The Beauty of Bulgur


Bulgur is one of the ancient grains that has lost favor with the modern cooking world. That is a real crying shame because bulgur is a whole grain food that is very low in fat, cholesterol, and sodium, while still a good source of protein, fiber, Manganese and other essential vitamins and minerals.  Bulgur is also a good substitute for rice and almost makes brown rice look like junk food:

Bulgur vs. Brown Rice

1 cup cooked = 1 cup cooked

151 calories = 215 calories

.44 g fat = 1.8 g fat

8.2 g fiber = 3.5 g fiber

32.8 mcg folate = 7.8 mcg folate

Bulgur is from whole wheat kernels that have been cleaned, parboiled or steamed, dried, and then crushed to form different distinct textures.  Each texture lends itself to certain uses and cooking methods.

The coarse texture is an almost perfect substitute for rice as previously mentioned.  It needs to be cooked, depending on your recipe for at least 20 minutes to become tender.  It is a bit nutty and chewy.  If you are used to only eating white rice, it will take a little getting used to.

Medium grind bulgur is lighter in color than the coarse grind.  It also doesn’t really have to be cooked.  You can just cover it with hot water and let it sit for 20 minutes or so.  I think this is the type most commonly found in the U.S.  It is what is typically used in salads like Tabouleh.  Or this Bulgur Salad with Green Onion Vinaigrette:

Bulgur Salad with Green Onion Vinaigrette

  • 1/2 cup medium grain bulgur
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 bunch flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 green onions
  • 2 Roma tomatoes
  • 2 lemons
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

Bring water to a boil, then combine with the bulgur.  Cover with a clean tea towel and let cool.  This will “cook” the bulgur.

Finely chop the parsley, green onions, and tomatoes and place into your serving bowl.  Squeeze the juice from one lemon over the chopped ingredients (have the other on hand in case you need more lemon juice to taste).

Stir in the olive oil (use either regular olive oil or extra-virgin olive oil) and season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Stir in the cooled bulgur; taste and adjust seasonings.

This salad will keep 2 to 3 days in the refrigerator.

Fine bulgur is similar to the medium in that it does not have to cook.  It just needs to soak in boiling water to become tender.  This grind can also be used for salads, but I like it especially for soups.

Turkish Red Lentil Soup (Kirmizi Mercimek Çorbasi)

Ingredients
  • 10 -12 cups beef stock
  • 3 cups red lentils, picked over and rinsed (red lentils cook faster than brown lentils)
  • 3 teaspoons salt, divided
  • 2 cups onions, chopped
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup fine grain bulgur
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (or more to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 4 tomatoes, chopped
  • 6 ounces tomato paste
  • 1 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • yogurt, for garnish

Directions

  1. In a large pot, bring to a boil 10 to 12 cups of water; add lentils, 2 teaspoons salt, cover and reduce heat, letting simmer for 30 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, heat another pot, over medium heat, and add onions, cover with olive oil, and 1 teaspoon salt; once it begins to sizzle, reduce heat to low and cover for about 5 minutes.
  3. To the second pot, add bulgur, pepper, cayenne, and cumin; stir until lightly browned.
  4. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, parsley, and 4 cups chicken broth; bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes.
  5. Pour the contents of the second pot into the large soup pot with the lentils; cover and simmer until the bulgur and the lentils are soft, about an additional 40 minutes.
  6. You may add additional water if you like a thinner soup (as we do).
  7. Stir in lemon juice; serve a dollop of yogurt with each serving, if desired.

Red Lentil Soup

There is also a very fine grind of bulgur which is used in meatballs.  At least that is what is written on the package I bought.  I thought what a great idea and use it instead of bread crumbs.

Mediterranean Style Meatloaf

Ingredients

  •  1 egg
  • 1/2 onions, chopped
  • 1 celery ribs, chopped
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/2 cup bulgur wheat ( fine)
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 lb ground beef

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F; place a rack over a rimmed baking sheet (I use a metal cookie cooling rack).
  2. In a large mixing bowl, lightly beat egg.
  3. Add in onion, celery, ketchup, bulgur, cheese, cumin, oregano and season with salt and pepper to taste; mix well.
  4. Add ground beef and mix well; using your hands works best.
  5. Shape loaf to desire size and shape and place in the center of the rack.
  6. Bake until an instant read meat thermometer registers 165 degrees F, about 45 minutes.