Sweet couscous recipe is a North African breakfast dish called Mesfouf that is made with steamed fine couscous sweetened with dates and raisins and served with nuts and buttermilk.
This post was originally shared as part of the MENA Cooking Club. The club is no longer active.
When the cooking challenge was announced, I wanted to try UmmHamza's Mesfouf because we love bowl food like browned butter oatmeal. I do have a few other north-African recipes that I highly recommend you try.
What is Mesfouf?
Mesfouf is a North African (aka Maghreb region) dish made with the traditional couscous steamed with olive oil and butter and sweetened with dates, nuts and raisins. As it is eaten warm or at room temperature with chilled Laban aka buttermilk, it makes a perfect breakfast bowl.
The very reason this sweet couscous dish is a popular Suhur option during Ramadan across the Maghreb region which includes Algeria and Tunisia.
Pack instructions missing
The traditional couscous pack I had no cooking instructions on it. Thankfully, both of my favourite Algerian bloggers were active on Instagram. They were so kind and patient in explaining and helping me get confident to try Mesfouf. Thank you so much lapetitepaniere and Halal HomeCooking!
What is couscous?
Couscous translates to "well rolled". It is made by rolling durum wheat and semolina. I like to direct you to a few websites that I found helpful.
The article by The Spruce on What is couscous? is where you can start your lessons. Bon Appetite has listed the five common mistakes that you should avoid when using Couscous.
Experts agree that packaged couscous that are instant is not good, so please do not invest in them for this recipe.
- olive oil
- black raisins
- cardamom powder
- obw or rose water
See the recipe card for quantities.
How to make Mesfouf?
You prepare Sweet couscous using a couscoussier, that resembles a steamer vessel. I used my Indian three-tier steamer in which the holes are bigger, so I lined the bottom with baking paper to prevent couscous from falling into the water.
You need to soak couscous in water until absorbed and then steam multiple times until softened.
How does it taste? Well, very akin to durum wheat pasta or semolina. I find its texture and shape are what make it unique and like everything out there, quality matters!
Mesfouf | Steamed Sweet Couscous
For steaming couscous
- ½ cup fine couscous (not instant)
- ½ tablespoon olive oil divided
- 1 tablespoon butter divided
- 1 cup water divided
- 5 to 8 dates pitted and chopped roughly
- 1 tablespoon black raisins
- salt to taste
For serving Mesfouf
- handful mixed nuts almonds or walnuts or pistachios
- ¼ teaspoon cardamom powder
- ¼ teaspoon orange blossom water optional
- sweetener of choice honey or sugar, etc
- laban (buttermilk) chilled (optional)
- Heat enough water in the steamer pot over medium heat and place the basket on top and allow the water to come to a simmer. If the holes of your steamer basket are bigger, then care to line the vessel with baking paper.
- In a bowl add the couscous, 2 teaspoons of olive oil and ¼ cup of cold water. Mix using a fork and let it rest until all of the water is absorbed.
- Transfer the couscous mixture to the steamer basket, leave the steamer uncovered and allow to steam for 10 minutes.
- Carefully transfer the couscous back into the bowl, and stir in half of the butter, salt and ½ cup of water. Allow it to rest until water is absorbed.
- Transfer the couscous back into the steamer basket and steam for another 10 minutes.
- Once again, empty the steamed couscous back into the bowl and mix in the remaining oil, raisins, dates, and ¼ cup of water. Allow it to rest until water is absorbed.
- Put the couscous mixture back into the steamer basket and steam for another 10-12 minutes. The couscous should be soft but not wet.
- Empty the fully steamed couscous mixture into a large bowl, and mix in the remaining butter, orange blossom water, some honey and the roasted and chopped nuts.
- Spoon the prepared Mesfouf into serving bowls and sprinkle with cardamom powder and drizzle honey to taste.
- Serve Mesfouf with laban or buttermilk (recommended) or it can be had as is.
- Refrigerate any leftovers for 3 to 4 days but should be steamed for 5 to 8 mins before consuming.
Did you make this recipe? Let me know!