Substitutes Couscous With One of These 8 Great Ingredients

image of good replacement for couscous

Are you a fan of couscous? If so, you are not alone. This is a popular ingredient used to make a variety of dinners, breakfasts, and desserts.  With it being such a versatile ingredient, it is often a staple in many homes.

Running out of couscous can be a very troubling situation. Especially when you are right in the middle of cooking a meal.

Not to worry. We found a long list of great ingredients that will substitute for couscous without ruining the dish.

The Seven Best Substitutes for Couscous include:

  • Quinoa
  • Brown Rice
  • Chick Peas
  • Millet
  • Teft
  • Fonio
  • Buckwheat

Keep reading to learn more about each ingredient!

What is Couscous?

Couscous comes from crushed durum wheat. This ingredient is a form of pasta made when mixing semolina flour and water.

This starch is a typical food found in West African cuisine with high gluten content. And its nutrition offers a healthy replacement for countries with limited meat options.

You can soak couscous in water to cook it, or you can steam it. It pairs well with meats and veggies or as a main meal mixed with other ingredients.

How Does Couscous Taste?

We see couscous often used in pasta dishes. Yet it doesn’t taste the same. This ingredient offers meals a semi-nutty flavor with a similar texture.

What we like the most about couscous is how versatile and mild the flavor profile is. This food goes well with many foods. And appeases many taste preferences without providing an overpowering flavor.

What is Couscous Used in?

You can use couscous in various meals, from sweet and savory to hot and spicy. Here are a few suggestions we found in our research.

  • Grain salads with couscous
  • Meatballs with couscous
  • Spice vegetables and couscous
  • Lemon chicken and couscous
  • Spring vegetable couscous
  • Couscous with Parmesan.
  • Couscous pasta
  • Baked couscous pudding
  • Raspberry and peaches couscous

Couscous can provide a fantastic texture and fabulous flavor to any dish as long as you know how to pair it.

What Can I Substitute For Couscous?

image of eating couscous

Couscous is an excellent ingredient when making many different dishes. But it isn’t always available or a staple in the kitchen. If you don’t have an extra couscous package in the cupboard, we have a list of eight substitutes you could try.

1. Quinoa

Quinoa is smaller than couscous but provides a similar texture and flavor profile. This ingredient is also healthy and will be a beneficial ingredient in any recipe.

You can use quinoa in place of couscous in pasta and soups.

2. Brown Rice

Brown rice has a lot of vitamins and nutrients that are much better for you than white. While it doesn’t offer the same texture as couscous, it does provide a similar flavor.

You can use brown rice instead of couscous in things like stuffed peppers and stir fry.

3. Chick Peas

People don’t often think of chickpeas or garbanzo beans as a substitute for couscous. But it is actually a great option in many different dishes. These little legumes are round, brown, and have a semi sweet bean flavor.

Use chickpeas in place of couscous in salads and tacos

Learn more: What Can I Substitute For Chickpeas?

4. Teff

Teff is an Ethiopian grain seed with a robust and unique flavor. It is a good option when looking for a couscous substitute. But remember never to eat it alone. You should mix it with other ingredients like quinoa or rice. The reason for this is due to its overpowering taste.

You can use Teff in place of couscous in porridge and stews.

5. Millet

Millet is often thought of as one of the best alternatives to couscous. This ingredient is perfect because of its similarity in size and flavor. These little cereal grains are full of fiber and versatile when cooking.

You can use millet in place of couscous in porages and pasta.

7. Fonio

Fonio is an ancient grain low on the glycemic index.  This option is a fantastic alternative to couscous. This is thanks to the similar taste and consistency. This grain will expand greatly when wet, making it ideal as a main dish.

You Can Use Fonio instead of couscous in meatballs or patties or add cream and spices to give it a little flavor.

8. Buckwheat

Buckwheat, or “kasha,” is another type of wheat and is often thought of as healthy.  It is larger than couscous but has the same earthy, nutty flavor.

It is not a good idea to use buckwheat as a main dish but mixed with other ingredients like rice and spices.

Use buckwheat in place of couscous in stir fries and soups.

