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Kusksu (Libyan Couscous with Spicy Beef and Vegetables)

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kusksu libyan couscous national dish recipe

The national dish of Libya is couscous, commonly prepared like this, with stewed beef, sweet potatoes, carrots and garbanzo beans in a spicy hararat tomato sauce.  It’s a warming, hearty, comfort dish featuring a delicious blend of Middle Eastern spices.

Couscous is fabulous. If you haven’t had it before, give it whirl and you’ll be glad you did.  Many people mistakenly think of it as a grain.  It’s actually semolina, or granules of durum wheat – like tiny bits of pasta.  You can buy it in white and whole wheat varieties.

Another feature of this dish is Hararat, a special Libyan “Five Spice” seasoning blend commonly used in soups and stews.  Ohhhh, those wonderful Middle Eastern spices…I stocked up on them on them at the markets over there, brought them home to “deconstruct”, and have been making my own spice blends since.

The Daring Gourmet in Jerusalem

A predominant ingredient is cinnamon, which is used all around the world, but it’s especially popular in Libya.  Hararat is a flavorful, aromatic blend of cinnamon, coriander, cumin, red chilies and allspice.  And the next question on your lips…

Where can I find it?

Unless you have an extremely well-stocked Middle Eastern store in your area or find it on some obscure website for purchase, you’re pretty much out of luck.  However, as with any spice blend, it makes such a difference in the flavor outcome of your dish when you make it fresh yourself, so I’m going to share my recipe for it with you.

Hararat Spice Blend

This spice blend pairs beautifully with the tender beef in this dish.  Speaking of beef, here I am in the Arab markets in Jerusalem.  Which cut would you like to purchase?

The Daring Gourmet in Jerusalem

It’s always such a tough choice.

The Daring Gourmet in Jerusalem

Now that your appetite has been whetted, let’s get started! :)

Kusksu Recipe

To prepare the couscous, simply add the water to a medium saucepan along with the salt and olive oil, bring to a boil, add the couscous, immediately turn off the heat, cover, and let sit for 15 minutes.

Curried Couscous Salad prep 1

After 15 minutes, fluff it with a fork.  That’s it!

Curried Couscous Salad prep 3

Any cut of stewing beef will do.  You’ll need about 3/4 pound or so which you’ll cut into 4 equal pieces – like little steaklettes.

Libyan Kusksu

Pumpkin is commonly used in Libyan couscous dishes.  If you don’t have access to fresh pumpkin, you can substitute yams or sweet potatoes.


See recipe box below for full recipe instructions.

For another great couscous dish, try this Curried Couscous Salad:

Curried Couscous Salad

Hungry for more authentic Middle Eastern Food?  Try this Chicken Machboos (Bahraini Spiced Chicken and Rice):

Chicken Machboos

Or try some Koshari, the national dish of Egypt:

Egyptian Koshari

Kusksu (Libyan Couscous with Spicy Beef and Vegetables)

4.34 from 3 votes
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 15 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Course Main Dish
Cuisine Libyan
Servings 4


  • 1 pound stewing beef cut into four pieces
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons oil for frying
  • 1 large onion , halved and cut in half rings
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves , finely chopped
  • 2 medium potatoes , peeled and halved
  • 2 carrots , halved
  • 8 ounces pumpkin or yam , cut into four chunks
  • 1 cup cooked garbanzo beans
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon hot chili powder
  • 2 tablespoons hararat , see recipe below
  • 1/3 cup tomato purée
  • 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3 cups beef broth
  • oil for frying
  • Couscous
  • Hararat Recipe:
  • 2 cinnamon stick broken into 4 pieces each
  • 4 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 4 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 2 red chilies
  • 1 teaspoon allspice berries


  • To make the hararat: Heat a large non-stick frying pan then add the spices. Toast for about 4 minutes stirring frequently, until the spices become very fragrant. Transfer to a bowl to let cool. Grind in a spice or coffee grinder. Store in an air-tight jar until ready to use.
  • Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat and fry the beef until nicely browned on all sides. Add the onion and cook until soft and translucent, 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute.
    Add the chili powder, hararat, tomatoes, tomato puree, beef stock, salt, and brown sugar. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 30 minutes.
    Add the vegetables and garbanzo beans, return to a boil, reduce, cover and simmer for another 40 minutes until until the vegetables and beef are tender and the sauce has thickened.
  • To serve, add the couscous to a serving platter, arrange the meat and vegetables on top then ladle the tomato-based sauce over everything.
Keyword Kusksu, Libyan Couscous
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!


kimberly killebrew the daring gourmet

Hi, I’m Kimberly Killebrew and welcome to Daring Gourmet where you'll find delicious originals, revitalized classics, and simply downright good eats from around the world! Originally from Germany, later raised in England, world-traveled, and now living in the U.S., from my globally-influenced kitchen I invite you to tour the world through your taste buds!

