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Pearl Couscous

Pearl couscous or Israeli couscous is a traditional Israeli side dish.  Serve alongside a saucy main dish.

bowl of pearl couscous on a white marble counter

I’ve eaten pearl couscous a lot when served as a side dish to hot lunch when I taught in Israeli schools.   I’ve even had it as part of an on flight meal leaving Israel. Needless to say, it is a popular food here.

Pearl Couscous, called Petitim in Hebrew, was created in Israel in the 1950s during a rice shortage.  Today it is still commonly eaten and easily found on Israeli supermarket shelves.

Despite the name in English, this isn’t actually couscous at all.  Instead, it’s a machine-made, perfectly round pasta with a slightly chewy texture.  

Real couscous on the other hand, is made of crushed semolina durum wheat.  Also, unlike real couscous, it is not served with a vegetable stew poured over it.

How to Eat Peal Couscous

While it is technically a pasta that is not how it is traditionally eaten. In Israel it is still treated like rice.

For reasons unknown to me though, outside of Israel pearl couscous and real couscous are used to make a grain salad.  In the Middle East they neither are ever eaten like that.

Usually it is eaten plain or with onions mixed in. Growing up my mom used to make it with onions and you can buy bags which have dried onions mixed in. More often than not though, I’ve been served in plain.

According to Wikipedia pearl couscous are “considered a children’s food in Israel.”  This is not really true.

While it is often served to children and you will find them on children’s menus when you go to restaurants, it is not considered children’s food.  

As a rule of thumb, if it is served as a main course it is to a child.  However, if it is served as a side dish, it is a general food.

How to serve

When it is served to children as a main dish, it is usually made like Israeli red rice.  Otherwise it is made and served plain.  

Served like you would rice.  It’s often used as a side dish to a saucy meat or poultry main dish.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

Israeli Couscous

bowl of pearl couscous on a white marble counter

This classic Israeli side dish usually is served with a saucy main dish.

Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 cup peal couscous
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • Salt

Instructions

Heat the oil in a small sauce pan.

Toast the peal couscous for 3 or 4 minutes. Stir constantly.

Pour in water, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes or the water has boiled out. If the peal couscous still seems a little firm cook for another 3 to 4 minutes - add more water as needed.

Add salt to taste.

Serve with a saucy main dish.

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