Although it’s used as a grain, couscous is a type of pasta. The benefit is that, unlike most grains, couscous cooks in 5 minutes. Formed out of small dried pellets of durum wheat flour and salted water, couscous is an integral part of Middle Eastern and African cooking. For maximum nutrition, choose whole wheat over regular, refined durum wheat couscous. Use cooked couscous in salads or pilafs or serve it as the base for stir-fries, stews or braises.

Boil Your Liquid

Use approximately 1 cup of liquid for every 1 cup of couscous you plan to cook. A single serving of cooked couscous equals a 1/2 cup. Add up to 1/3 cup more liquid for soft, sticky couscous or use /3 cup less for drier couscous with separate, distinct grains. Water is traditional — and the lowest in sodium and calories — but you can also experiment with broth, juice, milk or a combination. Measure the liquid into a saucepan and bring it to a boil over high heat.

Add Some Fat

For every cup of couscous you plan to cook, you can stir 1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil or butter into the water before adding the dried grains, though this is not required. The addition enhances the flavor and keeps the couscous grains separate, but it also adds more fat and calories per serving. If you choose to add a fat, stir it into the liquid before it boils.

Stir, Let Sit, Then Fluff

After the liquid boils, take the saucepan off the heat and add the couscous. You may stir in 1/2 teaspoon of salt along with every cup of couscous, but it is not required. Use a spoon to mix the couscous and liquid thoroughly, then put the saucepan’s lid in place. Let it sit undisturbed for 10 minutes. With a fork, fluff the couscous grains and check to see if they’ve reached your desired doneness. If the grains are still too hard, replace the lid and allow the couscous to sit for 2 to 5 more minutes.

Experiment With Flavorful Add-Ins

On its own, couscous has a bland taste that works well for showcasing other, more complex flavors and textures. Add up to 1/2 teaspoon of herbs or spices when you mix the couscous with the boiling liquid, or stir in quick-cooking vegetables such as frozen peas, grated carrots, shredded spinach or cooked dried beans. When time permits, you can pre-toast couscous to give the grains added flavor. Heat butter or oil in the saucepan, stir in the dry couscous and cook until it gives off a fragrant scent. Add the boiling liquid, let the mixture sit, then fluff the grains, as normal.