My wife bought some toasted Israeli couscous at a specialty store recently, and we decided to cook it last night. Unfortunately, it did not seem to cook like we are used to, and some of it was still uncooked after other bits were breaking down from overcooking.

We used a recipe that we'd previously had success with using regular Israeli couscous: cook a little shallot in butter, toss couscous in the butter when the shallot is soft, add some chicken broth, bring to a boil, cover and simmer over low heat for a few minutes, finish with toasted pine nuts and golden raisins.

The couscous itself was a little odd--some pieces were very dark, and they all seemed very rough on the outside, not smooth like I'm used to.

So the questions are:

Is uneven cooking likely to happen with toasted couscous? Does toasted couscous need different cooking techniques from what we used (recipes I'm seeing don't seem to say so)?

Is it possible that the uneven toasting/roasting caused the uneven cooking (the darker ones cooked less, for the most part)?

Was this even actually couscous, or something else that isn't meant to be cooked the same way (wish I had a photo of the raw item)?

  • 2
    There was a restaurant fad during the mid 90's when restaurants were making Israeli cous-cous like Risotto. Add butter and onion or shallot, add cous-cous and toast for a minute, then add the liquid usually chicken stock one cup at a time until the cous-cous was just right. I think chefs were also mounting the finished cous-cous with butter. I've also seen a chef blanch parsley and puree the parsley in the blender with vegetable stock. This was added to the cous-cous at the end for a bright green color and flavor. Under pan roasted sea-bass it was fantastic.
    – Adam S
    Feb 4, 2011 at 20:40

1 Answer 1


It sounds like it might have been fregola, a toasted pasta from Sardinia. It is quite similar to Israeli couscous. There is nothing wrong with the cooking technique you are using, I think you just might have found a brand/batch that isn't very well made. If there is a lot of unevenness in the toasting or size of the pieces, then that will likely result in an uneven cooking in the liquid. As you can imagine, the darkly toasted pieces have more of a shell that makes it slower for them to absorb water. Don't give up on fregola though, it can be delicious stuff. You can also buy regular Israeli couscous and dry-toast it in the pan for awhile before adding the other ingredients.

  • Ah! That is exactly what it was. My wife didn't remember what the label said, but that pic is definitely the same stuff. And I think you're right that it wasn't well made and the over-roasting of some grains was our biggest problem.
    – bikeboy389
    Feb 4, 2011 at 17:17

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