Orzo Vs Couscous — What’s The Difference?

According to the proverb, “less is more,” this adage is particularly applicable to recipes that call for little pasta such as orzo and couscous. As a result of the fact that a great number of people have probably confused the two, it is time to put the record straight.

What are the key distinctions between couscous and orzo? Orzo and couscous are very similar grains, however, one should not confuse the two. Both polenta and farinata are made from semolina flour, but their primary distinctions lie in their respective countries of origin, manufacturing processes, and overall textures. In spite of all of this, orzo and couscous are generally interchangeable ingredients that may be used in the same number of dishes.

Continue reading the article below for additional information on the difference and comparison of couscous and orzo – we challenge you to try and make it through the whole thing without stopping to try one of the dishes!

Orzo: What Is It?

The name “orzo” originates from the Italian word “barley,” and it has also been referred to as “risoni.” Rice is a close cousin of millet, but don’t let that mislead you into thinking it’s the same thing.

Orzo is a very small variety of the pasta family.

It is possible to make it using standard white flour, but traditionally, it is produced with semolina, which is a wheat flour formed from durum wheat, water, salt, and eggs. This is similar to the preparation of many other traditional types of pasta.

Orzo may also be prepared without the use of eggs, and such a variation is typically stocked in the majority of retail establishments.

When it is done cooking the right way, orzo should have a texture that is firm and chewy.

The fact that the preparation of orzo is something of a mystery is one of the dish’s many interesting tidbits.

There are not a lot of videos, images, or in-depth information on the manufacturing process that are available to see orzo being created, and we are not suggesting that this is some kind of elaborate conspiracy!

The only thing we know about the process of shaping is that it is called extrusion and that it is performed almost entirely by machines in a factory nowadays.

What Is It Exactly Called?

The grain known as couscous is often used in the cuisine of North Africa, particularly that of Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria.

However, couscous may also be considered a kind of pasta.

Because it has a taste that is neither sweet nor savoury, it may be used with almost any and all foods that come to mind.

In the same way, as orzo is prepared with semolina, couscous pasta is also made using flour. However, the flour may be made from crushed barley, farina (flour milled from a potato or cassava), or pearl millet in various parts of the world.

Traditionally, the distinctive ball form of couscous was achieved by rolling the dough into it by hand. However, machines are now used to create the mass-produced couscous that is available in supermarkets today.

Depending on the area, it may be cream-coloured, red, yellow, or even green in appearance. Other possible hues are yellow and green.

There is another well-liked kind of couscous that was created in Israel and is called “pearls.” These “pearls” are bigger and more transparent than traditional couscous balls.

When it is cooked correctly, couscous should have the consistency of something that is airy and fluffy.

The fact that one serving of couscous has fewer calories than one serving of orzo is one reason why you may not want to use orzo in a dish that calls for couscous (not that we’ve been keeping score or anything).

Comparatively, one cup of orzo has around 210 calories, whereas one cup of couscous has approximately 176 calories.

Why Should You Choose Orzo Or Couscous?

Orzo is an extremely flexible and user-friendly kind of pasta. Orzo has a consistency that is quite similar to that of other types of pasta, despite the fact that it is significantly smaller.

Orzo may be used with sauces that are more robust, such as those that are based on cream or cheese.

In addition to that, it makes a tasty addition to stews and soups alike. Orzo is a key ingredient in traditional Italian wedding soup. It is also a great addition to pasta salads that focus mostly on vegetables.

The cooked version of Moroccan couscous is a dryer and fluffier product that works well as a side dish or as an addition to a robust salad. It is more likely to be served as a side dish to a meal that is already saucy than it is to be cooked in a sauce itself.

In most cases, Moroccan couscous does not provide an adequate replacement for orzo. Orzo may sometimes be replaced with pearl couscous, which is bigger than regular couscous and smaller than orzo.

In the same way that orzo is often used in salads and soups, pearl couscous is also regularly used in these dishes. You’ll get the opportunity to experience these variations in the recipes that follow!

Recipes That Are Often Made With Orzo And Couscous

Orzo and couscous are both highly adaptable grains that can be used almost interchangeably in recipes for a fresh, simple, and fast meal addition. Not only that, but the resulting dish will taste scrumptiously savoury and be bursting with umami flavour.

Dishes made with orzo will have a luxurious and hearty feel to them. Think about pairing them with a dish that’s a little easier on the stomach, such as fish cooked in a skillet or roasted veggies.

