For me, couscous is one of those staple foods that are awesome have in the pantry. Like rice and pasta, it’s one I always like having to hand. It goes perfectly with roasted vegetables or salad. There’s all sorts of great couscous recipes out there – drizzled with olive oil it can also make a great snack on its own.
Couscous is also a good source of iron, selenium, fiber, and protein. However, the exact nutritional value (and how long it takes to cook) can depend on how processed it is, or even which kind of couscous it is.
The latter is important because there are three main types of couscous that you’ll see at the supermarket. The most common is is perhaps Moroccan couscous. This type has the smallest grain – about the size of semolina – and it also cooks the fastest, just a few minutes. The two larger varieties are Israeli (pearl couscous) and Lebanese couscous (Moghrabieh).Israeli pearl couscous is medium-sized and takes about 10 minutes to cook, and Lebanese couscous is the largest and it takes the longest to cook – about 10-15 minutes.
Whatever type of couscous you prefer, a common question is how to store it for the long term. Can you freeze couscous? Read on to learn everything you need to know!
- 1 Can Couscous Be Frozen?
- 2 What Happens to Couscous When You Freeze it?
- 3 Can You Freeze Couscous After Cooking?
- 4 How Long Does Frozen Couscous Last?
- 5 Preparing Couscous Before Freezing
- 6 Israeli Couscous (Pearl Couscous)
- 7 Moroccan Couscous Recipe
- 8 Lebanese Couscous (Moghrabieh)
- 9 How to Freeze Couscous
- 10 How to Reheat Frozen Couscous
- 11 Reheating Couscous in the Microwave
Can Couscous Be Frozen?
Yes! You can certainly freeze couscous. Since it’s so quick to cook, you may not need to frequently freeze it. But, if you happened to cook way too much couscous and you’re worried that you won’t be able to eat it all before it goes bad, don’t worry. You can easily freeze couscous and then reheat it later.
However, before you go and smash your couscous into the freezer, there are some things you should keep in mind.
I’ll go into various aspects of freezing couscous like the best ways to prepare couscous before freezing it as well, what happens when you freeze couscous, how long frozen couscous can last, and more.
What Happens to Couscous When You Freeze it?
How well it freezes can depend on how you freeze it, what kind of couscous it is, and if there are other foods mixed in with the couscous.
However, there is one thing that’s common no matter what, and that’s what happened to the water that’s cooked into the couscous, and it freezes!
When the water molecules freeze, it can change the texture and even the taste of certain foods. That’s why defrosted strawberries or raspberries are soft and mushy compared to when they’re fresh. This also happens with couscous to some extent, but since it’s so small and it’s a bit more firm, it’s not such an issue. However, it can be impacted negatively if you don’t take a few things into consideration before freezing.
I’ll go into them in more depth a bit later, but the two main things that can make the frozen couscous less enjoyable are 1. the method of freezing and 2. if there are other foods that aren’t freezer friendly mixed inside the couscous. If you don’t think about these things you may end up with clumpy or soggy couscous.
Can You Freeze Couscous After Cooking?
Yup, you can most definitely freeze couscous after cooking. In fact, you should pretty much only freeze couscous after cooking. It’s actually probably the only time you’ll need to, as dried couscous has a very long shelf life.
If it’s kept in the correct conditions – stored in a dry, dark place, and away from heat – then there is no real expiration date. It can last for months or even years past the expiration date. However, you should first check to see if it’s bad if it’s past that date just to be safe. You can easily check to see if it’s gone bad by looking for any unwanted pests like moths or weevils that often find themselves raiding pantries. Also, since there is a small amount of fat in couscous it’s possible that it may go rancid so you should also check for mold and also do a smell test to see if it smells musty, stale, or foul in any way.
So, if the couscous in your pantry is getting near the expiration date, you should definitely consider cooking it and then freezing it so it can last for a few extra months.
How Long Does Frozen Couscous Last?
As I briefly mentioned, couscous has a pretty long shelf life when it’s still dry and stored properly. However, this can vary depending on how well it’s been stored. Many brands of couscous come in a paper or cardboard box. If you keep it in this kind of box, it’s more vulnerable to pests and moisture. But if it’s kept in a sealed plastic package or transferred to an airtight container, it can stay good for up to 1 year or more. Always remember to inspect it for quality before consuming though.
If you plan on freezing couscous, then you can expect it to last for about four months to keep its best quality. But technically, if it’s stored in the freezer correctly and remains frozen, then it should be safe to eat indefinitely. However, the longer that it stays in the freezer, the more likely that it will succumb to freezer burn. This is where the moisture is sucked out and the food becomes totally frosted and generally inedible.
You can prevent this by storing it in an airtight container or freezer bag that has all of the air removed from it.
Preparing Couscous Before Freezing
Before you start to prepare your couscous, you should be familiar with which type of couscous you’re cooking.
