What is Maftoul?

April 18, 2022
Maftoul – or maftool – is the iconic Palestinian giant couscous loved by top UK chefs. Delicious in salads, risottos and pilafs, the maftoul pearls are skillfully rolled by hand for a satisfying texture and a nutty moreish flavour.

Palestinian giant couscous

Unique to Palestine, Maftoul is hand-rolled by women who get together after the harvest to crack, hand-roll and dry the large grains in the abundant Palestinian sunshine, just as their grandmothers have done for generations. While other forms of giant couscous are to be found in the Levant, they predominantly use semolina. Zaytoun sources Maftoul made from organic bulgur wheat, producing a flavour and texture profile that is unique to Palestine.

Maftoul is an Arabic word derived from the root “fa-ta-la” which means to roll or to twist. This traditional grain takes time and skill to make, yet cooks in just 12 minutes! The resulting ‘bite’ and nutty, earthy flavour of the maftoul pearls make it a delicious alternative to other grains as either a main dish or a hearty accompaniment.

Grown on family owned lands using regenerative farming practices, wheat is key to Palestinian food sovereignty, a source of food security and was the dominant grain in Palestinian kitchens for centuries.

For women’s co-operatives in rural Palestine maftoul production provides a sustainable source of income. Bassema Barahmeh, a coordinator at Anza village women’s co-operative, spoke of her pride in her work:

“As a Palestinian woman, I pass these traditions on to the next generation of women in order to preserve Palestinian culture and connect them with their heritage, and also to offer them the chance to be future leaders in the community”.

The time and skilled artisanship required to create these delicious pearls have earned our maftoul a prestigious Great Taste Award.

“Visually appealing, plump pearls of grain. The aroma is deeply earthy and smells of goodness. On eating, the grains retain a welcome bite…it has a simple but complex flavour and is very, very tasty.”

The Great Taste judges
How to freestyle a maftoul salad

Maftoul is a versatile grain and a great way to zhuzh up your summer salads. Simply add some salad leaves and herbs to a bowl of cooked maftoul, pop in some roasted tomatoes, drizzle with dressing and top with grilled haloumi, roast chicken or crispy tofu for a meal full of texture and flavour.

Take a look below for suggestions and ideas, and follow the campaign hashtag #ThisIsNotCouscous

Maftoul recipes

This maftoul recipe from our friends at Riverford Organics is inspired by Saganaki; a traditional Greek appetiser of fried cheese….
A refreshing recipe for a hearty green salad made with maftoul – also known as Palestinian giant couscous – and…
A seasonal recipe for Palestinian giant couscous, also known as maftoul or maftool – you can spell it both ways!…

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