No, couscous is not gluten-free.
Despite its rice-like appearance, couscous is made from semolina, which is a granule of durum wheat. Therefore, it is not gluten-free. Couscous is commonly mistaken for being gluten-free. If you see this listed on a gluten-free menu in a restaurant, Beyond Celiac encourages you to consider opting for a different restaurant.
While the other grains/grain-based dishes listed – risotto, brown rice and buckwheat noodles – are gluten-free in their natural form, it is still important to ensure that safe gluten-free preparation processes have been followed. Be extra cautious when ordering a dish with buckwheat noodles. Although buckwheat is naturally gluten-free, the noodles may have been made using wheat flour. Additionally, cross-contact can occur during the milling and manufacturing processes of grains in general, so you may want to avoid these at a restaurant, unless the chef can confirm a labeled or (preferably) certified gluten-free brand is used. When selecting these options from a menu, people with celiac disease should ask questions about the use of other cooking ingredients that may be a source of gluten (such as bouillon, broths and roux or flour for thickening) as well as preparation practices (such as boiling gluten-free foods in the same water as wheat-based pasta). Rice pilaf blends are not always made in house but are a pre-packaged mix that can contain gluten in the seasoning or even wheat berries or barley. Be sure to ask about the ingredients and preparation of the side dish when rice pilaf is listed on the menu.
Remember – when in doubt, go without.
<< See more frequently asked questions about the gluten-free diet