This easy Moroccan couscous only takes 15 minutes to make and is perfect as a salad, or a side dish. Aromatic with traditional spices from North Africa, this couscous recipe has warming notes of cinnamon and cumin. Pair it with proteins like lamb, beef or chicken, or keep it vegetarian by adding chickpeas and roasted vegetables. It’s also great for making ahead because it stores well for up to 3 days in the fridge.
If you love the exotic flavours and aromas of Levantine cuisine you will definitely also want to try this Turkish lentil soup, this lamb tagine or this gyro salad. This Moroccan couscous salad is the perfect side dish for those recipes.
⭐️ Why You'll Love Moroccan CousCous
- Quick and easy: This recipe is designed to save you time without compromising on flavour. Even on the busiest weekdays, you can whip up this quick and easy side dish in 15 minutes.
- Flavour-packed: The burst of traditional Moroccan spices, combined with the subtle sweetness of raisins and the crunchy texture of pine nuts, a winning combination.
- Versatile: Moroccan couscous can be served as a salad, a side dish or on it’s own with some chicken, lamb or roasted vegetables mixed through it.
- Healthy: This recipe brings together wholesome ingredients like whole wheat couscous and pinenuts, which are loaded with essential nutrients your body needs.
❓What is couscous
Couscous is a staple food in North African cuisine, specifically in Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia. It is essentially a type of pasta that's made by rolling and shaping moistened semolina wheat into tiny, granular spheres.
- Origin: North African staple, particularly popular in Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia.
- What is it?: Couscous is a type of pasta, not a grain as some people commonly mistake it for.
- Made from: It's made from semolina wheat that's moistened and rolled into small, round granules.
- Cooking method: Traditionally, couscous is steamed. However, in most modern kitchens, the absorption method is popular, where couscous is added to boiling water or broth, removed from heat, and then left to absorb the liquid until it's soft. Boiling is not recommended as it can lead to overcooked and mushy couscous.
- Whole wheat couscous (or regular): The main component, offers a mild, nutty flavour and a light, fluffy texture.
- Raisins: These provide a burst of sweetness that beautifully balances the savoury elements.
- Pine nuts or almonds: Offer a soft milky texture and a rich buttery flavour. *If pine nuts are unavailable (or too pricey) in your local Aldi you can use almonds or walnuts instead.
- Fresh lemon juice: This brings a bright, tangy note to the dish.
- Fresh parsley: For added freshness and colour.
- Cumin and cinnamon: The defining spices that give this couscous its fragrant and warming Moroccan flavour.
- Vegetable broth: A flavorful liquid for cooking the couscous. *can use chicken broth too.
- Almonds: Another layer of crunch and a boost of protein.
- Herbs: Coriander and mint add depth and complexity to the dish.
See recipe card for quantities.
📖 Substitutions & Variations
Vegan: Substitute the traditional chicken broth for a robust vegetable broth and enjoy a delicious plant-based feast.
Shallots: Onions make for a great substitute, lending a slightly different but equally delicious flavour to the couscous.
Raisins for Apricots: If you're not a fan of raisins or simply want a different fruity note, dried apricots make an excellent substitute.
Cumin for Ras El Hanout: If you want to give your couscous a more complex flavour profile, you can substitute the cumin and cinnamon for Ras El Hanout. *Not available at Aldi, but available at any other grocery store.
👩🏻🍳 Step By Step
- Start by toasting the nuts in a hot pan until golden brown. This extra step enhances their flavour and adds a delightful crunch to the couscous.
- In a separate pan, sauté finely chopped shallots with cumin and a dash of salt until the shallots turn translucent.
- Meanwhile, prepare the vegetable broth and bring it to a rolling boil.
- Gradually add the couscous into the boiling broth, stirring occasionally to prevent it from sticking to the pot. Cover and allow it to absorb the liquid fully.
- Once the couscous is cooked, fluff it up with a fork to avoid any lumps. Finally, garnish with raisins of apricots, chopped almonds, fresh herbs, and a generous squeeze of lemon juice for a bright finish. *Add in some roasted vegetables and sun-dried tomatoes if you have them on hand.
💡 Chef's top tip
Toast your pine nuts before adding them to the dish. This extra step enhances their flavour, adding an irresistible nutty note to your Moroccan couscous.
- Store any leftover Moroccan couscous in an airtight container in the fridge. It'll stay fresh and tasty for about 3-4 days.
- For a longer storage solution, freeze the couscous in a freezer-safe container. It'll keep well for up to 3 months.
- When you're ready to serve, reheat the couscous in the microwave until it's warmed through. Be sure to stir it occasionally for even heating.
💡 Top tip for light and fluffy couscous
Fluff your couscous with a fork after cooking. This simple step ensures that your couscous stays light and fluffy, not sticky or clumpy.
Lamb, Chicken, Fish, Chickpeas and Tofu are all great protein options.
Some Moroccan couscous recipes may also include meatballs or sweet and spicy shrimp. It can also be served on its own as a light vegetarian lunch option. The dish is often topped with a flavorful broth and a variety of stewed veggies, making it a complete meal in itself.
Meat dishes: Moroccan couscous can be served with lamb, chicken, or beef. It pairs especially well with lamb tagine.
Vegetable dishes: Roasted vegetables, stewed veggies, and vegetable tagine are all great recipes for serving with Moroccan couscous.
Salads: Moroccan carrot salad or Moroccan tomato salad, can be served as a side dish with couscous.
Soups: Traditional soups like harira or lentil soup, can be served as a starter or side dish with couscous.
Dips and sauces: Moroccan dips and sauces, such as harissa or chermoula, can be served with couscous to add flavour and spice.
Grilled dishes: Moroccan grilled dishes, such as Moroccan grilled chicken or kebabs, can be served with couscous.
Looking for more side dish ideas? Try these:
These are my favourite dishes to serve with this Moroccan couscous:
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15 Minute Moroccan Couscous
- 200 g 1 cup of whole wheat couscous
- 1 medium shallot, finely diced
- 50 g ¼ cup of dried apricots or raisins
- 50 g ¼ cup of almonds or pine nuts
- Juice of 1 lemon
- A handful of fresh parsley, chopped
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 tablespoon of olive oil
- 500 ml 2 cups of vegetable broth
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the shallot and sauté until it becomes translucent.
- Stir in the cumin and cinnamon and continue to sauté for a minute until the spices are fragrant.
- Add the vegetable broth to the pan and bring to a boil. Once boiling, stir in the couscous. Remove the pan from the heat, cover, and let the couscous absorb the broth for about 5-7 minutes, until it's soft and all the liquid is absorbed.
- In the meantime, toast the pine nuts or almonds in a separate pan until golden brown. Be sure to stir frequently to prevent them from burning.
- Once the couscous is ready, fluff it with a fork to separate the grains. Add the toasted almonds or pine nuts, raisins or apricots, lemon juice, and fresh parsley. Stir everything together and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve the Moroccan couscous warm as a side dish or main course.
- For a vegan version, make sure your vegetable broth is vegan-friendly. You can also use water in a pinch.
- To plump up your apricots or raisins, soak them in warm water for 10 minutes before using them.
- The couscous can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
- To reheat, add a splash of water or broth and microwave it for a minute or two. If you like a bit of heat, feel free to add a dash of chilli flakes or harissa to the recipe.