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".[citation
Kouskousaki (Κουσκουσάκι in Greek or kuskus in Turkish), a
Greece and Turkey, that is boiled and served with cheese
In Lebanese cuisine,
Jordanian cuisine and Palestinian cuisine, a
similar but larger product is known as maftoul or moghrabieh.
Ptitim, also known as "Israeli couscous", is a larger baked pasta
product, which looks - and is often used - just like traditional
Upma, eaten in South India, Western India, and
Sri Lanka is a thick
porridge made with dry roasted semolina. It also uses vegetables such
as peas, carrots, etc.
Wassa wassa is another variety of couscous made in northern
from yams.
List of African dishes
List of steamed foods
North African cuisine
^ Wright, Clifford A. "Did You Know: Food History - History of
Couscous". www.cliffordawright.com. Retrieved 9 August 2017.
^ a b Shulman, Martha Rose (23 February 2009). "Couscous: Just Don't
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Millet--New Developments in Ancient Food Grain" (PDF). Cereal Foods
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^ Foucauld, Charles de (1950–1952). Dictionnaire
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Impr. nationale de France.
^ a b Mustafa Ettoualy (29 June 2012). "Moroccan
Couscous and Tagine".
Moroccan World News. Retrieved 23 January 2018.
^ a b "Couscous". Encyclopedia of Food and Culture, The Gale Group
Inc. 2003. Retrieved 23 January 2018.
^ Hamdun, Said (1975). King, Noel Quinton, ed.
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^ Sivak MN. Starch: Basic Science to Biotechnology. Academic Press,
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^ "Receitas". revistagloborural.globo.com. Archived from the original
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^ 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.
^ Les plats préférés des Français Archived April 8, 2012, at the
Wayback Machine., enquête réalisée en août 2011 pour le magazine
Vie Pratique Gourmand auprès d'un échantillon national de 999
personnes représentatif de l'ensemble de la population âgée de 18
ans et plus, interrogées en face à face. Méthode des quotas (sexe,
âge, profession du chef de ménage PCS) et stratification par région
et catégorie d’agglomération.
^ France, Connexion. "Magret is the No1 dish for French".
www.connexionfrance.com. Retrieved 2018-02-05.
^ "Kitchen of Palestine Palestinian
Couscous (Maftoul) -".
www.kitchenofpalestine.com. Retrieved 9 August 2017.
^ Couscous, dry – NDB No: 20028 Archived March 3, 2015, at the
Wayback Machine. United States Department of Agriculture National
Nutrient Database for Standard Reference. Retrieved December 18, 2007.
^ "Calories in
Rice Pilaf". LIVESTRONG.COM – Nutrition Facts, and
Healthy Alternatives. Retrieved September 19, 2010.
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