Perfect Couscous

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A versatile and super-easy side dish, couscous is made from tiny steamed balls of semolina flour. Though we often think of it as a grain, it’s actually a type of pasta.

steamed couscous in bowl with plaid linen napkin.

Couscous is a North African dish made from tiny steamed balls of semolina flour. Though we think of it and cook it as a grain, it’s actually a type of pasta. Traditionally, couscous is steamed in a special double-chambered cooking vessel called a couscousière, which is a time-consuming process. However, here in the States, we often use the instant variety of couscous that cooks up in just 5 minutes—making it one of the quickest and most versatile side dishes around, way faster than basmati rice or mashed potatoes.

The cooking instructions on the back of the box will give you perfectly fine couscous, but this recipe shows you how to take it up a notch. It’s delicious paired with saucy dishes like Moroccan brisket or chicken tagine, and it also complements grilled Moroccan meatballs with yogurt sauce beautifully.

What You’ll Need To Make Couscous

Couscous ingredients including sea salt, butter, and olive oil.

Step-By-Step Instructions

To start, bring the cooking liquid (preferably a flavorful chicken or vegetable broth) to a boil in a medium pot. Add a drizzle of olive oil, a pat of butter, and a little salt.

Broth boiling in a pot.

Next, add the couscous. (I use 1-3/4 cups liquid to 1-1/2 cups couscous.)

Couscous pouring into a pot of boiling broth.

Take the pan off the heat, cover, and let the couscous steam for 5 minutes.

Couscous steaming in a pot.

When you lift the lid, the grains will appear flat in an even layer. Use a fork to fluff it up and break up the clumps for light and fluffy couscous.

Fork in a pot of couscous.

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Perfect Couscous

A versatile and super-easy side dish, couscous is made from tiny steamed balls of semolina flour. Though we often think of it as a grain, it’s actually a type of pasta.

Servings: 4 - 6
Prep Time: 5 Minutes
Cook Time: 5 Minutes
Total Time: 10 Minutes


  • 1¾ cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth (or water)
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1½ cups (10 oz) instant couscous


  1. In a medium saucepan, bring the water (or broth), salt, butter, and oil to a boil. Stir in the couscous, cover tightly with a lid, and remove from heat. Let the couscous steam for 5 minutes. Use a fork to fluff the couscous and break up any clumps. Serve warm.
  2. Freezer-Friendly Instructions: The couscous can be frozen for up to 3 months. When ready to serve, reheat it in the microwave until hot.

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Per serving (6 servings)
  • Calories: 226
  • Fat: 5g
  • Saturated fat: 2g
  • Carbohydrates: 37g
  • Sugar: 0g
  • Fiber: 2g
  • Protein: 7g
  • Sodium: 220mg
  • Cholesterol: 5mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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  • Jen… I am one of your biggest fans. I would say 99.9 of your recipes turn over the top fabulous and there’s room to make ttweak to my Spanish heritage. I’m reading all of the reviews and I’m wondering if people are misunderstanding pearl/Israeli couscous or instant couscous. Before I try, I just want to make sure because the picture looks like instant. Sorry to bother. I guess I get defensive for you when I see people perhaps misunderstanding an ingredient.😳🥴 thank you again for years of great cooking..

    • — Lorena on April 18, 2024
    • Reply
    • Hi Lorena, thanks for your very kind words – so glad you like the recipes! The couscous that should be used here is the small grain/instant. BTW, I just added that to the recipe in case that has caused confusion for others. Hope that clarifies and that it comes out well for you!

      • — Jenn on April 19, 2024
      • Reply
  • Most delicious cous cous I’ve ever made – making it again two days later because it was gone so quick! Thank you

    • — Daniella on April 12, 2024
    • Reply
  • I used chicken Better Than Bouillon — two cups even, — a spoonful of LandsO’Lakes olive-oil butter mix, no additional salt, and two cups of instant couscous. It was perfect. We are at 4300′ above sealevel, which may make the difference.

    • — Elizabeth on November 6, 2023
    • Reply
  • Actually, this is the first time I managed to make great, not-soupy couscous. It was delicious and fluffy!

    • — Ana on October 20, 2023
    • Reply
  • Unfortunately, I like others was left with soupy, burnt couscous. Not sure what went wrong as I followed the recipe to the letter. I must be missing an important step. Perhaps only works with a particular brand of couscous.

    • — UnluckyChef on August 11, 2023
    • Reply
    • How did you manage to burn it? It specifically says to take the couscous off the heat in the recipe.

      • — Ana on October 20, 2023
      • Reply
  • I love this recipe! Although you’d think it would be simple, I’d never been very successful making couscous — it would come out dry and tasteless. Now I know that a little butter and olive oil goes a long way. Will always use this recipe now!

