Millet "Couscous"

by Jenn on April 21, 2010

in Dairy Free,Gluten Free,Meats,Pastas and Grains

PAG_0016millet

Couscous is one of those dishes that seems impossible to replace gluten free.  Quinoa just doesn’t cut it.  Quinoa’s flavor is too distinct, and its texture is not quite right.  I find it very hard to flavor quinoa in a way that lets it melt into other flavors – it’s always standing out above the rest.  This is great for some dishes, but not so much for others, such as cous cous.

I thought I could make couscous myself.  After all, there is nothing really gluten-dependent about couscous – no stretchy dough, no air pockets to trap – and this great lesson on flour from Rouxbe shows that you could basically make it by adding water to flour in a food processor until small pellets form.  Figuring out the right amount of water to add is not obvious though, and I kept going from my starting gluten free flour to a play-dough-like consistency – not really ideal for couscous!  I didn’t feel like wasting flour trying to get this right, so decided I may not just be ready for homemade gluten free couscous yet…

Giving up on making my own, I sought out a decent replacement, and whole millet seemed to be about the right size and shape.  I love using millet flour because of its mild flavor, and was thinking whole millet would be similar in taste.  Besides, if we can find a new grain to use, that opens up my culinary options a lot!  Millet is apparently decently nutritious as well, with a good protein content and lots of great things like B vitamins.  Asking around on twitter it seems that not that many people use millet – is this the “forgotten” gluten free grain?  If so, millet really deserves more credit.  I’ll even admit until this week I had never had whole millet before either, but now we will definitely be having millet more often!

For my first time making it, I really liked it.  It absorbed flavor well and had a very pleasing texture – easy and relatively quick, preparing millet “couscous” made for a convenient week-night meal.  We do need convenience sometimes, especially on those nights where neither one of us gets home from work til 8 pm.  After an a 10 hr work day and lunch having occurred 8 hours ago, dinner needs to be simple!

Couscous dishes are very versatile in that you can flavor them pretty much anyway you want.  For my millet version, I kind of threw together a rather random looking set of ingredients and flavors, but they came together quite nicely.  Ok, I may have gone a little overboard on the paprika, but I love that earthy smoky flavor, and it worked really well with the chicken here.  If you are not such a huge fan of paprika, definitely use whatever flavors you actually like.  This was essentially a one-pot, no frills, no fuss meal – there’s nothing wrong with throwing in your own ingredients or ideas, it’s better to keep things no fuss than to stress about having exactly what is in one particular recipe.  This recipe is just an idea that we happened to eat and love.  I encourage you to make your own variations, and get creative!

Also submitted to – Slightly Indulgent Tuesday

{ 35 comments… read them below or add one }

Maria April 21, 2010 at 9:15 pm

I love the raisins in this recipe!

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Jenn April 22, 2010 at 4:08 pm

Thanks! There were a last minute decision, but one I was happy with :)

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Maria April 21, 2010 at 9:15 pm

I love the raisins in this recipe!

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Jenn April 22, 2010 at 4:08 pm

Thanks! There were a last minute decision, but one I was happy with :)

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Rosa April 21, 2010 at 9:19 pm

A wonderful couscous with lots of flavors!

Cheers,

Rosa

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Rosa April 21, 2010 at 9:19 pm

A wonderful couscous with lots of flavors!

Cheers,

Rosa

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Jenn April 22, 2010 at 4:13 pm

Thank you! I can’t wait to make this again, and try some new flavors as well!

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Lauren April 22, 2010 at 2:46 am

This looks so lovely! I haven’t had couscous in ages (although I had only ever had one kind from the box…) but this looks like an awesome replacement! I’ve been dying to try whole millet anyways :).

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Jenn April 22, 2010 at 4:10 pm

Whole millet is tasty – I really liked how subtle the flavor was, it makes a good pasta replacement because of that – and it wasn’t hard to cook either!

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Lauren April 22, 2010 at 2:46 am

This looks so lovely! I haven’t had couscous in ages (although I had only ever had one kind from the box…) but this looks like an awesome replacement! I’ve been dying to try whole millet anyways :).

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Jenn April 22, 2010 at 4:10 pm

Whole millet is tasty – I really liked how subtle the flavor was, it makes a good pasta replacement because of that – and it wasn’t hard to cook either!

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Iris April 22, 2010 at 2:58 am

Something about that mix of olives and raisins is just so appealing! Beautiful photo as always.

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Jenn April 22, 2010 at 4:13 pm

Thank you! Yes they went quite well together!

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Iris April 22, 2010 at 2:58 am

Something about that mix of olives and raisins is just so appealing! Beautiful photo as always.

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Jenn April 22, 2010 at 4:13 pm

Thank you! Yes they went quite well together!

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Valérie April 22, 2010 at 2:47 pm

I was reading up on couscous recently. I’m impressed that you tried to make your own! I like the ingredients you used in this recipe!

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Jenn April 22, 2010 at 4:12 pm

Well the video made it look so easy…..And I think it is if I knew the right amount of water to add – but that was going to take more trial and error than I was willing to put in at the moment…

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Valérie April 22, 2010 at 2:47 pm

I was reading up on couscous recently. I’m impressed that you tried to make your own! I like the ingredients you used in this recipe!

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Jenn April 22, 2010 at 4:12 pm

Well the video made it look so easy…..And I think it is if I knew the right amount of water to add – but that was going to take more trial and error than I was willing to put in at the moment…

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Brian April 23, 2010 at 7:08 pm

This looks great! I never would have thought to replicate couscous gluten free. Great job.

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Jenn April 27, 2010 at 9:30 am

Thanks! Ha neither did I until I had a sudden craving for it…

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Erin April 24, 2010 at 4:34 pm

I’m so impressed with the recipes you adapt to be gluten free! I’m sure it’s a challenge, and some people would just give up on things like couscous. This millet version sounds like a wonderful alternative!

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Jenn April 27, 2010 at 9:33 am

Thank you! Some things are more challenging than others, but then there are times when a perfectly easy solution (like using millet instead) comes along and reminds me that gluten free and flavorful can be just as doable – this was quite the serendipitous discovery!

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Chelsey May 4, 2010 at 5:14 am

I am so excited to make this! Like you I have searched for a coucous replacement. Quinoa is definitely too strong tasting, and my kids won’t touch it with a ten foot pole. I have yet to try millet. Just bought some so I can try your recipe!

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Carol March 31, 2011 at 7:05 pm

Couscous was originally made from millet before wheat began to be used. Infact, there are places that still use the original version.

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Jenn March 31, 2011 at 7:06 pm

Wow that’s really interesting, thanks for letting me know!

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Rosanna April 26, 2011 at 11:14 am

You can try to do a 1/2 quinoa 1/2 amaranth couscous. I prefer to make it as follows:
1 part amaranth
1 part quinoa
2 part millet
2 part corn

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Jenn April 26, 2011 at 8:59 pm

ooh sounds like an interesting mix!

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Ken July 17, 2013 at 4:07 am

Cooked the original recipe – it was great with millet. For your recipe, is the corn portion corn meal?

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Mary February 9, 2012 at 8:36 pm

Looking for gluten free carbs, I decided to cook millet. Thought it was so similar in texture and taste to couscous. When I looked it up on Wikipedia I found out that until the 20th century, couscous was made with millet.

Evidently, couscous is from North Africa, as is millet. Millet can grow in more arid areas than wheat.

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Jenn February 10, 2012 at 8:34 am

very interesting to know, thanks!

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Shashi March 31, 2012 at 10:47 am

Please where can I buy millet couscous?

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Jenn March 31, 2012 at 12:59 pm

It’s just plain old millet that I cooked “like couscous”, it isn’t actually a millet couscous that I started with!

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jen July 3, 2013 at 6:13 pm

i read somewhere that couscous was originally made with millet anyway, as it was a common grain in north africa…great recipe! thanks!

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Ellen September 7, 2013 at 9:56 pm

Yes, as Jen says, it seems couscous was made with millet primarily until sometime in the 20th century!

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