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How to Cook Couscous Perfectly (in 5 Minutes!)

An easy guide for how to cook couscous perfectly every time. It only takes 5 minutes to make this versatile, healthy side dish!

Fluffy couscous in a bowl.

I feel like couscous is an entirely underrated food. It’s super versatile, it’s good for you, and it’s so quick and easy to make! In literally less than 5 minutes, you can have a healthy side dish on the table. Here’s how to cook couscous perfectly every time, in just 5 minutes!

Couscous salad in a bowl with black olives and cucumbers.

What is couscous?

Couscous is tiny pieces of durum wheat semolina. Essentially, it’s teeny tiny pasta (and that’s how I sell it to my kids…).

It’s actually a North African ingredient, which is commonly used in countries such as Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco. Therefore, couscous is great served with North African-inspired meals, such as a vegetarian tagine or stew. I also love to make a simple couscous salad, like I did for the photos in this post!

It’s such a versatile ingredient, and if you’re looking for a super quick and healthy side dish, couscous is probably it.

A packet of dried couscous on a green napkin.

How to cook couscous perfectly every time

A lot of people have trouble cooking couscous. The grains are so tiny that if you try to cook it like you would any other type of pasta, in a pan of water, you will very quickly end up with an overcooked, soggy mush.

Luckily, cooking couscous is even easier than cooking pasta. Here’s how to cook couscous!

Vegetable stock in a Pyrex jug.

1. Make up some vegetable stock

You can cook couscous using just hot water, but I prefer to use vegetable stock. Like a lot of plain carbs (pasta, rice, etc.), couscous has very little flavour on its own, so it’s important to get some flavour in where you can, and using stock to cook the couscous is an easy way to do that.

I used a veggie stock cube, mixed up with boiling water. You could also use liquid stock, a jelly stock pot, or whatever else you have.

You’ll need your stock to be very hot, so either use boiled water, or if you’re using a liquid stock, heat it up in the microwave first.

Dried couscous in a bowl with vegetable stock.

2. Add stock to the couscous

Put the couscous in a large bowl, and add the hot vegetable stock. Mix well.

You should always use a fork to mix your couscous, at all stages of preparation. Stirring with a spoon can clump the couscous together, giving a lumpy end result. Mixing with a fork keeps the grains separate, giving fluffy couscous that’s cooked perfectly evenly.

A bowl covered with a plate.

3. Cover with a plate

All you need to do now is to leave the couscous to absorb the hot liquid. Cover the bowl with a plate, so that all the heat is contained, and soaks into the dry grains.

Couscous is so tiny that it really doesn’t take long to cook at all – literally just 3 or 4 minutes.

Fluffy couscous in a bowl.

4. Fluff up the couscous with a fork

When a few minutes have passed, give the couscous a quick taste, to check if it’s cooked to your liking. You can always add a splash more hot water, and leave it for another minute or two, if it’s still a little firm.

Then just fluff it up, using a fork again, to separate the grains.

That’s all there is to it – 5 minutes to cook couscous perfectly.

Fluffy couscous in a bowl.

How to serve couscous

Unlike pasta, which tends to be the main focal point of a meal, couscous tends to serve as more of a side dish.

It can be served on its own, especially if you’ve already made it tasty by using vegetable stock instead of plain hot water.

I also love adding a few extra ingredients, to create a simple couscous salad.

Couscous salad with black olives, cucumber, tomatoes, and lemon slices.

Simple couscous salad

You don’t need to add much to make a couscous salad. I tend to take inspiration from a Greek salad (my favourite salad of all time), as just a few simple ingredients can combine to produce something really irresistible.

Here are a few ideas of ingredients you could include in you couscous salad. You definitely don’t need to use all of these – just choose four or five, and add them to the couscous once it’s cooked, along with a good glug of extra virgin olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper.

  • cucumber
  • tomatoes
  • black olives
  • fresh parsley or mint
  • chopped spring onions
  • lemon juice
  • fried halloumi cheese
  • crumbled feta cheese
  • chickpeas
Couscous salad with black olives, cucumbers, tomatoes, and lemon slices.

Other couscous recipes

Here are a few other ideas for ways to serve couscous:

Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

How to cook couscous perfectly

An easy guide for how to cook couscous perfectly every time. It only takes 5 minutes to make this versatile, healthy side dish!
Prep Time1 min
Cook Time4 mins
Total Time5 mins
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Moroccan, North African
Servings: 4 people
Calories: 248kcal
Author: Becca Heyes

Ingredients

  • 500 ml (~ 2 cups) vegetable stock
  • 300 g (~ 1 1/2 cups) dried couscous

Instructions

  • Make up the vegetable stock with freshly boiled water (or, if using a liquid stock, heat well in the microwave).
  • Combine the couscous and stock in a large bowl, and mix well with a fork. The couscous should be well-covered with stock, but if it seems like too much, you can always hold a bit of the liquid back, and add it later if needed.
  • Cover the bowl with a plate, and leave for about 4 minutes. Fluff up the couscous with a fork, and give it a taste. If there's still some excess liquid in the bowl, cover it again for a couple more minutes. Or, if the liquid has all been absorbed but the couscous still tastes a little firm, add a splash more water or stock, and then cover for another minute or two.
  • When the couscous is cooked and all the liquid has been absorbed, fluff it up again using a fork, and it's ready to serve. It can be eaten warm or cold.
Nutrition Facts
How to cook couscous perfectly
Amount Per Serving (1 portion)
Calories 248 Calories from Fat 4
% Daily Value*
Fat 0.4g1%
Saturated Fat 0.1g1%
Cholesterol 0mg0%
Sodium 6mg0%
Potassium 108mg3%
Carbohydrates 51.1g17%
Fiber 3.2g13%
Sugar 0g0%
Protein 8.5g17%
Calcium 16mg2%
Iron 1mg6%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

Note: Nutritional information is approximate, and will depend on exactly what ingredients you choose. Information above is for 1/4 of the batch.

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