Couscous, A Savory Side Dish

Couscous, a savory dish made with tiny pasta like grains originating in North Africa, has now become a popular side dish throughout much of the world. Here in America, you can usually find boxes of instant couscous on the shelves at most local grocery stores. It can be simply prepared in a pot of water with a little oil and be on the table in five minutes.

A Savory Side Dish Of Vegetable Couscous With Chick Peas, Raisins And Almonds

The easy recipe that I am sharing with you is more flavorful than the recipe that appears on the box and takes a little longer to prepare but it is worth it. The couscous is steamed in a savory spiced chicken stock, then fluffed with cooked vegetables, chick peas, raisins and almonds…delicious alone or topped with a stew of vegetables, chicken or meat. I served this couscous topped with a Moroccan lamb stew (recipe to be shared soon).

If you serve the couscous as a side dish with a simple rotisserie chicken, you might want to enhance the flavors by adding additional spices such as garlic, ginger, turmeric, paprika or a little harissa if you want something spicy. You could also add figs, apricots, olives, or preserved lemons to the couscous.

The recipe can easily be made into a vegetarian meal by simply replacing the chicken stock with a vegetable broth, the butter with olive oil and adding additional vegetables such as sweet potato, carrot, turnip or eggplant. As you can see, it is a very versatile dish that can be adapted to the meal you are serving.

Moroccan Style Couscous, A Savory Side Dish

Vegetable Couscous With Chick Peas, Raisins And Almonds

Serves 4 to 6

  • 4 c. chicken stock (vegetable broth may be substituted)
  • a pinch of saffron, crumbled (if saffron is not available, a 1/4 tsp. of turmeric can be used to give the couscous a nice color)
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. salt or to taste
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil, more as needed
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 2 c. butternut squash, cubed
  • 2 c. yellow or green zucchini, cubed
  • 1/2 c. chopped onion
  • 1 8 oz. can chickpeas, drained
  • 1 10 oz. box plain couscous (I used Near East)
  • 1/4 c. golden raisins (plumped in 1 Tbsp. water)
  • 1/4 c. toasted sliced almonds
  • a sprig or two of fresh mint, chopped for garnish (optional)

In a medium pot, bring the chicken stock, saffron, cumin, cinnamon, salt, pepper, oil and butter to a boil. Reduce heat, add the butternut squash and simmer until almost tender. Add the onion, zucchini, and chickpeas and simmer until all the vegetables are tender.  Remove the vegetables with a strainer and place in a bowl. Measure out two cups of stock, reserve the remaining stock for later. Place the two cups of stock back into the pot, taste and adjust seasonings if necessary then bring to a boil. Stir in the couscous, cover and remove from the heat. Let sit covered for 10 minutes until all the stock has been absorbed.

Take a fork and scrape the couscous onto a large baking pan, breaking up any clumps. When the couscous is cool enough to handle, fluff (I like to use my hands as you can separate the grains better). Add the reserved vegetables, raisins, and almonds then mix and fluff the couscous once more. Moisten the couscous with up to a cup of the reserved stock. To serve, heap the couscous onto a platter or into large bowl and garnish with the chopped mint.

Bring to the table and serve with any remaining stock alongside the couscous. If serving with a stew, you can create a hole in the center of the couscous and place some of the meat and vegetables in the middle and serve the remainder of the stew on the side with additional accompaniments such as harissa, dried fruits or nuts.


While this recipe for couscous takes more than five minutes compared to the recipe on a box of instant couscous, the flavor is definitely worth the extra time. If you would like another easy couscous recipe to serve as a side dish, you might want to try my recipe for couscous with dried fruits, raisins and pistachios.

Couscous With Dried Fruit And Pistachios

Tell me dear readers, do you have a box of couscous in your pantry and what is your favorite way of preparing it? If not, you should buy a box of instant couscous and try it soon. You will then find out why it is such a versatile and popular side dish.

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I travel the back roads of the world, sharing great food and interesting places and enjoyable pastimes.

174 thoughts on “Couscous, A Savory Side Dish

  1. This is brilliant. I love couscous like this — full of veggies and spices. Mine is similar but I add currants too. LOVE this.

    1. Thank you for your nice compliment Maureen. Currents are a good addition to couscous and provide a nice color contrast to the dish as well.

