It's no secret that as Arabs, we love to eat food that requires a lot of grains... mainly rice. Usually always rice. So when things get a little boring with rice (does this even happen?), enter this Bulgur Pilaf. And when Bulgur does enter your life... you're going to be wondering why you haven't tried this sooner. This Bulgur Pilaf is SO GOOD, cooked with onions, tomatoes and chickpeas. It's a staple in the Iraqi kitchen and we often use it instead of rice to change things up. It has a nutty taste that is unreal!
Table of contents
What is Bulgur?
Bulgur is cracked whole grain wheat that is parboiled and dried, which is why it cooks faster than other whole grains such as brown rice. It is sold in different sizes, and they're either numbered (1-3 or 4) or labelled as fine, medium, coarse or extra coarse. Fine bulgur (#1) is used in salads like Tabouli and doesn't require cooking. It just needs to soak in water. Medium bulgur (#2-3) is generally used in food like Kibbeh, while coarse or extra coarse bulgur (#3-4) is used in Pilafs.
In this Bulgur Pilaf, we use coarse bulgur (see below) which generally needs about 1.5-2 cups water for every 1 cup of Bulgur (similar to long grain rice). If you're unsure about the size of your bulgur, check the package label for guidance on cooking ratio.
You can find Bulgur in many ethnic or Arabic grocery stores or in the international aisle of your local grocery store.
Is Bulgur healthy?
Bulgur is used commonly in Arabic and Turkish cuisine and is considered a staple grain. It's packed with vitamins and minerals, and has a good amount of fibre. Fibre rich food is always great to include in your diet. In fact, bulgur actually has more than twice the amount of fibre found in brown rice. And it cooks way faster! Have I convinced you to try it yet?
Ingredients used to make this Bulgur Pilaf
- Coarse bulgur (look for the word "coarse" or #3-4 on your package)
- Onion which adds amazing flavour
- Tomato for acidity
- Tomato paste to get the desired red colour
- Chickpeas for added protein and flavour. I used canned chickpeas. If using dry chickpeas, make sure you pre-boil them so they're cooked before adding to this dish
- Water or you can use chicken stock if you have it for extra flavour
- Vegetable oil along with salt and pepper
- Optional vegetable add-ins: diced bell pepper, mushrooms, or peas
How to make this dish:
- Prep the onion and tomato by dicing them finely
- Cook the onion with the vegetable oil in a non-stick pot until soft and translucent
- Add the tomato, tomato paste, and chicken stock cube and cook for for a further 5 minutes
- Add the washed chickpeas, water, and seasoning. Mix well and allow everything to come to a boil. Once boiling, you can taste and adjust for salt
- Add the bulgur and mix well. Cover the pot and turn the heat down to low and leave it undisturbed for 20 minutes
- Let it stand for a further 5-10 minutes then fluff it with a fork, serve and enjoy!
- Optional step: traditionally, we pour hot oil on top of the bulgur before serving. You can definitely do this and it'll enhance everything, but I usually don't so I can keep it light. It tastes amazing without it too!
How to serve Bulgur:
At my house, this bulgur pilaf is served with a vegetable salad or with a cucumber yogurt mint salad as pictured. You can even just serve it with plain yogurt and persian chicken kabobs. Another way to serve it is in place of rice with dishes like fasolia (white bean stew) or okra stew. When serving it in place of rice, I typically cook it plain, without the chickpeas and tomato.
For more grain and rice recipes, check out:
Bulgur Pilaf (with Tomatoes and Chickpeas)
- 2 cups coarse bulgur
- 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 onion diced
- 1 to mato diced
- 4 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 can chickpeas 540mL
- 1 chicken stock cube or vegetable if vegetarian
- 1.5 teaspoons salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 3.5 cups water
- In a non-stick pan, start by adding the vegetable oil and cooking the onion on medium heat for 3-5 minutes until softened
- Add the tomato paste, diced tomato and chicken stock cube and continue to cook for 5 minutes, stirring often
- Wash and drain the chickpeas and add them to the pot along with the 3.5 cups water, salt, and black pepper. Allow everything to come to a boil
- Once boiling, add the washed and drained bulgur and mix well. Cover the pot, turn the heat down to low, and allow it to cook undisturbed for 20 minutes
- After 20 minutes, turn the heat off and let it stand for 5-10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve
- The water ratio specified should be perfect, but because the type of bulgur can differ, if you taste the bulgur after cooking and you feel it is still too firm, simply add a splash of water (about ½ cup), cover the pot and allow it to cook on low heat for 5-10 minutes. The additional steam should help soften it more.
- Optional add-ins: diced bell pepper, peas, or mushrooms. You can add them in with the onion and allow it to soften before moving on to the next step.
- Optional: you can also heat about a cup of vegetable oil and when it's hot, pour it on top of the bulgur when it is done cooking and just before serving. This is how it is traditionally served but I skip this step to keep the bulgur pilaf lighter