Orzo Vs. Couscous | Which One Should You Try Next Time?

Note- This post may contain affiliate links, we earn from qualifying purchases made on our website. If you make a purchase through links from this website, we may get a small share of the sale from Amazon and other similar affiliate programs.

We all love to have pasta! But have you ever seen pasta that looks like grain? Well, if not, that means you are yet to meet Orzo. But many people often get confused between orzo and couscous. Fret not, this blog post will help you to understand orzo vs couscous, which one should you try.


Couscous and orzo aren’t the same things. So what are the significant differences between the two? Although both are made from the same semolina, there are considerable differences between them.

Orzo and couscous are two different dishes that look much like that grain. Both are types of pasta and are widely used as a main course and a side dish. While orzo has a firm and chewy texture, couscous is soft and fluffy!

Now that we have a small idea about both ingredients, it’s time to get deeper into both dishes. Both orzo and couscous are extremely flavorful dishes with their own taste, nutritional profiles, and uses. 

In this article, we will tell you all about the two dishes. Along with describing many properties of the two dishes, let’s also find out which one is better. So without much delay, let’s get into the article.

Orzo Vs Couscous | Difference Table

Basis Of Difference Orzo Couscous
OriginItalyNorth Africa
Made FromDurum WheatWheat and semolina 
TextureChewySoft and fluffy
SubstitutesQuinoa, short-grain rice, sorghum, and millet are some suitable couscous substitutesDitalini pasta, stelline, small elbow macaroni, and fregola are some of the best orzo substitutes.

What Is Orzo?


Orzo means “barley” in Italy. Also known as “risoni,” it is small in size and has a grain-like structure. At first sight, it might look like some form of grain. However, orzo has nothing to do with grain and is a kind of pasta.

Orzo is categorized under “pastina,” which means little pasta and is made from durum wheat. Since they are small, they only need very little time to cook. In Italy, orzo is used widely as a part of soups.

Orzo is not only restricted to soups. It goes very well with rice, especially with rice pilaf. Orzo’s fame is not just restricted to Italy. Orzo is widely used in Europe and is known as kritharaki in Greece.

Orzo is widely available in dried form. It goes not only with soups but also works great in salads. It can be cooked in many wonderful ways. 

What Is Couscous?


If you are not accustomed to using couscous, you might think of it as a grain. However, couscous is not any kind of grain but a pasta variety. It is prepared from semolina and wheat flour.

This kind of pasta is a staple in North African cuisines. Recently, it gained much popularity as it can be used in multiple ways. Couscous blends well with a lot of ingredients, including fruits and vegetables.

Not just that, couscous only needs a little time to cook. Thus if you are too busy to cook an extensive meal, couscous should be something you should have in your pantry.

Couscous is generally made from wheat. However, all couscous isn’t the same. There are different couscous varieties available to us.

Moroccan Couscous – This is the smallest variety of couscous. Moroccan couscous is so small that you can cook it in under a minute.

Golden Couscous – These are par-cooked couscous. It is slightly bigger than Moroccan couscous and has a slightly nutty flavor. It works great as a side dish as well as a main course.

Israeli Couscous – This variety is bigger than the other two and takes some time to cook. It has a nutty flavor to it and is a little chewy.

Lebanese Couscous – It is also known as moghrabieh. They are pea-sized, the largest of the four varieties, and they take some time to cook. 

Orzo Vs. Couscous | Similarities Between The Two


Orzo and couscous are two different types of pastas. However, regardless of their differences, people often get confused between them due to their similarities. So before going into the differences, let’s understand the similarities.

Both Are Pasta

Regardless of both looking like grain and being misunderstood as grains, both orzo and couscous are a kind of pasta. 

Both Are Made From Wheat 

Couscous and orzo are made from wheat. While orzo mainly uses wheat alone, couscous uses semolina.

Both Can Be Served As a Side Dish

Neither couscous nor orzo is big. Thus they are often served along with soups or as a side dish to your main course. However, there is no harm in eating it as the main course. 

Orzo Vs. Couscous | Differences Between The Two


Now that we have seen some similarities between the two, let’s quickly dive into some of the major differences between orzo and couscous.

1. Origin 

Even though orzo and couscous are kinds of pasta, they have different origins. orzo is widely used in Italian cuisines. On the other hand, couscous is a staple in north African, Moroccan, and Tunisian cuisine.