  2. Super recipe Karen. We love couscous – it is always so nice and easy to prepare to add to a meal – your recipe is a meal all on its own.
    Have a beautiful weekend.
    🙂 Mandy xo

  3. Hello Karen, it’s been awhile since I’ve been checking in to read my favorite blogs. Still busy looking for a house, our rental is coming to the end of the contract , this next week, so I’m emptying the fridge, your post for couscous just popped up in my mail box, great idea to use up leftovers I’d frozen , hadn’t even thought of that, we love it , & it’s ready in a few minutes. You always come to my rescue when I’m thinking of a tastey quick meal. Hope you are enjoying your life in Florida.

    1. Hi Barbara, It is so good to hear from you. I appreciate your kind words about my recipes, I’m glad to have inspired you with this one. Yes, we are loving our home in Florida and I hope that you too find the perfect home for the two of you very soon. 🙂

  4. We LOVE couscous and my husband is the chief couscous cook in the family: he makes a mean Moroccan Lamb with aubergines and tomatoes to die for. I like to serve it as an alternative to rice and, as my son is not very keen on meat, couscous was always a good alternative for protein. Your dishes look delicious too and it never hurts to try something new. Bon appetit! 👍💗

    1. Hi Fatima, I bet Adonis makes a delicious meal. I am posting my recipe for Moroccan Lamb Tagine tomorrow so you might enjoy both of these dishes. Thank you for your nice compliment.

  5. Always my favorite way of preparing couscous, except I use the larger pearl variety, which I think is called Israeli couscous. I may have blogged about it in one of my posts. I bake the veggies in lots of olive oil, garlic, red onion, lemon juice and herbs etc. When the couscous is cooked I add all the goodness and caramelization from the veggies, and add balsamic, fresh mint, basil, thyme and other herbs. It’s always a winner. Yours is pretty similar, it goes so well with anything doesn’t it?

    1. Hi Loretta, I enjoy the Israeli couscous as well and your version sounds delicious. You are right, couscous does go well with so many dishes and can be varied to suit the meal and individual tastes.

  6. Couscous is such a nice dish, isn’t it? Decades ago I lived in Morocco, and ate it often (still do!). It used to be served communally, and everyone would eat it with their right hand. Most people would kind grab a bit of couscous with their finger tips, shape it into a ball, and pop it into a mouth. Every time I tried that my “ball” of couscous disintegrated before it’d reach my mouth! I used a fork instead. 🙂 Anyway, you’ve flavored yours so nicely — thanks.

    1. Hi John, You gave me a chuckle with your description of eating couscous. I was in Morocco once and of course had to try this famous dish while there…I’m like you, I did much better with a fork. 😀

    1. Hi Bobbie, I guess buying a box of couscous in Hong Kong might be a bit of a challenge. I’m glad you like my recipe, thank you.

  7. I don’t make couscous very often but I enjoy eating it. Your recipe looks very good and I will make it soon. I make my own preserved lemon and I want to use them in different recipes.

    1. Hi Gerlinde, I made preserved lemons when we were in New Hampshire and need to do it again. Love the flavor and they would be good in this couscous or the lamb tagine that I will be sharing tomorrow. Thank you for your nice compliment.

  8. That sounds great cooked in stock – they steam it over the cooking pot, in North Africa, where it absorbs all the food flavours from below.
    I’m sure I read somewhere, that Cajun cush-cush is an interpretation of the original cous cous. It has changed over time with new ingredients on a new continent.

    1. Hi Mad Dog, I had read that the traditional way was to steam it over the stew that was to be served with it but I opted out for simple and easy. 😀 I do love your comments, you always have such interesting tidbits to offer…you are like a walking encyclopedia. I didn’t know about the cajun connection, thank you.

    1. Thank you for your nice compliment Jovina. Yes, couscous can be rather bland if it is just prepared according to the directions on the box. I’m glad you like my version.

  9. I love couscous – it’s just magical the way it cooks and fluffs up. Can’t wait to try your version!

  10. Your recipe sounds delicious, minus the raisins! I always have regular and Israeli couscous in the pantry. We like it with roasted veggies and in summer, with lots of raw veggies and chopped nuts.
    Have a wonderful weekend, Karen.

    1. Thank you for your compliment Marigene. Of course the raisins could be eliminated or served on the side for those that like them. I know I would enjoy your summertime version of couscous. Thank you for your wish…I’ve tried commenting on your latest tablescape but comments were closed. I hope you are enjoying the weekend, hopefully you are having nice weather.

