Difference Between Couscous And Quinoa: You Should Know

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Couscous and quinoa both look nearly the same and are often confused as same thing by countless people. That is why we have chosen to brainstorm and break down the common differences between them for you. They are definitely different in source, preparation, taste and even nutritional benefits.

Couscous is the short grain-like pasta made out of Semolina wheat flour. Whereas quinoa is its gluten-free alternative. It’s in fact a seed of a plant related to spinach.

So we can say that the most prominent contrast between the two lies in their very origin. Dive right in to get a clearer idea of all the other major contrasts in their composition, nutritional values, and ways of preparation.

Difference Between Couscous And Quinoa

As you know, couscous & quinoa have some certain differences in terms of source, uses or preparation. Let’s check out how exactly they are different from each other—


Being mistaken as the same grain, couscous & quinoa, however, don’t come from the same source. So let’s check out where they come from!

Source Of Couscous

Couscous is a granular starch, wheat-product. Its origin dates back to 9,600 BC to the land of Egypt. Couscous is not the powdered form of wheat, rather, it’s quite granular. As a result, this makes it significantly different from the flour.

Producers make couscous by hand rolling or milling small grain-like drops of durum- wheat. It’s moderately rich in carbohydrates and has an ample amount of protein. The durum-wheat is also very high in gluten.

Couscous can be of both grain type or pearl-shaped. The only difference between the two variations of couscous is nothing but their size.

Source Of Quinoa

Quinoa is not a whole grain even though it is often considered to be a grain by many. It is the seed of a plant known as ‘Chenopodium quinoa’ otherwise called goosefoot plant.

Quinoa is mainly protein and fiber-based. It’s also gluten-free unless there’s a rare case of pre-packaging contamination.


The uses of them is another important point to consider. They have different taste, texture and preparation. So obviously, their uses will be different.

Uses of Couscous

North Africans have been using couscous as a staple for centuries. It’s also the national food of Morocco. It’s used in several different ways. Here we have a few mentioned for you.

  • Couscous is prepared in similar ways to rice dishes.
  • Some recipes include cooking it as ‘Pilaf’(a wheat-based dish cooked with broth, spices, meat, and other ingredients)
  • Widely used in salads and as breakfast cereals.

Uses of Quinoa

The uses of quinoa don’t vary a lot from that of couscous. This is one of the reasons why there is always a persistent confusion regarding their identity.

Culinary experts like to use quinoa as a substitute for pasta in various dishes. They have a much nuttier taste than couscous.

So people favor consuming them as breakfast cereals and as a base ingredient in other complex dishes as well.

Preparing Couscous and Quinoa

Clearly, they have different preparation, but their preparation is almost similar. Here are some of the most common preparations of them—

Preparation of Couscous

Couscous is famous for its mild-nutty taste. Therefore, this is the best item to infuse foreign flavors into. The couscous that you can normally find in shops is ‘instant couscous’ which is quite easy to cook.

Here is one of the easiest ways to make delicious couscous.

Required equipment and ingredient
  • Bowl
  • Plastic Wrap
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Flavorings such as salt, dried spice, beans, coriander, and cinnamon powder
  • Chunks of chicken or red meat
  • Uncooked couscous of your choice
  • Take about 150 gm of regular or pearl couscous in a bowl.
  • Add salt, dried spices, and coriander according to taste.
  • If you’re using regular couscous pour in 150 gm of boiling water or stock into the couscous. And if you are using pearl couscous, then increase the amount of fluid by 50-60 gms.
  • Cover the bowl with a plastic wrap and let it soak for more than 10 minutes.
  • After the soaking stage, use a fork to fluff up the couscous.
  • Add a little olive oil so that they don’t form lumps.
  • With this quantity, you can now do at least 3 servings. Although, at this point, you may also add cooked chunks of meat, beans, etc and stir it on low heat until light brown.

Serve your hot couscous with tomatoes, mint, coriander, spring onions, garlic, lemon, parsley, or chili for added flavor.

Preparation of Quinoa

You can find three common variety of quinoa in your local supermarkets. They are namely white, red, and black quinoas.

Since the cooking methods for all the varieties are the same, so you can use this easy process to whip up the nutty taste in any type of quinoa.

Required equipment and ingredient
  • Bowl
  • Strainer
  • Saucepan
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Turmeric
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Take about 200 gm of quinoa in a strainer and rinse it thoroughly to wash off the Saponin (bitter layer over the seed)
  • Pour 400 gm of water in a sauce-pan and bring it to boil.
  • Add the quinoa seeds into the sauce-pan
  • Keeping the heat on medium to high, add your favorite spices. Turmeric and cinnamon are commonly used spices in quinoa dishes.
  • When the water starts to dry off add salt and pepper according to taste for seasoning.
  • Every time you add an ingredient to the pan, make sure to stir the mixture for more than 3-4 minutes for even distribution.
  • After that, put a lid on the pan and cook on low heat for at least 15 minutes.
  • When the cooking is done, let it sit for a while. Then use a fork to fluff up the quinoas before serving. Enjoy your delicious quinoa dish with the same condiments as you would use for your pasta or rice dishes.

Nutritional Value

Just in case you are curious about the health benefits of couscous or quinoa, then this section is for you. All the data of nutritional constituents have been collected from FoodData Central of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Health Benefits of Couscous

A single cup of couscous can contain-

  • 36 grams of carbohydrates.
  • 2 grams of fiber.
  • 6 grams of protein.
  • 3 grams of fat.
  • And about 176 calories.

Couscous can help you lower the risks of cancer. Regular consumption can also help strengthen the immune system. Although it’s low in essential nutrients, it’s still a good way to keep your gut health in check due to high fiber constituents.

Couscous is rich in gluten and selenium. So it shouldn’t be consumed by those intolerant to gluten.

Health Benefits of Quinoa

A single cup of quinoa can contain-

  • 39 grams of carbohydrates
  • 8 grams of protein
  • 4 grams of fat
  • 5 grams of fiber
  • And about 222 calories

Quinoa is comparatively more enriched with the essential nutrients and gluten-free. As a result, a lot of consumers choose quinoa over couscous. Since all nine amino acids are present here, you can call it a complete and substantial protein source too.

Due to being rich in fiber, quinoa will help you maintain gut health. The abundance of magnesium and iron helps cure ‘Iron-Deficiency Anemia’.

Quinoa not only strengthens your bone but helps you regulate your blood pressure as well. Not to mention that it’s rich in antioxidants too.

Frequently Asked Questions

Couscous is not free of gluten. Being a wheat product, couscous does have some gluten in it.

No, quinoa is absolutely gluten free. So you can include it in your gluten free diet without any tension.

Yes, quinoa actually contains twice as much fibers as any grain. So it is an amazing grain to improve your bowel health.

Your couscous may turn rancid if you store it for too long. Smell the grain and check for the right smell if your couscous is too old.

Couscous is actually a carbohydrate based product. So you should try to skip it for your keto journey.

So that’s all for today. Make the best out of your meals with couscous and quinoa! Be it couscous or quinoa, now you know the basic differences in their composition and nutritional values, along with exciting ways to water some mouths.

We hope you’re over your confusions by now, because it’s time to game up your culinary skills and make the best couscous and quinoa dishes your family and friends ever tasted.

If you have any question regarding this post, please leave your query down the comment section. We will try to solve it as soon as possible. Until then, happy cooking!

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