2. Appearance 

Orzo and couscous can be differentiated just by seeing them. orzo has a grain-like structure to it. They are slightly elongated in structure. They are called orzo or “barley” in the Italian language.

On the other hand, couscous is round in shape. They come in different sizes. While the Moroccan variety is the smallest, the Lebanese one is the largest. Traditionally they were handmade; however, now we have machines for them.

3. Ingredients Used

Both orzo and couscous are made from wheat. However, in certain places, couscous is made from potato and cassava flour. Couscous as pasta is vegan-friendly. However, many dishes which use couscous aren’t!

On the other hand, orzo is usually made from wheat, water, and eggs. They are not vegan-friendly as they often use eggs in the making process itself. However, now we have vegan-friendly orzo pasta available to us.

4. Taste & Texture

Neither orzo nor couscous has a strong flavor profile. Both have a very mild flavor, just like regular pasta. However, some types of couscous have a nutty taste to them. When cooked correctly, couscous is soft and fluffy.

On the other hand, when cooked, orzo becomes soft but chewy. 

5. Substitute 

Both orzo and couscous are great pasta varieties. Running out of an ingredient is not a new thing to any of us. Thus when we are out of either orzo or couscous, try and use a good substitute.

Some suitable couscous substitutes are quinoa, short-grain rice, sorghum, and millet. On the other hand, ditalini pasta, stelline, small elbow macaroni, and fregola are some of the best orzo substitutes.

However, if you have either orzo or couscous at home, you can use them as each other’s substitute. 

Top Dishes To Make With Orzo 

If you have some orzo at home and are wondering what to cook, here are some dishes you can try making with Orzo.

1. Lemon Chicken Orzo Soup

lemon chicken orzo soup

A soup is definitely a comfort for most of us. It makes us warm and happy. Thus if you are looking for a yummy new soup recipe, try our lemon chicken orzo soup. It is enriched with chicken flavor along with the zestiness of lemon. Moreover, you will also get to chew some orzo in between!

2. Mediterranean Orzo With Shrimp

Mediterranean Orzo with shrimp

Orzo is a very neutral-flavored pasta. But when combined with the right ingredients, it tastes just enhanced. Thus if you have some shrimp at hand, do try this Mediterranean orzo with shrimp recipe.

To make the recipe, start by cooking orzo in a pan. Once nicely done, set it aside. For the dressing, combine olive oil, vinegar, oregano, garlic, and salt. Further, add tomatoes, chickpeas, feta, and basil to the Orzo. Drizzle orzo with some dressing and set them aside.

Use the rest of the dressing to marinate the shrimp. Cook them properly and have them along with Orzo.

3. Broccolini, Chicken Sausage, & Orzo Skillet 

broccolini chicken sausage and orzo skillet recipe

If you are too busy to cook yet want some yummy food, try this broccolini chicken sausage and orzo skillet recipe. It brings in so much taste within a few minutes. Not only are they tasty, but they are also easy to cook.

To make this recipe, you will need some olive oil, cooked sausages, Orzo, onion, garlic, chicken broth, broccolini, kosher salt, pepper, parmesan cheese, and some lemon zest.

Start by cooking onion, garlic, and sausage in a pan. Once done, add some orzo to it and continue stirring. Add broth, red pepper, and salt to it and bring it to a boil. Continue cooking until the broth gets absorbed.

Add some parmesan cheese and lemon zest, and serve it hot.

4. Salmon & Creamy Orzo With Spinach And Mushroom

salmon and creamy Orzo with spinach and mushroom recipe

If you are someone who loves fish, then salmon could be one of your favorites. Thus if you have some salmon and orzo at hand, try this easy salmon and creamy orzo with spinach and mushroom recipe. They are easy to make and simple to cook.

Just take a pan and add broth, cream, garlic powder, and salt. Add mushroom and orzo to it. Cover it and bring it to a boil on high heat. Add some spinach and cook until the orzo is cooked and the mixture thickens.

Meanwhile, brush the salmon with some salt and pepper and bake it. Once the orzo is done, serve them with salmon!

5. Grilled Vegetable Salad With Orzo 

grilled vegetable salad with Orzo

I think we have already talked too much about non-vegetarian orzo dishes. If you are a vegetarian and want to include orzo in your recipe. Try a grilled vegetable salad with Orzo! Just toast all your favorite veggies with little pepper and salt.

Cook some orzo and mix both of them. Add some parmesan cheese, and enjoy!

