DietGluten-freeIs Couscous Gluten-free?

Is Couscous Gluten-free?

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David Larsenhttps://betony-nyc.com
I’m a husband, dad, food blogger, photographer, writer, social media boss, entrepreneur.

What is couscous?

Couscous is basically the Eastern pasta. It is so fine that many people think that it is a multi-grain dish. Traditionally, couscous is made of semolina, which is also the main ingredient behind a lot of dough-derived pastries of Asia as well as a lot of stew and soup dishes.

It is also the base for many national dishes such as that of Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and North Africa. 

There are four major types of couscous: Moroccan, Israeli, Lebanese and whole wheat couscous. They differ in terms of size and the length of their steaming time. When it comes to nutrients content, whole wheat is the one packed with iron, fiber, and others. 

In the olden days, couscous is hand rolled but the art of rolling one has lost its popularity due to mass production. It is an alternative to quinoa, noodles, and oats. At present, crushed corn kernels, pearl millet, and sorghum topped on stews are also called couscous because of its look, texture, and consistency. 

Related: 48 Types Of Pasta and Their Uses

What is couscous made of?

Traditionally, couscous is made of crushed semolina. Semolina is made from durum wheat mixed with water. It is then formed into very small balls that will become finely crushed when steamed. Because it is crushed, the couscous looks crumbly and grainy. This is the reason why most people do not believe that it is actually a type of small pasta. 

Traditional Moroccan couscous is steamed thrice in a couscoussier. Instant couscous packs are now sold in the US requiring just a few minutes of steaming. Other variants of couscous made from selected fruits and vegetables have also been developed in many parts of the world, used in making hearty soups, stews, and side dishes. 

What does couscous taste like? 

Couscous is one of the most popular substitutes to high carb foods like rice. But if we are being honest, couscous is bland and does not hold up much flavor.

It has a certain nuttiness to it but not that strong too. However, it is a very versatile ingredient to many dishes that is why it has gained its popularity in international dishes. 

Couscous nutrition information

So, is couscous great for your health? Refer to the following nutrient information for your reference. The breakdown was based on the USDA National Database:

  • Calories: 163g
  • Protein: 5.52g
  • Fat: 0.28g
  • Carbohydrates: 33.49g
  • Dietary fiber: 2.2g

Is Couscous gluten-free?

If we are talking about the conventional couscous, then no, it is not gluten-free. It is made of semolina which is derived from wheat making it glutenous. This makes couscous off limits for people with gluten sensitivity or celiac disease. 

But through the years, non-gluten ingredients have been adapted to make non-gluten couscous. As a matter of fact, there are a lot of gluten-free couscous brands out there which you can choose from. There are also gluten-free substitutes for couscous (which will be featured in the next sections). 

Gluten-free couscous brands

Speaking of gluten-free couscous, here are some of the brands that you should be on the know. 

Wholesome KitchenThis brand features two variants of gluten-free couscous. One is made of millet, veggies, and spices. The other one is made of millet, fruits, and nuts. 
Clearspring OrganicThis is another gluten-free couscous made from Italian corn. It can be bought from Amazon. 
Goldbaum’sThis brand is a famous distributor of Israeli couscous. Instead of wheat flour, it is made of potato and tapioca starch and egg whites. It is also produced in certified gluten-free facilities. 
Streit’sThis is not just a gluten-free brand but also a certified Kosher brand. It makes Israeli couscous, made from potato and tapioca starch, egg whites and potato flakes. It can be bought from Kosher stores and also online. 
TescoLike Asda, and Clearspring Organic, this one is made of corn semolina too and mostly not available in the US. 
Viva MaisThis one is a certified gluten-free corn couscous. It is also sealed as non-GMO so that is another upside to it. 
Vitabella This Italian brand is well-loved because of its nutty taste. It is certified gluten-free made from non-GMO Italian corn. 

Gluten-free couscous alternatives

If you have been wondering about other gluten-free couscous alternatives that you can use for your favorite couscous dishes, you should check out the following: 

  • Quinoa
  • Sorghum
  • Millet
  • Farro
  • Cauliflower
  • Short-grain rice
  • Potatoes
  • Cornmeal 

Can I replace couscous with quinoa?

