Authentic Moroccan Couscous (Ahmed’s Version)
This authentic Moroccan couscous is a colorful dish made with perfectly cooked couscous topped with lamb, a variety of stewed veggies and a flavorful broth. My family in Morocco make it every Friday as a way to gather together and pray.
I have to start by saying this recipe is extremely near and dear to my heart. It’s one my dad was always proud to share with loved ones. It’s one of the most popular Moroccan recipes that my family in Morocco makes every Friday.
Losing my dad last year meant losing so many opportunities to cook together, to learn from him and to meticulously capture all of the genius recipes he shared.
That said, I’ve got my brother Ahmed to thank for helping me recreate this recipe and sharing his tricks with me and you.
It’s not the exact technique my dad used, but the flavor of the broth, the perfectly fluffy couscous, and the tenderly cooked vegetables bring me right back to my Father’s dinner table.
If you ask any Moroccan what the nation’s most popular dish is, they will likely tell you couscous. This traditional meal is served every Friday as a ritual for families to gather and pray together.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- olive oil
- olive oil
- lamb shank or shoulder, cut into chunks
- ground ginger
- saffron, bloomed
- yellow onion, diced
- carrot, cubed or half a butternut squash chopped into large chunks
- small eggplant, chopped into large chunks
- zucchini, chopped into large chunks
- turnip, parsnip, or daikon, chopped into large chunks
- parsley, minced
- cilantro, minced
- can of tomato sauce
- pepper flakes or jalapeño pepper
- canned garbanzo beans, drained
See recipe card for exact quantities.
How to Cook Perfectly Fluffy Couscous
If you’ve ever had couscous before you know how special the texture can be. When done correctly, each morsel feels light and airy in your mouth.
For perfectly fluffy couscous add a drizzle of olive oil to your water before adding in the couscous and proceeding with instructions.
How to Cook the Lamb and Veggies
Once the carrots begin to soften, toss in the zucchini, eggplant, and cabbage.
Cook over medium heat, slightly covered until all vegetables are cooked through and the lamb reaches an internal temperature of 145.
Add in the garbanzo beans and mix thoroughly, continuing to cook just until they are warm and evenly incorporated.
Couscous Traditional Preparation
It wouldn’t be fair to share this recipe without sharing a little about the traditional method of preparation.
While this version I’m sharing with you today has all the authentic ingredients and spices, I did make a few adaptations to my dad’s original instructions so that you don’t need to buy any special tools.
In order to prepare Moroccan couscous traditionally, you need a special tool called a couscoussier.
A couscoussier is essentially two stacked pots with a steamer on top. This tool can be found all over the Medinas in Morocco and is designed specifically for this recipe.
The design of the tool allows you to cook the meat, veggies and broth on the first level while steaming the couscous to perfection on the second level. It really does result in the most fluffy, perfect couscous you will ever have.
Product Spotlight: My dad always used this Moroccan brand of couscous when cooking with a couscoussier, but feel free to use your favorite kind.
With all that said, it’s a really cool gadget but I know not everyone is able to run out and find one so I enlisted the help of my genius brother Ahmed to share his short cut.
For this quick version of Moroccan couscous, you will be set with a few good quality pots.
How Moroccans Eat Couscous
Like most Moroccan meals, couscous is traditionally served in a communal large round plate that everyone sits around to enjoy together.
It’s usually accompanied by small bowls full of extra broth to pour over the couscous. Sometimes my aunt would simmer some broth in another pot on the side and add the jalapeño to it, resulting in a super spicy version of the broth for brave guests to try.
Unlike many Moroccan tajines and other dishes that are eaten with your hands, many Moroccans will enjoy it using a spoon.
Now I’m not sure if this applies to all Moroccans or just my family but I have vivid memories of my grandma and dad using their hands to combine some of the vegetables with the couscous and work it into a large, golf ball sized ball they would then pop into their mouths.
I remember being so impressed as a kid watching this happen, and swearing that the couscous tasted a million times better in golf ball form. I also remember sneaking into my grandma’s kitchen to drink bowls of the broth on it’s own; it was that good!
The preparation and ingredients in Moroccan couscous will vary depending on the household or restaurant you visit.
Here are a few variations you may come explore:
- Vegetarian – this dish is traditionally made with lamb or beef cooked with the vegetables… but making it vegetarian is as easy as leaving that out and proceeding with the instructions without it
- Veggies – if you can’t find certain veggies listed in this recipe, feel free to swap them out for something more accessible to you and what’s in season locally
- Gluten free – serve your vegetables and broth over quinoa for an easy gluten free version of this Moroccan classic
Store the vegetables and broth in one container and the couscous separately in another container in your fridge.
Enjoy as leftovers for up to 5 days.
This authentic Moroccan couscous is a colorful dish made with perfectly cooked couscous topped with a variety of fresh veggies stewed in a flavorful broth. My grandmother and aunts in Morocco make it every Friday as a way to gather together and pray.
- 2 1/2 cups water
- 1 tsp olive oil
- 2 cups couscous
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 lb lamb shank or shoulder, cut into chunks
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp pepper
- 2 tsp ginger
- 3 threads of saffron, bloomed with an ice cube (see note)
- 2 tsp paprika
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 1 carrot, cubed
- 1 small eggplant, chopped into large chunks
- 2 zucchini, chopped into large chunks
- 1 cup chopped turnip, parsnip, or daikon, chopped into large chunks
- 2 tbsp parsley, minced
- 2 tbsp cilantro, minced
- 14oz can of tomato sauce
- 2 cups water or vegetable broth
- 1 tsp pepper flakes or jalapeño pepper
- 1 can garbanzo beans, drained
- In a medium pot, make your couscous according to directions on the package. Bring the water to a boil in the pot with the olive oil before tossing in the couscous, covering and move off the burner completely. Let it sit covered for 5 minutes before fluffing with a fork, covering and setting aside.
- In a separate large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat and brown the lamb chunks on all sides before tossing in the onion, bloomed saffron, and seasonings. Sauté until translucent before tossing in the cubed carrots and root veggies and cooking for a couple minutes.
- Once the carrots begins to soften, toss in the zucchini and eggplant. Sauté for another couple minutes before adding minced herbs, tomato sauce and water. Cook over medium heat, slightly covered until all vegetables are cooked through and lamb reaches an internal temperature of 145 (about 20 minutes).
- Add in the garbanzo beans and mix thoroughly, continuing to cook just until they are warm and evenly incorporated. Serve the couscous first, then top carefully with vegetables, finally pouring the broth over the top. Garnish with additional cilantro, parsley, and serve with extra bowls of broth.
To bloom saffron, simply add threads to a small bowl with an ice cube and let the ice melt completely before using.