Couscous Nutrition Facts

Couscous can be a great alternative to rice.

Couscous nutrition
Westend61 / Getty Images

Couscous is a popular side dish that is common in North African and Middle Eastern cuisine. It is made from small granules of semolina (pasta) and often accompanies meat, vegetables or stew. Couscous calories and nutrition depend on the preparation method that you use, but it can be a healthy addition to your meal.

Plain couscous that has been cooked in water with no additional butter or oil is a low fat (almost fat-free) source of carbohydrates.

A single one-cup serving provides about 176 calories and 36 grams of carbohydrate or about 34 net carbs. You'll also get a small boost of protein with the nutty-flavored side dish and a few grams of fiber to help boost your sense of satisfaction after eating.

How to Prepare Couscous

The way you prepare your couscous makes a big difference. Many people boil it in water with a small amount of butter or olive oil. In that case, your couscous calories will increase to about 236 per cup and you'll also gain 8 grams of fat and five grams of saturated fat. If you sprinkle parmesan or other toppings into couscous, that will add more calories.

If you boil couscous in chicken stock or if you use a packaged brand of couscous, the calories may not change significantly, but the sodium level may increase. Plain couscous boiled in water only provides 8 milligrams of sodium, but when you cook it in salted chicken stock or if you add salt to the water, you'll increase your sodium intake.

Near East brand Broccoli and Cheese Couscous provides 230 calories and 610 milligrams of sodium per serving. Parmesan Couscous provides 220 calories and 510 grams of sodium.

Common Questions About Couscous

If you're not familiar with this side dish, you may have questions about couscous.

  • Is couscous gluten-free?
    No. Couscous is not a gluten-free food as some might expect. According to gluten-free diet expert Jane Anderson, the food should be avoided if you have celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. She adds that you diners who are gluten sensitive should "beware of couscous served in restaurants unless it's explicitly marketed as gluten-free."
  •  Is couscous a whole grain food?
    Regular couscous is made from processed semolina and is not a source of whole grains or a significant source of fiber. You can, however, buy couscous made from whole grain flour. A single serving of Bob's Whole Wheat Couscous provides 5 grams of fiber.
  • Is nutrition information on the package for cooked or dry couscous?
    Often food manufacturers will specify if the nutrition data provided is for the cooked or dry food. Usually, the information on the label is for cooked couscous. If not, you can usually tell by the serving size. A single serving of cooked couscous is one cup. If you see a serving size listed as one-third cup then the data provided is probably for the dry product (which expands to one cup during preparation).
  • How long does a box of couscous stay fresh?
    If you buy a packaged variety of couscous and keep it sealed, it should stay fresh for roughly twelve months. However, once the product is cooked it should be refrigerated and will only stay fresh for a few days.

Including Couscous in a Healthy Meal

If you want to include couscous in a healthy well-balanced meal, serve it as the base for other nutritious foods. Some traditional couscous dishes are served with creamy, high-fat sauces.

But you can cut the sauce and focus on fresh ingredients for a lower fat meal. Try preparing roast chicken with couscous or couscous with roasted red peppers, Feta, and Mint.

Keep in mind that you don't need a recipe to make couscous. Simply boil the grain in water or stock as directed on the package label. Depending on the amount you cook, it will take just a few minutes to fluff up and cook. Then throw in fresh herbs, top with your favorite roasted vegetables or simply spoon it next to a piece of lean grilled fish or poultry for a healthy, satisfying meal.

Continue Reading