Is Couscous Gluten Free?

Adopting a new way of eating can be confusing and overwhelming. So when it comes to a gluten free diet, The Gluten Free Society wants to be your go to source of trusted information to help guide your gluten free journey. 

When considering what foods contain gluten, many people think of wheat and bread-based products. But there are a number of other grains out there that seem like they might be gluten free. So what about couscous? In this article, we will break down whether couscous is gluten free, and what to be aware of when you come across couscous in a recipe or on a menu.

What is Couscous? 

Couscous is a small circular pasta that is typically made from finely ground durum wheat semolina flour. It is typically golden or light brown in color, looking a bit like short grained rice. It also may look like a lighter, more circular barley, or a larger-grained quinoa.

Because of its similar appearance to rice, some people may wonder whether couscous is gluten free. However, couscous is actually a type of pasta made from wheat. This means that it contains the gluten protein that people who are gluten sensitive or have Celiac Disease, should avoid.

What Is Gluten and What is Celiac Disease?

As a refresher, gluten is a protein found in grains.  While most sources point to wheat, barley, and rye as the gluten-containing grains, the reality is, other grains, like oats and corn, also contain gluten.

While gluten is present in a huge variety of foods, it is not an essential component of any diet. In fact, there are no nutrients in gluten that are not better obtained through other healthier food sources, like whole fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds, as well as pastured meat and eggs, and wild-caught fish. In fact, not only is gluten not essential, it is actually detrimental. 

Celiac disease is an autoimmune condition that is triggered by the ingestion of gluten. This causes Inflammation in the intestinal tract and other parts of the body. Systemic inflammation then contributes to further autoimmunity and health concerns.

Food Alternatives

If you are looking for options to replace couscous in a meal or dish, two gluten free options include cauliflower rice and grain-free pasta.

For example, cauliflower rice is a naturally gluten free and nutrient-dense alternative that can stand in for couscous in certain side dishes like a salad mixed with vegetables and a light vinaigrette.

In addition, a cassava-based orzo pasta is a similar size and shape and provides a similar texture to couscous. Like couscous, it also tends to take on the flavor of whatever it is mixed with. Try this Classic Pasta Salad recipe for a tasty and nutritious gluten-free dish.

  • 8 ounces chickpea, lentil, or cassava elbows
  • 1/4 cup Mayo
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon Apple Cider Vinegar
  • 1 clove garlic, grated
  • 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning or herbs de provence
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 1/2 an English cucumber, diced
  • 4 oz cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters

Instructions

  1. Bring a pot of water to a boil and season with salt. Drop the pasta in and cook about 8 minutes until tender. Strain and rinse with cold water.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the mayo, olive oil, cider vinegar, garlic, Italian seasoning, black pepper, and chili flakes. Pour the rinsed pasta into the bowl and stir well to combine.
  3. Add in the cucumber and cherry tomatoes and stir to combine.
  4. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Conclusion

Derived from durum wheat semolina, there’s no doubt that couscous is not gluten free. Couscous contains gluten and is unsafe for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity to consume. The good news? There are a number of safe and nutritious alternatives to couscous, and plenty of delicious gluten free recipes to enjoy! If you think you have gluten intolerance take our sensitivity test.

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