Bethany Kehdy

A Champion of Middle Eastern Food & Recipes

Moghrabieh, Maftoul and Couscous

Pictures by Sarka Babicka
Pictures by Sarka Babicka


Moghrabieh is sometimes commonly referred to as giant couscous or pearl couscous. Moghrabieh is a form of rolled semolina, like couscous, but it is much larger. The word moghrabieh in Arabic means “from the countries of Morroco, Tunisia & Algeria” and and refers to both the dish and the dry, round pasta-like pellets (about the size of a chickpea) rolled from semolina, which most likely came to Syria, Palestine and Lebanon with the help of North African pilgrims, most likely en route to Mecca. In North Africa the grain is called berkoukes and it is believed that it later coined its current name making reference to its place of origin. These grains cook unevenly as they are rolled into inconsistently sized balls. These starchy pasta balls swell and become soft and chewy when cooked and are fantastic at absorbing the flavors of the dish they are cooked in.

There are several varieties of this ‘couscous’ within the Levantine territories which help to confuse the matter; the earthy Palestinian maftoul is not exactly the same thing as it is rolled from wheat and differs in size, color and shape and widely-marketed Israeli couscous, ptitim, comes in smaller sizes. If you’re unable to find moghrabieh, then fregola may be substituted. I prefer to steam the moghrabieh which helps to keep the grains distinct.




Photography by Sarka Babicka
Photography by Sarka Babicka


4 thoughts on “Moghrabieh, Maftoul and Couscous

  1. I’ve seen “pearl couscous” and “Israeli couscous” used interchangeably in the U.S. food market. How large should the moghrabiyyeh be when it’s dry? It’s my favorite dish, and I’ve been making it for friends for the past few months to rave reviews. I’d been thinking that it was smaller than I was used to, but I was such a young child when I had it in Lebanon that I thought being bigger now myself my eyes were just playing tricks on me.

    Any guidance you could give would be much appreciated!

    1. In my experience moghrebieh pellets are much larger than maftoul. 2-3 times the size, in fact (about the size of a large pearl or an AirSoft pellet, if that’s any help).
      The only place I’ve been able to find them in my area is at an international foods store run by the proprietor of a Lebanese restaurant, in the largest city in my region (about fifty miles away, I tend to buy in bulk when I’m up there).
      In the US, any city with a population over about a half-million (on the coast, maybe larger in the interior) should have a good Lebanese or middle eastern market that might carry them.

  2. Hello bethany, i have been trying to get a recipe from you for moghrabieh for the last few days now but nothing , is it that you don’t have one published or i am doing some thing wrong in finding it . I hope that you answer and publish one please . Thank you.Renee

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