Yes. As a matter of fact, it is the go-to substitute for couscous because they share the same texture and consistency but quinoa is just crunchier and nuttier in taste. Make sure that you are buying gluten-free quinoa though.

Some of the trusted gluten-free quinoa brands would be Ancient Harvest and Red Bob’s. Other favorite replacements for couscous would be potato polenta, cauliflower, and cornmeal. 

Is Israeli couscous gluten-free?

Compared to regular couscous, Israeli couscous, also known as pearl couscous, is toasted and not dried. Conventionally, Israeli couscous is not gluten-free but now, there are corn-based variants for Israeli couscous which are gluten-free. 

Israeli couscous is a sought-after variant because they are easier to cook, chewier and are larger than regular couscous. It is also high in fiber so it is a favorite couscous variety for vegan and those that are under a strict diet. 

Is Moroccan couscous gluten-free?

Again, conventionally no. But since there are now cornmeal-based Moroccan couscous, we can say that there are now gluten-free Moroccan couscous which you can cook in just a few minutes and serve like polenta. 

Where should I look for couscous?

You would find couscous in any supermarket. Although it is still categorized as an international food, its accessibility is high. You would normally find it either in the pasta or rice section or in the aisle designated for international foods.

The most common couscous variant that you will find would be the Moroccan couscous but if your supermarket is stocked, you would also find the more elusive Israeli couscous. 

How to make gluten-free couscous

To complete your couscous journey, you have to be able to prepare a hearty gluten-free couscous recipe. Here, we are featuring this easy whip Israeli couscous risotto in spinach and parmesan from The Spruce Eats

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • Onion
  • Gluten-free Israeli couscous
  • Vegetable broth
  • White wine
  • Parmesan
  • Spinach
  • Kosher salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Prepare the ingredients.
  2. Saute onion in olive oil for 5-7mins or until soft. 
  3. Add the Israeli couscous, stir until toasted or until light brown. 
  4. Toss in the diluted vegetable broth. Cook for 3mins. 
  5. Stir in the white wine and let cook for another 5mins. 
  6. Now add the spinach. Set the heat to medium-low fire. Cover the skillet and cook for 2mins. 
  7. Turn off the stove and then sprinkle with a generous amount of grated parmesan cheese. 
  8. Drizzle with kosher salt and pepper for seasoning and then serve.

Other commendable and easy to cook gluten-free couscous dishes would be the following:

Storage

Unopened couscous boxes or canisters can last up to two years in the pantry, granting that its container is properly sealed or is airtight.

When cooked, you can store the couscous in the fridge for three days. But if it is combined with other ingredients with faster spoil rate, expect for the couscous to have the same spoil rate too. 

Conclusion

Couscous is a very versatile dish that can be incorporated in stews, soups, traditional cuisines, and plainly as a side dish. While it is conventionally not gluten-free, it now has gluten-free variants (mostly made of corn semolina).

Through the years, there have been emerging brands featuring gluten-free couscous, making it more accessible and healthier as ever.

Related:

Easy whip Israeli couscous risotto in spinach and parmesan (Gluten-free)

Easy whip Israeli couscous risotto in spinach and parmesan (Gluten-free)

Yield: 3
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: 25 minutes

To complete your couscous journey, you have to be able to prepare a hearty gluten-free couscous recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoon Olive oil
  • 1/2 Onion
  • 1 cup Gluten-free Israeli couscous
  • 1 3/4 cup Vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup White wine
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1 bunch Spinach
  • Kosher salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Prepare the ingredients. 
  2. Saute onion in olive oil for 5-7mins or until soft. 
  3. Add the Israeli couscous, stir until toasted or until light brown. 
  4. Toss in the diluted vegetable broth. Cook for 3mins. 
  5. Stir in the white wine and let cook for another 5mins. 
  6. Now add the spinach. Set the heat to medium-low fire. Cover the skillet and cook for 2mins. 
  7. Turn off the stove and then sprinkle with a generous amount of grated parmesan cheese. 
  8. Drizzle with kosher salt and pepper for seasoning and then serve.
Nutrition Information
Serving Size 1
Amount Per Serving Calories 336Total Fat 7gCarbohydrates 51gProtein 14g

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