Morocco: history and origins of couscous

couscous vegetables and meatCouscous is the most popular dish in Morocco and North Africa, but spread all over the world. History has elaborated different opinions about its origins. Some believe couscous, like pasta, was created in China, whereas others are sure of its origin from East Africa. However, the most evident evidence seems to point to North Africa. Moreover, right here, archaeological discoveries dating back to the ninth century, would have brought to light cooking tools used to prepare couscous.

In the eleventh century, the Arab-Islamic conquest contributed to the spread of the dish throughout the North African region. The economic growth and the development of wheat production accelerated its expansion. Then couscous was brought to Spain, to the southern region of Andalusia, and along the perimeter of the Mediterranean. In a writing of the sixteenth century by Francois Revelais, it is noticed how in Provence was spread and appreciated Coscoton a la Moresque. Couscous arrived in South America, through the Portuguese colonies emigrated from Morocco. The expansion of couscous continued during the twentieth century, mainly because of migratory waves from North Africa to Europe, France in particular. A recent survey revealed how couscous is today the second favorite dish of transalpine people.

Today couscous is the culinary ambassador of North Africa and is an emblem of Moroccan culinary art. Let’s take a look at the recipe for traditional couscous, for which a special pot, the cuscussiera, is needed.


couscous of semolina
soaked chickpeas
savoy cabbage
lamb meat
ground coriander


Couscous is easily found in supermarkets and can be prepared without too many problems: it is enough to pour it in a pot and cover it with boiling broth, until the semolina granules swell. Once this is done, the granules must be separated with a fork. The only thing missing is the seasoning, which is also simple to prepare. After browning the lamb in a pan with a little oil, add tomatoes, onions (cut very finely), zucchini, cabbage, carrots and potatoes and chickpeas. Cover with water and cook for several minutes, until the vegetables are ready. When almost cooked, season with spices.

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