Can you cook Israeli couscous like pasta?

In this post, we’ll address the query: “Can you cook Israeli couscous like pasta?” Also, we’ll discuss what Israeli couscous is, where it originates from, why it is called Israeli couscous, and list a few examples of dishes that can be made with Israeli couscous. 

Can you cook Israeli couscous like pasta?

Yes, you can cook Israeli couscous like pasta. In fact, Israeli couscous IS a type of pasta, as it is made from the onset of pasta wheat dough, and by extension, Israeli couscous can stand in for any other pasta shape in a recipe. 

This means that Israeli couscous can be boiled and then used in salads, mixed with Ragú, cheese sauces, or just about any other variation in which pasta is prepared. 

What is Israeli Couscous

Israeli couscous, also called Pearled couscous and ptitim, is a type of pasta shaped like tiny, ball-shaped pieces, and made from pasta wheat dough. Nowadays, it is available in other shapes and sizes, in a bid to appeal to a wider public. 

Despite its name, Israeli couscous is in truth, not a genuine couscous, as it is made from pasta dough (which is a mixture of ground wheat paste mixed with water, and eggs), rather than from semolina (a product obtained from milled wheat, which comes before dough is made).

In the case of Israeli couscous, many recipes are centered around this pasta, and it is a popular meal for children in Israel.

Where does Israeli couscous come from? 

Israeli couscous, as its name indicates, is a product that originated in Israel, however, in its country of origin, it’s known as ptitim, which means “little crumbs” or even “flakes.” 

In the 1950s, Israel as a country was just a few years old, but almost overnight, its population grew rapidly, due to the arrival of many immigrants. As it was a young state, with a fledgling economy, it was faced with many obstacles, and as a result, during its first years, life in Israel was subject to strict rules collectively known as an Austerity policy. 

For most of the 1950s, the newly-formed state of Israel imposed measures on its rapidly growing populace to gather its bearings and establish itself as a competitive economy. Among these measures, rationing and replacing scarce food products with more readily available alternatives were key. 

Israeli couscous is a product of this austerity policy, as it was commissioned by Israel’s very first Prime Minister; David-Ben Gurion. The Osem food company rose to the task and fashioned pasta in the shape of pearls–as a response to a growing shortage of rice.  

Why is it called Israeli couscous

Curiously, the term “Israeli couscous” was coined in 1993 by Israeli-born chef Mika Sharon and New Yorker Don Pintabona –an executive chef who grew quite enamored with this pasta’s taste at a casual gathering in Sharon’s home. 

That same year, Don Pintabona presented a new pasta dish at the trendy Tribeca Grill restaurant–and dubbed it “Israeli couscous.” 

What are a few examples of dishes made with Israeli couscous? 

Israeli couscous, or pearled couscous, is a versatile food product. In Israel, it is seen as more of a children’s meal; available in various shapes and sizes, and often prepared with only fried onions and tomato paste. 

However, other recipes that are a little more brazen in terms of flavor and ingredients are readily available, and below, we’ll describe a few of these.

Mediterranean Israeli couscous salad: in one of many variations, this pasta salad can include Feta cheese, cucumber, tomato, parsley, olives, onions, and lemon, with an olive oil dressing. Its preparation is seemingly straightforward; once the pasta has been boiled, it is mixed with the other sliced ingredients and delicately mixed, then combined with the dressing and served. 

Toasted Almond Israeli Couscous: This is a variation of the traditional tomato paste and onion recipe for children, only it uses chicken or vegetable broth, sliced almonds, extra virgin olive oil, thyme, and shallots, and is a recipe recommended for those who like strong flavors. 

Israeli Couscous with dried cranberries and toasted almonds: this pasta dish combines pearled couscous with almonds, scallions, cranberries, black pepper, and a slightly-acidic taste provided by grated orange peels. 

Tomato couscous soup: a classic recipe that takes little time to prepare, and uses simple ingredients such as onions, tomatoes, and chicken broth. For a more elaborate flavor; carrots, coriander, cumin, and mint can be added 

Summing things up, Israeli couscous is a versatile pasta that can be at the center and side of both easy-to-cook and gourmet-quality dishes.   


In this post, we delved into answering the query: “Can you cook Israeli couscous like pasta?” We briefly discussed what Israeli couscous is, its origins, and particular nomenclature, and listed a few examples of dishes that can be made with Israeli couscous. 


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Hi, I am Charlotte, I love cooking and in my previous life, I was a chef. I bring some of my experience to the recipes on this hub and answer your food questions.