Morrocan Couscous

Submitted by Zineb Takafi.


  • 2.2 lb. couscous – (not instant; I prefer medium caliber)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 6 cups water, divided – (can use milk for final steaming)
  • 2 to 3 tsp salt – (added after 1st steaming)
  • 2 tbsp soft butter – (added after final steaming)

Meat and Broth Seasoning:

  • 2.2 lb. lamb, beef, or goat meat, large pieces on the bone – (or 1 large whole chicken)
  • 1 large onion, coarsely chopped
  • 3 fresh tomatoes, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp ginger
  • 1 tbsp pepper
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1 handful parsley and cilantro sprigs, – tied into a bouquet
  • 2 tsp smen – Moroccan preserved butter – (optional; reserve until the end of cooking)

Traditional Veggies:

  • 1/2 cup dried chickpeas, soaked overnight
  • 1 small head of cabbage, cut in half or quartered
  • 3 or 4 medium turnips, peeled and cut in half
  • 8 to 10 carrots, peeled – (cut in half lengthwise if large)
  • 1 or 2 small tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and quartered
  • 1 or 2 small onions, cut in half – (can use some whole fresh pearl onions instead)
  • 1 small acorn squash, quartered – (or wedge of pumpkin)
  • 4 or 5 small zucchini, ends trimmed – (or 8-ball round, cut in half)


Ahead of Time

  • Soak the dried chickpeas in a large bowl of water overnight. (Or, use a quick soak method: boil the dried chickpeas for 4 or 5 minutes, then turn off the heat and leave them to soak for an hour.)
  • Wash and prep your vegetables. Start making the tfaya (optional; see Recipe Notes).
  • Set up an area to work with the couscous. In Morocco, we use a gsaa (very wide, shallow serving and mixing dish), but another very large wide vessel or bowl can work. Have oil, water, salt, and butter out and ready. Lightly oil the steamer basket of a couscoussier.

Begin Making the Broth – See Recipe Notes if Using Chicken or Making Vegetarian Couscous

  • Brown the meat or chicken with the oil, onion, tomatoes, and spices in the base of a couscoussier over medium-high heat. Continue cooking, uncovered, and stirring frequently, for about 10 to 15 minutes, until a very thick and rich sauce begins to form. 
  • Add the soaked, drained chickpeas along with the parsley/cilantro bouquet and about 3 quarts (or liters) of water. Bring to a boil, cover, and cook over medium heat for about 30 minutes

First Steaming of the Couscous

  • Drizzle 1/4 cup of oil over the couscous. Toss and roll the couscous around between your hands for a minute to distribute the oil evenly and break up any balls or clumps. Add 1 cup of water and work it into the couscous in the same way–tossing and rubbing the couscous until all is well blended and there are no clumps. 
  • Transfer the couscous to a lightly oiled steamer basket, taking care not to compress the grains in the process. Place the basket on the couscoussier and steam for 15 to 20 minutes, timing from when the steam first appears over the couscous.