Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Makes

    9 to 10 cups

Appears in

Couscous is made with semolina flour and water. The dough is rolled into pellets that are then pushed through screens to create smaller pellets of a uniform size. Traditionally, couscous is steamed atop a stew in a couscoussier. The top part is called the keskas, the bottom part the tenjra. Most of us don’t have this piece of equipment as part of our batterie de cuisine, but we can improvise. Large double boilers with slotted upper compartments will work, and most colanders will fit over a large pot. Even a pasta pot with a basket insert can work; line the basket or colander with cheesecloth. Cheesecloth is necessary only if the holes are large; the steam rising from below keeps the couscous aloft in the couscoussier. (Couscous that doesn’t swell sufficiently when cooked may continue to swell in your tummy. Steaming it over boiling water helps reduce the risk of potential stomach churning.)

The master recipe here is the North African steaming method. The quick and easy variation that follows may be scorned by purists, but it works, is fast, and produces couscous that will puff up enough to prevent stomachache. Holding it over boiling water for a while after cooking will help it to puff more.

Read more


  • 3 cups couscous
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 to 7 cups hot water, lightly salted


Put the couscous in a deep baking dish. Rub the couscous with the oil and pour 5 cups of hot water over it. Cover the dish and let the couscous absorb the water. Rake the couscous with your hands or 2 forks to break up the lumps. Transfer it to a colander or steamer basket lined with cheesecloth. Steam over boiling water in a covered pot or steamer for 15 to 20 minutes. Turn the couscous out into a large baking dish and rake it again to break up lumps. Sprinkle with 1 or 2 more cups of hot water, rake it with your fingers, and scoop it back into the colander. Steam again as above for 20 minutes. Transfer to a platter to serve. Leftover couscous can be reheated over boiling water.

In this section