Perfect Couscous

white enamel soup pot with cooked couscous inside
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Nothing fancy here—just a simple, basic couscous recipe that results in steamy, fluffy, perfect couscous every time. 

What Is Couscous?

Although many people think of couscous as a grain—like rice or quinoa—this classic Moroccan starch is actually a type of pasta. Made from partially-cooked semolina flour and water, it comes in a few different sizes. Moroccan couscous pieces are the smallest, while pearl couscous (also known as Israeli couscous) is slightly larger, with the chewy semolina balls roughly the size of little peppercorns. Because it’s par-cooked, tiny Moroccan couscous takes only a few minutes to prepare—one of the many reasons we love this oft-overlooked side dish. 

white soup pot filled with couscous being fluffed with a fork

Is Couscous Healthy?

As starches go, yes, couscous isn’t a bad choice at all! Here’s the deal: couscous is made from semolina, which is a type of flour made from Middle Eastern durum wheat. Semolina flour is particularly high in protein—at least as flours go—which makes it a healthier choice than other pastas. It’s also high in B vitamins and selenium, so it is by no means an ‘empty’ carb (although, yes, couscous definitely counts as a carb!). Couscous is not gluten free—a common misconception—and in fact, semolina flour is especially high in gluten! Definitely one to avoid if you have a gluten sensitivity. But, if you’re good with gluten, and looking to mix up your dinner side dishes, our basic couscous recipe might be just the ticket!

How to Cook Couscous

All you need to make perfect couscous is five minutes and some stock—chicken stock or vegetable stock will both work. The key—as with cooking most grains—is to know the ratio. The couscous ratio is 1.5 cups couscous : 2 cups stock. Here’s how to make our easy couscous recipe: 

  1. Bring a pot of stock to a boil. (We add a little oil and salt for extra flavor and richness.)
  2. When you’ve got a rolling boil, kill the heat, pour in the couscous and cover the pot. 
  3. Now, walk away! For five whole minutes. No peeking! 
  4. Fluff! This is the fun part. Grab a fork and open that lid. The couscous should have soaked up all of that flavorful stock. The tiny couscous kernels tend to stick together as they cook, so use the fork to gently fluff the couscous a bit. 
  5. Serve! 
white soup pot filled with couscous being fluffed with a fork

Tools You’ll Need: 

The Best Couscous Recipe Deserves an A+ Accompaniment 

And we know just the recipe(s)! 

Good Couscous? Or Was it Truly Perfect Couscous? 

The not-so-secret secret—as we hope you now know—is that perfect couscous is actually really easy to achieve. Let us know how yours turned out! Snap a photo of your finished, fluffy couscous and show us what you served it with. Tag us on Instagram using @themodernproper and #themodernproper so we can see. Happy eating! 

Perfect Couscous

Serves 6


1 1/2 cups couscous
2 cups chicken stock
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp salt


Bring chicken stock, olive oil and salt to a boil. Add couscous put a lid on and remove from heat. Let rest for 5 minutes. Remove lid and fluff with a fork.