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Couscous is made from tiny granules of durum wheat, and they are cooked by steaming until they reach a light and fluffy consistency; they can be paired with a variety of dishes.
Couscous is a healthier alternative to rice, but you may find yourself looking for couscous substitutes if you’re following a gluten-free diet due to one reason or the other. Thankfully there are gluten-free grain products available that have a similar taste and texture to couscous.
Couscous alternatives such as millet, fonio, and quinoa can be used in dishes that call for couscous, and you may be unable to tell the difference.
What Is Couscous?
Couscous is closely similar to macaroni and spaghetti as it is made from semolina flour, but their dough does not include water and/or egg; instead, the couscous dough is folded repeatedly between moistened hands until the flour combines with just enough water to form hundreds of tiny grains.
This gives the couscous a light and fluffy texture and makes them cook fast and easy.
Once the couscous grains are formed, they are dried and can then be streamed over a stew or any other dish of choice. If you are out of stock or can’t consume gluten, here are some gluten-free couscous substitutes.
Best Couscous Substitutes
Couscous is a side dish usually served alongside a main course meal; they also pair well with salads, buddha bowls, stir-fries, as well as soups and stews.
Couscous is erroneously considered a grain, although it is not, so gluten-free grains make the best substitute.
Here are some gluten-free grains you can use in place of couscous. Keep in mind that all grains are not created equal; some options may perfectly replicate the taste and texture of couscous.
But there are also certain gluten-free grains which is a bit further in terms of texture and taste, but they still serve as a good alternative for couscous if you have them on hand.
Millet is the closest substitute for couscous in terms of appearance and taste. Millet is tiny and round-shaped and can be used in different dishes.
This is an ancient grain that originates from West Africa and is very similar to couscous.
Fonio can be used in pilaf, tabbouleh, and other recipes that call for couscous.
3. Short-Grain Brown Rice
This grain has a slightly different shape from couscous, but it is used as a staple side dish in so many cultures and cuisines.
You can use short-grain brown rice in traditional middle eastern or north African dishes that require couscous, and you can get a similar result.
This isn’t exactly a grain but pseudo-cereal; it is smaller than millet and couscous in size but has a high-protein content.
Sorghum has an appearance very similar to millet. It is small, round-shaped and has a yellow color.
You may find it difficult to source sorghum in local stores, and you might need to go to a specialty store to get it.
This is another pseudo-cereal, also known as “kasha”. It has a larger size with a distinct flavor.
It is not recommended to use buckwheat as a stand-alone side dish, but you can mix it with rice or millet.
This grain has very tiny seeds that look like teeny tiny balls. It should not also be used on its own as a side dish but mix it with rice or millet.
Teff is a tiny grain seed that originates from Ethiopia. Its distinct flavor may be quite overwhelming and hard to mask, so mix it with other grains.
Riced Vegetables Substitutes for Couscous
If you want to completely skip grains from a recipe, you can use riced vegetables as a substitute for couscous. You can turn some types of veggies into a rice-like texture, which is quite similar to couscous, but you will be able to tell that it is a vegetable from its taste.
You can make riced vegetables with a food processor, pulse the raw vegetable of choice a few times until you get a grainy, minced texture.
You can also soften the vegetables by steaming or using a microwave before ricing. Here are the common types of riced veggies you can use in place of couscous:
- Sweet potato
Gluten-Free Couscous Brands
Instead of substitutes, you can use gluten-free couscous brands; these have a very close texture to real couscous.
Please note that according to FDA’s labelling rule, if the packaging is labelled as “gluten-free”, this indicates that cross-contamination can only happen with less than 20 ppm; this is considered a safe amount by celiac disease experts.
This is a gluten-free couscous brand that is made of potato starch, eggs, palm oil and salt. It is, however, not vegan friendly.
This is made with potato/tapioca starch, potato flakes, pasteurized egg white, emulsifier (mono glycerid of palm oil), stabilizer, xanthan gum, turmeric, paprika and other spices. It is a gluten-free product but not vegan.
This consists of potato starch, potato flour, salt, potato flakes, palm oil, whole eggs, spices, and parsley flake.
This gluten-free couscous is made from only organic roasted brown rice. It is not only gluten-free but vegan as well.
This product uses the following ingredients: potato/tapioca starch, potato flakes, pasteurized egg albumin, emulsifier, stabilizer xanthan gum, spices. It is, however, not vegan.
This is a cassava-based couscous made from cassava semolina flour which is the only ingredient. It is gluten-free.
This is made from potato/tapioca starch, potato flakes, pasteurized egg white, emulsifier, stabilizer – xanthan gum, and spices. It is a gluten-free product but not vegan.
This is a millet-based couscous that uses millet flour as its only ingredient. You can find gluten-free couscous brands in stores like Tesco, Asda or Clearspring.