Are you wondering if you can Substitute Quinoa for Couscous, I have your answer! The quick response is, it depends. Keep reading and I will explain.
First, let me applaud your desire to add more whole foods. Quinoa is a great way to add health benefits you will not get from couscous.
What is the difference between couscous and quinoa?
While some might think couscous is a grain- like white rice or brown rice, it is actually pasta. It is made with semolina flour (durum wheat). You can read all more about couscous on this website.
The wheat is formed into small granules or round shapes. When it is cooked, it has a deliciously chewy texture I love it!
It has long been a staple of diets in North Africa and the Middle East.
It has a neutral flavor that lends itself well to many dishes.
Quinoa is a seed. Generally, it is grouped in with the whole grains category, and even referred to as an ancient grain, it is actually a seed. It is also gluten-free, making it perfect for those with gluten sensitivity.
It is typically grown in South America, but it is also being grown by some farmers in the United States and Canada now as well.
While you only used to be able to find quinoa in health food stores, with its recent popularity, it can be found in just about any local grocery store you might have access to.
A cool thing about quinoa is unlike other plant proteins, it is a complete protein. This means it contains all 9 of the essential amino acids!
While couscous has a mild flavor, quinoa has a slightly nutty flavor.
An excellent way to look at it quinoa is grown and couscous is made as a type of pasta.
Quinoa is a healthier option and can undoubtedly be subbed in many recipes.
Can you substitute quinoa for couscous?
The quick answer is yes and no. If you are wondering if you can sub it out in some of your favorite dishes, let me help. Here are a few examples:
- If you are making a cold salad, like this lemon herb couscous salad or this vegetable couscous salad. This would be an easy swap. Know the flavor would be different, as couscous is a mild flavor and quinoa has a mild nutty flavor. Substitute 1 cup of quinoa (cooked) for 1 cup of cooked couscous in any cold salad. Be sure to cool the quinoa first before using it in the salad.
- You can also easily substitute couscous for quinoa in many soups, like this couscous chicken soup. Quinoa does have longer cooking times, so plan on adding an extra 7-10 minutes to ensure it is tender. This is a great option when you are on a gluten-free diet.
- For recipes where the couscous is cooked with meats, like this chicken and Israeli couscous, you can sub in quinoa here as well. I would recommend using white quinoa as I find it has a softer texture.
- When the recipe cooks the couscous separately and then mixes in cooked meats or vegetables, you can easily substitute it with quinoa. This recipe from Ina Garten is a good example. Cook your quinoa instead of the couscous, then mix it together with the roasted zucchini. It is very simple to do.
- Savory dishes that use couscous as a base can also be an easy sub, check out this recipe from Pioneer woman for Greek Salmon Couscous bowl is a good example. Rather than using couscous or in place of rice too, use cooked quinoa. That mild nutty flavor lends itself well to Buddha bowl-type dishes.
How to cook pearl couscous
- 1 cup of pearl couscous, 1 ½ cups water or broth. If you are using water, be sure to add about ¾ teaspoon salt to the boiling water.
- I always toast my couscous first, so start by heating your pan over medium heat. Once it is heated, add about 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
- Add the couscous and cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Pour in the broth and cover and let it cook for about 12-15 minutes.
- Remove it from heat, and drain any excess liquid.
How to cook quinoa
- 1 cup of quinoa to 2 cups of water or broth with a pinch of salt.
- Rinse the quinoa well, if you want to do this, in cold water for 15- 30 seconds.
- Combine the quinoa and water in a pan then bring to a boil over medium heat.
- Cook for about 10-15 minutes. Remove from the heat and cover.
- Let this sit for about 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork.
- You can also cook according to package directions. These generally suggest you bring water to a boil and add the quinoa to the hot water.
- Cover and let it cook for 15-17 minutes on low.
- Both methods work well, it seems to be a matter of personal preference.
So next time you are looking for a healthy food option in place of couscous pasta, think of quinoa! While it doesn't have a similar texture, it makes great healthy substitutes. In fact, you might appreciate the nuttier flavor even more than the mild couscous flavor.
- As with any substitutions with recipes, know your ingredients and how they work and taste before making changes! If you are unfamiliar with cooking with either quinoa or couscous, be careful with the subs. Follow my recommendations above.
- Buy in bulk where you can to save money. I have a Winco grocery store near me and they have an amazing bulk food section. It is up to 30% less expensive to buy in bulk!
- The type of couscous your recipe calls for matters. The smaller couscous cooks much more quickly than pearl couscous.
- Toasting the couscous might take a little extra time, but it also adds extra flavor! Trust me when I say it is worth it.
Well, as far as nutrients go, quinoa is a much healthier food. It is also gluten-free compliant.
This question is tricky to answer. Quinoa has more nutritional value, but couscous is lower in calories. So, I guess the answer to this really depends on what your own idea of healthy looks like! Both are good options, as long as it is within moderation.