Learn if couscous, a popular mini pasta, is safe for a gluten-free and what some gluten-free alternatives for this ingredient are.
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Do you enjoy couscous for it’s quick cook time and ease of getting a side dish to the table? Are you also following a gluten-free diet and aren’t sure which grains are safe for you to enjoy?
In this post, we’re going to talk about couscous and find out what it is and what it’s made from, what gluten is, if couscous is gluten-free, and some alternatives to couscous.
What is couscous?
Couscous is a tiny pasta that’s made out of semolina and formed into small spheres. It’s often steamed or boiled and used in soups, stews, salads, or as a side dish on its own with herbs or vegetables.
You can find couscous in a variety of sizes. Moroccan couscous is the smallest, Israeli couscous is also called pearl couscous and it is about the size of small pieces of pasta. Lebanese couscous is larger than Moroccan couscous and is similar in size and shape to peas. The smaller the size of couscous, the quicker the cook time.
Many people enjoy cooking with couscous because it is such a fast ingredient to cook with, and it makes for a quick and easy side dish.
What is gluten?
Gluten is a protein found in most wheat products, and acts as the “glue” that helps to hold wheat, barley, kamut, spelt, farro, durum, bulgur, rye, and semolina together to maintain their shape.
Gluten is naturally occurring, and therefore is impossible to strip away from the grain. If a grain naturally has gluten in it, there’s no way to make that food gluten-free.
Is couscous gluten-free?
Couscous is made from semolina, which contains wheat. Wheat contains gluten, therefore couscous is not gluten-free.
If you follow a gluten-free diet, you’ll want to avoid this ingredient and look for a gluten-free alternative instead.
Read on: Is pasta gluten-free?
Read on: Gluten-free pasta: brands & options
Is semolina gluten-free?
Semolina is made with wheat flour, making it not safe for a gluten-free diet.
Read on: Is semolina gluten-free?
Gluten-free alternatives to couscous
If you love the flavor and texture of couscous, you may want to consider using one of these gluten-free alternatives.
For smaller sized couscous (Moroccan couscous), try quinoa, millet, or amaranth in its place in recipes.
For medium and larger sized couscous (Israeli or Lebanese couscous), try sorghum. You could also try rice, although the shape is different, the texture is a bit chewier.
If you’re eating couscous as a side dish, you might also consider amping up your vegetables and using cauliflower “couscous” in its place. You can make this by chopping cauliflower in a food processor until very fine, then steaming it on the stovetop. This will provide a similar size and look to couscous, however the flavor will be different. You can add herbs and vegetables to this as a delicious side dish.
I hope if you’ve been looking for an answer as to whether or not to include couscous in your gluten-free diet, you feel confident that it isn’t a good ingredient to keep in your diet. Try substituting another gluten-free grain in its place for a completely gluten-free meal.