  11. Yes as a matter of fact I do have a box of couscous in the cabinet, my favorite way is to steam it and season it with lemon, parsley and pine nuts, will definitely try your version, sounds fantastic.

    1. Hi Cheri, I’m glad you like my version of couscous, yours sounds terrific as well…pine nuts are a nice addition for flavor and crunch.

  12. We often eat couscous, and I like the sound of your recipe, Karen. Thanks so much for sharing. I have several of your recipes waiting to be put into practice once hubby has completely finished painting, and we can invite friends for dinner. 😘

    1. I appreciate your kind words Sylvia and am happy that you will be preparing several of my recipes. I know you are anxiously waiting for your home to be finished…it was such a huge project to take on but your husband it creating a wonderful home for the two of you.

      1. Almost there. We’re just waiting for the screen room to be erected. It seems to be taking an absolute age for them to get going. We ordered it in December and eventually they got the permit submitted. The foundation is now done, but someone has to come and measure exactly so they can construct the structure in the factory, and hejust happens to be ‘off sick’. 😦

  13. Just love couscous like many of your readers and also cook both the ‘ordinary’ and Israeli varieties. A lovely recipe indeed! Must admit I don’t normally use the ‘instant’ variety but love going the whole hog in a proper couscoussier with one of my favourite tagines attendant . . . Actually Paula Wolfert’s ‘Moroccan Cooking’ probably is my favourite cookery tome !

    1. Thank you for your lovely compliment Eha, I’m happy to know that you like the recipe. Lucky you to be able to buy and prepare couscous the traditional way, that is great. I think most of my readers are like me and will only have the boxed variety available to them.

    1. Hi Kelli, I hope you enjoyed my version of couscous if you got the opportunity to prepare it. Thank you as always for your nice compliment.

  14. I never really thought to jazz up couscous. We have always had it as a plain side dish. I can’t wait to try your recipe, Karen.

    Jane x

    1. Hi Jane, Once you try this recipe, I think you will like all the flavor the couscous has compared to the boxed directions. Thank you and enjoy.

  15. Good Afternoon Karen, This is a lovely recipe and one which is full of flavour. The addition of a Morocan lamb stew is perfect and I just know my husband will love it, but I think, for me, your recipe would be perfect just as it is.
    Best Wishes

    1. I appreciate your kind words Daphne. I’m happy to know you like the couscous recipe, I will be sharing the Moroccan lamb stew recipe tomorrow.

    1. Thank you for your nice compliment Deborah, I’m glad you like the recipe. The spices and mint do add a lot of flavor to the couscous. 🙂

    1. Oh my Nancy, couscous is so simple to prepare…you must make some soon. Of course you don’t have to add all the veggies and spices I did but I do think you would enjoy the recipe.

  16. I’ve many boxes in my pantry and I like buying it in bulk as well from the farmers market. But let me tell you, about 6 months ago, I’ve had the pleasure to eat couscous made from scratch by a Moroccan lady here and OMG, It was an experience I will never forget. The flavor, the texture and the smell so much much better than the crab they sell us in these boxes. I wish to learn how to make it one day. Definitely will try your recipe way better than what’s written on those boxes. Pinned.

    1. I appreciate your wanting to try my version Amira, thank you for the pin. I can imagine how good the couscous was that you got to try…it had to be wonderful. I had it once in Morocco when it was made from scratch but it was so many years ago.

    1. I had to chuckle at your comment Rosemary, I do know what a picky eater Mr. Rosemary is…perhaps you could tell him it was teeny tiny pasta (which basically it is). I’ll be posting the lamb stew recipe tomorrow. We will have to wait to know whether Mr. Rosemary thinks it sounds funny too. 😀

  17. Couscous is indeed a great side dish! We always try to keep some on hand for nights when we need to boost our dinner menu a bit. I love the recipe you included here, Karen…especially the addition of the squash and zucchini! What a fun way to include extra veggies, too. Totally making this sometime soon! 🙂

    1. I’m happy to know that you like my version of couscous David and hope you like it if you get the opportunity to make it. Thank you for your nice compliment.

  18. We fell in love with couscous during our trip to Morocco in 2011. I usually have a box of whole wheat couscous in my pantry. Your recipe looks and sounds a million times better than the one on the box, served with a tagine or stew sounds amazing.

