Although bulgur is not as well known as other grains like rice, barley, and quinoa, it is by far my favorite due to its versatility.
If you have never heard of this amazing grain, read on for information on what bulgur is, how to cook it, recipes to use it in, and nutritional benefits.
What is bulgur
Bulgur is an ancient grain whose name literally means cracked wheat. The process of turning wheat into bulgur has been around for thousands of years and originated in the Middle East.
Though its name means cracked wheat, it is not the same thing. This is because bulgur has been precooked, whereas cracked wheat has not.
Bulgur is a quick-cooking form of whole wheat that is produced by parboiling and drying it before packaging. Since it is precooked, it requires minimal cooking time and can be ready to eat in a fraction of the time of other whole grains like barley or brown rice.
This hearty grain comes in a variety of textures, rated on a scale from one to four, with number one being fine and number four being extra coarse.
Different types of bulgur wheat require different cooking times–anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes–so check package directions.
With a slightly nutty flavor and a chewy texture, bulgur is a terrific addition to salads and many other dishes.
You will find bulgur in many grocery stores, and Bob’s Red Mill carries at least two different varieties. Health food and specialty stores usually have it in the bulk food section where it can be purchased by the scoop.
What I love the most about bulgur is that it has a crumbly, ground beef texture–that can be used in dishes like tacos, lasagna, and spaghetti–and it soaks up the flavors of whatever spices you happen to be cooking with.
It has a great chewy texture, along with the wonderful flavor of the seasonings of the dish.
Nutritional value of bulgur
One cup of cooked bulgur is 151 calories, 8 grams of fiber, and 5.6 grams of protein. One serving also covers 10% of your daily need of iron.
Eating bulgur wheat may help to alleviate chronic inflammation, thereby protecting against some diseases.
In a clinical study published in the February 2008 issue of the “American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,” researchers found that people who consumed higher amounts of betaine, a metabolite found in whole wheat, had lower concentrations of homocysteine, a marker of chronic inflammation that has been linked to heart disease, osteoporosis, Alzheimer’s disease and type 2 diabetes.–LiveStrong
Cooking wheat bulgur
As one of the easiest grains to cook, bulgur can be ready in just minutes. It comes in a variety of textures.
Fine grade cooks the quickest and is commonly used for breakfast cereals and in salads. Soak fine bulgur in water or vegetable broth for 30 minutes, then drain and toss with salads. Cooking is not necessarily required.
Medium grade is usually cooked by stirring 1 cup of the grain in 2 to 2 1/2 cups of boiling water or broth, then covering it until the liquid is absorbed. This grade is used in the familiar tabouleh salad or as a stuffing for vegetables such as bell peppers and squashes.
Coarse grade is simmered the same way as rice, in a tightly covered saucepan. This is great for pilafs, stews, soups, chili, burgers, and anywhere you would normally use other grains.
It is common to substitute one kind of bulgur for another, but you will likely need to reduce the water or cooking time to keep it from becoming mushy.
My personal preference is to cook bulgur in a rice cooker or steamer, because it simplifies everything. I add bulgur, water, press the button, and walk away. For bulgur, I usually use the brown rice setting, though the white rice setting works too.
No need to stir or worry about it sticking or overcooking. My rice steamer is used for quinoa, burgur, and rice on a weekly basis. It just makes things so much simpler. The brand I used is pictured below.
I normally make large batches of bulgur and freeze it for use in dishes like tacos, lasagna, beans, spaghetti, and so much more. Having it already cooked and on-hand cuts down on food prep time and gets dinner to the table faster.
Recipes with bulgur wheat
We eat bulgur at my house at least weekly. These are some of our favorite recipes that call for bulgur.
Healthy Girl’s Kitchen has an oil-free bulgur Tabbouleh recipe that looks delicious!
Substitutes for bulgur in recipes
There are some gluten-free substitutes that can be used for bulgur, depending on the recipe.
- buckwheat groats
- roasted brown rice couscous
- faro (slightly ground in food processor or blender)
- shredded cauliflower
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