This is because the three different types of couscous I’ve mentioned are cooked in different ways.
While they aren’t wildly different, as say a baked potato and mashed potato, there are some nuances to consider before preparing each type of couscous.
This is important when freezing couscous because if it’s not prepared well, then it may also have a negative effect when you freeze it. Let’s first see how you prepare each type of couscous recipe.
Israeli Couscous (Pearl Couscous)
Ingredients: (6 servings)
- 1 cup uncooked couscous
- 1.5 cups water (or broth of your choice)
- 1 TBSP oil or butter
- 1 tsp salt
- Bring the hot liquid (water or broth) to a boil
- Add the oil and salt
- Let simmer for 10 minutes
- Remove the couscous from the heat and let it sit for 5 minutes
- Remove the cover and fluff the couscous with a fork
Moroccan Couscous Recipe
Ingredients: (6 servings)
- 1.5 cup uncooked couscous
- 1.75 cups water (or broth of your choice)
- 1 TBSP oil or butter
- Pinch of salt
- Add water or broth to a medium-sized pot or saucepan, and bring to a boil.
- Remove the pot or saucepan from the heat once it’s boiled and stir in the couscous, butter or oil, and salt.
- Cover and let steam for about five minutes.
- Remove lid and fluff the couscous with a fork
Lebanese Couscous (Moghrabieh)
Ingredients: (4 servings)
- 1 cup uncooked couscous
- 3 cups water (or broth of your choice)
- 1 TBSP oil or butter
- 1 tsp salt
- In a small or medium-sized pot or saucepan bring water or broth to a boil.
- Add couscous, oil or butter, and the salt and reduce it to a simmer.
- Cover and cook until all liquid has been absorbed, stirring occasionally, which takes about 15 minutes.
- Remove it from the heat and let stand, covered, for about five minutes.
- Fluff with a fork.
You’ll notice that these are just the basic preparation methods for the various types of couscous. These are also generalizations and you may want to double-check with the suggested preparation on the box or package to make sure to use the appropriate amount of water.
Additionally, feel free to add other spices to pump up the flavor of your couscous recipe if you’d like. However, take into consideration how well those ingredients will freeze. Things like shrimp or eggs don’t fare so well when frozen. Spices are fine, but solid foods, not so much.
How to Freeze Couscous
Now let’s get into the method of freezing. The main goal when freezing couscous is to make sure that it doesn’t freeze into one giant block. This can make it become mushy after reheating.
Also, as I have briefly mentioned, added ingredients can have a negative impact on the couscous as well.
While they can be great to add some variety and flavor to the couscous, you should be careful to not include other foods that don’t freeze well. So, if you are cooking the couscous for the sole purpose of freezing it to extend its lifespan, you will see the best results by cooking it on its own. Let’s get into the steps.
- First, make sure that the couscous is separated from other foods that it might have been served with. Other foods may change the texture and consistency of the couscous when it’s frozen.
- Leave the couscous out at room temperature or put it into the fridge until it cools. You should not try to freeze the couscous when it’s still warm. Putting warm or hot things into the fridge can not only harm the food you’re freezing by trapping the moisture (steam) in it, but it can also raise the temperature of the freezer, maybe harming the other foods in the freezer. You can speed up the process by putting it into a plastic bag or container and run it under cold water.
- Once the couscous has been cooled to room temperature or colder, take a baking sheet or large plate and spread the couscous out on it in a single layer. You may need to use multiple sheets or plates if you’re freezing a large amount. This serves the purpose of preventing large clumps of couscous from freezing together.
- Place the sheet or plate into the freezer and allow it to become hard.
- Next, transfer the couscous from the baking sheet or plate into an airtight container or freezer bag. Put it into serving-size portions for easy reheating.
- Remove as much air as possible.
- Label the bag or container and return it to the freezer.
How to Reheat Frozen Couscous
There are two main ways that you can reheat frozen couscous: the best way, and the microwave. I’m only kidding. The microwave method is also a good method, especially if you’re a bit short on time. But my personal favorite method is by frying it on the stove. It serves to both reheat it but also rejuvenates it with a bit of added flavor as well. This is how you do it.
- Add a small drizzle of oil and a couple of tablespoons of water to a non-stick frying pan or saucepan and turn to medium heat.
- Add the frozen couscous and stir, breaking up any clumps that may have formed.
- Continue to stir the couscous until the water is absorbed.
- Remove from the heat and fluff with a fork.
- Add any extra ingredients or spices and it’s ready to go!
Reheating Couscous in the Microwave
This is a super simple and convenient method to reheat your frozen couscous.
- Put the couscous into a microwave-safe container.
- Add 2-3 tablespoons of water and put it in the microwave on high heat for one-minute increments. Fluff it up with a fork after each minute.
- It’s ready when you see steam coming from it.