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.