Contrary to what many people believe, couscous is not a type of whole grain. It is actually a type of pasta made of semolina and wheat flour, and the two ingredients are moistened and tossed together to form little balls.
Although cooking couscous takes hardly a few minutes, the process can be a bit tricky and you may end up with a dish that is either sticky and overcooked or dry and hard.
There are several ways to prepare couscous and you can use either the stove or the microwave. What many people might not know is that, to make the cooking process easier and more convenient, you may also use a rice cooker.
So, how do you make couscous in a rice cooker? Couscous can easily be made in a rice cooker on the most basic rice setting. All you have to do is add all the ingredients and seasonings and tune the settings at the optimum time and temperature.
Read on to find out more about couscous, its different varieties, step-by-step instructions for making couscous in a rice cooker, and much more!
What Is Couscous?
A staple in North African, Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean cuisines, couscous gained popularity around the world due to its flexibility and ability to feature as both an excellent main and side dish.
Similar to pasta, it doesn’t have much of a taste. There is, however, a slight nuttiness and sweetness to it when cooked, albeit mild.
Due to its lack of a prominent flavor, it is ideal for a wide range of seasonings and can be paired with anything from sweet to spicy.
It can be used as a side dish, added to soup, enjoyed as part of a salad, or combined with other ingredients and served as an entrée.
Types Of Couscous
Couscous ranges in size depending on where it comes from and can be as small as a poppy seed or the size of a garbanzo bean.
Traditional couscous is often handmade and requires a long process that needs certain skills to master. The boxed varieties available in supermarkets, on the other hand, are made using a machine and are also referred to as “instant”.
The instant couscous varieties have already been steamed and dried and only need to be cooked undisturbed in boiling water for a few minutes until they are ready to eat.
The three most common types of couscous include Moroccan, Israeli, and Lebanese couscous, with the former two most commonly found in American supermarkets.
Moroccan couscous is the smallest of the lot, with each grain only slightly bigger than semolina. Due to its small size, it takes the least amount of time to cook and is ready in just a few minutes.
Israeli couscous, also known as pearl couscous, is much larger than Moroccan couscous and resembles little balls of pasta. It has a nuttier flavor and a chewier texture and takes a bit longer to cook than the smaller varieties.
Lebanese couscous, also called moghrabieh couscous, is the largest out of the three types and takes the longest to cook as compared to Moroccan and Israeli couscous.
How To Make Couscous In A Rice Cooker
A rice cooker is a versatile tool that is not limited to cooking rice. You can use it for making slow-cooked soups, beans, and stews, poaching fruit, steaming vegetables, making risotto, oatmeal, couscous, and so much more!
Making couscous in a rice cooker is super easy, takes hardly a few minutes, and gives you the best light and fluffy couscous.
Here are step-by-step instructions for making couscous in a rice cooker:
- Start with adding water and couscous to the rice cooker. The ratio should be 1:1, so always use 1 cup of water for every cup of couscous.
- Add a pinch of kosher salt to ensure that the seasoning is even and absorbs into the couscous. For added flavor, you may also add 2 tbsp of chicken stock to the uncooked couscous.
- Add a little olive oil if you are making a savory dish or butter if you plan on serving the couscous with something sweet. This will prevent the couscous from sticking together and is important to get the texture right.
- Next, set your rice cooker to the “white rice” setting. Since every rice cooker is different, you may not have this particular setting. If that is the case, set it to the most basic rice setting.
- Once the couscous is cooked, fluff it up and set the rice cooker to “keep warm” for an additional 5 minutes. You may keep it this way for up to an hour if you do not plan on eating the couscous immediately. Just keep checking the couscous to make sure it doesn’t overcook.
- Taste the couscous and adjust the seasoning, if required, and serve it hot.
How To Make Couscous On The Stovetop
Couscous is usually prepared in a saucepan on the stove, although it is not as convenient as using a rice cooker since a normal saucepan doesn’t have any preset functions.
You have to be mindful when using this method or you may end up with undercooked or overcooked couscous.
Here are step-by-step instructions for making couscous in a saucepan:
- Place 1 cup of water in a saucepan and 1-2 tbsp of butter and olive oil over high heat and bring it to a boil. You may also use chicken broth instead of water to make the couscous more flavorful.
- Remove the pan from the heat and add 1 cup of couscous into the water.
- Add a bit of kosher salt and give the couscous a nice stir.
- Cover the saucepan and let it sit for 10 minutes.
- If the couscous hasn’t absorbed the water and is still undercooked, cover it and let it sit for a few extra minutes.
- Once ready, use a fork to gently break apart and fluff the couscous before serving.
- If you do not wish to eat it immediately, cover the pan after fluffing the couscous to make sure it stays warm.
How To Make Couscous In A Microwave
If you do not wish to make couscous on a stovetop, you may also prepare it using a microwave. All you have to do is boil the water or broth in the microwave instead of a saucepan and add to it the couscous.
Here are step-by-step instructions for making couscous in a microwave:
- Pour 1 cup of water or broth into a microwave-safe bowl and heat it in 1-minute intervals.
- Make sure to stir in between intervals for about 4 minutes, until it starts giving off steam.
- Pour the boiling water over 1 cup of couscous.
- Add butter or oil to the couscous, and some kosher salt according to your taste.
- Stir the couscous to moisten it completely and cover it with a plate or some plastic wrap.
- Let it sit for 10 minutes.
- Once ready, remove the plate or plastic wrap and use a fork to gently fluff it before serving.
Now that you know how to make couscous in a rice cooker, here are a few additional questions we thought you might have!
How can you tell when couscous is done?
You can tell when couscous is done similar to how you check the doneness of rice. Couscous is cooked when all the water or broth is absorbed and it is tender.
If the couscous still tastes crunchy after the timer goes off and hasn’t absorbed the water, you must let it sit for a few more minutes since these are indicators of undercooked couscous.
How to make pilaf-style couscous in a rice cooker?
For pilaf-style couscous, you need to brown some chopped onions and almonds in a rice cooker using a little bit of olive oil.
Set the rice cooker on the “quick cook” setting and add the chopped prunes/raisins, seasoning, couscous, and broth.
Cover and cook the couscous on the regular cycle and allow it to steam, not boil. Let the couscous rest for 5 minutes on the “keep warm” setting. When done, serve the pilaf-style couscous with grilled meats and roasted vegetables.
Are couscous and quinoa the same?
No, although couscous and quinoa may look alike, they are not the same. Couscous is made from flour whereas quinoa is actually a seed, though to keep it simple, it is considered a whole grain.
Since couscous is made using flour, it is not gluten-free, while quinoa, on the other hand, is naturally gluten-free.
That being said, since couscous and quinoa both have a neutral taste and go well with a wide variety of ingredients, they can easily be substituted for one another.
How long does cooked couscous last?
Cooked couscous will keep at room temperature for a few hours, after which it may become susceptible to bacterial growth.
Therefore, it is best to store leftover cooked couscous in the fridge, where it will stay good for up to 3 days. However, if the couscous is mixed with other ingredients, it may shorten its life depending on the type of ingredient.
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