Despite its name, a rice cooker can make much more than rice. You can easily whip up a batch of couscous in a rice cooker. The process is simple, and the results are delicious.
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Couscous cooks up fine using the normal setting on your rice cooker. It should take only five minutes to cook and another five or so on the "keep warm" setting to steam through.
What Is Couscous?
Couscous is not a grain, as many people believe, but actually a form of pasta. Semolina flour, which is used to make high-quality spaghetti, is dampened and rolled into the tiny balls to create couscous. Traditional couscous can range in size from that of a poppy seed, to the size of a garbanzo bean, depending on from where it hails.
The type you buy in the store is instant and usually quite small — smaller than rice — or is so-called "Moroccan couscous," small beads about the size of a pinhead. Whole-wheat couscous is available at many health food stores.
Couscous comes from North Africa — Tunisia and Morocco in particular. Larger pearls known as Israeli and Lebanese couscous are also available. Couscous can serve as a bed for a rich, saucy stew, or as a replacement for rice or pasta in cold salads.
You can make couscous into a pilaf with nuts, onions and broth. Another suggestion is to serve couscous alongside grilled vegetables and harissa or even to use it as a breakfast cereal with milk, cinnamon and dried fruit.
Read more: 10 Myths About Grains — Totally Busted
Couscous in a Rice Cooker
Couscous cooks up light and fluffy in a rice cooker. Best of all, it's super easy to prepare and will be ready in less than 10 minutes.
To make couscous in a rice cooker, you'll need 1 cup of couscous and 1 cup of water. This amount makes 2 cups total. A few tablespoons of butter or oil and a pinch of salt add flavor.
Place all the ingredients in the bowl of the rice cooker and stir them to combine. Close the cover and start the regular rice-cooking cycle. When the machine switches to "keep warm," allow the couscous to stay in the tray and steam for five minutes. Then open the rice cooker and fluff the couscous with a spoon or fork. Serve right away or keep it on the "warm" setting for up to an hour.
For a pilaf-style couscous, brown some chopped onions and slivered almonds in olive oil in the bowl of the rice cooker, with the device on the "quick cook" setting. Add chopped prunes or raisins, Italian seasoning, couscous and broth. Cover, cook on the regular cycle and allow to steam, never boil, explains Boston University's Sargent Choice Nutrition Center, on "keep warm" for five minutes. Serve the pilaf alongside grilled meats or roasted vegetables.
Larger Israeli or Jerusalem couscous can be cooked the same way as Moroccan couscous. You may enjoy the flavor of it more if you melt the butter or oil first and "toast" the pearls for just a few minutes before adding water and putting the cooker on its regular cycle.
Couscous Nutritional Information
Couscous can be part of a healthy eating plan. It contains 176 calories per cooked cup, according to the USDA. You also get 6 grams of protein and almost no fat (except for whatever you add during cooking.) A cup of couscous also contains 36 grams of carbohydrates, 2 grams of which come from dietary fiber. Any fiber you add to your diet is a plus as it helps keep your digestive system moving and can reduce risk factors for heart disease, notes the Cleveland Clinic.
The nutrients in couscous include trace amounts of calcium, magnesium, zinc, potassium, phosphorous and selenium. Small amounts of B vitamins, including folate, are also present. A 1-cup serving of cooked couscous provides 0.6 milligrams of iron.
Read more: 13 Powerful Grains and Seeds
Couscous may look like a whole grain, but it's not, unless you choose the whole-wheat variety. Cook whole-wheat couscous just as you do any other type of couscous.
In pearled, whole-wheat couscous, you get about 200 calories in a 1-cup serving, with 38 grams of carbohydrates. The benefit of choosing whole wheat is in the fiber content; whole-wheat couscous offers 7 grams of dietary fiber per serving as well as 8 grams of protein.