Couscous history: A delicious photo essay!

couscous history, modifications

I decided to do something fun today and share with you a brief post about couscous history–my favorite Moroccan dish. Just had lunch, but writing about this made me hungry again!

couscous history

Photo: tamaynala, Flickr


Did you know that couscous is actually a Berber pasta dish? As such, it’s funny to hear several rumors about couscous history and how it might have originated in China. However, according to archaeological evidence (and Couscous Dari), it is indeed North African. Utensils  required to make the delicious semolina-based dish date back to the 9th Century. Another interesting fact about couscous history: One of the first written evidences of its existence was found in an Andalucian-Moroccan cookbook from the 13th century (Wiki). All over the world, it is now well-known as the National Dish of Morocco.

couscous history, Moroccan salad

Moroccan chickpea & couscous salad by Mark von Minden, Flickr

We must thank Prophet Mohammed (puh), for the most part, for having couscous on our Western tables. The Islamic conquests and expansion actually accelerated couscous production, which was eventually brought to southern Spain (Andalucía) by the Moors. From there it hit many palates throughout the Mediterranean coast. Eventually, it also became one of France’s “traditional dishes.” Furthermore, it even made it to Brazil! We can thank the Portuguese that emigrated from Morocco to South America for that ;)

Types of couscous

There are several types of couscous: From sweet (covered with almonds, sugar, and cinnamon) to savory (smothered in chili harissa sauce in Tunisia). In fact, it can also be tossed in a salad! Unfortunately though, I haven’t had the pleasure to try many North African varieties, but can speak of lengths about Moroccan couscous.

couscous history, Brazilian

Brazilian couscous! Topped with delicious filet mignon, black and green onions. Photo:Jay Cross, Flickr

couscous history, modifications

modified squash couscous by dichohecho, Flickr

couscous history, Tunisian

the making of Tunisian Couscous and Loubia! Photo: Barbara Dieu, Flickr

couscous history, salad

Couscous salad by ProfMKD, Flickr

TGIF = my own personal history of couscous (?!)

Some of my fondest memories of studying abroad in Morocco come from Couscous Fridays. For the astounding price of about US $2, I would get a massive plate of couscous, smothered with bright, thick sauce and a mountain of veggies and meat. Indeed, this gave a whole different meaning to TGIF to us transient students!

couscous, Morocco study abroad

Moroccan couscous with meat (left) and vegetarian (right). Photo by Kristoher Kilgroe

Also, every Moroccan festival literally meant a party to my taste buds. Typically, I would spend every holiday either with my American-Moroccan friend Laura in Marrakesh or my fellow Moroccan classmate Sarah at Al-Jadida. This would mean more mountains of home cooked couscous. Ohhh, those were the happy days!

couscous history, home cooked

Eid Couscous at our Moroccan friend Sarah's house, in a rural town close to Al Jadida. Stu was astounded!

Do you know more about couscous history? What’s your personal story?

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11 Responses to “Couscous history: A delicious photo essay!”

  1. Jackie Smith Says:

    What an interesting post. Great photos. I learned a lot. . .sadly, now I am hungry!


  2. Sabrina Says:

    I’ve never cooked with couscous, but have been wanting to try it. Thanks for the inspiration! Based on your pictures, I think I might try to make one with squash (looks so good!) or topped with veggies and meat. So hungry now and still 1.5 hours to go before lunch…


  3. Ashlee D. Says:

    Love couscous!! You’ve inspired me to make some for lunch :)


    • Maria Laborde Says:

      Mmm, indeed! I might try to cook some for my bf this coming weekend ;) wish I could have it for lunch, though! Lucky youuu


  4. Debbie Beardsley @ European Travelista Says:

    Well now I’m starving and craving couscous! I had no idea about the history – I just eat it :) I also have never had a sweet couscous which may be something I need to remedy.


  5. Lisa Says:

    Couscous Fridays sounds like my kind of tradition! :)


  6. Jessica Says:

    I had no idea couscous had a history! Very yummy photos!


  7. Dick Jordan Says:

    Photos look good enough to eat!


  8. Leigh Says:

    Interesting post – and I particularly like the look of the couscous salad. I don’t eat it a lot – but I do serve it instead of noodles on occasion and obviously need to get more adventurous.


  9. Anita Says:

    Interesting post with a lot of tasty looking photos – i like that :-) I really like couscous salad but I’m too lazy to cook it myself…


    • Maria Laborde Says:

      couscous doesn’t take long to cook at all, Anita! You may buy instant couscous in a box from many supermarkets around the world. Ours takes between 5 to 10 min. maximum. You should try it out!


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