Elevate your side dish game with instant pot pearl couscous -- a speedy and savory option for perfectly cooked, fluffy pearls that can be customized with your favorite herbs and seasonings.Jump to Recipe
My favorite part about this israeli couscous recipe is that it only takes minutes to make. The pearl couscous is toasted in the instant pot, then pressure cooked to perfection. Once the pasta is al dente, the pearl couscous can be tossed in extra virgin olive oil, and fresh vegetables to complete the couscous salad. It's a healthy, guilt free lunch you can feel great eating.
- Why You'll Love Instant Pot Pearl Couscous
- What Is Couscous?
- Benefits of Making Pearl Couscous in The Instant Pot
- Equipment Needed
- How It's Made
- Instant Pot Pearl Couscous Variations
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Storing and Reheating
- More Instant Pot Recipes
- Try These Pasta Sides
- Instant Pot Pearl Couscous
Why You'll Love Instant Pot Pearl Couscous
Speed and Convenience: This instant Pot pearl couscous recipe cooks quickly and efficiently, saving you time compared to traditional stovetop methods.
Consistent Results: The Instant Pot provides even heat distribution, resulting in perfectly cooked couscous with a consistent texture every time.
Hands-Off Cooking: Once you set the Instant Pot, you can leave it to cook without constant monitoring, freeing you up to focus on other meal preparation.
Versatility: Instant Pot pearl couscous is a versatile ingredient that can be used in salads, side dishes, pilafs, soups, and more.
Meal Prep: Cooking pearl couscous in advance and storing it for later use makes meal preparation more efficient and convenient.
What Is Couscous?
Couscous is a type of small, granular pasta that is a staple in many North African and Middle Eastern cuisines. It's similar to rice in some ways but different in others. It is made from crushed and steamed wheat, typically durum wheat semolina. Couscous has a mild, slightly nutty flavor and a light, fluffy texture when cooked.
There are two main types of couscous:
- Regular Couscous: This is the most common type and is widely available in most grocery stores. Regular couscous is made from crushed semolina wheat and is often the type referred to when simply mentioning "couscous." It cooks quickly and is typically steamed or soaked in hot water before being fluffed with a fork.
- Israeli Pearl Couscous (Ptitim): Also known as Israeli couscous or pearl couscous, this variety consists of larger, pearl-sized granules, and it's made from a similar wheat-based dough as regular couscous. Israeli couscous has a chewier texture and a more pasta-like appearance. It's often used in salads, soups, and as a side dish.
Couscous is incredibly versatile and can be used in various dishes, from salads to main courses. It is a quick-cooking grain, which makes it a convenient choice for busy cooks. Couscous can absorb the flavors of the liquids and seasonings it's cooked with, making it adaptable to a wide range of cuisines and flavor profiles.
Benefits of Making Pearl Couscous in The Instant Pot
All types of pasta can be made in the instant pot, couscous is no different. The instant pot not only saves time but it makes the cooking process extremely easy. Below are some of the benefits I enjoy when it comes to making pearl couscous in the instant pot.
Even Cooking: The instant pot provides even heat distribution, which helps ensure that the couscous cooks uniformly, preventing any clumping or uneven texture.
Efficiency: The Instant Pot is known for its speed and efficiency in cooking grains and pasta. Couscous is a quick-cooking ingredient, and the Instant Pot's sealed cooking environment allows it to cook rapidly without the need for constant attention.
Minimal Hands-On Time: Preparing couscous in the Instant Pot is a hands-off process. Once you add the couscous and liquid, you can set the Instant Pot and let it do the work, freeing you up to focus on other parts of your meal.
Flavor Absorption: Couscous can absorb the flavors of the liquid it's cooked in, making it an excellent candidate for preparing in the instant pot with broth, herbs, or seasonings. This allows you to infuse it with extra flavor.
No Boiling Over: Unlike stovetop cooking, where you need to watch for boiling over, the Instant Pot's controlled environment prevents any spills or messes.
