Tunisian Vegetable Couscous

Apr 29, 2010 by Susana Fare

Couscous is a round hard grain made of semolina wheat. It has been used as a food staple and eaten since the Berber civilization in North Africa. Berbers were indigenous people living west of Egypt toward the western coast of Africa.

The Berbers were concentrated in Morocco and Algeria. Its culture remained, even after many different invasions from many different civilizations and religions.

According to Oregon State University, the word Berber means “free men,” but also derives from “barbari” the denomination Romans gave the people they conquered.

Couscous is a national meal indigenous to several North African countries. It’s used as a base for either stew or soup. In North Africa, it’s served at the end of a festive meal and before dessert. It can also be used as a single dish family meal.

Couscous differs from country to country. Moroccans use saffron, Algerian’s like adding tomatoes, and Tunisian’s use hot pepper sauce called Harissa. It’s available in Middle Eastern stores. It can be also used as a substitute for cayenne pepper.

Couscous is available around the world signifying its popularity. Usually, you’re able to obtain ready-made couscous at any grocery or supermarket nowadays. It cooks rapidly and doesn’t need a stove to absorb its boiling water.

A stew usually contains different types of meat. A vegetable stew can be a dish for people on a diet.

But as a vegetarian, having a variety of vegetables ready for cooking my meals helps make them tasty and healthful. Also combining diverse herbs and spices helps make for an exotic dish.

This particular dish includes sweet potatoes and carrots, which are both a good source of Vitamin A. C, B6, beta-carotene, and of course contain powerful antioxidants. I found the harissa at a Middle Eastern store and used it a couple of times previously. It’s a bit spicy but that’s the authentic flavor from the region. And as you know, I’m concerned about good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle, so I use whole wheat couscous for this dish.


  • 1 cup whole wheat couscous
  • 1 cup water
  • 1-2 tbsp harissa sauce
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 medium carrot, peeled and cut into 1/2-in dice
  • 1 medium turnip, peeled and cut into 1/2-in dice
  • 1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-in dice
  • 1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2-in dice
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed


Boil 1 cup of water and pour 1 cup of couscous. Let set until couscous absorbs the liquid. Add harissa to the couscous mixing well to acquire the intense flavor of the sauce and break any lumps it might have.

Heat olive oil and cook garlic and onion until transparent in medium heat. Add vegetable broth. When hot, add vegetables and cook them until tender. Depending on their size, it could take around 15 minutes or more. Add more broth if necessary.

Serve couscous in individual plates. When vegetables are ready, serve them along with chickpeas on top of couscous or mix them all.

Serves: depending on your portion, around 6 servings

Basic method for making couscous and tips:

Couscous can be purchased at the local grocery stores precooked. It can be heated on the stove, oven, or microwave. Boiling the water separately and adding it to the couscous will speed the process. Just measure the volume of the grain adding the same volume of warm water.

• 1 cup dry couscous = 2-1/2 cups cooked.

• As a side dish, plan on 1/2 to 3/4 cup cooked couscous per person.

If you want or need more vegetarian recipes or instructions on different dishes, you can find them here, or at my blog Spanish Steps.

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