What Does Couscous Taste Like? Is It Just Like Rice?


Couscous is a traditional North African dish made with semolina flour from durum wheat and water. Couscous is especially popular in Berber and Maghreb cuisines but is now eaten all over the world, including France, Italy, and the USA. Couscous is a real superfood as it is rich in selenium, thiamin, niacin, and plant-based protein. If you haven’t tried couscous yet and wondering what it tastes like, check out our couscous taste ultimate guide.

What does couscous taste like? Since couscous is made from semolina flour, it has a plain, almost unnoticeable flavor with subtle nutty and buttery hints. However, couscous flavor is so mild that it acquires the flavor of the ingredients it is cooked with, so couscous flavor can range from mild and creamy to salty and spicy. 

Couscous Taste In-Depth Guide

What is couscous? Even though couscous looks like rice, it is actually pasta made with semolina flour from durum wheat and water. Couscous came from North Africa and is widely used in cooking due to its mild flavor and delicate texture. Couscous goes well with fruits, vegetables, meat, and poultry.

See also: What Does Quinoa Taste Like?

Is couscous tasty? Couscous is a delicious, versatile dish with numerous health benefits, including preventing cardiovascular diseases and reducing inflammation. Couscous has a mild sweet taste and goes well with verbally anything, from fruits and vegetables to meat and seafood. 

Couscous is used to make both sweet and savory dishes as it goes well with meat, poultry, seafood, mushrooms, jam, honey, nuts, fruits, and vegetables. Couscous goes well with many herbs and spices, especially thyme, oregano, basil, and marjoram. Couscous is a versatile dish thanks to its mild nutty flavor without pronounced spicy or salty notes. Couscous can be eaten cold and hot. It is also often added to soups and salads.

Does couscous have a flavor? Couscous by itself has a neutral, subtle creamy flavor with sweet and nutty notes. However, when cooked with fruits, veggies, meat, or poultry, couscous can be mild, salty, hot and spicy, nutty, or sweet with notes of vanilla and honey. 

If you are not a fan of rich foods with a strong flavor, couscous is your go-to. It acquires the taste of the ingredients it was cooked with, so it can be sweet, spicy, salty, or mild. Couscous can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, and dinner even if you are counting calories. Couscous has a lot of plant-based protein and is highly nutritious, allowing you to stay full for longer.

See also: Here Is Why Quinoa Became and Remains Popular

Usually, couscous is boiled or steamed, however, in many European and US shops, pre-cooked couscous is sold, meaning that you only have to rehydrate it by adding some boiling water or broth and let it sit for 3-5 minutes. Couscous is a perfect dish for those who follow a healthy lifestyle and do not have time to cook complex dishes.

Thanks to its mild taste, couscous does not get boring – you can eat it with fruits and honey for breakfast, with vegetable and meat stew for lunch, and with seafood for dinner, the choice is huge!

Couscous Texture

Now that you know that couscous has a mild, slightly sweet flavor with nutty notes, it is time to dive into couscous texture. Is it soft and delicate or chewy and firm?

How would you describe the texture of couscous? When cooked properly, couscous acquires a soft and delicate texture, however, it still remains slightly chewy and firm since it is technically pasta made with semolina flour from durum wheat. When cooked in sauce, couscous melts in your mouth.  

Couscous is not the softest food ever, but when cooked properly, it has a pleasant semi-soft yet delicate texture. Each couscous granule must have a distinct texture and pop in your mouth as if you eat quinoa or fish roe. Couscous should not have a rubbery or coarse texture.

See also: Are Noodles Pasta? The Difference Between Noodles and Pasta: A Detailed Guide 

Is couscous supposed to be chewy? Properly cooked couscous is supposed to be slightly chewy, and each couscous granule should have a distinct texture reminiscent of fish roe popping in your mouth. However, if couscous has a too chewy, almost rubbery texture, it is undercooked. Just cover the pot to let couscous absorb the steam.

It does not take long to cook couscous, especially if you buy a pre-cooked product. However, when undercooked, couscous is firm, tasteless and coarse. All you need to do to make couscous delicate and tender is to cover the pot with a lid and leave it on the stove for additional 5 minutes to let couscous absorb the remaining steam from the hot water. Once it is done, add some salted butter and enjoy your meal.

See also: What Does Kimchi Taste Like? Is Kimchi Spicy or Sour?

Why Does Couscous Taste Bad?

Properly cooked couscous does not taste bad – it has a mild buttery flavor with slight nutty notes. If you cooked couscous and it tastes sour or bitter or has a rubbery texture, it either went bad or is undercooked.

Why does couscous taste bad? Couscous tastes bad when it was stored incorrectly and exposed to oxygen. Couscous is made with semolina that contains fat which goes rancid when exposed to oxygen. Sniff couscous before cooking – if it has a pungent rancid (wet cardboard) or stale smell, throw it away. 

