Couscous with chick peas and grape molasses

October 21, 2010  •  Category:


This couscous  is inspired by a country dish I had read about in Chef Ramzi’s Culinary Heritage of Lebanon in which chick peas are cooked in grape molasses and water for hours till tender.

To add some depth of flavor, couscous, caramelized onions, a whole head of garlic and a generous pinch of  zaatar or oregano are added to this rustic plate.

Sweet and very nutritious.

Grape molasses is loaded with iron, vitamins (C and A amongst them), and minerals (calcium); the chick peas provide  protein and fiber and of course the onion and garlic all the antioxidants your heart would desire.


  • 1/2 cup of grape molasses (can substitute another molasses)
  • 4 cups of water
  • 2 cups of cooked chick peas (a large can of 28 ounces or two regular cans)
  • a tablespoon of zaatar or oregano
  • pinch of allspice, black pepper, salt to taste
  • 2 teaspoons of fresh lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 cups of large-grain couscous (aka moghrabiyeh)
  • 1 1/2 pounds of boiling onions, peeled and chopped
  • 1 head of garlic
  • olive oil, as needed


  1. Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil; add the chopped onions and fry for 45 minutes over very low heat until the onion are caramelized; add the garlic cloves and fry a few minutes.
  2. Drain the can of chick peas and rinse the chick peas well. Drop them in the pot, add 4 cups of water and 1/2 cup of grape molasses. Bring to a simmer and lower the heat and cook for 30 minutes. Sprinkle zaatar or oregano, black pepper, salt, allspice. Add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice from half a lemon.
  3. Drop the couscous in the pot. Stir and let it simmer slowly for about 45 minutes or until the couscous grains are firm but soft and chewy or al dente and the mixture is still moist but thick. Serve warm.

NOTE: The zaatar is  sold in leaves. Here it does not refer to the mix sold in stores, also called zaatar.  It can be substituted with oregano.

NOTE: The large-grain couscous is named moghrabiyeh in Lebanon and is sold packaged in  Middle-Eastern stores. It is made with semolina.


20 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. Katerina says:

    Although I am not very fond of chickpeas I love the idea of cooking them in grape molasses. I will try and see the results. Great idea. Perhaps this way I will like them better.

  2. Joanne says:

    I really need to try to locate some grape molasses here because you make it look and sound so delicious!

  3. Stevie says:

    This dish looks really good! What flavor does grape molasses have? Is it grape-y or just sort of molasses-y? Does it make the dish very sweet, like a savory dessert? I’m very curious about it. I will look for that special ingredient and try this recipe once I’ve located it.

    • Joumana says:

      Stevie: grape molasses has a faint smell of pumpkin to me; the best grape molasses should have sediments at the bottom; the absolute best is when in it made by an artisan or homemaker and only a certain variety of grapes is the best grapes to use; without all this, the ones available at the store are OK; I like the brand I used this time, which is called Tazah and is made in Syria. Grape molasses makes the dish taste sweet, without that nauseating sweetness that comes from refined white sugar. I have used it in cookies and cakes and in puddings, even in drinks with a touch of orange blossom. It is a great product and I am planning to learn how to make it!

  4. Susan says:

    This dish sounds so good with the molasses! I, also, need to start a quest for finding grape molasses.

  5. Barbara says:

    (I’m still laughing at chewing gum making us look like camels!!)

    Long cooking chickpeas in grape molasses reminds me a bit of baked beans…..

  6. Adelina says:

    I just saw grape molasses in the store and thought what I can use it for… then I come to your site and voila. Looks great. I wish I can keep a binder of your recipes on hand.

  7. grace says:

    i love, love, love the texture of israeli couscous, and your combination of ingredients here is so enticing! great recipe indeed.

  8. peter says:

    What a wonderful idea to include grape molasses (petimezi) in the the braising liquid for the chickpeas. These old ingredients are still relevant – great in the kitchen.

  9. Spoon and Chopsticks says:

    Awesome dish with molasses. I have never tried molasses in cooking. This looks great.

  10. Conor @ HoldtheBeef says:

    I haven’t made a moghrabiyeh dish for a long time, and this looks fab – I love how much garlic is required! No vampires round here. Will be keeping my eyes open at my local international food store for the grape molasses, from memory they seem to have many molasses varieties so I should be in luck 🙂

  11. Fouad says:

    So interesting Joumana. Was the original dish meant to be a dessert? How would you classify this one, a savoury course or a dessert?

    Are you as infuriated as I am with chef Ramzi’s stupid recipes that ask you to put an ingredient on the side and never use it? LOL

    • Joumana says:

      No, one time I was trying to follow one of his recipe and the ingredients were so off , I sent him an e-mail and got an apology and a correction; in Beirut I bought his book again, except in Arabic and it seems a lot more accurate. I admire the scope of what he tried to do, I don’t know how long it took him, but it was a very ambitious project to eport on every nook and cranny of Lebanon.
      The dish I would say is savory, even though it tastes sweet; kind of like bake Boston beans in the US which have molasses added to them. In his book he does not specify if it is a dessert or not; but I am fairly certain it is not; simply because he has listed other recipes like harak essba’o, which is a like a bread pudding with grape molasses, bread and samneh.

  12. TastyTrix says:

    Well, since I finally found the right sort of pomegranate molasses I think would like to try it with that – what do you think?

    By the way – thanks for stopping by the blog! I stop by and read yours whenever I can. but I have been so busy I never seem to have time to leave a comment these days. xoxo!

    • Joumana says:

      Hello Trix, and I totally understand! As far as the pomegranate molasses, it has a sourness to it; the grape molasses is sweet all the way with an undercurrent taste of pumpkin. I would check the stew half-way through and maybe add a bit of brown sugar, if you are going with the pom molasses.

  13. Murasaki Shikibu says:

    Grape molasses! I’m always delighted when I discover ingredients I didn’t know about. The more I read your blog, the more I want to go to Lebanon.

  14. branden daine says:

    I love to eat chickpeas. Also the recipe is quite interesting. Also grape is an interesting combination to add.
    mole remover

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