Couscous Risotto with Scallops

The name of this post sounds a bit strange, doesn’t it? I mean, couscous is crushed wheat, a staple in North African countries. Risotto is an Italian dish made with specific rice varieties, like Arborio.

I discovered a beautiful, tri-color couscous, and decided to turn it into a creamy risotto-of-sorts topped with seared and spicy scallops, just for fun. I assume from the size of the couscous “pearls,” that this is an Israeli couscous.

For the spiciness on the scallops, I’m using a favorite product by Penzey’s called Red and Black. It’s a mixture of black pepper and cayenne pepper.

Couscous Risotto with Scallops

1 pound scallops
1/2 teaspoon salt
Black and Red Pepper
Bacon grease, or grape seed oil, about 3 tablespoons total
2 shallots, diced
1 1/2 cups couscous
2 1/4 cups broth, approximately
Heavy cream, about 1/3 cup
1/2 teaspoon salt
Fresh chopped parsley, optional

First rinse and dry the scallops. Season with salt and the red and black pepper; if you don’t want them spicy, use sweet paprika.

Heat bacon grease in a large, cast-iron skillet over the highest heat. You’ll have to sear the scallops in two batches.

When your grease is hot, add half of the scallops. Cook them about 2 minutes on the first side, till they’re well browned.

Turn the scallops over and reduce the heat at the same time. This will help cook the scallops through.

After another 3 minutes or so, test them with your tongs. As soon as there’s some firmness, remove them to a paper towel. Continue with the remaining scallops, first heating grease (adding more if necessary) over the highest heat.

When cooked properly, scallops should be soft and glistening.

To make the risotto, heat the grape seed oil in a medium-sized Dutch oven. Add the shallots and cook them over medium heat until they’re soft.

Pour in the couscous and stir it around until all of the pearls are glistening.

Then, just as with risotto, add some broth and stir it in well, continuing with the broth until it’s all done. This should only take about 15 minutes.

Pour in the cream and salt. Give it a stir, and cook for about 5 minutes. Then cover the pot and remove it from the heat.

Remove the lid after 10 minutes and let the couscous cool slightly.

Place the risotto in a shallow serving bowl, then add the scallops, tucking them into the risotto.

Sprinkle with parsley, if using.

I also added some cayenne pepper flakes, cause I like spicy.

The couscous risotto really came out superb. Creamy and soft, but the pearls hold their shape.

I really love my concocted dish!

And then imagine this dish with borage flowers sprinkled on top, because they were meant to be there 😬.

About the Author: Chef Mimi

As a self-taught home cook, with many years in the culinary profession, I am passionate about all things food-related. Especially eating!


  1. OlverIndulgence July 22, 2019 at 6:38 AM - Reply

    Very cool idea! I may have to give this a try!!!

    • chef mimi July 22, 2019 at 6:42 AM - Reply

      Thanks! It was pretty yummy!

  2. cindy knoke July 22, 2019 at 7:41 AM - Reply

    Looks divine.

    • chef mimi July 22, 2019 at 7:49 AM - Reply

      Thank you. It was pretty satisfying!

  3. fatsochef July 22, 2019 at 7:53 AM - Reply

    This looks super fantastic!!!

    • chef mimi July 22, 2019 at 7:54 AM - Reply

      Thanks! I thought it was super fantastic!

  4. Travel Gourmet July 22, 2019 at 9:48 AM - Reply

    Sounds delicious!

    • chef mimi July 22, 2019 at 4:14 PM - Reply

      Thank you Kay!

  5. Laura July 22, 2019 at 2:01 PM - Reply

    Mimi, this looks and sounds delish! I have that same tri-color Israeli couscous and love it so much! And with your perfectly seared scallops, I imagine this dish is so satisfying and delicious!

    • chef mimi July 22, 2019 at 4:13 PM - Reply

      Thank you! It’s prettier than regular, but the pure white has its benefits as well. Scallops are a rarity in my house because my husband doesn’t eat them. Most of these had to be given away to my one seafood-loving friend!

  6. canelakitchen July 22, 2019 at 2:36 PM - Reply

    looks delicious I love cous cous!!

