Couscous VS. Quinoa: What’s The Difference?

If you’re sick of eating pasta or rice for each of your meals, you could try to eat couscous or quinoa instead. If you want other feculent alternatives, you should consider these. They’re both packed with great nutritional values and have a lot in common. Plus, they taste great, and you can cook them in so many different ways!

The nutrition factor does vary quite a lot, depending on if you eat quinoa or couscous. They do look similar, though, which can be confusing at first. Especially if you never ate couscous or quinoa before. But how do you distinguish which is which? And how do you know which one is best nutritionally?

Well, don’t you worry! You don’t need to read a dozen of articles to find the answer. This extensive article will guide you through everything you need to know about couscous vs. quinoa. So you’ll know what the differences are between them and which would be best for you!

Here’s an initial Q&A so you can find out everything you need to know about couscous and quinoa:

What Is Couscous?

Couscous is made from steamed semolina. But what is semolina, you might wonder? Well, semolina is a type of ground flour that’s made out of durum wheat. So think of couscous as a variety of small-beaded pasta. Only it doesn’t taste like pasta. Also, it’s pronounced ‘koos-koos.’

Where Does Couscous come from?

Couscous comes from the Gramineae family, also known as the Pocacea family. It’s very often found in traditional Algerian, Tunisian, and Morrocan cooking. So it’s very common in the Middle East but also in Northern Africa.

Is Couscous Hard To Find?

Normally, not at all. You can usually find couscous in every local supermarket near you, no matter where you live. Nowadays, it’s as common as pasta or rice.

What Is Quinoa?

Quinoa comes from the Quinoa plant. The Quinoa plant belongs to the Chenopodiaceae family, also known as the goosefoot family.

You can grow this plant at home. Or you could simply buy quinoa from your local supermarket. Quinoa is considered to be a whole grain, while couscous is considered to be processed.

Is Quinoa A Cereal?

Yes, quinoa is technically considered to be cereal. But it’s not a real cereal, as you eat the grain and not the seed.

What Are The Different Types Of Quinoa?

There are three different types of quinoa you can buy and eat. The three varieties are as follows: white, red, and black. All of these quinoa varieties are cultivated in South America, particularly in the Andean region.

Red quinoa is considered to be the healthiest quinoa variety, as it has more protein than the others. It also has more antioxidants. As for black quinoa, it’s the variety that has the most fiber. Also, black and red quinoa is a bit crunchier than the white quinoa variety. You won’t notice too much flavor in the white quinoa variety. So it’s up to you what texture you prefer!

So What’s The Main Difference Between Couscous And Quinoa?

To sum it up, the main difference is that couscous is a type of pasta, which is made from durum wheat. Quinoa is a type of seed. It comes from the quinoa plant, but it is consumed as a grain.

Also, couscous has gluten, and quinoa doesn’t. So if you have celiac disease, are celiac intolerant, or simply want to reduce your gluten consumption, avoid couscous. Couscous has a lot of gluten, while quinoa is gluten-free.

But, be careful with quinoa, as it contains prolamins, which can be harmful if you have celiac disease or are gluten sensitive. But if you’re gluten-free, quinoa is generally safer. If you have an allergy to gluten, though, it’s better to be safe than sorry, and you should avoid it too. You can ask your doctor what he or she thinks about it and if it applies to your specific case.

Nutritional Values Of Couscous And Quinoa

Couscous and quinoa are somewhat healthier alternatives to rice and pasta. Their nutritional profile is pretty similar, but the nutrient quality will change. So below, you’ll find the main nutritional differences between couscous and quinoa:

Common Nutritional Traits Of Couscous And Quinoa

Both couscous and quinoa are naturally pretty low in fat. So they’re a great alternative to rice, pasta, or even potatoes if you’re want to eat less high-fat foods. Also, both quinoa and couscous are high in protein, while they are still considered to be carbs. So their protein and carb content are pretty much the same.

So if you want to eat more protein in your day or just trying to follow your protein intake while having energy from carbs, both couscous and quinoa are great alternatives to other carbs! Protein is essential to keep a healthy, varied, and balanced diet. But the quality of the nutrients will change a lot from couscous to quinoa.

Also, amino acids are found in protein and are essential to your body’s good health. Your body only produces non-essential amino acids, so it needs amino acids, which it gets by eating food. Both quinoa and couscous have amino acids, but quinoa has all the essential ones, unlike couscous.

Nutritional Value Of Couscous

One cup of couscous, so around 100 grams, has 37g of carbs, 0.3g of fat, 6g of protein, and 2.2 g of fiber. In total, it’s 206 calories for one cup of couscous.

Couscous has a higher glycemic index than quinoa. So that’s something to keep in mind, as it can raise your blood sugar levels. Essentially, if you are diabetic, keep away from couscous! But if your blood sugar levels are too low, eating couscous could help stabilize your sugar levels. It will increase your sugar levels slowly and progressively.

