A Middle Eastern staple, Bulgur Pilaf is a hearty, nutritious side dish full of warm flavor, fresh veggies, and plenty of fiber. Pair it with beef or chicken, stuff it in pita bread, or eat it with a spoon!
What Is Bulgur?
Bulgur, also known as bulgar, is a cracked whole grain that is parboiled and dried to create a nutty flavor and slightly chewy texture. It is a staple in Middle Easter recipes like tabouli. A nutritious ingredient, bulgur wheat is full of fiber and nutrients. In fact, it contains less fat and more fiber than brown rice, making it a satisfying option for all your favorite meals.
What’s the Difference Between Bulgur and Cracked Wheat?
Bulgur is simply cracked wheat that has been parboiled. As a result, cracked wheat takes longer to prepare and has a shorter shelf life.
Health Benefits of Bulgur
Considered to be a whole wheat, a single serving of bulgur provides almost 30% of the daily value of fiber. In addition, it’s a good source of a variety of vitamins, minerals, and plant-based protein. For example, it is particularly high in manganese, magnesium, and iron. As a result, consuming it as part of a balanced diet may help:
- Improve heart health
- Control blood sugar
- Support digestion
Ingredients You’ll Need
Using just 9 pantry staple ingredients, we’ll show you how to create the most delicious bulgur pilaf you’ll ever taste! Here’s what you’ll need:
- Bulgur – Uncooked bulgur forms the base of this dish.
- Olive Oil – Used to sauté the onions, creating a rich base and adding healthy fats for a well-rounded dish.
- Spices – Cumin, salt, and pepper, add just a touch of heat and plenty of flavor.
- Aromatics – Onion and garlic are sautéed to tender perfection for a hint of punchy sweetness.
- Tomato Paste – This helps add extra savory flavor and creates a thick texture we adore.
- Water – This is crucial to combine the ingredients and allow the bulgur to cook.
If you want to bulk this recipe up even more, try experimenting with different flavor variations and add-ins. For instance, some of our favorite ways to switch it up include:
- Fresh Herbs – Fold in fresh herbs like mint or parsley for a light, refreshing taste.
- Nuts – Add extra crunch with chopped nuts like almonds or peanuts
- Protein – Include chickpeas, ground, turkey, or ground beef to transform this side into a complete meal.
- Veggies – Add a boost of nutrients and texture with veggies like carrots, bell peppers, broccoli, and mushrooms.
How to Make Bulgur Pilaf
If you’ve never made bulgur pilaf, don’t be intimated! The process is very similar to creating rice or quinoa and is super easy to do.
- Prepare the Bulgur. Before you begin, you’ll want to rinse and drain the bulgur a few times to eliminate any debris or extra starch and set it aside.
- Sauté. Heat the oil in a large pot over medium heat, and sauté the onion until it is translucent. Then, stir in the minced garlic and cumin, and continue to cook until fragrant.
Pro-Tip: Make sure you use a big enough pot! Bulgur will more than double in volume as it cooks. So, you’ll want to make sure it has plenty of room to expand!
- Combine. Add the tomato paste, stirring until it is well combined. Then, sprinkle in the salt and pepper, and add the bulgur to the pot. Stir again to combine.
- Cook. Turn the heat to medium-high, and add the water. Once simmering, reduce the heat, cover the pot with a lid, and let the ingredients cook until the water is almost completely evaporated.
- Rest. Remove the pot from the heat, and let the bulgur pilaf sit. After about 5 minutes, fluff it with a fork, and enjoy!
Shop our favorite pot!
Bulgur pilaf can be used in the same ways you would use any other grain. Some of our favorite ways to use it include:
- In grain bowls with beef kofta, chicken kofta, or Greek meatballs
- Stuffed into pita sandwiches
- Tossed with salads
- As a side with protein sources like Middle Eastern chicken or baked feta Salmon
How to Store
Once cooked and fully cooled, bulgur pilaf can be transferred to an airtight container and stored in the fridge for 3-5 days. When you’re ready to eat, just pop it in the microwave in 30-second intervals until it is heated through!
Bulgur Pilaf Common Questions
No, bulgur contains wheat, meaning it has gluten.
Bulgur can often be found in the ethnic food section of grocery stores. Or, it is easy to find online!
Yes, bulgur can be found in different sizes and textures including fine, medium, and coarse. The finer your bulgur, the faster it will cook.
More Side Dish Recipes
Looking for more hearty side dishes to pair with all your favorite meals? Try out more of our staples below!
- One Pot Greek Couscous
- Egyptian Baked Rice (Roz Maamar)
- One Pot Mexican Quinoa Recipe
- Coconut Turmeric Rice
Bulgar Pilaf Recipe
- 2 cups coarse bulgur (rinsed and drained)
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 1 large onion (diced)
- 2 cloves garlic (minced)
- 1 Tablespoon tomato paste
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoons black pepper
- 3 1/2 cups water
- Place the bulgur in a bowl, and rinse a few times. Set it aside.
- Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Sauté the onion until translucent. Add the minced garlic and cumin, cooking for 1 minute or until fragrant.
- Add the tomato paste, and stir to combine.
- Add the salt, pepper, and rinsed bulgur. Stir again to combine.
- Turn the heat to medium-high, and add the water. Bring the ingredients to a simmer. Then, reduce the heat to medium, cover the pot with a lid, and cook 20-25 minutes until the water is almost completely evaporated.
- Remove the pot from the heat, and let the bulgur sit for 5 minutes. Fluff it with a fork, and enjoy!
- Store in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-5 days.