How to Make Fluffy Couscous – Easy Couscous Recipe

Fluffy Couscous - just steam it in a casserole instead of a pot
Fluffy Couscous – just steam it in a casserole instead of a pot

I make couscous all the time, whenever I want a break from rice or pasta, or when I just need something that cooks super quick with minimal attention. I know there is a proper way that it is prepared in its native lands, involving multiple steamings in a basket over boiling water, followed by breaking up with your fingers and steaming some more. I’m sure this is fantastic but I’ve always contented myself with the quick “package directions” version where you simply add the couscous to boiling water, turn off the heat, cover, wait 5 minutes and fluff. It isn’t bad but it isn’t all that fluffy or delicious either.

Joyce Goldstein’s wonderful book Saffron Shores (about the foods of the Jewish diaspora in the southern Mediterranean) just showed me a much better way. Hardly any more work than the quickie version. The trick is that you pour the boiling water over the couscous in a low flat casserole so that the weight of the grains and water doesn’t keep it from expanding. I was blown away at how much fluffier and tastier the results are. I’ll never do it in the pot again.

The exact method is below, and if you are looking for something to serve it with, try it with these chickpea cakes or with acorn squash and a yogurt sauce.

Fluffy Couscous
Serves 6
Vegetarian and Vegan
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 15 minutes

  • 3 cups couscous
  • 4 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Add the salt and oil to boiling water. Spread couscous evenly in the bottom of a large  casserole so that it is in as thin a layer as possible. Add the water and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Wait until all the water is absorbed (about 15 minutes), then fluff with a fork. Enjoy! Below is a picture of it topped with a simple spicy chickpea stew with cauliflower, potatoes, and leeks.

For a delicious and simple couscous salad recipe, make the the couscous as described above. Let it cool, then toss it with  canned chickpeas, finely chopped green onions, fresh mint, olive oil, and sea salt. Other nice additions are raisins, pine nuts, feta cheese, olives, and flat leaf parsley.

Spicy Chickpea Stew Over CouscousSpicy Chickpea Stew Over Couscous
Spicy Chickpea Stew Over Couscous

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Posted by Michael Natkin on Tuesday, November 6th, 2007 in Favorites, Kid Friendly, Recipes, Side Dishes, Vegan or Modifiable.

27 Responses to “How to Make Fluffy Couscous – Easy Couscous Recipe”

  1. Sarah
    June 12, 2009 at 4:13 am #

    WOW! This is the best trick ever! I just made it and it came out perfectly– my first fluffy couscous! Thank you so much :)

  2. July 12, 2009 at 4:34 am #

    Wow, thanks for the tip. I only recently discovered cous cous and just love it. I was curious why it was fluffy sometimes, and not others, and thought it was the water. I think now it was the depth or narrowness of the various bowls I was using. I’ll use my big, flat roasting pan next time. Thank you!

  3. October 18, 2009 at 5:53 pm #

    Hooray! I’ve wondered about this for a long time. Thanks for sharing.

  4. sulipher
    October 29, 2010 at 1:29 pm #

    Perfect, I made it in a quart zipploc bag and once the liquid was absorved, which took just 30 secs i layed it flat on a small cookie sheet. Left it for 5 min then turned it over and fluffed it with out opening the bag. So much easier and left it in the bag till it was time to serve. MMMM thank you

  5. Ayi
    February 11, 2011 at 11:43 am #

    Thanks for the tip! Did you use the packaged instant couscous?

  6. Michael Natkin
    February 11, 2011 at 2:05 pm #

    There really isn't any difference between the pre-pack and bulk stuff except price – all couscous cooks very quickly if you pour boiling water over it, though the traditional steaming and rubbing method takes longer.

  7. Kevin
    March 3, 2011 at 7:46 am #

    Thanks for the tip! I reduced the recipe down to 1/2 cup of couscous and 3/4 cup of almond milk and had it for breakfast this morning. I just put the couscous in a pot, poured in the boiling milk, and covered it for 10-15 minutes. Yielded two servings. Works great!

  8. Jill
    October 11, 2011 at 10:55 pm #

    Thank you so much for this! It is the first time I have ever had really fluffy cous cous :-)

  9. Michael Natkin
    October 13, 2011 at 7:25 pm #

    Oh good! It is a big difference, isn't it?

