Can you reheat couscous and is it safe to do so?

Couscous is a tasty, versatile grain—but can you reheat couscous safely?

couscous flatlay with tomatoes, salad and mint
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Reheating last night's dinner is a great way to save money and cut down on waste, but can you reheat couscous, and is it always safe to do so?

It may be seafood, poultry, and eggs that initially spring to mind when considering the dangers of reheating, but other foods—such as couscous—also need to be treated with caution.

Whether it's accompanying a warming Moroccan stew or whizzed up with fresh herbs in a food processor in a tasty tabbouleh, we're big-couscous fans. In fact, you'd be hard pushed to find a more versatile grain.

However, round two of last night's tagine accompaniment could easily result in the unpleasant effects of food poisoning—typically nausea, vomiting, stomach cramps, and—if leftovers stored incorrectly. And whacking the microwave on full blast won't banish the spores in couscous once they start to germinate. Nice.

Can reheating couscous give you food poisoning?

A resounding yes. When left at room temperature for a long time, the bugs present in couscous—and other grains and rice—will begin to multiply and produce poisonous toxins to humans.

Is it safe to reheat couscous?

If you want to eliminate the risk of food poisoning when reheating couscous, keeping to these timings is key:

  • Allow couscous to cool for at least one hour before refrigerating. Putting warm food in the fridge will raise the temperature inside, turning it into an incubator for bugs
  • But don't keep couscous at room temperature for any longer than two hours before refrigerating—as in this state the bugs are more likely to multiply
  • Eat leftovers within four days—rice and grains have a slightly longer shelf life than other foods such as chicken, which should be eaten within two days. And always make sure you store food in an airtight container

Tips for storing your leftover couscous safely

We spoke to Amanda, founder of Smartfreeze Containers (opens in new tab) about the best way to store couscous safely. 

“I love batch cooking couscous or saving leftovers from a large meal as it makes a tasty and light side dish which I can then freeze into smaller portions for up to four months if it is in a sturdy air-tight container," she told woman&home. 

"To re-heat I usually put the container straight into the microwave and add a knob of butter to fluff up right at the end.”

If you want to enjoy your couscous sooner, there are ways to store couscous in the fridge safely. It's important to ensure your couscous is stored in an airtight container and there is plenty of room for air to circulate. 

Expert-approved tips for storing couscous safely in the fridge:

  • Spread leftovers evenly to ensure that the cold air can reach more of the food
  • Space out food containers around your fridge so air can circulate evenly
  • Don't forget that it's there! Place your food containers at the front of the fridge

Rosie Conroy is a food and drinks journalist with over a decade of experience working for big-name titles in both print and online. Formerly the Digital Food Editor of woman&home, Rosie went on to head up the team at SquareMeal, reviewing the best London restaurants and hunting out emerging culinary trends. With previous experience in food styling and recipe development, Rosie knows what to look for in a good piece of kitchenware and has extensive experience testing consumer goods—from kitchen electricalz and cooking accouterments through to new foodie treats.