Nutritional Value Of Quinoa

One cup of quinoa, so around 100 grams, contains 39g of carbs, 4g of fat, 8g of protein, and 5 g of fiber. In total, one cup of quinoa equals around 222 calories.

Quinoa is often found in organic and health stores, as well as local supermarkets. So you might think it’s healthier and less fatty than couscous. Well, surprisingly, you’d be wrong. Quinoa is around 12 times higher in fat than couscous.

Quinoa is higher in fat, yes. But that doesn’t mean it’s bad fat. In fact, it’s good and healthy fat, as it mostly has healthy essential fatty acids such as omega 6 and omega 3. So quinoa is healthy and if you’re on a plant-based diet and can’t get omega 3 from fish, for example, you can get this nutrient from quinoa.

Healthy fatty acids are essential to your organism, as your body needs fat. So if you want to get healthy fats in your body while eating a healthier carb that will give you energy throughout the day, give quinoa a try! You should also know that quinoa has twice as much fiber compared to couscous, so you will feel fuller for longer.

Benefits Of Eating Couscous And Quinoa

In the previous sections, I’ve already mentioned the benefits of eating couscous and quinoa, but this next section will explore them even further:

Benefits Of Eating Couscous

Not only can couscous increase your blood levels, which is good if yours are too low, and is full of protein, it’s also high in selenium. Selenium is great for your thyroid function, your immune system, and can also reduce the risk of a heart attack or even cancer!

That’s because couscous has an antioxidant that combats free radicals, which are often the cause of premature aging and cancer. So what’s not to like about couscous? It’s great for your overall health, except if you have high levels of blood sugar.

Benefits Of Eating Quinoa

As you may have noticed in the previous section, quinoa has even more benefits than couscous. It’s high in healthy fatty acids, has omega 3 and 6, is high in protein, and also fiber. Plus, it also has antioxidants like couscous!

The antioxidants in quinoa will not only help to lower the risk of cancer, but they are also great against inflammations, heart diseases, and developing diabetes. So the antioxidants are even more powerful than those in couscous. It also contains vitamin B and iron.

How Do You Cook Couscous And Quinoa?

Now that you know all the nutrition and the benefits of eating couscous and quinoa, here’s how to cook them:

How To Cook Couscous

Couscous tastes a bit like pasta but doesn’t have much flavor, so it’s good to add in dishes. It’s also super easy to prepare.

To cook couscous, place couscous in a bowl and pour boiling water over it. You can also do that in a pot. Let it be for around five to 10 minutes until all the water is absorbed and it’s fluffy.

You can season it with some salt and butter, or add it to a tajine for example.

Or you could eat couscous in a salad, with veggies or meat. The possibilities are endless!

How To Cook Quinoa

Quinoa has a bit of a nutty flavor and is a bit crunchy. You basically prepare it like rice.

To cook quinoa, rinse it well, to remove all the saponin. Boil water in a pot and when it’s boiled, put the quinoa in. Cook the quinoa for approximately 10 to 15 minutes, or as long as the sachet instructs. Or, you could steam it. You’ll know it’s ready when the water is fully absorbed and the quinoa has a fluffy texture, just like for couscous or rice.

As for the measurements, it’s pretty straightforward. For one part of quinoa, add two parts of water. As for what you can eat it with, you can eat it in a salad, in a soup, with veg and meat or meat replacements, and you can even add it to your breakfast. Let your imagination run wild!

So Is Couscous Or Quinoa Better?

Health-wise, there is no competition. Quinoa is far better for you. It has healthy fatty acids, antioxidants, omegas 3 and 6, iron, and vitamin B. Plus it’s a whole grain, and not processed unlike couscous.

But if you prefer the taste of couscous and how easy it is to prepare, couscous is also great for you if you’re not diabetic or have high levels of blood sugar. Couscous also has antioxidants that can fight cancer and heart diseases. Plus, it’s high in selenium. But if you’re gluten-free, avoid couscous as it contains gluten. You should eat quinoa instead.

What I would recommend is to try both to see which you prefer, couscous or quinoa. If you prefer couscous, you can eat it, but you should alternate with quinoa and brown rice. This way, you can make sure your body will stay in great health!

But the healthiest alternatives to white rice are in the following order: quinoa, couscous, and then brown rice.

Final Thoughts

Couscous and quinoa may look alike, but they’re really different in what they’re made of their nutritional value and their taste. Couscous is made out of a pasta variety made from durum wheat. Quinoa is a seed that comes from the quinoa plant, but that is considered a cereal and that you consume as a grain.

As for the nutritional value, couscous and quinoa are both naturally pretty low in fat and high in protein. They’re both considered carbs, but quinoa has higher fatty acids, higher amino acids, and more fiber than couscous. So quinoa will keep you feel fuller for longer.

Also, you should avoid couscous if you have diabetes or your sugar levels are too high. But if your sugar levels are too low, eating couscous could help stabilize your blood sugar levels. Other quinoa benefits include that it’s gluten-free, has vitamin B, iron and it’s higher in antioxidants than couscous.


So it’s up to you to see which fits you best!

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