  10. James
    February 4, 2012 at 8:12 am #

    I’m another couscous convert – nothing easier to prepare. As a suggestion for getting the water/couscous ratio right without using a measuring cup, I add just enough boiled water to cover a dish of couscous by no more than about a quarter of an inch – the result is neither too dry nor too soggy.

  11. Lee
    March 14, 2012 at 5:13 am #

    I’ve never cooked cous cous before, and I just used this method. Thank you, it turned out lovely! I used vegetable stock and olive oil in the water.

  12. Lizzie
    August 23, 2012 at 9:52 am #

    This is the ONLY time my couscous has ever been nice! Thank you! I was worried about using a fork, so used a whisk, and it was so easy to fluff it up!

  13. James
    December 3, 2012 at 2:07 pm #

    Just wanted to say this is such a fantastic tip – for years my cous cous turned in to porridge every time I made it (such a waste) or rarely if I didn’t over water it, it would just clump together in to a big dry ball, but cooking it like this in a shallow dish with a little oil and salt in the boiling water comes out perfectly every time. Beautiful buttery cous cous just like you get in a restaurant. Thank you so much for a great tip.

  14. Mary
    December 29, 2012 at 1:11 pm #

    FINALLY, a foolproof way of making couscous! Made it this way last night and every single grain was perfectly moist, fluffy and NOT gummy. Thank you!!!

  15. Kemp
    February 27, 2013 at 12:26 am #

    Made my cous cous for the very first time yesterday using this method. It turned out great.

  16. Kewlio
    May 10, 2013 at 6:20 am #

    Brillant timesaving method. I prepared it as specified using a heat resistant glass casserole sealed with an airtight plastic lid. Do you have a recommended absorbtion time for whole grain Couscous, if different? Thanks!

    • May 11, 2013 at 8:19 pm #

      I don’t make whole wheat couscous very often, but it seems to me that the cooking time is about the same. It is such a fine grain size that the water absorbs quite quickly.

  17. Julie
    July 29, 2013 at 10:58 am #

    Thanks Michael. This method worked brilliantly for me too. I was looking for a simple accompaniment to a chicken & mango dish and this works brilliantly with coriander running through the cous cous. Genius – thank you!

  18. Deb M.
    December 25, 2013 at 9:49 pm #

    I knew cous cous was pretty easy but hadn’t eaten it much since I lived in Tunisia. When I lived there, a Moroccan woman I knew made it for me in a double broiler/steamer type pot. So I got online, found this one which sounded easy, decided to make it, and only then (since I was on my phone) realized it was your website! (At first I just thought it was an ad popping up for your amazing cookbook, but then realized it was actually herbivoracious.com.) It made a ton, but it turned out fluffy & just perfect. I’m not sure what the chances are that I would’ve found your recipe randomly (after only looking at a couple others), but I’m so glad I did! Thanks for contributing to my meal. (By the way, I also made Sarina’s famous roasted cauliflower and it was a hit!) Safe travels.

    • December 26, 2013 at 5:14 am #

      Deb – that’s funny! This method will never be as good as hand-steam and rolled, but for a 5 minute version it is pretty tasty. I like it with a lot of thinly sliced green onions.

      • cb
        March 1, 2014 at 8:39 am #

        4.5 cups of boiling water for 3 cups couscous seems like a lot. i’ve read everywhere else that it’s basically a one to one ratio. No?

        • March 1, 2014 at 8:42 am #

          cb – this ratio (1.5 : 1 by volume) works great for me, but feel free to experiment and see if you prefer a different texture.

  19. Pauline
    February 20, 2014 at 3:20 am #

    Does anyone have the receipe/method how to do the hand rolled version. I realize you most likely will start with cream of wheat? Thank you.

  20. March 19, 2014 at 10:52 am #

    YOU HAVE REVOLUTIONISED MY KITCHEN!

    Thank you so much for this tip! I just tried it (it’s dinnertime here!) and raced back to the computer to say thank you!

    No more soggy cous-cous. It feels like a new life.

    :)

  21. Kayleen
    March 24, 2014 at 1:05 am #

    OMG… I am normally so hopeless making couscous… You are a genius!! Thank you so much. It has turned out perfectly. I added some fried onion with garlic & some dried shallots. Yum yum yum….

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