Couscous - The variety I use in this recipe is Israeli couscous which is also called pearl couscous. The size and shape cook up perfectly in the instant pot. Using other varieties such as Moroccan and Golden can result in overcooked or mushy couscous because they're smaller than Israeli.
Water - This is a must have to cook the pasta. If you want to infuse the couscous with more flavor you can use a chicken broth, vegetable broth, or even bone broth. Because we're cooking in the instant pot, less liquid will be used than if you were cooking on the stove top.
Olive oil - This helps to reduce clumping and it makes stirring easier after it's cooked. It's also used to toast the couscous before it's cooked to give couscous depth of flavor. Try adding an infused olive oil such as garlic, basil, or chili oil to give the couscous even more flavor.
To make this instant pot couscous recipe, you'll need the following equipment:
Instant Pot: The electric pressure cooker is the primary piece of equipment you'll need for pressure cooking the couscous.
Measuring Cups: Measuring cups are essential for measuring the broth. The accurate measurement ensures the couscous isn't mushy and doesn't burn.
Measuring Spoons: Measuring spoons are helpful for precisely measuring the oil. These can also be used in case you want to add any additional herbs or spices.
Stirring Utensil: You'll need a utensil, such as a fork or a spoon, for fluffing and stirring the couscous after it's cooked.
How It's Made
To Cook The Couscous In The Instant Pot
Step 1. Add olive oil to the instant pot and turn on the saute setting. Once heated, add the couscous and stir frequently until the couscous is toasted. This should take around 2-4 minutes.
Step 2. Next, hit cancel to stop the instant pot from heating. Add the water or broth. Place the lid onto the instant pot and turn the quick release knob to the sealed direction. Pressure cook on high for 3 minutes followed by a 5 minute natural release.
Step 3. Once the 5 minutes is up, turn the sealed knob to open and let the remaining steam escape. Remove the lid and stir well until your couscous is fluffy.
To Make The Couscous Salad (Optional)
Step 4. In a large serving bowl, combine all of the ingredients including the couscous. Add the salad dressing and toss to combine. Serve warm or refrigerate and serve cold.
Instant Pot Pearl Couscous Variations
There are so many ways to take this basic israeli couscous recipe to the next level. It's good on its own but it can be made even better by adding a few extra ingredients. I have included an optional salad varation with added fresh vegetables and salami to make a refreshing pasta salad. Below are even more variations you should try.
Mediterranean Pearl Couscous Salad: Toss cooked pearl couscous with diced cucumbers, tomatoes, red onions, Kalamata olives, feta cheese, fresh herbs like parsley and mint, and a lemon vinaigrette for a refreshing Mediterranean salad.
Pearl Couscous with Roasted Vegetables: Roast a medley of vegetables like bell peppers, zucchini, and cherry tomatoes, and then mix them with cooked pearl couscous. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with crumbled goat cheese for a hearty side or light main dish.
Pearl Couscous and Pesto: Combine cooked pearl couscous with your favorite pesto sauce and add sun-dried tomatoes, toasted pine nuts, and Parmesan cheese for a flavorful pasta salad.
Pearl Couscous and Chickpea Pilaf: Create a nutritious pilaf by mixing cooked pearl couscous with cooked chickpeas, sautéed onions, garlic, and spices like cumin and coriander. Garnish with fresh cilantro or parsley.
Lemon Herb Pearl Couscous: Cook pearl couscous in chicken or vegetable broth, and once cooked, toss it with lemon zest, lemon juice, fresh herbs (such as basil, thyme, or dill), and a drizzle of olive oil for a bright and aromatic side dish.
Curried Pearl Couscous: Cook pearl couscous and stir in a mild curry sauce made with coconut milk, curry powder, turmeric, and ginger. Then, add cooked peas and diced bell peppers for extra color and flavor.
Instant Pot Chicken Pearl Couscous: Season and saute chicken before adding the remaining ingredients to make a flavorful protein packed dinner.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can different types of couscous be used in the instant pot?
I recommend only using regular Israeli, whole wheat, or multi-colored pearl couscous for this recipe. This is because they're all very similar in size. Cooking with smaller varieties can result in mushy couscous. Plus, the water to pasta ratio may be off.