    • — Bonnie on July 27, 2023
    • Reply
  • Couscous did not turn out fluffy. Couscous did not turn out edible.

    • — John on July 26, 2023
    • Reply
  • In a hurry, I just read the recipe, not the whole post. It did not say “instant” couscous. This method did not work at all with the couscous I used. I am in Canada and most of the couscous in my local grocery stores is not instant. I am sure it works well, but you may want to update your recipe so it does not simply say “couscous” on the ingredient list

    • — Elaine on May 31, 2023
    • Reply
    • Literally all small (non-pearl) couscous is “instant”. She is using common, typical couscous that is steamed and cooked off-heat.

      • — Holly on January 25, 2024
      • Reply
  • Fantastic! Simple and perfect and most importantly, delicious couscous. Thanks so much!

    • — Kelley M on March 11, 2023
    • Reply
  • This is a brilliant recipe! Thanks a lot Jenn ❤️

    • — Bridget Gates on February 23, 2023
    • Reply
  • Perfect is the correct word to describe the results from using this method. Upon occasion I treat the couscous as if I’m making a rice pilaf and saute a bit of onion, garlic and a bay leaf in the fat mixture before adding the stock. I will never make couscous the traditional way again – this gives better results.

    • — Liz on February 16, 2023
    • Reply
  • This is the perfect couscous! My go to recipe every time and always comes out perfect. Thank you

    • — Emma on January 10, 2023
    • Reply
  • Wow! It really is THE perfect couscous!

    • — Lyndie on November 28, 2022
    • Reply
  • Yeah worked well and gonna try a salad next thanx again

    • — Lee frederic on November 16, 2022
    • Reply
  • Cooking cous-cous previously has always been a really hit-or-miss type of dish for me. But I’ve made this recipe several times now and it has turned out perfectly every time! And the flavour is great – it can be eaten as it is, or it also creates a beautiful base to build on with other flavours and ingredients. I won’t be cooking cous-cous any other way from now on! Thank you for a fabulous recipe 🙂

    • — Lauren on August 9, 2022
    • Reply
  • Proper cous cous is steamed, not cooked with boiling water. This is a lazy short cut and not how it is prepared in North Africa. If you want light, fluffy cous cous, you have to steam it three times for work minutes each.

    • — CH on August 7, 2022
    • Reply
    • You can keep cooking the primitive time-consuming method; the rest of us who have better things to do with our time much prefer this quick method. There is more than one way to cook. If you already know how to cook couscous why are you even looking at other recipes?

      • — Alby on October 7, 2022
      • Reply
      • Well said Alby, well said.

        • — Kimmieboo on November 7, 2022
        • Reply
    • Don’t give a one star review because you didn’t like the method. I bet you didn’t even make it!
      Jen’s is one of the better food blogs out there, I have had more wonderful meals from Jen than any other chef.

      • — Colin on April 18, 2024
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn, Greetings from Ireland. I would just like to say that I love and have made this recipe many times. It always turns out perfect for me. I make as per your recipe and add whatever I have and appeals on the day. Today however I did something different… and I’m guessing you may not be impressed with me🤦‍♀️….. but I feel I should share it, as it may help those who said your recipe didn’t work for them. I don’t know why but today I decided to use the microwave! I measured couscous in a bowl. To a microwave dish, I added a chicken stock cube to hot water and mixed in with a fork. I then added salt and stirred. I added the butter and mixed until it dissolved. Finally I added the extra virgin olive oil and stirred to combine. I then covered the dish with a lid and heated in microwave for a 1 1/2 minutes to boil. Microwaves differ so you may need to do for shorter/longer time, in any event keep an eye on it! I then added it to my couscous, gave it a very quick gentle stir, covered bowl and let it sit for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes I gently fluffed couscous with fork and what happened……today I again had the most perfect couscous👏! I hope that might help if stove top doesn’t work for you. Thank you Jenn for all your wonderful recipes and apologies 😁. Mary.

    • 😁

  • Excellent!

  • The couscous turned out perfect. To make it cruelty-free I used the Better Than Boullion Mushroom Flavored concentrate, to sweeten naturally I added a bit added raisins which are also antioxidant powerhouses, served along side Beyond Sausage Breakfast Patties.

    • BTB mushroom base contains dairy products.

      • Worked well for me.
        Thank you

        • — Aminat on October 20, 2023
        • Reply
  • I followed the recipe and the finished product was scrumptious. Thank you!
    Next time I will add a little curry powder with the raisins.

  • This comes out perfect every time we make it.

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