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How to Cook Bulgur & Recipes

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So what is bulgur wheat? 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. Let me show you why with this guide explaining what bulgur is and how to cook and use it in recipes.

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 (not bulgar) 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.

wooden spoon with cooked bulgur beside wooden spoon with uncooked bulgur

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.

cooked bulgur in pan on wooden table
Bulgur is loaded with fiber and other antioxidants.

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.

stainless pot full of vegan chili with wooden spoon
Bulgur Chili for burgers and carrot dogs

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

How to cook wheat bulgur

As one of the easiest grains to cook, bulgur can be ready in just minutes. It comes in a variety of textures.

Types of bulgur

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.

cooked bulgur in stainless pot with spoon

Instant Pot directions

To make bulgur in your Instant Pot, set the temperature to 400°F for 4 minutes. Once it finishes, allow a natural release for 10 minutes.

Tips for cooking bulgur

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, bulgur, and rice on a weekly basis. It just makes things so much simpler. 

I normally make large batches of bulgur wheat 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.

cooked bulgur in pan on wooden table
Cooked bulgur can be stored in a freezer bag in the freezer to save a step in some recipes.

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Recipes with bulgur wheat

We eat bulgur at my house at least weekly. These are some of our favorite recipes that call for bulgur.

No-Meat Loaf with garlic mashed potatoes and gravy

vegan meatloaf on silver plate with mashed potatoes and gravy

Vegan Chili Cheese Fries

plate full of vegan chili cheese fries on wooden table
Vegan Chili Cheese Fries. Click the photo to see the full recipe.

Three-Bean Bulgur Chili


Spinach Black Bean Lasagna

Spinach Black Bean Lasagna made with red bulgur
Spinach Black Bean Lasagna. Click the photo to see the full recipe.

Vegan Chili for Burgers and Carrot Dogs

bulgur chili in white bowl with pot of chili in background on wooden table
Vegan Chili for Carrot Dogs and Burgers. Click the photo to see the full recipe.

Healthy Girl’s Kitchen has an oil-free bulgur Tabbouleh recipe that looks delicious!


Looking for some more healthy recipes to show you what bulgur is good for? This Bulgur Recipes page can help with that!

What is a good substitute for bulgur wheat?

There are some gluten-free options that can be used for a bulgur substitute for those that are avoiding wheat, depending on the recipe. Some of those bulgur replacements include:

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quinoa salad

What is Bulgur / How to Cook & Recipes

Yield: 2 servings
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 15 minutes

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.

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Add 1 cup bulgur to 2 cups water in a saucepan on the stove.
  2. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer for 12 - 15 minutes or until tender.

Rice Cooker Instructions

  1. Place 1 cup bulgur and 2 cups water in cooker. Press brown rice button setting and allow to cook.


Instant Pot Instructions

  1. To make bulgur in your Instant Pot, set the temperature to 400°F for 4 minutes.
  2. Once it finishes, allow a natural release for 10 minutes.

Notes

Detailed instructions, in-process photos, and my personal helpful tips can be found in the article above.

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Nutrition Information:
Yield: 2
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 76Total Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 14mgCarbohydrates: 17gFiber: 4gSugar: 0gProtein: 3g

To obtain the most accurate representation of the nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator. You are solely responsible for ensuring that any nutritional information provided is accurate, complete, and useful.

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photo collage of bulgur recipes for pinterest
What is Bulgur and recipes
Includes easy bulgur recipes.

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Susan

Sunday 23rd of June 2019

I want to make bulgur for a taco bar in place of ground beef. I am thinking that I will just mix in my taco seasonings with the water, then add the bulgur to maximize the taco flavor. I'll be making a big batch so I was thinking I would use 2 cups of bulgur. I'll be cooking it in my instant pot on the rice setting. If you think I should change anything please let me know.

EatPlant-Based.com

Monday 24th of June 2019

Susan,

Adding the taco seasoning to the bulgur while cooking is best. I haven't made bulgur in an InstantPot before. What time and setting did you use?

Janelle

Monday 1st of April 2019

I love burger and have used it long before I went plant based, I just didn’t know it could be used for so many things. Thank you for expanding my knowledge.

EatPlant-Based.com

Monday 1st of April 2019

It's a favorite at my house too. So glad that the article is helpful!

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