Best Moroccan couscous recipe

Moroccan couscous

Moroccan couscous recipe

moroccan couscous recipe,moroccan chicken couscous
This popular variation of Moroccan couscous features a variety of fresh vegetables stewed alongside lamb, beef or chicken. You can omit the meat for a vegetarian version; see the recipe notes.
For authentic results, the couscous should be steamed three times over the simmering broth. It doesn't add much time to your active prep work, but you will need a couscoussier or other large pot fitted with a steam basket. In a pinch, you can use instant couscous, but the texture won't be the same.
Dried chickpeas are preferred over canned. Remember to soak them overnight. They and other vegetables are added to the broth in increments, based on how long they take to cook.



  • 2.2 lb. dry couscous (not instant; I prefer medium caliber)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 6 cups water, divided
  • 2 to 3 tsp salt (added after 1st steaming)
  • 2 tbsp soft butter (added after final steaming)

Meat and Broth Seasoning

  • 2.2 lb. lamb or beef, large pieces on the bone (or 1 large whole chicken)
  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
  • 3 fresh tomatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp ginger
  • 1 tbsp pepper
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 handful parsley and cilantro sprigs, tied into a bouquet
  • 2 tsp smen - Moroccan preserved butter (optional; reserve until the end of cooking)

Traditional Veggies

  • 1/2 cup dried chickpeas, soaked overnight
  • 1 small head of cabbage, cut in half or quartered
  • 3 or 4 medium turnips, peeled and cut in half
  • 8 to 10 carrots, peeled (cut in half lengthwise if large)
  • 1 or 2 small tomatoes, peeled, seeded and quartered
  • 1 or 2 small onions, cut in half (can use some whole fresh pearl onions instead)
  • 1 small acorn squash, quartered (or wedge of pumpkin)
  • 4 or 5 small zucchini, ends trimmed (or 8-ball round, cut in half)

Optional Veggies

  • 2 or 3 chili peppers or jalapeños (simmer in a little broth or steam until tender)
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen fava beans (add with 2nd steaming)
  • 2 or 3 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut in half (add with 3rd steaming)
  • 1 bottle gourd, peeled, cleaned and cut into large pieces (add with 3rd steaming

Optional Tfaya: Caramelized Onions and Raisins

  • 1/2 cup raisins, soaked in water for 15 minutes
  • 2 or 3 large onions, preferably red
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • 1 pinch saffron threads, crumbled
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 1 tsp orange flower water (optional)
  • US Customary - Metric


Ahead of Time

  1. Soak the dried chickpeas in a large bowl of water overnight. (Or, use a quick soak method: boil the dried chickpeas for 4 or 5 minutes, then turn off the heat and leave them to soak for an hour.) 
  2. Wash and prep your vegetables. Start making the tfaya (optional; see Recipe Notes). 
  3. Set up an area to work with the couscous. In Morocco, we use a gsaa (very wide, shallow serving and mixing dish), but another very large wide vessel or bowl can work. Have oil, water, salt, and butter out and prepared. Lightly oil the steamer basket of a couscoussier. 

Begin Making the Broth - See Recipe Notes if Using Chicken 

  1. Brown the meat or chicken with the oil, onion, tomatoes, and spices within the base of a couscoussier over medium-high heat. Continue cooking, uncovered and stirring frequently, for about 10 to 15 minutes, until a very thick and rich sauce begins to form. 
  2. Add the soaked, drained chickpeas along with the parsley/cilantro bouquet and about 3 quarts (or liters) of water. Bring to a boil, cover, and cook over medium heat for about 30 minutes 

First Steaming of the Couscous 

  1. Drizzle 1/4 cup of oil over the couscous. Toss and roll the couscous around between your hands for a moment to distribute the oil evenly and hack any balls or clumps. 
  2. Add 1 cup of water and work it into the couscous in the same way--tossing and rubbing the couscous until all is well blended and there are no clumps.
  3. Transfer the couscous to a lightly oiled steamer basket, taking care not to compress the grains in the process. Place the basket on the couscoussier and steam for 15 to twenty minutes, timing from when the steam first appears over the couscous.

Second Steaming of the Couscous 

  1. Turns the couscous back into your gsaa or bowl. Allow it to chill briefly, then add 1 cup of water, using an equivalent tossing and turning as you probably did before. (You may need to use a wooden spoon if the couscous is too hot, but move to use your hands when it has cooled enough.) 
  2. Add the salt in the same manner, then add in another 1 cup of water. Toss and roll and rub the couscous with your hands for a good minute or two, again making sure there are no balls. Transfer the couscous back to the steamer basket, again taking care not to compress or pack the grains. 
  3. Add the cabbage, onions, tomatoes (and fava beans, if using) to the couscous pot, then place the couscous basket on the couscoussier. Steam for 15 to 20 minutes, timing from when you first see steam emerge from the couscous. 

Third and Final Steaming of the Couscous 

  1. Turns the steamed couscous out into your gssaa or bowl. Add the turnips and carrots to the pot; cover and allow them to cook for 15 minutes while you work with the couscous. 
  2. In increments, work 2 to 3 cups of water into the couscous in the same manner as before--tossing and turning and rubbing the grains between your hands and making sure there are no clumps. Use only as much water as needed to make the couscous al dente. 
  3. Taste the couscous for salt and add a little more if desired. Transfer half of the couscous to the steamer basket, again being careful not to pack the grains. 
  4. Add the remaining vegetables to the pot--the squash or pumpkin, the zucchini, and the sweet potatoes if using. Top with a little water if the level has dropped below the vegetables. Taste and adjust seasoning--it should be well flavored, a bit salty and peppery. 
  5. Place the couscous basket back on the pot and cook until steam begins to emerge from the couscous. Gently add the remaining couscous to the basket and continue cooking. Once you see steam rise from the couscous, allow it to steam for another 10 to 15 minutes, or until light and fluffy and the latest additions of vegetables have cooked. 

Serving the Couscous 

  1. Turn the couscous out into your bowl and add the butter. Add the smen (if using) to the broth in the pot and swirl to incorporate.
  2. Work about 1 cup of broth into the couscous, tossing as you did before. Arrange the couscous into an outsized, shallow mound in your gsaa or on a deep serving platter. Make a large indentation in the middle to hold the meat. 
  3. Retrieve the meat from the pot and place it within the center of the couscous. Top it with the cabbage and squash or pumpkin. Retrieve the opposite vegetables from the broth with a slotted spoon and arrange all-around meat (in a pyramid fashion, if you like). Garnish with the chickpeas (and/or fava beans), chili peppers and even the bouquet of parsley if you like. 
  4. Drizzle several cups of broth carefully over the couscous. Offer the remaining broth in bowls on the side. 
  5. Tfaya is optional and may be used as a garnish or served on the side.