Is Couscous Gluten Free?

If you suffer from Celiac disease or have gluten sensitivity, you realize how important it is to avoid this substance. Gluten can be found in rye, wheat and barley – common ingredients used in a multitude of food products. Unfortunately, for people with gluten allergies, consuming anything containing it can cause serious side effects and reactions.

For people with a diverse palette, avoiding gluten can be a huge challenge. For those especially fond of Middle-Eastern food, many are disappointed that several of the dishes are off limits. You might even wonder "is couscous gluten free?"

What Is Couscous Made?

To find the answer to "is couscous gluten free," you have to know what it is and how it is made. Couscous is a coarsely ground semolina pasta. It is made up of a semolina, water and salt mixture. It resembles rice in shape, color and texture, but cooks more quickly. When correctly cooked, couscous is tender, fluffy and moist. It is commonly called a grain but it is pasta. It does not have a strong flavor and it takes on the taste of the other ingredients it is mixed with.

How Is It Served?

Throughout Middle Eastern, Mediterranean and North African countries and even the United States, couscous has become a staple in several households. It can be served with almost anything and often accompanies lamb, chicken or vegetables. For centuries, couscous has been steamed over stews or served on top of fish or poultry dishes.

In modern times, it is even served as a desert when mixed with nuts, fruit, sugar or cinnamon. Couscous salad contains couscous, peas and beans. However, several types of different salad add some of it for texture and diversity. Often salads containing wheat grains are referred to couscous.

Is Couscous Gluten Free?

Resembling both rice and pasta, couscous alas cannot be enjoyed by someone with a gluten sensitivity or Celiac disease. Made of durum wheat, it is not gluten free. There are three grains which contain gluten – wheat, rye and barley.

Many Mediterranean, North African and Middle Eastern dishes are made with couscous, so it is very important to find out if it is made with a gluten free ingredient before you eat it. If you are unsure, it is best to pass on the dish then be sorry later when your body adversely reacts.

Gluten-Free Couscous You Can Try

If you are asking the question "is couscous gluten free," you have to remember in its original form, it is most absolutely not. Although it looks like rice or pasta, it is made from durum wheat grain, a no-no to you if you are following a gluten free diet. Fortunately, there are manufacturers that produce a gluten free couscous:

  • Lundberg Family Farms: This brand grows its own rice and boasts two flavors of gluten free roasted brown rice couscous. It makes a plain couscous, which sole ingredient is brown rice. It also makes another version called Mediterranean Curry, which contains additional seasoning.
  • Wholesome Kitchen: While this brand produces a millet-based couscous, it is important to note that it also offers a wheat couscous. It is very important to check the ingredients on the label before purchasing. The gluten free couscous comes in plain, fruit & nut and garden vegetable flavors.
  • Goldbaum's: Instead of wheat flour, its Israeli couscous is made gluten free, with ingredients like tapioca starch, potato starch and egg whites. The facility in which it is produced is gluten free, lowering the risk of contamination.
  • Bob’s Red Mill: This brand produces a gluten free couscous and is committed to ensuring quality control for people who follow a gluten free diet. It has a separate packaging facility and goes as far as testing products during production, after packaging and even upon delivery to make sure they stay pure.
  • Vitabella: This brand makes a gluten free couscous that has a slightly nutty flavor. It states that the product contains no preservatives, is GMO, dairy and gluten free and is quick and easy to prepare. The product is made in Italy.

3 Gluten-Free Alternatives for Couscous

Just because you have to follow a gluten free diet, it does not mean you cannot enjoy couscous recipes. Many side dishes or meals are based around the staple. Why not? Couscous is a low calorie, highly nutritious ingredient. But it traditionally contains wheat, which knocks it off your list if you have a gluten sensitivity or Celiac disease.

Remember that when you are diversifying your meals and looking for ways to spice up your choices. Consider one of these three ingredients to use in place of couscous:

1. Brown Rice

Brown rice is a diverse ingredient that can be eaten alone or used in a variety of different recipes. The most important thing to consider when purchasing any type of rice is to read the label to make sure it is gluten free.


  • 1 serving of cooked brown rice (see package)
  • Onion, diced
  • Garlic cloves, minced
  • Red peppers chopped
  • Celery, chopped
  • Tomato, chopped
  • Olive oil


Follow package directions and cook rice until done. Put to the side. Sauté the onion in a pan with a small amount of olive oil. When onions are translucent, add the garlic. Sautee for one minute. Add the red pepper and celery. Cook until they are soft. Finally, add the rice and tomatoes. Stir with ingredients and serve.

2. Hot Cereal

Bob’s Red Mill manufacturers a product called Mighty Tasty Gluten Free Hot Cereal. Even though the name may fool you, it can actually be used to make both savory and sweet dishes. There are numerous recipes available with the cereal as one of the main components.


  • Bob’s Red Mill Mighty Tasty Gluten Free Hot Cereal
  • Gluten free maple syrup
  • Cinnamon
  • Apple chunks
  • Honey
  • Stevia


Prepare the hot cereal per package directions. Add all the other ingredients once done. Put as much as you would like, seasoning to your taste. You can substitute the apples with other types of fruit. You simply mix all together and serve.

3. Quinoa

Most people with gluten allergies can eat quinoa, but if you have a severe sensitivity, you still may have to avoid eating it. If you are able to enjoy it, it is a wonderful product and a great substitute for couscous. Take note that it is important to make sure the quinoa you are consuming is not processed in the same plant as wheat, rye or barley.


  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 2 cups vegetable broth
  • Juice from one lemon
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Sea salt (season to taste)
  • Tomato, chopped
  • 1 Garlic clove, minced


Follow package directions to cook quinoa with vegetable stock, garlic and olive oil. Once done, stir in lemon juice and add salt to taste. When serving, garnish with tomato.

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