Moroccan Couscous vs. Pearl Couscous: What's the Difference?

Find out how to prepare and enjoy these varieties of couscous.

Published Sept. 19, 2022.

What’s in a name?

When Shakespeare’s Juliet Capulet asked that very question in relation to her one true love—and her family’s sworn mortal enemy—the Bard, I believe, was also probing a matter central to the preparation and appreciation of the widely beloved grain known as couscous.

Or, maybe not. 

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But nonetheless, while a couscous by any other name may taste as flavorful, there are distinct differences between the pearl (otherwise known as Israeli) and Moroccan varieties.

Here are a few key differences between these two grains.

What Are Pearl Couscous and Moroccan Couscous Made Of?

While it may resemble a grain like barley, quinoa, or rice, couscous is in fact a type of pasta. Both pearl couscous and Moroccan couscous are made with semolina flour and water. For pearl couscous, the semolina is toasted before the couscous is dried.

This is why you’ll find the flavor of each grain to be very similar, with a little bit more nuttiness coming through in the pearl variety.

How to Prepare Pearl Couscous and Moroccan Couscous

The main difference between pearl couscous and Moroccan couscous is the size. The grains of Moroccan couscous are much smaller, compared to the pea-size granules in the pearl variety (made memorable by their namesake).

This, of course, affects the preparation and cooking time of each grain.

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Moroccan Steak Tips and Couscous

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While Moroccan couscous can often be cooked by just covering with boiling water off heat, pearl couscous needs to simmer for some time to get to its correct tender yet chewy texture, so you’re going to want to keep it on the heat for a little longer.

No matter which variety you end up using in your dinner, you’ll be star-crossed lovers with this fast-cooking and completely delicious carb.

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