Various Veggies You Can Use As A Couscous Replacement (LOW CARB)

If you don’t want to use another grain, wheat, or lentil, you can replace couscous with various veggies. Substituting this ingredient with vegetables will change the flavor. But you can still get a delicious dish.

Swapping out couscous with an array of vegetables is often seen as a healthy alternative. You can leave the vegetables raw or cook them. You can even add some different spices and sauces to give your veggies extra flavors.

A few great vegetable options ideal for a couscous alternative includes,

  • Cauliflower
  • Carrots
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Broccoli
  • Beans

Try Using Nuts Instead of Couscous in Your Favorite Recipes

Nuts are another fantastic option when you can’t use couscous. These are usually small enough to take its place and provide a strong taste. Moreover, couscous has a natural, nutty flavor, making this ingredient ideal.

Nuts are full of vitamins and minerals and are hearty and solid. This specific item works very well in salads and fried rice recipes.

A few nuts to try instead of couscous includes:

  • Walnuts
  • Almonds
  • Pine nuts
  • Peanuts
  • Cashews

How to Cook Couscous

Couscous is simple to make. It is a lot like pasta and will only need a little bit of water and olive oil.

Most of the couscous sold in local grocery stores is ready to go and will cook in a short amount of time.

You can use water or a broth when boiling couscous, depending on the recipe and personal taste

To make couscous, you want to add two cups of water/broth in a saucepan. Next, add two tablespoons of olive oil, and bring to a boil. Once the water is at a rolling boil, add two cups of couscous and remove it from your heating source.

Allow your dish to sit for about five minutes with the cover still on. After the five minutes is up, use a fork to fluff.

Once the couscous is ready and fluffed up,  add your favorite seasonings or vegetables. Or you can add it to other dishes.

Great Recipes Using Couscous

Couscous is such a versatile and useful ingredient. So we wanted to share our favorite recipes.

Feel free to try these recipes with couscous or one of the substitutes listed above.

Lemon Couscous

(The best substitute to use is rice or quinoa)

This is a fresh and delicious couscous dish that will pair well with any meat or all on its own.


  • Couscous
  • Lemon zest
  • Salt
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Garlic
  • Parsley


Saute your garlic in extra virgin olive oil for about 20 seconds. Next, add in your lemon zest, juice, and salt and stir until it reaches a boil. Remove the mix from the stove and pour in your couscous and parsley. Use a fork to fluff up the dish.

For the complete recipe, click here.

Chicken Noodle Soup (With Couscous)

(The best substitute to use is rice or fonio)

This chicken noodle soup will warm you up on a cold winter day. Or, it can make a great comfort food whenever you are feeling sick.


  • Chicken
  • Herbs
  • Couscous
  • Garlic
  • Tumeric
  • Ginger
  • Pepper
  • Chicken broth
  • Celery
  • Carrots
  • Onions
  • Avocado oil


Pour the oil into a large pot and add in the onions and vegetables. As the onion skin becomes see through, add in the chicken broth, chicken breast, spices, and herbs. Once the soup is boiling, cover the pot and allow it to simmer for around 30 minutes.

After fully cooking the chicken, remove it from the soup, cut it into pieces, then place it back into the pot.

For the full recipe, click here.


Can I Use White Rice Instead of Couscous?

You can use white rice instead of couscous in recipes like stuffed peppers or as a side. Remember, white rice doesn’t have much flavor, so you will need extra spices.

Can You Substitute Quinoa for Couscous in a Recipe?

Quinoa is a fabulous substitutefor couscous. It offers a similar taste and texture, but the size is much smaller.

Can I Substitute Barley for Couscous?

Yes, you can use barley as a couscous substitute. But remember, barley will not need as much water when boiling.


It can be frustrating to realize you ran out of the main ingredient needed to finish off a dish. Luckily, we provided a great list of 10 foods that can replace couscous with ease.

The Seven Best Substitutes for Couscous include:

  • Quinoa
  • Brown Rice
  • Chick Peas
  • Millet
  • Teft
  • Fonio
  • Buckwheat

Up Next: Your Top Guide For All Food Ingredients Substitutions!

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