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Israeli couscous.jpg
Alternative namesIsraeli couscous, Jerusalem couscous, Pearl couscous
CourseSide dish
Place of originIsrael
Created byOsem
Main ingredientsWheat

Ptitim (Hebrew: פתיתים‎, literally 'flakes') is a type of toasted pasta shaped like rice grains, little balls, or multiple other shapes developed in Israel in the 1950s when rice was scarce. Outside Israel, it is typically marketed as Israeli couscous, Jerusalem couscous, or pearl couscous.[1] In Israel, it originally became known as "Ben-Gurion rice" (Hebrew: אורז בן-גוריון, órez Ben-Gurion), though it is mainly called "ptitim" nowadays.


Ptitim is available in a variety of shapes, but most commonly in pearl-shaped "couscous" and rice-shaped "orez", as with these bags of ptitim made by Osem.
Ptitim marketed as Pearl Couscous – Toasted Israeli Style Pasta – in the US.

Ptitim was created in 1953,[2] during the austerity period in Israel.[3] Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, asked Eugen Proper, one of the founders of the Osem food company, to quickly devise a wheat-based substitute to rice.[4] Consequently, it was nicknamed "Ben-Gurion rice" by the people.[5] The company took up the challenge and developed ptitim, which is made of hard wheat flour and toasted in an oven.[6] The product was instantly a success, after which ptitim made in the shape of small, dense balls (which the company termed "couscous") was added to the original rice-shaped ptitim.


Ptitim is made by extruding dough through a round mold, before it is cut and toasted, giving it the uniform natural-grain-like shape[6] and its unique nutty flavor.[7] Unlike common types of pasta and couscous, ptitim was factory-made from the outset, and therefore is rarely seen home-made from scratch. The store-bought product is easy and quick to prepare.[8]

Ptitim is popular among Israeli children, who eat it plain, or mixed with fried onion and tomato paste.[4] Ptitim is now produced in ring, star, and heart shapes for added appeal.[5] For health-conscious consumers,[9] whole wheat and spelt flour varieties are also available.[4]

While considered a children's food in Israel, ptitim is sometimes used in dishes even at the "trendiest restaurants" in other countries.[5] In the United States, it can be found on the menus of contemporary American chefs, and can be bought in gourmet markets.[10]

Ptitim can be used in many different types of dishes, both hot and cold.[8] The grains retain their shape and texture even when reheated, and they do not clump together.[10] Commonly, ptitim is prepared with sautéed onions or garlic (vegetables, meat, chicken or sausage can also be added). The ptitim grains may be fried for a short time before adding water.[5] They can also be baked, go in soup, served in a pie, used for stuffing, or made as a risotto.[4] Ptitim may also be used in other dishes as a substitute for pasta or rice.[1] American chef Charlie Trotter has produced a number of recipes for ptitim-based gourmet dishes,[4] even as a dessert.[6]

Similar products[edit]

Pearl-shaped ptitim is very similar to the Ashkenazi Jewish farfel, which was brought to Israel by Ashkenazi Jews from Europe beginning in the 1800’s. Farfel was likely ptitim’s predecessor, as the two are very similar and are often substituted for each other.

Ptitim is also coincidentally similar in shape to the Levantine and North African pearled couscous which pre-date it,[11] known as maftoul or moghrabieh in Jordan, Lebanon, Palestinian territories and Syria.[12][3] While the Levantine dish is a coated couscous, ptitim is an extruded paste, and the two are very different in terms of taste and preparation.[2]

Ptitim is also similar to the Kabyle berkoukes (aka abazine) and the Sardinian fregula, but these, too, unlike ptitim, are rolled and coated products.

The ptitim variety may also resemble some products of the pastina family, in particular acini di pepe, orzo ("risoni") and stellini. However, unlike pastina, the ptitim grains are pre-baked/toasted[12] to give them their chewy texture and nutty flavor.[6]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Meador, David (14 October 2015). "Squash provides fantastic fall flavors". Living, Food & Drink: Cooking with Local Chefs. The Bradenton Herald.
  2. ^ a b Crum, Peggy (10 February 2010). "Featured Food: Israeli Couscous" (PDF). Recipe for Health. Residential and Hospitality Services, Michigan State University. Retrieved 7 April 2017.
  3. ^ a b Marks, Gil (2010). "Couscous". Encyclopedia of Jewish Food. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. pp. 315–317. ISBN 978-0544186316.
  4. ^ a b c d e Doram Gaunt (9 May 2008). "Ben-Gurion's Rice". Haaretz.
  5. ^ a b c d Gur, Janna (2008). "Simple Pleasures". The Book of New Israeli Food: A Culinary Journey. Schocken Books. p. 127. ISBN 978-0805212242.
  6. ^ a b c d Martinelli, Katherine (3 November 2010). "Ben Gurion's Rice and a Tale of Israeli Invention". Food. The Forward.
  7. ^ "Stocking Your Fridge and Pantry". What Good Cooks Know: 20 Years of Test Kitchen Expertise in One Essential Handbook. America's Test Kitchen. 2016. p. 134. ISBN 978-1940352664.
  8. ^ a b Callard, Abby (22 March 2010). "Newly Obsessed With Israeli Couscous". Arts & Culture. Smithsonian. Washington, D.C.
  9. ^ Sharon Wrobel (6 July 2006). "Half of Israeli households buy low-fat products". The Jerusalem Post.
  10. ^ a b Faye Levy (5 October 2007). "Petit ptitim". The Jerusalem Post.
  11. ^ "Did You Know: Food History - History of Couscous". Retrieved 2019-01-17.
  12. ^ a b "Israeli Couscous". Retrieved 5 June 2012.

External links[edit]