Is Couscous Gluten Free? | Build a Stash

Key Takeaways

  • Couscous is not gluten-free, as it is made from durum wheat semolina.
  • You can make food similar to couscous out of gluten-free alternatives.
  • You might be able to find gluten-free couscous products with the gluten removed.
  • You can make gluten-free grains to make alternatives to couscous.
  • Sometimes, gluten sensitivity goes away if you avoid gluten for long enough.

If you are on a gluten-free diet, you need to avoid foods made from a few common grains that contain gluten. Is couscous gluten-free?

Unfortunately, couscous contains gluten and is not ok for anyone who wants to minimize or avoid it. Couscous is made from flour (semolina), which is made from drum wheat, which has gluten in it. Even if you only need to limit and not eliminate gluten, you should still avoid couscous.

I am on a low-gluten diet and I don't eat couscous. Instead, I eat similar foods made from gluten-free grains. Since gluten-free food is so popular, there are usually gluten-free alternatives to whatever foods you have to avoid.

Table of contents


Are There Gluten-Free Couscous Products?

It is possible to remove most of the gluten from wheat. Therefore, there might be some gluten-free couscous brands out there. Possibly, you could find gluten-free couscous if you look around for it.

You can find beer that has most of the gluten removed, and this might be true for couscous and many other wheat products. You could at least make couscous yourself by buying gluten-removed flour.

However, these products are still made from gluten-containing grains. Couscous made from wheat with the gluten removed may not be a completely gluten-free alternative. You will probably do better with food made from other grains which are naturally gluten-free.

Alternatives to Couscous

Since couscous is not gluten-free, you need to look for alternatives. There are many ways to make food similar to couscous without using wheat or any other gluten-containing grain. Some of the alternatives are:


Quinoa is one of the best gluten-free couscous substitutes. The flavor is different, but you can still use quinoa as a replacement for couscous in recipes. A soup or salad that contains couscous will be just as good if you use quinoa.

Quinoa is better for you in most ways than couscous. It is higher in protein, manganese, iron, and folate than couscous. However, couscous is higher in selenium, which is good for your immune system.

Short-Grain Rice

Short-grain brown rice is another good gluten-free couscous alternative. You can use it in most recipes that require couscous and they will still turn out tasty. Rice also works great as a side dish.

Cooking with rice is different from cooking with couscous. The cooking time is different, and it doesn't absorb the same amount of liquid.

Riced Cauliflower

Riced cauliflower is an underrated choice. Not everyone likes it, but you might find you prefer it to either couscous or rice.

To make riced cauliflower, put cauliflower in a food processor or use a grater to divide it into tiny pieces. The finished product resembles rice or couscous and works as an alternative to either.


Sorghum looks sort of like Israeli couscous and has the same texture. It doesn't taste the same, but it often goes well with the same food.

It is a healthy whole grain with lots of vitamins and minerals. Sorghum is also high in fiber.

What is Gluten Intolerance?

Gluten intolerance is an inability to eat gluten without digestive symptoms. It is milder for some people than others. Many people have it to varying extents, so gluten-free diets are increasingly popular.

Gluten intolerance is common. Something like 6% of the population in the United States has gluten intolerance.

Gluten tolerance is not the same thing as a gluten allergy. You might be intolerant to gluten without having an allergic reaction when you eat it. This is also true for other foods - for example, lactose intolerance is not the same thing as an allergy to milk products.

Not Everyone Knows They Have the Condition

Not everyone who has gluten intolerance knows why they have digestive problems. Their digestive problems might be unexplained, and they might try a few different diets and medications before they realize that avoiding wheat, barley, and rye is the solution.

Gluten Intolerance Symptoms

Digestive symptoms are common but are not the only symptoms. You can get diarrhea, constipation, gas, nausea, vomiting, or abdominal pain from eating gluten. There are also non-digestive physical symptoms such as a skin rash, headache, or joint pain.

Mental symptoms are also common. You might experience depression, anxiety, brain fog (difficulty concentrating), and fatigue.

Sometimes, someone with gluten insensitivity also has another digestive problem, such as irritable bowel syndrome. They might have to do a few different things to minimize both problems.

Can Anyone Get Gluten Intolerance?

Yes, it seems that anyone can get gluten intolerance, including otherwise healthy people. Some people are born with gluten intolerance, others develop it at some point.

What Causes Gluten Intolerance?

The causes are not very well understood. However, anything that puts a lot of strain on a person's body sometimes causes gluten intolerance or celiac disease. Things like surgery, pregnancy, or an infectious disease sometimes cause gluten intolerance.

Is Gluten Intolerance Reversible?

Sometimes, going on a gluten-free diet reverses the condition. There are no guarantees, but not everyone stays gluten-intolerant forever. Even if you have celiac disease, you can reverse it in some cases.

What is Celiac Disease?

Celiac disease is more serious than "regular" gluten sensitivity because it involves an allergic reaction. If you have celiac disease, a small amount of gluten may make your immune system strongly overreact. In some cases, you might end up in the hospital after eating a small amount of gluten.

People with celiac disease have to be more careful than people with non-celiac gluten sensitivity. You might have to avoid foods that possibly contain gluten and stick to foods that are certified gluten-free.

Certainly, couscous is not ok if you have celiac disease. Even if these allergic reactions won't put you in any danger, they are still very bad for your health. Repeated immune system reactions can damage your intestine and lead to other health problems.

Can Celiacs Eat Couscous?

No, they should avoid it and look for gluten-free food instead. Celiac disease is serious. You can gradually damage your intestines if you continue to eat gluten with the condition.

What is Leaky Gut?

Leaky gut is a health problem where a person's intestines stop protecting them from bacteria. Normally, bacteria should not be able to escape from the intestine and enter the bloodstream. However, a leaky gut makes your intestine permeable and allows bacteria to escape.

Many people can fix this problem by avoiding wheat. Wheat contains zonulin, which is bad for some people and weakens their gut lining. Leaky gut is not the same thing as gluten sensitivity, but the two conditions sometimes have similar solutions.


Mark Walker

Mark Walker

I have over a decade of experience in food and beverage management, including a ServSafe food safety qualification. As part of this qualification, I have been professionally trained in safe food storage.

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