Orzo Vs Couscous – What’s The Difference?

What’s the difference between couscous and orzo? Both are made from semolina flour. Both are different in origin, process, and texture, but you can easily substitute one another.

When I was a chef, I used to use orzo or couscous on several of the restaurant menus, and more often than not, I substituted orzo for couscous or vice versa. Unless you are a food connoisseur, you will likely not be able to tell the difference!

According to the old saying, less is more. Especially dishes that include tiny pasta such as orzo and couscous. Many people have probably misunderstood one for the other. Therefore, now is the perfect moment to clear this up for you!

Continue reading the article for more information on the difference and contrast between orzo and couscous.

Comparison of Orzo Vs Couscous

To give a quick overview of the distinctions between couscous and orzo, we’ve created a stunning chart:

Name MeansIn Italian it means barley, also known as risoni.They created larger couscous balls from northern Africa and Israel called “pearls.”
CaloriesMore calories (1 cup = 210 calories)Less calories (1 cup = 176 calories).
Made ofOrzo is typically made of semolina, but it can also be made using whole grain or white flour.Constructed from crushed and steam-cooked semolina.
Appearance And DietOrzo is not normally vegan-friendly, but it can be made vegan. It resembles rice grains; it is made and cooked in the same way as pasta.Couscous is vegan-friendly, but many of the meals are not. It is also available in various shades like green, red and yellow. They also come in ball-shaped.
TextureA soft and chewy texture.A fluffy texture.

What Is Couscous?

Couscous is a grain commonly used commonly in North African, Moroccan, Tunisian, and Algerian cuisines. But couscous is also pasta!

It’s got a neutral taste that lets it be paired with nearly anything and everything you could imagine.

As with orzo, the couscous pasta is made with semolina. However, in certain regions, it is made of crushed barley farina(flour milled from a potato or cassava) and pearl millet.

What Is Couscous?
What Is Couscous?

Couscous was first rolled by hand to create its distinctive round shape. However, we have machines that produce the mass-produced couscous we find in supermarkets.

It can be seen in various shades, like cream, yellow, red, or green, based on the area.

There’s also a familiar version of couscous made in Israel that is available in the form of larger, more transparent balls, also known by the name “pearls.”

Its texture, when cooked properly, will be fluffy and light.

One reason why you might not want to use orzo for a couscous recipe is that it contains low energy per serving than either.

1 cup of couscous is approximately 176 calories, while 1 cup of orzo contains approximately 200 calories.

What Is Orzo?

Orzo can be described as an Italian word that translates to “barley” and has been called “risoni.” Don’t be misled by its similarity to rice. Orzo can be described as a small pasta!

It is made with ordinary white flour, but as with traditional pasta varieties, it is usually made with semolina mixed with water, eggs, salt, and eggs.

It can be made to be vegan friendly! There is a way to make orzo with no eggs, a product sold in grocery stores.

Orzo’s texture, when cooked correctly, will be chewy and firm.

What Is Orzo?
What Is Orzo?

A fascinating fact concerning orzo is that the process by which it is made is sort of a mystery.

There aren’t many videos, images, or more in-depth information about the production process to see how orzo is being made!

We know that the process of shaping is known as extrusion and is typically performed by factory machines.

Should You Use Orzo Or Couscous?

Orzo is a flexible and simple-to-use pasta that is easy to use and versatile. Its texture is similar to the texture of other pasta but in a smaller size.

Orzo can be able to stand against stronger sauces like cheese and cream-based sauces.

It’s also a great option to add to soups and even stews. The most famous Italian wedding soup is made with orzo. It’s also a wonderful ingredient in pasta salads with a focus on vegetables.

The cooked Moroccan Couscous is a more fluffy dry, and less spongy product that is great as a snack or as a complement to a hearty salad. It is more likely to get cooked with a sauce unless it can be used as an accompaniment to a saucy food.

Morrocan Couscous is generally not a suitable substitute in place of orzo. However, the bigger pearls of couscous are a good substitute for orzo in certain circumstances.

Pearl couscous can be included in soups and salads, as is orzo. There are many different aspects to the following recipes!


Can you substitute orzo for couscous?

Yes, you can easily substitute orzo for couscous. As I have said before, orzo and couscous are made from the same core ingredient and have the same size, so most will not recognize the difference.

You can easily replace either orzo or couscous interchangeably as it is perfect as a side dish for meat and vegetables, or you can use it with salads.

What is healthier pasta or couscous/orzo?

Couscous is lighter and fluffy when cooked properly and it suits many dietary requirements of vegans. Unlike pasta, couscous is made from whole-wheat flour.

Orzo is a great alternative to pasta since it has close similarities to couscous.

Summary of Orzo vs Couscous

Orzo has the same appearance as rice, while couscous is wheat based and is rolled into tiny balls.

Couscous has origins in Northern Africa, while orzo pasta originates from Italy.

Orzo and couscous are both made from semolina. They both have similar flavor and texture taste profiles and can easily be substituted or replaced with one another.

Norah Clark

Norah Clark

Norah Clark, the founder and editor of YummyTasteFood! She's a seasoned food writer and editor with over a decade of experience in the hospitality industry as a former pastry chef, sous chef, and barista. When not writing about food, she explores new recipes or travels the world for culinary inspiration.