Dishes made using couscous will be less heavy and drier. Think of pairing them with something spicy and heartier, like a flank steak topped with chimichurri or a stew made with tomatoes and chickpeas.

You are welcome to give a couple of our favourite recipes a go, and please don’t hesitate to comment below to let us know how they came out!

How to Prepare Orzo With Mushrooms

This orzo with mushrooms is a beautifully flavorful side dish that goes well with grilled meats and a fresh salad.


  • 1 cup orzo
  • ¼ cup melted butter
  • 14 cups of the water used for the pasta
  • 1/4 ounce of dry white wine
  • a half pound of chopped cremini, oyster, or lobster mushrooms
  • 1 cup of parmesan cheese that has been freshly grated
  • garlic, chopped (2-4 cloves), sage, chopped (1-2 teaspoons), rosemary, chopped (1-2 teaspoons), salt, pepper, and parsley (for garnish)


  1. To begin, bring a big pot of water that has been gently salted to a boil.
  2. After that, put the orzo in a pot of boiling water and stir it periodically as it cooks until it reaches the al dente texture specified on the container. After straining the pasta water, put it aside while keeping a quarter cup of the liquid.
  3. Now, warm butter in a pan over medium heat. When the mushrooms have reached the desired level of browning, add them to the pan.
  4. After stirring for two minutes, add the chopped garlic, rosemary, and sage, and then season with salt and pepper. Add some white wine to the skillet, and then reduce it by about half. This will serve as the finishing touch.
  5. Add the cooked orzo to the pan and stir it to combine. After adding the parmesan cheese and the water from the pasta, stir the mixture often until the cheese has melted and the sauce has thickened. Garnish with little chopped parsley and serve.

How To Make A Salad From The Mediterranean

This Mediterranean salad is an excellent option to serve with lamb kebabs for a feast inspired by the Mediterranean or with burgers for a modern take on a BBQ staple. The tangy, salty, and crunchy characteristics of feta cheese make it an excellent addition to any dish.


  • 1 cup of orzo or pearl couscous (also known as Israeli couscous)
  • 1 cubed cucumber, chopped 4 Roma tomatoes, chopped 1 red bell pepper, chopped 1 small red onion, cut very finely 1 cubed lemon, juiced 14 cups of olive oil
  • 8-ounce feta cheese
  • 12 cups of chopped fresh parsley
  • Both pepper and salt (to taste)


  1. Follow the instructions on the back of the pearl couscous or orzo packaging to prepare the grain. If you are going to use orzo, you should start by cooking it, then rinsing it in cold water and letting it cool.
  2. After that, cut the tomatoes into quarters and scoop out the seeds from each one. Next, mince the red onion, cucumber, tomatoes, and bell pepper.

Be careful to cut the red onion very small, even if the size of the other veggies is not as critical as it is for this dish.

  1. Place the orzo or pearl couscous in a bowl and add all of the chopped veggies to the dish as well. Add the juice of the lemon, as well as a little bit of olive oil.
  2. Tear up the feta into small pieces and add them to the bowl along with the chopped parsley. Salt and pepper may be added to taste as a seasoning. To serve, toss all of the ingredients together and then proceed with the meal.

Recipe for Italian Wedding Soup and How to Make It

This older recipe for Italian wedding soup is one that we simply enjoy. It’s packed with flavour, and it’s the ideal dish to serve both as a go-to comfort meal and as a show-stopping dish for a large gathering.


  • 1 pound Italian sausage (pork, chicken, or turkey)
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped; 1 onion, small; chopped; 2 carrots, medium; sliced; 2 cups of chicken stock;
  • 1 bunch of chopped kale, ribbed and separated from the stems 2 cups of cooked orzo (or pearl couscous)
  • Italian seasoning with salt and pepper
  • Parmesan cheese (for garnish)
  • Red pepper flakes (for garnish)


  1. Form tiny meatballs out of the Italian sausage and brown them in a large sauce pot.
  2. After adding the onion, carrots, and garlic, continue to sauté the mixture until the fragrant compounds are released.
  3. Add chicken stock and greens. Salt, pepper, and Italian seasoning may be added according to personal preference.
  4. After simmering for forty-five minutes, make any necessary flavour adjustments, then stir in the orzo (or couscous), and turn off the heat.
  5. Top each serving with grated parmesan and crushed red pepper.

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