Maftoul – The Cooking Tool!

During my time in Morocco, I lived with a mother and daughter who cooked as well as they broke out  in song while cooking. One of their favorite ingredients to prepare was what we know as couscous in its numerous forms; on Friday afternoons, we had our communal tajine of couscous, and occasionally, we started lunch with a small dish of Palestinian maftoul. One of the best feelings in the world is running your fingers through a bag of maftoul fresh from the marketplace on a sunny Saturday afternoon – mostly because it is not as small as couscous to get stuck between your fingernails!


Maftoul – Israeli Couscous Moroccan Style with Chicken, Tomatoes, Saffron and Lemon | Soyeon Kim for The Road Home


So what on Earth is maftoul? Maftoul originated from the Palestine/Israel area as hand-rolled bulgur wheat the size of uneven peas. You most likely know the close sister of maftoul: the pearl Israeli couscous, or ptitim in Hebrew. Maftoul is rarely mass produced and almost always handmade, thus only available in Middle Eastern grocery stores. In most recipes, maftoul can be replaced with the mass-produced Israeli couscous. Regardless of whichever one you cook with, I cannot stress how important it is that food has absolutely no political affiliations.


Maftoul – Israeli Couscous Moroccan Style with Chicken, Tomatoes, Saffron and Lemon | Soyeon Kim for The Road Home


You can make your own hearty dish with maftoul  in your own kitchen. This Levantine cuisine-inspired dish is easy to cook and  takes some time to simmer on the stove, meaning you have the time to clean your counters and stick your utensils in the dishwasher before even finishing cooking! Or if you are me, try to beat the incredibly difficult Level 50 of Candycrush and again, fail miserably.


Maftoul – Israeli Couscous Moroccan Style with Chicken, Tomatoes, Saffron and Lemon | Soyeon Kim for The Road Home


Be warned! This dish calls for saffron and white wine. A tiny bunch of saffron can be replaced with one teaspoon of turmeric. White wine can be replaced with white grape juice or chicken stock. My alcohol intolerance is personally a big fan of the white grape juice substitute. Final fun fact for all: alcohol actually remains in large percentages in foods unless it has been cooked for at least 3 hours. SCIENCE!





Israeli Couscous with Chicken, Tomatoes, and Lemon


  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup matfoul or Israeli couscous
  • 4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • 1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 4 plum tomatoes, cut lengthwise into 6 slices
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 strips lemon peel (2 inches each)
  • Pinch of saffron
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine (or substitute)
  • 1-1/2 cups homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock
  • 2 tsp coarse salt
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 cup frozen peas, thawed
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges, for serving


  1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add couscous, and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Transfer to a bowl, and return skillet to heat.
  2. Cook chicken, smooth side down, until browned, 3 to 5 minutes. Flip, and cook for 2 minutes more. Transfer to a plate, reserving drippings in skillet.
  3. Reduce heat to medium, add onion, and cook, stirring frequently, for 3 minutes. Stir in tomatoes, garlic, lemon peel, and saffron, and cook, stirring frequently, until tomatoes begin to break down, 2 to 3 minutes.
  4. Return chicken to skillet. Add wine, and cook for 4 minutes. Add stock, salt, garlic powder, pepper, and couscous, and stir. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, until couscous is tender and chicken is cooked through, 12 to 14 minutes. Stir in peas, and cook until heated through, about 1 minute. Serve immediately with lemon.