Couscous is a type of pasta that’s made from semolina and offers plenty of health benefits like fiber and protein.  The dried kind, like any pasta, lasts a long time, but how long is that?  And what about cooked couscous?

Quick Answer

Couscous lasts up to three to six months past its “best by” date, if stored properly, in the pantry or a cabinet.  When you cook it, couscous lasts anywhere from three to five days in the refrigerator and at least three to four months if you freeze it.  Uncooked couscous is better off in a pantry than in a freezer, so cook it before you freeze it.

You may think that couscous is easy to store, and you’re right.  The tricky part is storing it away from any moisture or other things that could spoil it.

So, where do you store your couscous?  The answer depends on if you’ve cooked it or not, and what kind of container you’re storing it in.

How Long Does Couscous Last Outside?

If you store couscous in a cool, dry place, couscous can last three to six months past its “best by” date.  This estimate depends on where the couscous came from, and what kind of container it’s being stored in.  Cheaper couscous or containers that are cheap probably won’t last too long.

For best results, use an air-tight opaque container kept away from any heat, light, moisture, or foods with strong odors.  Any cabinet, cupboard, or pantry will do the trick.  Make sure the container’s tightly sealed before you put it in.

Cooked couscous can’t be outside of the oven or the fridge for more than two hours.  If you aren’t sure how long it’s been out, it’s better to err on the side of caution and throw it out.

How Long Does Couscous Last in The Fridge?

Cooked couscous by itself, that is, not mixed up into any dishes, will last from three to five days in the refrigerator.  This assumes that it isn’t mixed up with other foods in a meal.  Couscous lasts longer if it’s stored in the back of the fridge, and not on the door where it’ll get exposed to warmer air.

It’s best if you keep the couscous in an air-tight container, with the lid firmly on.  Make sure you only open the container when you’re ready to use it since more exposure to air means more chances for mold or other contaminants to get in.

If you don’t have an actual container to use, a resealable bag also works.  Make sure the bag is sealed and that any excess air has been squeezed out before you put the couscous in the fridge.

How Long Does Couscous Last in The Freezer?

Freezing couscous is the best option if you want it to last the longest time.  In theory, couscous can last a very long time in the freezer if it’s packed correctly and nothing happens to it.  In reality, the time is closer to three to four months because of issues like freezer burn.

Couscous is at its best when frozen by itself rather than as part of a meal since the other ingredients could affect the texture and taste if they’re all frozen together.  Certain foods, for example, make couscous soggy when defrosted and so on.

Only cooked couscous should be frozen, however.  Uncooked couscous lasts far longer in a pantry than in a freezer and there isn’t much point in freezing it unless it’s been cooked.

As you’ve seen here, the good news is that couscous can last for months.  The bad news is that even if you’ve stored it properly there are different ways that it can spoil or go bad.  Don’t forget to check your food before you use it.

How To Tell If Couscous Has Gone Bad/How To Know Couscous is Fresh?

Couscous has many signs that it’s going bad.  Here is what to look for:

  • Smell: Sniff the couscous before you use it.  Rancid couscous has a distinctive smell that’s been described as like wet cardboard or wood varnish, this happens because the oils inside of the couscous are exposed to oxygen
  • Taste: Similarly, couscous that has gone bad tastes a bit off.  If you’re in doubt about whether or not it’s good, try a brief taste.  If it tastes all right, you’re probably good.  If not, it’s time to throw it out
  • Bugs: If you ever find living or dead insects in couscous, like moths, weevils, or anything like that, it’s definitely time to throw it out.  Bugs are not only gross, but they could contaminate your food
  • Mold: Mold is a sign that your couscous has been exposed to airborne contaminants.  It grows on moist foods, so it could be a sign that you aren’t keeping it in a dry enough place
  • Time: If the couscous has been in the fridge for more than a week, it’s time to toss it out.  Even if it looks good, one week is too long for it to safely stay in the fridge

How To Store Couscous?

It’s easy to store uncooked couscous; all you need is an air-tight container and a cool dry spot.

  • Let your couscous cool down a bit after cooking before you put it in the fridge.  If you put it in while it’s warm, it will stay warm for a while before chilling, and become vulnerable to pests and mold.  This goes for the freezer, too.  It cools down enough that you can chill it in an hour or so.  Just don’t leave it outside of the fridge for more than two hours
  • Dried couscous lasts longer if you store it in an air-tight resealable container.  This is especially true if it comes in a package that can’t be re-sealed tightly, like a pasta-style box
  • If you transfer your couscous to a resealable container, don’t forget to write the date that you put it in, as well as the “Best by” date.  This will stop any confusion later on

Can You Freeze Couscous?  How?

Couscous can be frozen after it’s cooked, but since the freezer is colder than a pantry or fridge, freezing it is going to be a bit different.

  • Freeze couscous in a freezer-safe resealable bag.  This prevents freezer burn from ruining the couscous.  I’ve heard of adding another layer of protection by putting the bag in an air-tight container and then putting it in the freezer
  • Before you seal the bag, get as much air out as you can.  Freezer burn happens when there’s exposure to oxygen, so the less oxygen there is in the container, the longer it will last
  • You can cool the couscous by chilling it in the refrigerator before you put it in the freezer.  This brings the temperature down so that when you put it in the bag, there will be no moisture to ruin it.  It also helps to freeze the couscous for a few hours on a plate or baking sheet until it’s solid before putting it into the bag

How To Thaw Couscous?

When you’re ready to bring your couscous out of the freezer, is it possible to quickly thaw it out?

  • You can thaw out couscous by placing the container in some cold water.  This might seem a bit slow, but if the couscous is frozen solid, it’s the quickest way
  • The alternative method is to move your couscous from the freezer to the fridge and leave it there for a few hours or overnight

Frequently Asked Questions About Couscous’s Shelf Life

Does homemade couscous have a different shelf life than the regular kind?

Homemade couscous doesn’t seem to have a different shelf life from the kind you cook, the only thing I’ve noticed is that it doesn’t seem to come in a dried form like the store-bought kind.  Keep it in the refrigerator.  Other than that, it seems to be normal couscous.

Is there a difference between the types of couscous?  And does that affect its shelf life?

The only difference between the kinds of couscous is the size and how long it takes to cook.  Moroccan couscous is the smallest, not much bigger than the semolina it comes from, and takes the shortest time to cook.  Israeli or pearl couscous is bigger and Lebanese couscous is the largest and the longest to cook.

Wrap Up

Couscous can last for months, maybe even years if you store it right.  Of course, with that amount of time, it’s more likely to be used before its time is up.  Enjoy!