Millet "Couscous"

by Jenn on April 21, 2010

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


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!


2 tbs. olive oil
1 cup millet
3 cups broth
juice of 1 lemon
Your favorite spices – I made sure to use a LOT of paprika (like 2 tbs), and some ground coriander.  A set of moroccan spices would be good here too.
salt & pepper to taste
2 carrots, chopped
2 onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic
1/2 lb. chicken, cubed
1/4 cup golden raisins
1 red bell pepper, diced
handful of olives

1. Heat a medium sized pan on med-high heat and add millet grains.  Toast  for a couple minutes until aromatic, then add olive oil, lemon juice, broth, salt & pepper, and spices, and bring to a boil.
2.Add in carrots, onions, garlic, chicken, and raisins and simmer covered until chicken is cooked, millet is soft and liquid is absorbed.  Gently stir every 5 minutes or so for about half an hour.  If you are too vigorous, the millet can be a bit fragile.
3. Take off the heat and add in bell pepper and olives and let stand for about 5 minutes, just enough to heat up the pepper and olives without really cooking them (I like peppers a little crunchy!) Serve and enjoy!


Also submitted to – Slightly Indulgent Tuesday