The Reason Your Couscous Turned Out Bland

I scream, you scream, we all scream for ... couscous? Believe it. In 2018, says GlobalTrade, couscous sales in the European Union hit a whopping $538 million. According to pasta purveyor Martino, just as couscous once served the nomadic peoples of the Arabic and Mediterranean regions where the dish originated, so too does it serve busy folks on the go around the world with a fast and cost-effective meal.

For such a tiny pasta, couscous boasts some big health benefits. According to WebMD, just ¼ cup of uncooked refined couscous contains 5 grams of protein and 2 grams of fiber. Whole wheat couscous is an even bigger health superstar, with 6 grams of protein, 3 grams of fiber, 20 mg of calcium, and 2 mg of iron per ¼ cup serving. Couscous can even help reduce cholesterol levels, which lowers the risk of heart disease.

The Washington Post notes that Moroccan couscous is so common in the U.S. that manufacturers often won't even specify the style. And per Arab America, couscous is the official national dish of Morocco. The dry, just-add-water-and-stir variety of pasta is probably what comes to mind when you think of couscous. But, while convenient, adding water alone might be the worst thing you can do for your finished product. Here's the reason your couscous turned out bland.

You cooked it in water

Couscous' natural flavor is mild and delicate. It isn't as explosively flavor-packed as, say, a nacho cheese Dorito. Couscous is a type of tiny, granular pasta made from semolina flour, says Food Network. The semolina flour is what gives couscous its golden color and nutty taste. Prepared correctly, its naturally mild flavor can shine through. But, the key term here is "prepared correctly," and if you're cooking your couscous with just water, you're doing both the pasta and your palate a great disservice.

Instead, use a different cooking liquid that will impart greater flavor to that super-absorbent, impressionable couscous. Stock is the ideal liquid for making couscous, and infusing a simple veggie stock with spices (cinnamon, star anise, and saffron) such as in this recipe from EatSmarter!, can pack a flavorful punch. Couscous can even be cooked in milk, per WebMD. If you're short on time rather than ingredients, try cooking your couscous in this Instant Pot chicken stock

The finish work is as important as the prep when it comes to this dish, so make sure you let your couscous rest after taking it off the heat.