substitutes for couscous

6 Perfect Couscous Substitutes for Any Occasion

Couscous, a pasta made from wheat flour or semolina, has been a staple in many Mediterranean and North African cuisines for decades. Given its versatility and many health benefits, this durum wheat pasta has become a common ingredient in many diets today.

But if you’re gluten-free or just tired of couscous, there are several alternatives to consider. We’ve compiled a list of some delectable options that will not only add variety to your diet but will also provide some substantial health rewards. Let’s dive into the delectable realm of couscous substitutes!

1. Quinoa


Quinoa is a nutritious ancient grain that originated in the Andes mountains of South America. It has a similar appearance and texture to couscous but packs more of a nutritional punch. It’s high in protein, fiber, and essential minerals like iron, magnesium, and phosphorus. Plus, it’s gluten-free and has fewer carbs and calories than couscous.

Its nutty flavor and chewy texture also make quinoa a great addition to salads, side dishes, and even breakfast items. It is also great in baked goods like cakes, cookies, and muffins.

How to Prepare:

First, rinse the quinoa to remove any bitterness. Then, mix one part quinoa with two parts liquid of your choice (water or vegetable/chicken stock) and bring it to a boil. Finally, reduce the heat to low and simmer for around 15 minutes — the quinoa should be soft and fluffy. Season with herbs, spices, or other seasonings of your choice.

2. Barley


Barley is a cereal grain that was initially grown in the Fertile Crescent, a region in the Middle East that is regarded as the cradle of modern agriculture. Barley is considered one of the earliest grains to be domesticated and farmed by humans. This ancient grain has a subtle nutty taste with a chewy texture.

In terms of nutrition, barley is a better choice than couscous since it is fat-free and cholesterol-free and has more fiber, vitamins, and minerals such as calcium, magnesium, niacin, and selenium. It is commonly used in soups and stews, as well as baked products.

How to Prepare:

Use two parts liquid (use broth for a richer flavor) to one part barley. Bring the liquid to a boil, add the barley, then lower the heat and simmer for 40-45 minutes. Keep stirring occasionally. Once the barley is cooked, fluff it with a fork before serving.

3. Millet


Millet is a small, round grain believed to have originated in Africa and India. When cooked, it has a texture similar to couscous and a mild, slightly sweet flavor. Its subtle taste goes well with salads, soups, stews, and even breakfast cereals.

The appearance and taste are quite similar to couscous, making millet a great substitute. It also has high fiber content, is low in fat, and is rich in essential vitamins and minerals. Millet is also gluten-free and rich in protein.

How to Prepare:

To prepare, cook millet in boiling water until it is fluffy and soft. You can also cook it in a rice cooker or on the stovetop in a saucepan. Although it is best served hot, you can also prepare millet in advance and store it in the refrigerator for about a week.

4. Bulgur Wheat

Bulgur Wheat

Bulgur wheat is a whole grain made from parboiled and dried durum wheat. It has been a mainstay of Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine for ages due to its nutritional value.

Bulgur wheat is a great substitute for couscous and offers more health benefits. It is rich in fiber and many micronutrients, as well as low in calories. It is also super versatile and forms an excellent base for a wide range of recipes since it can take on flavors from a variety of ingredients.

How to Prepare:

To prepare bulgur wheat, rinse it thoroughly before adding it to boiling water or broth. Allow it to simmer for 10-15 minutes to let it soften. Then, drain the extra liquid and use a fork to fluff the bulgur wheat. Depending on the recipe, it can be served hot or cold.

5. Farro


Farro has been a beloved ingredient in Italian and Middle Eastern cuisine for centuries. It’s a wheat variety that has a nutty, earthy flavor and is high in fiber and protein. Farro is also particularly rich in iron and magnesium, making it one of the few whole-grain sources of these nutrients.

Farro has a somewhat nutty flavor and chewy texture, making it a great couscous substitute. It is also gluten-free and a versatile grain that may be used in salads, soups, and stuffings.

How to Prepare:

When cooking farro as a substitute for couscous, the first step is to wash it well in cold water to remove any contaminants. Then, place the grains in a pot of boiling water — use about three cups of water per cup of farro. Add salt and other spices as needed, then lower the heat and cover with a lid. Simmer for about 20 minutes; all the liquid should be absorbed by now. Using a fork, fluff up the cooked grains and serve!

6. Amaranth


Amaranth is a gluten-free ancient grain that originated in South America but is also found in other regions. It has a mellow, nutty flavor, which makes it a popular ingredient in dishes such as porridge, salads, and even cereal.

Compared to couscous, amaranth has far more protein and essential minerals such as iron, zinc, and magnesium. Additionally, it is packed with dietary fiber, which helps to keep you feeling fuller for longer and manage blood sugar levels.

How to Prepare:

You can steam, boil, or cook amaranth the same way as rice. You can also add amaranth to soups or stews for extra flavor and texture. Toasted amaranth also makes a delicious crunchy topping for salads or other dishes.

AboutRibana Hategan

Ribana is a certified pastry chef and passionate home cook who curates and develops recipes that are high on nutrition. She develops and tests cost effective, nutritious meals using quality ingredients to help people better their everyday eating experiences.