Low-Sodium Risotto-Style Coconut Couscous

In the world of starches, rice always proves to be a reliable side; but for something more seductive, let risotto be the star of the meal. Hearty from plump Arborio rice and creamy from a combination of butter and cheese, a good risotto will melt on the plate and complement a range of ingredients, from crab to asparagus.

But to properly cook risotto, most recipes call for chicken or vegetable stock (which sometimes contains 1,000 milligrams of sodium per 1 cup, depending on brand) and Parmesan (over 300 milligrams per 1/4 cup, depending on brand). Between those ingredients and salty add-ons like cured meats or bacon, some recipes start to skyrocket in sodium. So for those looking to limit their sodium intake or needing to eat dairy-free, a combination of Israeli couscous and coconut milk makes a worthy swap — and an equally showstopping dish.

Instead of the stock and Parmesan, coconut milk provides a creamy texture and only 0 to 20 milligrams of sodium per 1/3 cup, depending on the brand. A quick toast to the couscous and a blend of orange juice, aromatics and spices will add some tang and savory flavors to balance out the sweetness. As an added plus, while Arborio rice typically contains no sodium, the couscous requires much less attention and time in the pot. This makes it not only a low-sodium substitute, but a quick one for busier nights of the week as well.

You can serve this dish as is, top it with roasted vegetables, sauteed mushrooms or grilled shrimp, or complete the meal with grated zucchini or butternut squash for more of that cheese-like look and feel. For those guests who can handle the sodium, offer Parmesan for sprinkling, on the side.


Serves 4 to 6
Active Time: 20 minutes

2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cups Israeli couscous
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 white onion, minced
1 cup orange juice
1 cup canned lite coconut milk
2 cups water (or low-sodium chicken broth)
1 teaspoon salt-free garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon red chili pepper flakes
Pinch freshly ground black pepper

In a large saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat.  Add the couscous and let it toast until slightly crispy and golden brown, about 1 to 2 minutes. Add the garlic and onions and cook until they soften, about 5 minutes.

Add the orange juice, coconut milk, water and spices. Bring to a boil. Then lower heat to a simmer and continue cooking until the couscous absorbs all the liquid, about 8 to 10 minutes. Serve while warm, or keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Sodium Content: Canned lite coconut milk: 0 to 20 mg of sodium per 1/3 cup, depending on the brand.

All sodium counts based on the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference release 26 and common marketplace products.

Jessica Goldman Foung began the blog SodiumGirl.com to capture her adventures in a low-sodium life. She regularly writes about salt-free flavor tips and ingredient swaps. Her first cookbook was Sodium Girl’s Limitless Low-Sodium Cookbook, and she is currently working on her second, to be released in 2016.

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