    1. Hi Eva, I too remember having couscous on my one short visit to Morocco. I’m happy to know that you like my version. I will be sharing my Moroccan lamb tagine recipe tomorrow.

  19. Couscous is so easy and versatile! I like to make one with finely chopped cucumber, lots of fresh mint and a few spices that evoke a sense of Middle Eastern cuisine (or my idea of it, anyway).

    1. Hi Marlene, I’m sure I would enjoy your version too, it sounds good. I like to make something similar in the summer as cucumber is very refreshing.

  20. This meatless couscous looks so delicious with saffron and so many great vegetables, mint, and other spices.

    1. Thank you for your lovely compliment Denise, I’m happy to know that you like this version of couscous. I does make a nice meatless meal.

  21. Looks absolutely lovely, Karen – and reminiscent of couscous dishes I had in Morocco as a main course!

    1. I appreciate your nice compliment David and you are right, this is perfect as a main course as it has lots of veggies like the one I had the one time I was in Morocco.

  22. Since I go to Morocco every year (sometimes twice!), I have come to love couscous, especially there where it is so fresh and fluffy. I will definitely try this version–looks great.

    1. I’m flattered that you like my version of couscous Vicki, thank you very much. I wish I could follow you on one of your trips and enjoy all the wonderful food that you eat. I’m posting my recipe for Moroccan lamb tagine tomorrow and will linking once more to your recipe for Ras el Hanout for those who can’t find the spice mixture at the local grocery store.

  23. Hi Karen – I’ve not made couscous in YEARS! Your Morrocan style recipe is a great reminder to make it again soon. Yours looks so fluffy and flavorful! I love all the add-ins. Have a wonderful week!

    1. I’m happy to know that my recipe has inspired you to make couscous again Allie. I think one of the ways to get your couscous nice and fluffy is to use your hands to separate the grains…much better than using a fork. Thank you for your nice compliment, I’m glad you like the recipe.

    1. I appreciate your nice compliment Cheyanne, thank you. Stock really does add so much more flavor than cooking couscous with water like the directions on the box.

  24. I love couscous but I just don’t make it often enough. I think I’ll have to change that this week–thank you for inspiring me!

    1. Hi Kelsie, Thank you for stopping by for a visit and your nice comment. I’m always happy to know that I have inspired a reader with one of my recipes. 🙂

  25. It’s one of my favourite lunchtime snacks, Karen, but I’m afraid I cheat and buy ready made tubs. This recipe sounds lovely though. 🙂 Have a great week!

    1. Hi Jo, I might cheat too and buy it readymade for lunch if it was available at our markets. 😀 Thank you for your nice compliment and wish…I hope that you have had a nice weekend.

    1. I appreciate your lovely compliment Marcie, thank you. The spices do add lots of flavor to this dish, I’m glad you like the recipe.

    1. Hi Didi, This is a flavorful couscous, thank you for your compliment. Saffron is such an expensive spice that I use it sparingly. 🙂

    1. Welcome back Norma, you have been missed. I do think you would like this version of couscous…much better than cooking it by the directions on the box.

    1. Hi Pam, I agree…you should definitely add couscous to some of the meals you prepare. Thank you for your compliment on my version.

    1. Hi Fran, You are absolutely right, couscous is definitely easier to make than rice. I’ll be posting my Moroccan lamb tagine recipe tomorrow, I hope you will like it.

    1. Hi Monica, This is the perfect dish to serve family style…I made this large platter full for an informal dinner party. I’m glad you like the recipe, thank you.

  26. Sounds wonderful. I will try this version. We do use couscous. One of my favorite dishes is good for summer: I add a little olive oil and lemon juice plus blueberries and chopped mint leaves.and serve cold.

    1. Thank you for your nice compliment Mary Ann, I hope you will enjoy the recipe as much as we did. Love the idea of blueberries, that would make for a pretty presentation.

  27. This would be wonderful with so many main dishes. I would love it in a pita with some grilled chicken too!

    1. I appreciate your nice compliment Chris. Yes, this couscous would go very well with many meals or as you suggested even in a pita. I’m still having problems getting on to your blog. It seems to be just on my computer…I think I need to buy a new one soon.

  28. I love couscous and you just reminded me that I have not had it for years…I love the idea of cumin and cinnamon and the sweetness of raisins…great side dish!
    I hope you have a wonderful week ahead 🙂

    1. Years Juliana…that is way to long. I do hope you will try this recipe, I think you will enjoy it. Thank you for your nice compliment and wish. I hope you are enjoying the weekend.

