Does Couscous Go Bad? Storage, Shelf Life, and Spoilage of Couscous

You found a bag of couscous that’s a year past the date on the label, and you’re not sure if you can eat it or not. Does couscous go bad?

Or perhaps you’ve just opened a packet, and you’re wondering what’s the best way to store dry couscous so that it lasts at long as possible.

If either sounds familiar, you’re in the right place. In this article, we’ll cover the following:

  • storing couscous, both dry and cooked
  • the shelf life of the product
  • signs that your couscous is spoiled and you should get rid of it

Interested? Read on.

Info

This article is about instant couscous, the variety that’s widely available in Western supermarkets ([WIKI]). If your package is labeled “couscous,” it’s most likely the instant kind.

Couscous package

How To Store Couscous

Keep dry couscous in a cool and dry place (e.g., in a cupboard in the pantry), and make sure it’s sealed tightly after opening the packet. Once you cook couscous, store the leftovers in the fridge in an airtight container.

As you can tell, couscous is pretty similar to other grains such as rice or quinoa, and storing it is no rocket science.

The most important thing is to keep this durum wheat product dry. If moisture gets to it, it’ll likely start growing mold within a couple of days.

Dry couscous in an airtight container
Best storage method: dry couscous in an airtight container

Another thing is the storage temperature. Avoid keeping couscous near the stove or anywhere else where it’s warm frequently. A pantry or a cabinet in the kitchen is usually a-okay.

Once you open the package that’s not resealable, consider transferring the leftovers to an airtight container or a freezer bag. This way, you will protect the grains from moisture and any pantry bugs that might want to get to them.

Tip

If you’re not feeling like pouring couscous into a different container, at least use a plastic bag sealing clip. It’s not ideal, but it should get the job done.

For cooked couscous or any dishes that include it, the storage practices are pretty standard: let the dish cool down a bit, and then refrigerate it in a sealed container.

Dry couscous sealed with bag clips
Dry couscous sealed with a bag clip

How Long Does Couscous Last?

Dry couscous doesn’t really expire and often lasts for months past the date on the label if you take good care of it. Once you cook your couscous, it keeps for about 4 to 5 days if you keep it sealed and refrigerated.

Like dry pasta, couscous can last for months past its date. To get the most out of it, follow the storage guidelines from the section above. And no, opening the package doesn’t change much as long as you keep couscous sealed afterward.

Warning

Unfortunately, there’s no way to tell if yours will keep for three months or three years past its date. It all depends on your storage practices, the quality of the product, and a bit of luck.

Added water to couscous
Just added water to couscous

Can you use couscous past expiration date?

Of course. Once your couscous is nearing or past its date, or the packet has been opened for a couple of months, all you need to do is make sure the product is still safe to eat before cooking it.

Let’s talk about that in detail.

PantryFridge
Dry couscous3 – 6 months past its date
Cooked spaghetti squash4 – 5 days
The periods in the table above are only estimates. Always check old couscous for signs of spoilage.
Just cooked couscous
Just cooked couscous

How To Tell If Couscous Is Bad?

Discard couscous if:

  • The package is infested. If you find in the container any pantry bugs, insects, moths, or the like, either dead or alive, the couscous is done for.
  • The couscous smells stale, rancid, musty, or foul in any other way. Like other dry goods, if the odor is off, it’s time for the food to go. Sometimes dry couscous might smell okay but has a certain stench to it after cooking. If that’s the case, throw out the remaining grains as well.
  • There’s mold in the package.
  • It’s cooked and sits in the fridge for more than a week. Cooked couscous doesn’t last forever, and after about a week, it’s not safe to eat anymore.
  • Tastes bad. If it doesn’t taste the way it’s supposed to, assume that it’s spoiled.
Info

Couscous is made of durum wheat semolina ([WIKI]), and semolina contains a bit of fat. That fat might go rancid if stored in suboptimal conditions. If your couscous smells rancid or stale, now you know why.

Cooked couscous
Cooked couscous plated

Last but not least, let’s talk about taste.

If you don’t add salt to your couscous (directly or, e.g., with broth) and don’t serve it with something that makes up for it, couscous doesn’t taste particularly good. It’s a bit like unsalted potatoes in that matter.

I mention that because some packages don’t tell you to add salt, and if you don’t, the couscous isn’t all that palatable. It’s not bad or spoiled; it merely lacks salt.

Info

In case you were wondering, I add 1/4 teaspoon of salt per cup of couscous.

Dinner with couscous and pork
Dinner with couscous and pork

Sources