Couscous, the rich, spicy and savory North African plate that is so popular in our kitchens is not only a true delight, but also easy to make. For these reasons, you may want to prepare it in a batch and enjoy it for several days.
But how long does couscous last? When dried, couscous has a shelf life that can reach one or two years, and it is still safe for consumption three to six months after the “best by” date if stored correctly. When cooked, couscous can last from three to seven days, depending on the type of condiments you used.
If you are a fan of couscous, rest assured: When kept in a sealed bag or airtight container, your dry couscous will remain good for a very long time, ready to be soaked in hot water, fluffed, and eaten. As some UK experts have pointed out, the “best by” date is individuated with quality in mind, not safety.
However, if you already opened the bag and left it in the pantry for a long time, you may want to consider tossing it, as it may taste stale. The same goes for when you have cooked it and have some leftovers: Either you consume them in the span of a few days, or you will have to get rid of it.
Does Couscous Expire? Expert Scientists Share Their Opinion
Almost every person has a package of couscous somewhere in their pantry. It is delicious and quick to prepare when you feel a certain languor. All you have to do is browning some vegetables and adding them to the cooked couscous, and enjoy a rich, tasty, and colorful meal. But is it always safe?
Unfortunately for the fans of this North African delicacy, couscous does have an expiration date. To be sure, it is a dry food with a very long shelf life, so you don’t have to worry too much about it going bad soon. A sealed package of couscous could last up to one or two years before reaching the “best by” date. And even when that date arrives, you can still safely consume it within the following three to six months.
To extend the life of your couscous, it would be better not to leave it in the original packaging, especially if it’s made of cardboard. This material, in fact, is vulnerable to humidity and, when it does get humid, it becomes basically a Petri dish for potentially harmful bacteria. In addition to that, pests could lay eggs in the corrugated parts of the box, and rodents are known to nip on those.
Because of this, it would be best to keep dry foods such as couscous in airtight hard plastic or glass storage containers. In addition to that, you want to make sure that the temperature or the room remains between 50-and 70-degrees Fahrenheit and that the humidity level is contained. Ideally a storage container made out of a metal, like stainless steel that is known to remain cool and not absorb heat easily. Take a look at the ENLOY brand stainless-steel containers which can be found on Amazon. Look for more information here.
Another choice for those that might have preemptively opened or otherwise might want to cut down on package size should consider a food vacuum sealer. An excellent choice can be found on Amazon, by the brand Inkbird. Check out more information on its qualities here.
A research paper published in the Food Engineering Review, in fact, shows that the parameters of temperature and oxygen presence have the most severe impact on the capacity of dry foods to retain their nutritional value, texture, and taste.
For those interested in why so many pests and microbes take interest in your couscous. Feel free to take a look at the video below. Learn more about the process that couscous goes through in order to reach your pantry!
The Table Below Charts Common Ways Couscous Is Stored:
|How do you store couscous?
|Percentage of total results
|Couscous is most stored in a sealed container.
|Another popular form of storing couscous comes in the form of a plastic bag.
|A more specific container, Tupperware is also often used to store couscous.
|Many forum users have found that storing couscous in a freezer or fridge can extend its shelf-life.
|Shelving couscous away in a dry and dark cupboard is another common storage technique.
How Long Does Cooked Couscous Last in the Fridge? Find Out!
If you made some extra couscous and want to store it for subsequent meals, you may want to know exactly how long it is going to last before going bad. Well, the answer is that it depends on how it is stored, and whether or not it was mixed with other ingredients.
How Long Does Unrefrigerated Couscous Last?
In a useful guide, the Washington State Department of Health clarified that harmful bacteria will start proliferating on unrefrigerated food after just a few hours from when it was cooked. If the temperature in the room exceeds 90 degrees Fahrenheit, then the safest thing to do would be to discard the food after just one hour.
Therefore, if you were planning to leave your cooked and seasoned couscous until the next day for lunch, think again. And no, reheating the plate in the microwave will not do the trick and kill all the bacteria. Some of the most common ones, such as staphylococcus aureus, produce a toxin that makes them heat resistant.
So, if you want to keep your couscous safe, the only solution is to refrigerate it as soon as possible. You should still avoid putting scorching hot food in the fridge, but once it reaches room temperature, divide the couscous into single servings and put them in the fridge. Even then, its durability changes significantly based on the condiments.
How Long Does Couscous with Meat Last in the Fridge?
Any dish containing cooked meat will not last more than three or four days in ideal conditions: that means, at a temperature of 40 degrees Fahrenheit or less. Make sure to set the fridge at this temperature, because the range from 41 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit is known as the “danger zone”. In those conditions, bacteria will grow without altering the smell or taste of the food. Because of that, you risk eating spoiled couscous without realizing it.
How Long Does Couscous with Vegetables Last in the Fridge?
Cooked vegetables will be safe to eat for three to five days after their preparation. If you used canned vegetables, you may consume your couscous after seven days as well, but it is a bit of a risk. After that time, in fact, the humidity contained in the couscous may have already allowed for dangerous molds to take hold.
How Long Does Couscous Alone Last in the Fridge?