Top Dishes To Make With Couscous

If you are intrigued about couscous, try some couscous recipes next time you have some time to cook. If you are not sure about what to cook, here are some recommendations. 

1. Chicken Caprese Salad 

chicken Caprese salad

Salad bowls are always a great addition to our meals. It is healthy as well as tasty. This chicken Caprese salad is an ideal meal if you love to have something light and yummy. As you can imagine, the main ingredients needed for this recipe are some chicken and couscous.

For making this recipe, cook some couscous in a pan and set it aside to cool down. Cut some salad greens, tomatoes, chicken breast, and mozzarella cheese. Cut all the vegetables and mix them with the cooked couscous.

Pour a salad dressing of your choice and enjoy!

2. Tuna Couscous Salad 

If you are looking for a side dish for all your party meals, try this tuna couscous salad. They are extremely flavorful and bring a new taste to your table. This is one of the easiest recipes; you could cook from canned tuna.

Just cook some couscous pasta in a bowl. Add canned tunas, olive, shallots, and parsley in another bowl, add the cooked couscous, and combine. Pour some freshly prepared vinaigrette and enjoy the meal.

3. Moroccan Spicy Sweet Tofu With Couscous

Moroccan spicy sweet tofu

If you are a vegetarian, you should try couscous at least once. They are extremely nutritious and serve as a base for most vegetarian dishes. If you are up for a challenge, try this Moroccan spicy sweet tofu and try it along with some couscous. 

4. Chicken & Couscous One-Pot Recipe

chicken and couscous one-pot recipe

This chicken and couscous one-pot recipe is ideal for you if you, like me, hate to clean a lot of vessels after cooking. Such recipes, I would say, are a boon for many of us. So to make this recipe, start by frying some chicken in oil.

Once the chicken is cooked, add some shallot and garlic and cook until they are brown. Add turmeric powder, garam masala, and some chicken stock. Add the fried chicken to it. Bring it to a boil. Add the couscous into the mix and cook them.

5. Tricolore Couscous Salad 

tricolore couscous salad recipe

If you are looking for a lunch box idea for your little one, try this tricolore couscous salad recipe. It brings in couscous fluffiness and fresh vegetables’ crunchiness. Start this recipe by cooking some couscous and vegetable stock in a bowl.

In another pan, lightly toast some tomato, avocado, and spinach. Mix this with the cooked couscous and add some salad dressing over it. Mix well and serve with parmesan cheese as a topping.

Orzo Vs. Couscous | Which Is Healthier?


Orzo and couscous are a kind of pasta. They both use wheat as their primary ingredient. However, when compared between the two, couscous is healthier than orzo as orzo has a higher caloric value.

Orzo Vs Couscous | Which Is Tastier?


Both orzo and couscous have a very subtle taste in them. But when compared between the two, orzo is tastier than couscous. Orzo has a neutral flavor; however, some kinds of couscous have a nutty taste that some people won’t like.

Orzo Vs. Couscous | Which Is More Versatile?


There is a wide variety of dishes that we can cook with both orzo and couscous. Couscous has wide varieties to it than orzo. Therefore, when compared between the two, couscous is more versatile than orzo. 

Orzo Vs Couscous | Which Is Better?


Orzo and couscous are great additions to our meal. They bring so much flavor and nutrition to our meals. Not just that, they are comparatively small in size and require very little time to cook. But when we have to choose between the two, go for couscous!

They come in different varieties and are extremely nutritious. Orzo also has a similar flavor and health benefits as that couscous. However, there are few or no varieties of couscous.


Now that we have discussed both orzo and couscous, it’s time to conclude. We cannot doubt that couscous is better than orzo. However, if you are concerned about your health, go for couscous.

Both orzo and couscous can be cooked in multiple ways. If you are too busy to cook, make sure to have some orzo or couscous in your pantry. They can be cooked in under a minute and go well with vegetable and meat dishes. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Can I substitute orzo for couscous?

Yes. Orzo works as a great substitute for couscous and vice versa.

What is healthier couscous or pasta?

Couscous is a kind of pasta. Couscous is often considered as a healthier version as it is made of whole wheat grain.

Is orzo and Israeli couscous the same?

Although both of them look similar, they are two different kind of dishes.

Is orzo healthier than rice?

No. Brown rice has much higher nutrient value than orzo.

Is quinoa better than couscous?

When it comes to the overall nutrient value, quinoa is better than couscous.

About The Author

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *