Pearl Couscous – Also Known as Israeli Couscous

Israeli couscous, also known as pearl couscous, offers a speedy and effortless option for a side dish! This minuscule pasta is simply irresistible when tossed with a zesty combination of lemon and olive oil.

Introducing a versatile and delectable side dish: Israeli couscous, also referred to as pearl couscous! These tiny spheres of pasta possess a pleasantly chewy texture and can be cooked in only 10 minutes. When dressed with a drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon, they become an excellent accompaniment for almost any meal. Additionally, they are ideal for creating fast grain bowls or salads. This dish is always a crowd-pleaser in our household (our 5-year-old is particularly enamored with it). Here's a step-by-step guide on how to prepare it!

What exactly is Israeli couscous?

Israeli couscous, also known as pearl couscous or Ptitim, comprises pea-shaped pasta balls created from semolina flour. Despite its name, it is not considered true couscous due to its larger grain size and identical shape. Israeli couscous was invented in Israel during the 1950s as a rice substitute to feed a large influx of immigrants. It is called Ptitim in Israel and has since become a staple food in Jerusalem, enjoyed by individuals all around the globe.

In contrast, traditional Moroccan couscous features much smaller and irregularly shaped grains. This pasta originated between the 11th and 13th centuries with the Berbers of Algeria and Morocco. It remains a cultural delicacy within the Maghrebi cuisines of Algeria, Tunisia, Mauritania, Morocco, and Libya.

While we do not have Israeli heritage, we have drawn inspiration from this culturally rich culinary tradition to create a side dish infused with flavors of lemon, herbs, and olive oil.

Does Israeli couscous contain gluten? No. Couscous is a wheat-based pasta, and therefore it does contain gluten. Individuals adhering to a gluten-free diet should avoid Israeli couscous or seek out specialized gluten-free versions.

Israeli couscous, also known as pearl couscous, is larger in size than traditional Moroccan couscous. (Left: Moroccan couscous, Right: Israeli couscous)

How to prepare Israeli couscous (also referred to as pearl couscous)

Cooking Israeli couscous is a breeze, taking only 10 minutes to boil! Unlike traditional pasta, Israeli couscous is cooked until the water is absorbed, similar to the preparation of rice. While different brands of pearl couscous may have slight variations, here's a general outline on how to cook Israeli couscous:

  • Combine 1 cup of Israeli couscous with 1.5 cups of liquid. Alternatively, you can use chicken broth or vegetable broth to add savory flavor notes.
  • Bring the liquid to a boil, then cover and simmer the couscous for 8 to 10 minutes. Season the grains with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and maintain a gentle simmer. Continue cooking until the couscous becomes tender and absorbs all the liquid (no need to drain).
  • Transfer the cooked couscous to a bowl and allow it to sit for 2 to 3 minutes, then fluff it with a fork. This step helps cool the couscous slightly before serving. Finally, incorporate your desired seasonings and serve!

Seasoning and serving ideas

Now it's time for the exciting part: how to add flavor and present your Israeli couscous! This particular recipe is designed as a quick and hassle-free side dish, featuring the vibrant combination of lemon and olive oil. Additionally, you can transform it into a refreshing salad or incorporate it into hearty bowl meals. Here's how we typically season our Israeli couscous:

Exploring Different Recipes with Couscous

If you're looking to add some variety to your meals, why not try these exciting couscous recipes? The following dishes showcase the versatility of this delightful pea-sized pasta and can be whipped up in just about 15 minutes! In Israeli cuisine, couscous is often treated as an equivalent to rice, making it an ideal and hassle-free side dish.

Here are a handful of captivating recipes where couscous steals the spotlight:

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Chickpea Stew

Israeli couscous, also known as pearl couscous, is a side dish that can be prepared effortlessly. This miniature pasta is simply irresistible when tossed with zesty lemon and fragrant olive oil.

For the Israeli couscous recipe, you'll need the following ingredients:

  • 1 cup of Israeli couscous or pearl couscous
  • 1 ½ cups of water (or broth)
  • ¼ teaspoon of garlic powder
  • ½ teaspoon plus ⅛ teaspoon of kosher salt
    • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
    • 1 tablespoon of parsley, finely chopped
    • Lemon zest from 1/2 lemon
  • Begin by bringing a generous amount of water to a rolling boil in a large saucepan.
  • Once the water is boiling, add the Israeli couscous along with the aromatic garlic powder and ½ teaspoon of the kosher salt. Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, cover the saucepan with a lid, and allow the couscous to cook for approximately 8 to 10 minutes. The aim is to achieve a tender texture where the couscous absorbs all the water.
  • Carefully transfer the fully cooked couscous to a separate bowl. To enhance its taste and texture, drizzle the couscous with the savory olive oil and let it rest for a duration of 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Fluff up the couscous grains using a fork, delicately separating them from one another. To introduce an enticing freshness, incorporate the finely chopped parsley, tangy lemon zest, and a remaining fractional amount of kosher salt measuring ⅛ teaspoon. This vibrant combination perfectly enhances the couscous' flavors.
  • Serve the delectable Israeli couscous immediately, enjoying it as a side dish that adds depth and variety to any meal. In the event of having leftovers, they can be safely stored for up to 1 week. Prior to consumption, rejuvenate the flavors by seasoning with a small pinch of salt or a drizzle of olive oil.
    • Category: Accompaniment
    • Cooking Method: Traditional stovetop
    • Cuisine: Rich Middle Eastern
    • Dietary Preference: Vegan-friendly

    Keywords: Israeli couscous, pearl couscous

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