In the US some supermarkets carry several varieties of couscous in their bulk sections, one of which is labeled French couscous. How does it differ from the other varieties of bulk grains called couscous? Is it just a matter of shape?

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    It's not a grain. It's actually a form of pasta. And no idea on the French stuff. "Israeli couscous" is the only named variety that I'm familiar with, and it's not really couscous. – Joe May 19 '17 at 1:00
  • You don't mean something like this do you? img.21food.com/20110609/product/1211847925968.jpg French couscous typically refers to the style in how it's cooked, not a difference in the grain. Do you have a brand or picture available? Are there any added ingredients or is just sold as plain bulk? – kettultim May 19 '17 at 9:53
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    Our local Whole Foods stopped carrying what they call French Couscous in the bulk section and I wanted to order it online. The obvious difference with the couscous in the other bin was the size of the grains but maybe there is also a difference in how it is manufactured. The semolina can be soaked with different liquids (water, eggs whites, milk) and a variety of flours can be added or not before the rolling and forming. Before I can order it online I need to figure out what I used to buy and I have very little to go by except the name used by Whole Foods. – papin May 19 '17 at 13:54
  • Seems like it might be a name unique to Whole Foods perhaps, maybe used for marketing purposes (remember 'asparagus water'?) - Seems the safest bet is to ask your local Whole Foods (they were always very accommodating when I asked my local).. note the basic types of couscous here: thespruce.com/types-of-couscous-1809217 - maybe they had a subform of one of those, perhaps manufactured in France and they just labeled it as such. – kettultim May 20 '17 at 9:11
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    French couscous (as in couscous sold in france) is normally quite small and quick cooking (in fact you can just pour on boiling water, cover and leave for a few minutes). This is the default here in the UK too, where larger types are often called "giant couscous". I can't answer for American terminology though – Chris H Nov 17 '17 at 9:52

My guess is that what they call French couscous is really Lebanese couscous in marketing disguise. The Lebanese speak French, and calling it Lebanese might put people off due to their political leanings. French is probably just more palatable. Kind of like creating the term canola oil in favor of trying to market rapeseed oil.

  • Canola can also be trademarked, which is how people protect food names in the US (eg, apple variety names). And it's specifically rapeseed oil low in erucic acid. that's the 'la' at the end (Low Acid)) – Joe Mar 12 '18 at 18:29

Couscous is balls of crushed durum wheat semolina, essentially a pasta. It is a staple in the countries of North Africa, but has also become common in many countries in Europe and North America. I have found no indication that "French" couscous differs in any way from traditional couscous.


Okay yes canola also has other aspects for its name. Other examples of renaming are nyjer birdseed and orange roughy fish (aka pacific slime head). The bag of ‘French’ couscous I made last night went wonderfully with the braised lamb with vegetables, clementine, and kumquat stout stew. The balls were about the same size as lentils, bigger than Israeli couscous.

  • This does not answer the question. It's probably a comment on another recent answer. – Jan Doggen Mar 12 '18 at 20:14

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