This fluffy steamer couscous is twice-steamed and made in a steamer tray above boiling water, harissa lamb chili, or Algerian lamb shoulder stew. This steamer couscous is different from instant couscous because it begins with dry couscous (not instant couscous). It undergoes a delicate process of steaming, cooling, and rubbing in between palms to reach its fluffy and light consistency. It's the best couscous ever.
I have been wanting to learn how to cook couscous for the longest time. My friend Farida came over today to teach me how to cook couscous the Algerian way using a steamer. Farida used to make her couscous from scratch. She learned how to make and cook couscous from her family, which has been passed on through the generations.
What I Love About This Recipe
I love how flavorful and fluffy this couscous is! Also, I make this a one-steamer meal by preparing harissa lamb chili or Algerian lamb shoulder stew below the steamer tray. The couscous is infused with the flavors from below.
What Is Couscous?
Couscous is made from crushed durum wheat semolina, and it looks like dried tiny balls that are the same size as quinoa or bulgar wheat.
How to Cook Steamer Couscous
Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 teaspoon of salt. Rub the couscous between your hands. Add 1.5 cups of water to the dry couscous without mixing.
Allow the couscous to absorb the liquid for about 10 minutes. After the couscous has absorbed the liquid, rub the couscous between your hands.
First Steam: Add the couscous to the steamer pot. Put the steam pot on medium-high to high heat on the stovetop with the couscous uncovered. It will take about 10 minutes before you start to see steam coming off the couscous. Start a 5-minute timer once you start to see the steam. Do not cover the couscous.
Remove the couscous from the steamer into a large bowl to cool. Add 1 cup of water and 1 tablespoon of olive oil, mixing a couple of times with a spoon (because it's hot). Allow the couscous to cool off for about 5 minutes. Rub the couscous between your hands.
Second Steam: Add the couscous to the steamer pot. Put the steam pot on medium-high to high heat on the stovetop with the couscous uncovered. It will take about 10 minutes before you start to see steam coming off the couscous. Start a 5-minute timer once you start to see the steam. Do not cover the couscous.
Allow the couscous to cool down a little bit. Rub the couscous in between your hands. Add olive oil and salt to taste.
Couscous Hand Technique
When rubbing the couscous between your hands, there is a technique that is very effective. Scoop the couscous into your palm and rub your hands together. Rubbing the couscous between your palms separates the couscous from clumping. Each time you rub the couscous, it should only be for about a minute. I've included a video of the hand technique in the recipe card.
Instant Couscous vs. Couscous
Prepare instant couscous by adding hot water or hot broth and fluff with a fork. Many of the recipes online use instant couscous. Because instant couscous is previously steamed, it cooks quicker.
Do not prepare regular dry couscous in the same way as instant couscous. Steam dry couscous using a steamer. You can tell regular couscous from instant couscous by the label on the bag. This recipe calls for regular dry couscous (not instant couscous).
Since couscous is made from semolina, it contains gluten.
For 1 lb (450 grams) of dry couscous, use about 2.5 cups of water. The couscous also absorbs water from the steaming steps.
Couscous is more like pasta because it's made from semolina wheat whereas rice is a grain.
Store couscous in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days.
You will need a steamer for this recipe. You can use water, broth, or lamb stew to steam the couscous below.
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Fluffy Steamer Couscous
- 1 lb dry couscous (not instant couscous)
- 2 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2½ cups water for the couscous
- water, broth, or stew boiling below the couscous steamer tray
- In a very large bowl, pour the dry couscous. Add half the olive oil (1 tablespoon if making 6 servings) and the salt. Using the hand technique for rubbing the couscous, mix the olive oil and salt into the dry couscous. Add half of the water (1¼ cups if making 6 servings) of room temperature water on top of the couscous without mixing. Allow the couscous to absorb the water and swell for 10 minutes.
- Using the hand technique, mix the couscous. Add the couscous to the steamer. A few pieces of couscous will fall through the holes in the steamer, this is normal. Put the steamer basket on top of the steamer and keep it uncovered. Monitor the couscous. After about 10 minutes, the steam will start to come off the couscous. Start a 5 minute timer. The couscous should be steaming without a cover.
- Pour the couscous into a very large bowl. Add the remaining water (1¼ cup if making 6 servings) and the remaining olive oil (1 tablespoon if making 6 servings). Mix with a spoon because it's hot. Allow it to cool for 5 minutes. Using the hand technique, roll the couscous between your hands separating the couscous grains.
- Add the couscous to the steamer basket a second time. Place the steamer basket on top of the steamer without a cover. The couscous should never be covered with a lid. Wait until steam starts rising off of the couscous (about 10 minutes) and then start a 5 minute timer.
- Remove the couscous from the steamer into a very large bowl. Allow it to cool. Using the hand technique, roll the couscous between your palms. The couscous should be fluffy and tender. Add olive oil and salt to taste.
- Make sure to use dry couscous and not instant couscous.
- Steam the couscous with a steamer. Use water, broth, or lamb stew on the bottom of the steamer.
Best Couscous in the world.are from Algeria and Morrocco.very Simple.Created by The Amazigh.people.A.K.A. Berberes..Or.Kabyle.Tizi-ouzou.Bejaia.Algeria.Also.Marrakesh and Fez .Morrocco.
I've never heard of rubbing couscous. I just pour stock over it, leave it for few minutes then fluff it up with a fork. I am intrigued now to see what difference this makes.
Twice steaming the couscous is what makes it super fluffy and light. Thank you for the comment!
Thank you for sharing this easy way of cooking fluffy Couscous. Definitely trying it.
Hope you like it!
This is full of such great tips! I love adding broth in here to get some added flavor!
Thank you for the comment!
We eat a lot of couscous, but admittedly, mostly instant. I was really pleased to come across your post and learn how to prepare dry couscous in the steamer. I will definitely be using this technique in the future!
Thank you! It was definitely a learning curve, but well worth it!
This was so helpful and looks so delicious! So excited to give this a try! Thank you for the tips!
Thank you Beth!