    • chef mimi July 23, 2019 at 6:17 AM - Reply

      I do, too. But this creamy version was really good as well!

  7. Ronit Penso Tasty Eats July 22, 2019 at 3:12 PM - Reply

    Delicious looking dish! Pearl couscous is indeed Israel couscous. It’s very versatile and works great as “risotto”. Its creamy texture also makes it work well in desserts.

    • chef mimi July 23, 2019 at 6:17 AM - Reply

      Oh, I bet! By the way, I had my first lobster roll, finally, on Governors Island, at Island Oyster. Fabulous.

  8. Mary July 22, 2019 at 3:48 PM - Reply

    This is the dish for me. Easy to prepare and soon on the table. Scallops should be savoured as they are an expensive item here and this dish makes them the focal point.

    Mimi you have changed your photo – I feel like I am talking to a new person. :)

    Thankyou for this recipe – lovely

    • chef mimi July 22, 2019 at 4:10 PM - Reply

      Yes, I did. My husband took this while we were at a restaurant in NYC. I guess it’s what I look like 😳 Same old person. I’m glad you like this recipe. I’m pretty proud of it.

  9. sherry July 22, 2019 at 10:43 PM - Reply

    yum Mimi. i love scallops, especially when they are cooked just right – i.e. succulent, tender and delicious. I’ve never seen tricolour couscous. how interesting. Just an aside – who did the drawing on your banner? Did you? i like it! cheers sherry

    • chef mimi July 23, 2019 at 6:16 AM - Reply

      Thank you Sherry. The drawing was done by a very talented friend of my daughter.

  10. Gary July 23, 2019 at 2:32 AM - Reply

    I can see why you love your concocted dish. It looks delicious.

    • chef mimi July 23, 2019 at 6:15 AM - Reply

      Thank you sir !

  11. David @ Spiced July 23, 2019 at 7:09 AM - Reply

    What a fun idea to turn couscous into risotto, Mimi! I know I would be all in on this one. I love a good risotto. We often make risotto for dinner in the colder months, but now you’ve got me craving it! And you’ve also got me intrigued with the couscous angle. Oh, and excellent looking scallops, my friend! :-)

  12. 2pots2cook July 23, 2019 at 8:21 AM - Reply

    So beautiful twist Mimi ! Love it so much !

    • chef mimi July 23, 2019 at 9:37 AM - Reply

      Thanks very much!

  13. givememeatloaf July 23, 2019 at 9:33 AM - Reply

    Ooooh – I am so on a seafood kick right now, and this sounds fabulous!

    • chef mimi July 23, 2019 at 9:37 AM - Reply

      Thanks. Scallops feel so fancy!

  14. David Scott Allen July 23, 2019 at 10:31 AM - Reply

    This looks amazing, Mimi! Love the use of couscous for a rice substitute. And the Penzeys pepper combo is one of my favorites. By the way, there IS an Italian version of this couscous… it’s from Sardinia and it’s called fregola. It generally comes pre-roasted. It would be perfect for this dish!

    • chef mimi July 23, 2019 at 2:54 PM - Reply

      I have used fregola, but never in the form of risotto. I guess why not?!!

  15. Robotance July 23, 2019 at 12:09 PM - Reply

    I can’t wait to taste this delicious recipe (couscous risotto with scallops). This recipe looks divine! Thanks for sharing this.

    • chef mimi July 23, 2019 at 2:53 PM - Reply

      You are so welcome! It’s really yummy!

  16. Angela@eatlivehappy July 23, 2019 at 8:30 PM - Reply

    This looks fantastic! I love everything about this dish!

    • chef mimi July 24, 2019 at 7:13 AM - Reply

      Thanks so much!

  17. Tandy | Lavender and Lime July 24, 2019 at 12:26 AM - Reply

    I have so many ideas for risotto alternatives, but cannot think what to call them as to me that means a rice dish. Love your version and the scallops look amazing!

    • chef mimi July 24, 2019 at 7:15 AM - Reply

      Risotto is definitely risotto, with rice. But I don’t mind stretching terms a bit. And I’m only 50% Italian 🤣 But I was so surprised at how well the couscous behaved in the “risotto.”

