This simple bulgur pilaf is made with sautéd onions, vegetable stock, and bulgur wheat. It is served as a side dish or with sautéd vegetables. My favorite way to enjoy it is with eggplant ratatouille.
If you’re unfamiliar with bulgur, you are in for a treat! It is something I quite literally grew up on!
Bulgur is often used in Middle Eastern cuisine. Depending on the country, the recipe for bulgur pilaf varies. There are two main types of recipes, one that uses tomato paste and one that does not. The Lebanese version uses tomato paste, while the Turkish version does not.
This recipe more closely resembles Turkish cuisine. This makes sense since my family is from Armenia, which is close to Turkey.
This is a recipe my family has been making for decades!
An Armenian feast in our house would not be complete without this bulgur pilaf recipe. It has a nutty taste and chewy texture. She made pilaf in two ways. The one I’m sharing today is made with bulgur wheat. The other variety she made was with long-grain white rice and thin vermicelli noodles.
Bulgur pilaf is served as a side dish. It accompanies shish kabab, or for me (always the vegetarian), grilled vegetables, and tofu kebabs!
We also enjoyed this dish with my mom’s favorite eggplant ratatouille.
Why You’ll Love This Bulgur Pilaf
- Quick and Easy
- Substitute for rice
- Fast Cooking Time
- 3 Ingredients
- High in Fiber
Recipe Ingredients and Notes
Bulgur Wheat: You will need one cup of bulgar wheat. You can buy different varieties. I suggest the medium coarse texture.
Vegetable Stock: When my mom made this recipe, she always used chicken broth, but when I became vegetarian, she switched to vegetable stock. It’s a simple switch that makes this recipe vegan-friendly without losing flavor. I recommend using a low-sodium broth. I also use vegetable stock to sauté the onion instead of using oil or butter. This cuts back on the extra calories and fat and keeps this recipe whole food plant-based. As an alternative, you can sauté the onions in 2 teaspoons of olive oil.
Onion: Finely chop one small onion or about ½ a cup of onions chopped.
Tools and Equipment
Medium Saucepan: You will need a medium-sized saucepan. The same type of pot that you would use to make rice.
A spoon or fork to fluff your bulgar when it’s done.
How to Make Bulgur Pilaf
Step 1: Sauté onions in 2 tablespoons of vegetable stock on medium heat until onions turn transparent.
Step 2: Add one cup of bulgur and two cups of broth to the saucepan. Stir to combine. Increase to medium-high heat, and bring to a boil uncovered.
Step 3: Once the broth comes to a boil, reduce the heat. Cover with lid and simmer for 5-8 minutes or until tender.
Step 4: Remove from the heat, and let sit covered until all of the broth has been absorbed. Fluff with a fork and serve!
What are the health benefits of bulgur?
- Low in Calories and Fat: A serving of bulgur wheat is only about 75 calories and less than 1 gram of fat!
- High in Fiber: Whole grains, such as bulgur wheat, are an excellent source of fiber. One serving has 4 grams of fiber, about 15% of the daily recommended value. Fiber helps you feel fuller longer, so you eat less. It also helps with healthy digestion and helps to manage blood sugar levels.
- High in Protein: Bulgur is a good source of plant protein, with 3 grams per serving.
- High in Vitamins and Nutrients: In addition to being high in fiber and protein, bulgur is also a good source of manganese, iron, folate, vitamin B6, niacin, and magnesium.
Bulgar is cracked whole grain kernels of wheat that are parboiled before drying and packaging. The parboiling process helps bulgur cook more quickly than other wheat varieties. It’s a very inexpensive grain.
While making bulgur pilaf is one way to enjoy this grain, you’ll also find it added to salads, like tabbouleh.
I buy it in the bulk section of my local health food store. You can likely find it at Whole Foods or other specialty grocery stores. When I was growing up we always bought it from a Middle Eastern market. If shopping at a large chain grocery store, look for bulgur, where you would buy rice, or in the ethnic food aisle. You can purchase it online if you cannot find it in your local grocery store.
When you bring your bulgur home from the store, transfer it to a dry airtight container. Keep it stored in a cool dark place. I use airtight canisters to store my flour, and grains in my pantry.
It takes about 15-20 minutes to cook. You start by bringing it to a boil, then reduce heat, simmer, and finally take it off to fully absorb the liquid before fluffing it with a fork.
Yes, there are several different varieties. Bulgur comes in fine, medium, and coarse textures. The finer your bulgur, the more quickly it will cook.
No, unfortunately, it is not gluten-free. It comes from wheat, so it does contain gluten.
- Don’t add too much liquid to this Turkish bulgur pilaf. Stick to the 1:2 ratio. Too much vegetable stock will result in wet and sticky bulgur rather than light and fluffy.
- Use low-sodium broth.
- There are different types of bulgur. Before you prepare your recipe, check the type that you have bought. The different sizes range from fine, medium, to coarse. Fine bulgur will only take 5 minutes to cook, while coarse bulgur wheat will take 20 minutes. The directions for this recipe are for medium coarse bulgur. If you’re unsure what type you have, keep an eye on it, and remove it from the heat when you notice most of the liquid has been absorbed.
Variations and Substitutions
Tomato Bulgur Pilaf: The Lebanese version of this recipe adds tomato paste, chopped fresh tomatoes, red pepper, and green pepper. If you’d like to make it this way, add the chopped vegetables to chopped red onion, then add three tablespoons of tomato paste with the vegetable broth.
Fresh Herbs: Finely chop your favorite fresh herbs and fold them into your pilaf before serving. Parsley adds a nice fresh flavor.
Top with Chopped Nuts: For added crunch, top with toasted pine nuts or slivered almonds.
Garlic: If you’d rather not use onion or want a little garlic flavor, add two minced garlic cloves when sautéing the onions.
Main Dish: Make this into a main dish by adding a protein such as lentils or chickpeas, chopped fresh vegetables like green bell peppers and green onion, then top with a dollop of yogurt (vegan or Greek).
How to Store, Keep, and Reheat
Store: Allow cooked bulgur to room temperature before transferring it to an airtight container. Store in the refrigerator.
Keep: Bulgur stored in the refrigerator lasts 3-5 days.
Reheat: When ready to reheat, transfer it to a microwave-safe container—cover, and heat for 30 seconds or until warm.
More Mediterranean Recipes!
- 1 small onion chopped
- 2 cups vegetable stock plus 2 tablespoon to sauté onions
- 1 cup bulgar wheat medium coarse
- Sauté onions in 2 tablespoon of vegetable stock on medium heat until onions turn transparent.
- Reduce heat. Add one cup of bulgar and two cups of broth to the saucepan. Bring to a boil uncovered.
- Once the broth comes to a boil, reduce the heat. Cover and simmer for 5-8 minutes.
- Remove from heat, and let sit covered until all of the broth has been absorbed. Fluff with a fork and serve!
- Don’t add too much liquid. Stick to the 1:2 ratio. Too much vegetable stock will result in wet, sticky bulgar rather than light and fluffy.
- Use low-sodium broth.
- Before you cook your bulgar, check the type that you have bought. Fine bulgar will only take 5 minutes to cook, while very coarse bulgar will take 20 minutes. The directions for this recipe are for medium-coarse bulgar. If you’re unsure what type you have, keep an eye on it, and remove it from the heat, when you notice most of the liquid has been absorbed.
- Allow cooked bulgur to cool completely before transferring it to an airtight container. Store in the refrigerator for 3-5 days. Reheat in the microwave covered in a microwave-safe container until heated through.