Since couscous is made from semolina that contains fat, it can become bitter when the fat is exposed to oxygen. We recommend buying small (individual) couscous packages you can use right away without leaving some couscous open in the cupboard. Couscous should be sealed tightly and kept in a cool, dark, well-ventilated place away from the sun, heat, and moisture.

See also: Quinoa vs Rice — Can You Use Quinoa Instead of Rice?

Another reason why couscous might taste bad is if it went bad. Dry product does not really expire, but it is still better to use it by the “best by” date. Cooked couscous, however, can only be stored in the fridge for no longer than 72 hours, but it is better to eat it on the same day. Couscous tastes much better when fresh, so avoid cooking too much couscous if you live alone.

The last reason why couscous might taste bad is if you did not rinse it before washing. Without washing, couscous could acquire a bitter flavor. Rinse couscous in the cold water for 20-40 seconds and cook according to the recipe.

Couscous Pairing: What Does Couscous Go Well With?

What goes well with couscous? Couscous is a versatile dish that goes well with fruits (apple, banana, pear), nuts (almond, pine nuts, hazelnut, macadamia), fresh/roasted/grilled vegetables (tomatoes, broccoli, zucchini, bell pepper), meat (pork, beef, veal, lamb), poultry, seafood (shrimp), herbs and spices (coriander, parsley). 

Traditionally, couscous is steamed, but it can also be boiled. In most European and American supermarkets, you can find pre-cooked couscous that only needs to be rehydrated with boiling water or stock for 3-5 minutes. Couscous is often served with vegetable and meat stews, but it also goes well with seafood (shrimp, crab, salmon), poultry (duck, goose, turkey, chicken), ham, sausage, fresh, roasted, and grilled vegetables (tomatoes, zucchini, broccoli, bell pepper, eggplant), cheese (feta, Swiss, parmesan), and even fruits and honey!

See also: What Tastes Best With Quinoa? Ultimate Guide + Recipes

Couscous is often sprinkled with lemon juice to give it a slightly citrusy sour flavor. You can also add parsley to couscous to make its flavor more pronounced and refreshing. It is crucial to add butter in couscous to make it creamier and add buttery notes. Butter also prevents couscous from being sticky.

Couscous is often added to soups and salads, so it can be eaten both hot and cold. Couscous goes well with seafood, especially shrimp and salmon. Remember to add cream to the dish to give couscous a delicate, nutty taste or sprinkle it with lemon or lime juice.

Couscous also tastes amazing when served with fresh and dried fruits. Couscous goes well with banana, apple, pear, blueberries, strawberry, and raspberry. Add some honey and nuts to couscous to make it a highly nutritious and delicious breakfast. Couscous tastes good with pine nuts, almonds, macadamia, walnuts, and hazelnuts.

Here is a list of the most popular couscous dishes (both sweet and savory) that will just melt in your mouth:

  • Couscous with chicken thighs and eggplant
  • Couscous salad with feta cheese and chickpeas
  • Couscous with almond, hazelnuts, and honey
  • Tomatoes stuffed with couscous and goat/feta cheese
  • Couscous with watermelon and feta cheese
  • Couscous with roasted shrimp and cream
  • Toasted couscous with eggplant
  • Couscous with cherries and arugula
  • Lemon herb couscous salad
  • Couscous with feta, cherry tomatoes, and cucumber

No matter the food preferences, there is something for everyone when cooking with couscous. Enjoy its milk taste with your favorite ingredients and take advantage of its high nutritious value!

See also: Ultimate Guide on How to Store Quinoa

Couscous Taste FAQ

Does couscous taste like quinoa?

Couscous has a much milder and plainer taste than quinoa. Couscous is bland with subtle sweet and nutty notes and a chewy texture, while quinoa has a more pronounced buttery flavor and is crunchy. However, in cooking, couscous and quinoa are often used interchangeably due to their similar taste profile.

Is couscous just like rice?

Contrary to the popular belief that couscous is just like rice, it is, in fact, pasta made with semolina flour and water. So no, couscous is not a type of whole grain and is not just like rice even though the two share preparation methods and some flavor properties.

Do you eat couscous hot or cold?

Couscous is a versatile dish and can be served cold as a salad (Mediterranean couscous salad, summer couscous salad, lemon herb couscous salad, etc.) and hot (red pepper stuffed with couscous, honey salmon with snappy couscous, grilled pork with couscous, grilled couscous with raisins, etc.)

Does couscous taste good?

When cooked correctly, couscous tastes good – it becomes sweet, nutty, and delicate. Cooked couscous has a slightly chewy texture but is still fairly soft. Couscous has a mild taste with subtle buttery and nutty notes and goes well with fruits, vegetables, nuts, seafood, meat, and poultry.

What is the texture of cooked couscous?

Cooked couscous has a slightly chewy and firm texture, with each granule popping in your mouth. However, properly cooked couscous should not have a rubbery or coarse texture – it should still be delicate and tender. However, larger couscous varieties could have a firmer texture than smaller ones.

See also: What Is The Best Time to Eat Quinoa + Awesome Recipes

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