What is the instant pot pearl couscous water ratio?
I have found that 1 cup of couscous to 1 1/4 cup water works perfectly. It's not too much liquid. Keep in mind this is the israeli couscous water ratio, other types of couscous may require more or less.
How long do you cook pearl couscous for?
The israeli pearl couscous only takes 3 minutes of pressure cook time to make. However, keep in mind that it takes a few minutes for the instant pot to come to pressure. Don't forget there's an additional 5 minutes of a natural release following the cook time. I would say set aside a total of 15 minutes for the pearl couscous to be done.
Why is my pearl couscous mushy?
This is typically from using too much liquid or cooking for too long. Be sure to measure out no more than 1 1/4 cups of water and don't let the couscous sit in the natural release for more than 5 minutes.
Something you can do to help is to rinse the couscous before placing in the instant pot. This removes any excess starch which can prevent sticking and mushiness.
Can You Freeze Couscous?
Yes you can freeze couscous just like you can freeze other grains and pasta. Freezing couscous is easy and no it does not ruin the nice chewy texture that couscous has coming right out of the instant pot.
Couscous stays good in the freezer for around three to four months. If you are freezing couscous, I recommend placing in a sealed container to prevent freezer burn. Be sure to allow the couscous to cool completely before storing to avoid extra moisture build up.
Couscous should be frozen on its own and not with other vegetables which could interfere with the flavor and texture of the couscous. You don't want to place the couscous in the freezer right when it's done cooking. You will need to wait until the couscous has reached room temperature before placing in the freezer for the best results. This will also help with reheating later.
Is instant pot pearl couscous healthy?
Yes, I would consider this pearl couscous healthy. It contains cabrs, protein, and fiber. It's also naturally low in fat. As with any food, portion size is important. Also, the way you prepare and dress up the couscous can affect how healthy it is. Adding processed ingredients won't be as healthy as adding fresh vegetables for example.
Can you cook pearl couscous in a rice cooker?
Yes, this works very similarly to the instant pot. Place all ingredients into the rice cooker, close the lid, and cook for 15-20 minutes. Allow the pearl couscous in rice cooker to sit on the warm setting for about 5 minutes to ensure it's cooked through.
Storing and Reheating
Storing Instant Pot israeli couscous is straightforward, and it's similar to storing any cooked grains or pasta. After cooking pearl couscous in the Instant Pot, allow it to cool to room temperature.
Transfer the cooked pearl couscous to airtight containers. Glass or plastic containers with tight-fitting lids work well. Store in the refrigerator for up to 3-4 days.
To reheat, place the couscous in a microwave safe bowl and heat on high for 30 seconds. Stir and repeat until the couscous is heated through.
More Instant Pot Recipes
Try These Pasta Sides
Instant Pot Pearl Couscous
To Make The Instant Pot Couscous
- 1 cup couscous
- 1 1/4 cup water, chicken broth, or vegetable broth
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
To Make The Couscous Salad
- 1 cup couscous cooked
- 1/2 cup chopped baby carrots
- 1 6 oz can black olives sliced
- 1 yellow or red bell pepper chopped
- 1 10 oz package of sliced salami
- 4 green onions sliced
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/4 teaspoon ground pepper
- 1/2 cup salad dressing
- 1 15 oz can chickpeas (optional) drained and rinsed
To Cook The Couscous In The Instant Pot
- Add olive oil to the instant pot and turn on the saute setting. Once heated, add the couscous and stir frequently until the couscous is toasted. This should take around 2-4 minutes.
- Next, hit cancel to stop the instant pot from heating. Add the water or broth. Place the lid onto the instant pot and turn the quick release knob to the sealed direction. Pressure cook on high for 3 minutes followed by a 5 minute natural release.
- Once the 5 minutes is up, turn the sealed knob to open and let the remaining steam escape. Remove the lid and stir well until your couscous is fluffy.
To Make The Couscous Salad
- In a large serving bowl, combine all of the ingredients including the couscous. Add the salad dressing and toss to combine. Serve warm or refrigerate and serve cold.