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What’s The Difference Between Orzo And Couscous?

Pasta varieties are often categorized based on their various shapes.

Some are long and cylindrical such as spaghetti or spaghettini, some others tubular, flat or have a spiral shape.

There are also pasta varieties shaped so small that they look more like grains than pasta.

One of these varieties of grain-like pasta is Orzo, which is a tiny-sized variety of pasta that is often confused for a grain of rice.

Couscous is a food product closely related to pasta. It is a north African food made from durum wheat, the same wheat from which other varieties of pasta are made.

It also has a taste similar to pasta, and because of these reasons, couscous is often considered to be a type of pasta.

Just like orzo, couscous is also really small in size and uniquely shaped.

Both might be used interchangeably depending on the recipe.

In this post, however, we are going to discuss the differences between orzo and couscous.

Difference between orzo and couscous

The difference between couscous and orzo is that in couscous, the wheat flour is rolled into granules or ball shaped pearls of varying sizes while in orzo, the wheat flour is shaped to look like rice.

All about orzo

Orzo is a tiny-sized pasta that looks like a large grain of rice.

Unlike rice which is a cereal grain, orzo is produced from semolina just as other varieties of pasta.

Semolina is a product from a particular type of hard wheat known as durum wheat.

Despite its small size and rice shape, orzo is very similar to other types of pasta. Orzo has the same texture and the same nutty flavor as do other types of pasta.

However, because of the small size of orzo, it is often faster to cook than other types of pasta.

Orzo could be pale yellow or white in color depending on the type of flour used to make it. It could also be colored red, orange, or green when food coloring is used.

Pasta is made from wheat, and therefore, orzo is not gluten-free.

Origin of orzo

Orzo pasta has an Italian origin.

It is a staple in Mediterranean and middle eastern cuisine, and very popular in Greek cuisine where it is used in a lot of recipes.

Orzo could be used as a side dish or a main dish.

How is orzo produced

The kind of flour used to make orzo is semolina which is made from a type of hard wheat known as durum wheat.

Semolina is pale yellow in color and has a higher amount of fiber compared to white flour.

Some amount of white flour may also be added to make orzo. There are also whole wheat varieties of orzo available.

Semolina is mixed with water to produce a pasta dough.

The pasta dough is extruded in the form of rice-shaped to produce orzo which is then dried, packaged, and sold in grocery stores.

Preparation of orzo

Orzo is easy to prepare and it cooks fast too. It is prepared the same way that other types of pasta are prepared.

It involves heating water and adding the orzo inside once it begins to boil. When the orzo reaches al dente, drain the excess water.

You could add flavors by mixing the orzo with olive oil or butter.

Culinary uses of orzo

Orzo can be both a side dish and a main dish depending on how you want to use it. Orzo can be served with light sauces as a main dish or in soups or even in pasta salads as a side dish.

Orzo pasta nutrition

Nutritionally, orzo is similar to pasta, it is rich in carbs and low in fats.

It has some amount of proteins minerals and vitamins.

Orzo brands found in grocery stores might also be enriched with minerals and vitamins.

Whole wheat orzo is nutritionally richer and has more fibers and nutrients than refined orzo.

All about couscous

Couscous is also made from durum wheat just like pasta.

The dough is shaped into small-sized balls of varying sizes which could be a few millimeters in diameter.

It has been eaten since a long time ago even way before pasta.

They are made from semolina just like pasta and are often regarded as a type of pasta by some.

There are different types of couscous that have granules of different sizes.

There are fresh couscous and instant couscous varieties which could also be colored red, yellow, and green with food coloring

Couscous has a fluffy texture when it has been cooked and the larger-sized couscous takes longer to cook than the smaller ones.

Origin of couscous

Couscous is a dish that originates from northern Africa and is popular all over the world.  

It is a staple food in several north African countries, the middle east and the Mediterranean region.

This food dates back as far back as the eleventh century.

How couscous is made

Couscous is made from crushed wheat.

Traditionally couscous is rolled by hand into granules.

Preparing couscous

Couscous is easy to prepare.

Fresh Couscous is prepared by steaming, however, the instant couscous that you may find in grocery stores is put into boiling water or broth to be reconstituted.

Traditionally, is served with a stew of meat a vegetables a meal.

Culinary uses of couscous

Couscous is used as a side dish, in soups or salads 

It can be used interchangeably with some pasta in certain dishes as it has the same nutty flavor and chewy texture.

The durum wheat used for making couscous is whole wheat hence it is considered a healthy alternative to pasta.

Couscous nutrition

Nutritionally couscous is similar to pasta of the same quantity.

It is rich in carbs, has some amount of proteins, and is low in fats.


Orzo is a rice-shaped variety of pasta while couscous is a wheat product that is rolled into tiny balls.

Couscous originates from Northern Africa while orzo pasta is from Italy.

However, they are both made from semolina, have a similar flavor, texture, and could be used interchangeably depending on the recipe.