A gluten-free diet is just as the name suggests – a diet that is completely devoid of gluten. Gluten is found in a number of foods and can be a source of discomfort and pain for many patients of conditions such as Celiac disease. Cutting out gluten-rich foods may seem like a daunting prospect but for patients with this condition, that’s the only option. Either that or spend days in pain with numerous toilet troubles.
Gluten is found in many of the foods that you would usually eat on a daily basis including barley and malt, anything with wheat in the title or wheat in the ingredients, rye, anything with flour, licorice, and even fried foods if the oil has become contaminated.
It takes just the slightest amount of gluten to set off an insensitivity.
One of the foods that is often confused in a gluten-free diet is couscous and for many, it’s not directly obvious whether or not the food is suitable for a gluten-free diet.
We decided to take a closer look…
Is Couscous Gluten Free?
Originating in North Africa, couscous looks a little bit like rice except instead of being shaped like race, it comes in the form of tiny little balls. Traditionally served with things such as stews, it is fast becoming a popular dish all around the world and it actually reached the top three favorite dishes in France for 2011.
There are three ingredients which make-up the food and they are – rye, barley and wheat. As we’ve already established, those are three foods on the definitely-do-not-eat list for those on a gluten free diet which means sadly, couscous is NOT a gluten free food.
When making couscous, semolina (made of flour / wheat) is mixed and sprinkled with only the tiniest bit of water to form pellets rather than dough. These are then shaped into the smaller, round pellets and in order to keep them dry, they are dusted with flour – one of those foods that gluten-free eaters definitely cannot consume.
Best eaten when steamed rather than cooked with any other method, couscous is a relatively healthy dish containing an impressive 3.6g of protein in just 100 grams. You can now buy couscous ready-made and flavored in packets to just mix with water making the process much easier. The same serving weight would also give you just 100 calories and when you consider that it is quite a filling side-dish, if you’re on a low-calorie, low-fat, or high-protein diet, this is a great one. If you’re on a gluten free diet, it’s not.
Can You Buy Couscous Gluten Free?
The good news is that with more and more people suffering with conditions like Celiac disease, more and more people are demanding gluten-free and also other-ingredient-free foods. The high demand means more supply and big supermarkets and grocery stores tend to have smaller, special sections for gluten-free and other similar health foods.
Gluten free couscous is not made from drum wheat semolina like regular couscous. Instead, it is made with corn (100% maize) and this changes the nutritional makeup of the product somewhat.
When you opt for couscous gluten free, you’ll generally find that the protein levels are almost doubled, and the carbohydrate content goes up by almost four times in some cases. These are things you will need to keep an eye out for if you’re choosing to go on a healthy, gluten-free diet.
There are now a number of gluten free couscous products on the market and if you’re hankering for some, you should take a look out for these:
Vitabella – With a slightly nuttier flavor than most couscous gluten free brands, Vitabella’s recipe is made in Italy with no gluten, no dairy and no preservatives too.
Bob’s Red Mill – Promising to separate every part of the process, this brand of gluten free couscous keeps everything apart including packaging and materials to ensure no cross-contamination.
Goldbaum’s – Using egg whites, potato starch and tapioca starch in the place of wheat, this Israeli couscous also separates all part of the process to ensure no cross-contamination of ingredients.
Wholesome Kitchen – With both wheat and millet couscous on offer, this brand offers something for everyone and you can even buy flavored varieties including fruit and nut, vegetable and un-flavored.
Lundberg Family Farms – Using brown rice as the staple ingredient, you can find both gluten free and roasted but couscous and also offer flavor varieties such as Mediterranean Curry which is very well received.
Alternatives to Couscous
If you’re a big fan of couscous and have since been diagnosed with a condition that requires a gluten-free diet, you’ll be happy to know that as well as couscous gluten free varieties, there are a number of other foods you could use to fill the couscous-shaped hole in your life.
Quinoa is a great substitute and you could also try millet, pearl millet, millet mixed with quinoa, buckwheat and even brown rice. There’s always a substitute somewhere!