Pearl couscous: learn what it is and how it is prepared

Written by Jacob Colors

Not scientifically reviewed by Dr. Eeks 

Maybe you have heard about pearl or Israelí couscous, but do you know what is pearl couscous?

This food based on steamed wheat semolina on which vegetables and meat are served is a typical staple in the kitchens of North Africa, where it is prepared almost daily. Its first written mention dates back to the 12th century.

In some areas it is called al-ta’am, which in Arabic means “the meal” and is served as a main or only dish. In 2020, at the request of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Mauritania, it was added to the Intangible Heritage of Humanity list.

In the autonomous community of Melilla it is considered a typical dish, adopted after the occupation of past centuries. This city of Phoenician origin has been for centuries an important commercial port and defensive bastion of the Mediterranean.

Traditionally, it is made with semolina from the hard part of wheat ground in such a way that it has not been converted into flour, but today it can be found already processed. It is usually made with beef, lamb, chicken, kid or camel, but it can also be made exclusively with vegetables.

How to cook couscous

Israeli couscous can be used in both savory and sweet recipes. It is comparable to rice and can be made into Israeli couscous with sweet milk flavored with cinnamon and lemon, or in soups as if they were noodles. Here you will find savory recipes, as in this Israeli couscous salad with black olives and basil.

Two ways of preparing it

One is by immersion in boiling liquid and the other is by steaming, which takes longer. There are utensils such as the couscous pot for this process, but it is not essential, any pot can be used.

Cooked Israeli couscous

Add a saucepan of boiling salted water and let it cook for about 10-15 minutes until cooked through.

Toasted Israeli couscous

The couscous is previously sautéed in a frying pan with a spoonful of olive oil for two or three minutes. It can be sautéed with a stir-fry of vegetables and nuts and then cooked for another 10-12 minutes in water or vegetable or chicken broth.
Couscous stores well in an airtight container in the refrigerator and also freezes well.

Note: it is recommended to sauté the Israeli couscous a few minutes before cooking it in water or better in vegetable broth, so that it is tastier in salads. You can even sauté it with a clove of garlic to give it more flavor.

Properties of Israeli couscous

  • It is a very energetic food due to its high carbohydrate content, ideal for athletes and people who need extra and lasting energy.
  • It is low in fat and cholesterol free. The fats it contains are healthy and contain oleic and linoleic acid.
  • The carbohydrates it contains have a low glycemic index. As it is absorbed slowly, it does not raise blood glucose levels too much, making it an interesting option for diabetics (consult a medical specialist in each particular case).
  • Its richness in fiber helps to regulate constipation in a natural way.

IMPORTANT: It is a cereal that contains gluten, therefore it is not suitable for people with celiac disease.

Israeli couscous salad recipe

Here is this delicious recipe for Israeli couscous salad with black olives, tomato, bell pepper and basil.



  • 6 oz RiceSelect® Pearl Couscous.
  • 10 cherry tomatoes.
  • 12 black olives.
  • 1/2 yellow bell pepper.
  • 1/4 red onion.
  • 15-20 fresh basil leaves.
  • 7 oz of dried fruits.
  • 2 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil.
  • 1 tablespoon of wine vinegar.
  • juice of half a lemon.


  1. In a frying pan with a tablespoon of olive oil, brown the couscous for about two or three minutes.
  2. Cook it in a pot with enough salted water for about 10-15 minutes until it is tender. Let it cool.
  3. Cut the bell pepper and the onion into very small pieces, and slice the olives and the cherry.
  4. Mix everything with the already cooled couscous.
  5. Chop the basil very finely and let it macerate in the oil and put in a bowl. Then mix it with the vinegar and salt and add it to the couscous.

If you keep a prepared couscous stored in the fridge, you can easily make a salad in a very few minutes!



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