    1. Hi Sheryl, I do hope you try making couscous…it is very easy and you can change up the flavors for whatever dish you will be serving it with.

  29. I use to make couscous all of the time, but I never got this creative. This dish look delightful and I just LOVE all of the flavors in such a simple dish. Thanks Karen!

    1. Hi MJ, I served this couscous when we had friends over for a Moroccan dinner so I wanted to be more creative. I’m glad you like my version.

  30. Hi Karen, we enjoy couscous from time to time, but I usually make it with chicken stock and some sliced celery and carrots so my kids will eat it! Your recipe sounds wonderful with all those spices and veggies! I’ll will make this as a meatless meal for just me and the husband soon 🙂

    1. Hi Marcelle, Getting children to eat something they will like is important. I hope you will enjoy this “adults only” version when you have the opportunity to make it. 😀

  31. I haven’t made couscous in far too long. This recipe looks delicious! Love the flavors and textures in this dish.

  32. What a beautiful couscous dish! I love that saffron in there and all the veggies. Perfect side dish!

    1. Hi Krista, You have been missed. I’m happy that my couscous recipe has reminded you about what a nice dish it is. This would be great with veggies from your garden.

  33. I made couscous for the first time more than 10 years ago and then avoided it for almost that long. Until recently, when I have decided to give it another try. Now I love it, it really makes a difference what you put into it. I think I would love your version.

    1. Hi Adina, It is funny how we can enjoy a dish and then it seems to go off the meals we prepare for some reason. I’m glad that you like my version, thank you.

  34. wow, simply divine!!! ❤ I did have genuine "couscous" in Morocco and Tunisia… it's rainin' in my mouth whenever I think about it… UNIQUE!!! 🙂

    1. I appreciate your kind words Mél@nie, thank you. I’ve not been to Tunisia but have been to Morocco many years ago and you are right, they make wonderful couscous.

  35. I love this idea, Karen! It’s rare to see savory recipes like this with nuts and dried fruit, but I absolutely love the combination. It’s been years since I’ve made anything like this – thank you for reminding me!

    1. Hi Marissa, I’m happy that I could remind you of how versatile and delicious couscous is. Thank you for your nice compliment, I’m glad you like my version.

    1. Thank you for your nice compliment Sarah. This is a nice dish for welcoming spring back into our lives…I’m glad you like the recipe.

  36. Oh, boy, your couscous sounds the perfect accompaniment to the Moroccan lamb! It seems like I forget about couscous and instead make a lot of potatoes and rice. Now I’m motivated to add couscous to our menu very soon!

    1. I’m happy to know that you like this version of couscous Liz. I will be publishing the Moroccan lamb tagine recipe tomorrow. The stew went so well with this couscous.

  37. This would be perfect as an easy weeknight dinner or with a roast chicken for Sunday dinner. I usually just serve plain couscous because I always serve it with something that has lots of delicious sauce. I have a butternut squash on hand so I’m going to make this for Monday’s meatless dinner 🙂

    1. Hi Karrie, This is a great side dish to serve with a simple roasted chicken or as you said it would make a nice meatless dinner. I do hope you will enjoy my version of couscous.

    1. Hi Jean, I’m happy that I’ve inspired you to make couscous again. It makes such a nice side dish for so many meals we serve. Enjoy!

  38. I just love couscous. So versatile and delicious. And the instant stuff is wonderful for a quick meal. I always have a packet in the pantry. I guess The zucchini is chopped in your recipe? How on earth do you measure 2 cups of it?:)). I guess that’s what the c. Stands for.

  39. Hi Sherry, Yes…I used two cups of cubed zucchini for this couscous dish. Whenever you see one of my recipes, “c.” is the abbreviation for cup, “tsp.” is for teaspoon and “Tbsp.” is for tablespoon. I hope that helps and sorry for any confusion.

  40. What a marvelous recipe, Karen. I love all the flavors here and have always thought couscous such a versatile side dish….although with a recipe like yours, I’d eat it all by itself!

  41. Totally delicious meal. I am not surprised when people find couscous boring. They never add enough flavour to it. Its so easy as you have pointed out Karen

  42. fantastic flavors and textures in this! i don’t think i’ve ever tasted saffron–i’ve certainly never bought any. i’d like to try it, and i’d love to devour this dish!

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