When you refrigerate couscous without any seasoning or oil, and without adding any ingredient, you may stretch the timespan in which it’s still good to seven days. However, at that point it will probably be clumped together and have a mushy texture, so it’s up to you to decide if it’s worth saving or not.
How Long Does Couscous Last in the Freezer?
Storing couscous in the freezer is the best way to ensure it lasts the longest. At a temperature of -18 degrees Fahrenheit, couscous can last up to three or four months. However, it would be best to freeze it alone instead of as an already-cooked meal, as some ingredients, vegetables for example, can become soggy once it’s thawed.
But, as preparing couscous is a quick procedure that only takes 5 to 10 minutes, it wouldn’t make too much sense to cook it in bulk only to have to wait a long time for it to be defrosted. For this reason, it’s better to make it fresh and store it in the fridge for a few days, so that you can enjoy couscous meals for multiple days!
How Can I Tell if Couscous Is Bad? 3 Clear Warning Signs
As you have learned in the previous section, couscous cannot last for more than five days in the fridge. If your couscous has crossed that line, the best thing to do is to toss it out and, if you still crave some, remake it from scratch. But what happens when you are not sure if your couscous is still safe to eat? In this case, you want to pay closer attention to its look, taste, and smell.
The most blatant sign that couscous has gone bad is if you see any type of bug on it. Moths, midges and weevils are usually the culprit for spoiling your couscous. These bugs can also carry some dangerous contaminants. So, if you spot one, it would be best to get rid of all the couscous.
Another visual sign that you should look out for is the presence of mold. Mold develops as a consequence of airborne contaminants and, while some molds are actually innocuous, you don’t want to take chances. According to a paper that appeared in the Journal of Nutritional & Environmental Medicine, several food molds can not only affect your digestive tract, but also cause serious neurological consequences.
Finally, we come to the taste and smell part. If your couscous tastes a bit off, and the condiments have an altered flavor, it is an unmistakable sign that it has gone bad. In addition to that, if you perceive any foul smell, get rid of that couscous without a second thought.
What Does Bad Couscous Smell Like? What To Watch Out For
Couscous is formed by grains of semolina, much like pasta. As such, it won’t have much of a suspicious smell when it goes bad while it is not mixed with seasoning and condiments. However, if you stored it as a part of a ready meal, you may be able to notice hints of wood varnish or wet cardboard.
When this happens, know that it is a good time to trust your senses. If a food smells rancid, it most likely is, and you certainly don’t want to risk getting food poisoning! However, you should not rely only on your smell when it comes to assessing whether the food in your kitchen counter or fridge is still edible.
In fact, you should know that many of the bacteria that can cause food poisoning or intoxication are, in a way, cunning. They do not affect in any way the appearance, taste, or smell or the food, so that you will be tricked into eating it. The best way to avoid any risk is to follow the proper storage guidelines.
Can You Get Food Poisoning from Couscous? Potential Dangers
As you may have noticed, so far, we have stressed repeatedly the importance of correct storage practices when it comes to couscous, whether cooked or uncooked. The reason for this is that, like any other type of food, couscous can be the breeding ground of toxins, bacteria and bugs when not stored properly.
Bacillus cereus, together with other types of bacteria, represents a danger. Found on many types of grains, this bacterium can survive elevated temperatures and thrive on your couscous even after it’s cooked. To make sure you never incur such problems, we have some tips to share with you when it comes to eating couscous safely.
Proper Storing, Proper Reheating
As you know, it is always best to follow all sanitary guidelines when refrigerating your cooked couscous. Never keep it outside of the fridge for more than two hours, keep the temperature of the fridge below 40 degrees Fahrenheit, and consume it within three to five days.
But you should know that reheating is also an important part of staying safe when enjoying your couscous. If you have stored it in the fridge, you can reheat it in the microwave or frying pan. The most important thing is that it reaches a temperature of at least 170 degrees Fahrenheit and you do not cool it again.
Instead, if you had put couscous in the freezer, you can either reheat it right away or if it has formed some clumps, thaw it a bit. However, never keep it outside of the freezer without heating it at a high temperature for more than 10 or 20 minutes, as this is how long it will take for bacteria to resume their multiplication.
What Happens if You Eat Expired Couscous? Mind The Symptoms
In the unfortunate event that you ate expired couscous, you may want to know what could happen next. In most cases, your organism will fight the bacteria, toxins or viruses and, if you are lucky, you will not experience any consequences.
In some cases, though, you might develop a strong reaction to expired food, including couscous. The symptoms will vary based on the origin of the intoxication: bacteria, viruses, parasites and molds all have different effects.
The bacillus cereus, for example, will most likely cause abdominal pain and vomiting that will last for one or two days. Staphylococcus aureus, instead, on top of those symptoms can cause a high fever, confusion and muscle aches that can last for several days.
In general, eating expired food will only cause an upset stomach. However, the consequences can be more serious, depending on the aggressivity of the strain of bacteria and the conditions of your immune system. Some toxins can not only have a temporary effect on your digestive tract, but also bring about serious inflammatory reactions that can affect your brain as well as other organs. So, always respect the rules when it comes to storing food!