Is Couscous Safe When Pregnant? Salad, Cold + More

Photo of author

Written by Shandra Williams

Published on

BabyFacts logo

Carbs are an important part of a healthy diet and consuming couscous is a great option. But, is it safe to eat when you’re pregnant?

While couscous is generally considered safe to eat during pregnancy, there are some things to keep in mind. One of them is making sure the couscous is fully cooked before eating it, and if enjoying previously cooked and cooled couscous (like in a salad), make sure good food hygiene practices have been followed.

So, are all forms of couscous safe to eat when pregnant? How can you cook couscous to make it safe during pregnancy? Get the answers to these questions and more below.

Is Couscous Safe for Pregnant Women?

Couscous is a form of pasta made from durum wheat. It’s popular in Mediterranean and North African cuisines. The most common type of couscous is the Israeli or pearl variety. The difference between regular pasta and couscous is that couscous is prepared by steaming rather than boiling.

For the purposes of pregnancy safety, you can treat all types and varieties of couscous the same way.

raw couscous in a wooden bowl

Couscous is an excellent source of carbs and protein. It’s also relatively low in calories compared to other carbs such as rice (source: Healthline). For these reasons, couscous is often touted as a healthy food option.

Generally speaking, couscous is safe to eat during pregnancy. However, there are a few things to keep in mind. For one, couscous is made from durum wheat, which is a type of wheat that contains gluten.

If you’re allergic to or intolerant of gluten, you’ll need to avoid couscous. Allergic symptoms may include digestive problems, skin rashes, and difficulty breathing (source: BMC allergy). Call your doctor immediately if you experience any of these symptoms after eating couscous.

Additionally, couscous is often served cold, which means it may not be cooked thoroughly. This can increase your risk of food poisoning. Bacteria like Listeria can grow on undercooked couscous and cause severe illness in pregnant women (source: Infection Ecology and Epidemiology Journal).

Serious side effects of listeriosis may include miscarriage, stillbirth, and premature labor (source: FDA). If you’re pregnant and crave couscous, opt for a version that’s been cooked thoroughly and is served hot – or alternatively, you can zap cold couscous in the microwave before using it.

Can I Eat Cold Couscous During Pregnancy?

While couscous is safe to eat during pregnancy, you’ll need to be mindful of food hygiene when eating it cold. Cold couscous can harbor harmful bacteria like Listeria, which can cause severe foodborne illness in pregnant women. This is rare and easily remedied by heating the couscous until steaming hot. If you’re using it in a salad and plan to eat it immediately, you can let it cool again. Storing it when it’s cold and then eating it cold presents the risk of contamination or bacteria.

To ensure it has been safely prepared, it is recommended that you cook couscous yourself at home. In doing so, you can control the cooking temperature and be confident that the couscous is safe to consume.

If you don’t have time to cook couscous from scratch, look for a pre-cooked variety that’s been heated to a safe temperature. You can make couscous safe by heating it to a temperature of at least 165 degrees Fahrenheit for 15 seconds (source: CDC).

Is Couscous Salad Safe When Pregnant?

Couscous salad is a popular dish made with cooked couscous, vegetables, and dressing. It’s often served cold or at room temperature. While couscous salad is safe to eat during pregnancy, you’ll want to be careful of the ingredients and preparation process. Avoid salads that contain raw eggs, unpasteurized cheese, or uncooked meats.

Raw eggs, unpasteurized cheese, or uncooked meats can harbor harmful bacteria that can put you and your baby at risk (source: CDC and FDA). If you’re pregnant and crave couscous salad, opt for a version that’s been cooked thoroughly.

couscous salad with cherry tomatoes and basil

As mentioned above, the safest couscous has been heated until hot, which will reduce the risk of any pathogens. Nobody wants a hot salad, but you can zap it and let it cool down, and then eat it straight away. Bear in mind too that the risk of bacterial contamination remains low. Always buy couscous salad from reputable stores with good hygiene practices and ratings, especially if it’s on open display, like in a deli fridge.

Stick to salads made with cooked couscous, vegetables, and a pregnancy-safe dressing. If you’re unsure of the ingredients while dining at a restaurant (such as Panera), ask your server or chef before ordering. Better yet, make your own couscous salad at home so you can control the process of cooking prior to consumption.

There have not been any specific studies or reports of cross-contamination issues with couscous. However, it’s always important to practice food safety when preparing and eating any type of food. This is especially true during pregnancy, as your immune system is compromised while pregnant, and you may be at an increased risk of food poisoning.

Pregnancy isn’t the time to take any unnecessary risks when it comes to a variety of food selections. Glad to say that couscous is a safe, healthy option during pregnancy when cooked! Now, you can add couscous to your list of healthy carbs options.