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Recipe Rating

4.34 from 3 votes


  1. Even if this dish is traditionally served with lamb, this is a delicious rendition. I will definitely be making this again!

  2. I lived in Libya for 5 years. I never had couscous with beef. Usually with lamb and occasionally with fish.

  3. I like to read blogs about food and national cuisine of different countries. It’s great that you also offer a recipe. I really liked it. Thank!

  4. I had couscous in Libya in 1963 when I was a child. It was so good and our family always remembered it. But I never thought I’d find an authentic recipe until I realized that nowadays I could Google it! I put in “Libyan cuisine” and there you were! If I remember right we had it with chicken and some sort of large orange squash (not pumpkin). So I’m looking forward to trying this and seeing how close it is to my childhood memory.

    1. Wonderful, Alexis, I’m so glad you found us! You can substitute the vegetables as you like if you recall other things having been used in the particular couscous dish you had. The hararat-based sauce is the most important element. If you can get the whole spices, toast and grind them yourself (something I always recommend) it will make a huge difference in the flavor. Happy cooking! :)

  5. Kimberly,
    I gotta say upfront that I love the site. I’ve made several of your dishes and this is the first one that was just meh…not bad… just so-so. When it was cooking it smelled really good. The whole house really smelled like cinnamon and spices. The family and I couldn’t wait to try it. But, when we tasted it…not so much. I even added another 2Tbsp of spices. But, when I tasted it from the pot I just couldn’t taste anything. I’m not sure, maybe it was me. Maybe because I used store bought ground spices? I’m am still working on my cooking skills but, it just wasn’t spicy. One thing I did have to do, is substitute the red chilies. I couldn’t find them at the store so I added 2 tsp. of chili powder but honestly even with it was just like a tomato based beef stew. I don’t know. Maybe adding the spices at the end before serving might help?? Maybe sprinkling some on top also?? Also, there was one minor mistake/omission from the recipe directions it never mention adding the Bay leaf. So, I added it with the vegetables. Anyway, just wanted to give you a heads up. And, I’m really looking forward to trying the Machboos (spicy chicken) this week. Did I mention I love the site. Keep bringing the cool and interesting recipes. And please let me know your thoughts even if you think it was me. Because that’s entirely possible. heh. Thanks, B

    1. Hi B, I appreciate the compliment and the honest feedback. I’m not sure why it wouldn’t have been flavorful, especially after adding an extra 2 tablespoons of spices. The cumin and coriander especially have a strong flavor. Yes, toasting and grinding whole spices makes a massive difference in the flavor – that really can’t be overstated – but still, even if you used pre-ground spices it should have had plenty of flavor, especially if you added 2 additional tablespoons on top of the 2 tablespoons already called for. Four tablespoons of spices and no flavor – that’s mind-boggling. The Chicken Machboos has received a lot of positive feedback. Hopefully you can find all the ingredients for it. Please let us know how it goes once you’ve tried it. Best, Kimberly

  6. God this Lybian couscous sounds fabulous! I’ve never eaten couscous with beef. Use to eat it whether at home or at restaurant with lamb or fish. I’ll give this Lybian couscous recipe a try next time I cook it!

    1. Thanks, Sylvie! You could easily substitute lamb for the beef in this recipe. Whichever you use, happy cooking and enjoy! :)

  7. We will be trying this on Tuesday. Looks great, have you tried cooking it in a tagine instead? Wondering on the cooking time.

    1. Hi Melissa, I have not made this in a tagine. If you check out my Moroccan Chicken Tagine recipe and scroll down through the comments you’ll find my explanation about using a tagine. The cooking process and time will be very similar. Happy cooking!

  8. This sounds like the perfect dish for a cold winter day! I love the combination of the seasonings and can’t wait to try it out! Beautiful and mouth watering pictures!

    1. Thanks so much, bakeaffairs! :) I love robust dishes like this on cold winter days as well. And yes, the blend of seasonings is really delicious!