  18. theculinarycolloquy July 24, 2019 at 2:08 AM - Reply

    This looks absolutely divine! Good quality scallops are hard to come by where I’m at, but I look forward to recreating this dish nonetheless!

    • chef mimi July 24, 2019 at 7:16 AM - Reply

      Thanks so much. Shrimp would also be good. Scallops just feel like such a delicacy! I got mine shipped to me. No seafood where I live!

  19. Jeff the Chef July 24, 2019 at 7:31 AM - Reply

    What a nice idea! The couscous looks rich and creamy, and scallops have a creaminess all their own. I’ll bet it was delicious.

    • chef mimi August 4, 2019 at 7:05 AM - Reply

      It really was. I was actually surprised and very happy at how creamy the couscous turned out, but still held its shape.

  20. kitchenriffs July 24, 2019 at 10:02 AM - Reply

    Love scallops, and this looks like such a fun way to serve them. Really creative recipe, too — bet it has tons of flavor. Thanks!

    • chef mimi August 4, 2019 at 7:06 AM - Reply

      Thank you. Well, we definitely love spice in this house, so I’m always reaching for some kind of chile pepper!

  21. thatskinnychickcanbake July 25, 2019 at 8:58 PM - Reply

    What a dreamy meal! I adore scallops and paired with Israeli couscous sounds fabulous!!!

    • chef mimi July 26, 2019 at 6:13 AM - Reply

      Thank you. The couscous worked really well made this way!

  22. sippitysup July 26, 2019 at 2:41 PM - Reply

    I love your concocted dish too. It’s has both a Sicilian vibe and a North African vibe. Which make sense geographically speaking because Sicily is closer both in distance and topography to Tunis than Naples. In fact it’s closer to several African ports than it is to any part of mainland Italy. Can you tell I leave for a sailing adventure in the Adriatic tomorrow? I’ve been studying the geography of this region! GREG

    • chef mimi July 27, 2019 at 8:16 AM - Reply

      oh my goodness! I was so impressed with your geography knowledge! But how exciting!!! The food will be so fabulous. Glad you’re getting another vacation!

  23. Frank Fariello July 27, 2019 at 8:01 AM - Reply

    Now doesn’t this look yummy!

    • chef mimi July 27, 2019 at 8:16 AM - Reply

      Thanks, Frank! It was pretty damn good.

  24. I Wilkerson July 29, 2019 at 11:55 AM - Reply

    I love scallops. And I love risotto. Yup pretty much a perfect dish :) !

    • chef mimi July 29, 2019 at 8:28 PM - Reply

      Aw thanks! I was very happy with the outcome of this experiment. The couscous held its shape, but still got creamy like a risotto.

  25. Fran @ G'day Souffle' July 31, 2019 at 1:37 AM - Reply

    Yes, I can see the tri-colors in the cous-cous. Much prettier than plain oous-cous and I bet it tastes good too!

    • chef mimi July 31, 2019 at 7:08 PM - Reply

      Thank you Fran! I really liked the way it cook up like risotto!

  26. Jack & Barbra Donachy August 3, 2019 at 6:45 PM - Reply

    We love Bob’s Red Mill products and will have to try the tri-colored couscous. Imagining the black pepper & cayenne spice on salmon… Great post, as always!

    • chef mimi August 3, 2019 at 7:39 PM - Reply

      Thank you so much!

  27. popsiclesociety August 10, 2019 at 10:08 PM - Reply

    What a great idea! I’ve never tried the three colour couscous and looks great! Then transforming it into a risotto! Delicious 😋

    • chef mimi August 11, 2019 at 7:01 AM - Reply

      It really turned out well – even better than I expected!

  28. FrugalHausfrau August 11, 2019 at 3:38 PM - Reply

    What a gorgeous dish!! I have never tried a couscous risotto!

    • chef mimi August 11, 2019 at 4:39 PM - Reply

      I don’t know that I’ll necessary do it again, but I was pleasantly surprised at how well the individual couscous stayed in tact, and yet the whole dish was soft and creamy.

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