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This Lebanese style Bulgur Pilaf recipe is a hearty, healthy and delicious recipe. It’s full of fiber and infinitely customizable however your family likes it! We eat it on its own with a spoon, with pita bread and olive oil like a dip, or as a starchy side with chicken or beef.
In traditional Lebanese cuisine, we eat a lot of rice, couscous and bulgur. And one of my favorite ways of eating bulgur growing up is this way – as a bulgur pilaf! It’s an easy flavorful vegan recipe that you can eat as an entree or side dish.
What is bulgur (bulgar)?
You’ve probably heard of bulgur wheat used to make tabouli and other Mediterranean dishes. It’s a nutty Middle Eastern wheat berries grain, with a chewy texture that comes in a few different sizes. They are labeled in stores from #1 which is super fine, to #4 which is most coarse. Generally you can use the super fine variety in tabouli, and the more coarse variety in with stews.
Compared to processed and refined carbohydrates, whole grains like bulgur wheat contain more filling fiber. Bulgur is a fiber rich food which can improve digestion and gut health. It has fewer calories, less fat and more fiber than brown rice. And given its vitamins and minerals, bulgur can actually support weight loss, according to many weight loss experts.
- Oil: For cooking. I like to use olive oil, but any high heat oil will work well.
- Vegetables: Onion, tomato, green pepper.
- Tomato Paste: For a rich tomatoey flavor.
- Bulgur wheat: High in fiber and low in calories and fat, this nutty grain is super delicious!
- Seasonings: Cumin, salt, pepper and fresh parsley.
- Chickpeas: Chickpeas add a great texture as well as fiber, protein and lots of nutrients.
- Broth: You can use chicken or vegetable broth in this recipe.
How do you make bulgur pilaf
- Start by cooking the onions with olive oil, then adding the tomato paste, green peppers and chopped tomatoes.
- Cook everything together until the tomato paste becomes fragrant and the peppers soften.
- Now, add the fine bulgur on top along with cumin and stir to combine to lightly toast the bulgur and completely coat it with the tomato paste mixture.
- Add chickpeas on top. This is also the part where you can add any other beans, vegetables that don’t require cooking, or pre-cooked meat/chicken.
- Cover the bulgur mixture with 3 cups of warm or boiling liquid and then close the lid and remove the pot from the heat.
- The bulgur will soak in the liquid and swell up on its own without the need to cook it. Wait 10 minutes and fluff with a fork.
The end result is tender, delicious and fluffy bulgur pilaf that can be customized however you’d like!
Tips for making bulgur pilaf
- Don’t rinse the bulgur. Bulgur is pre-cooked wheat berries that has been washed and parboiled generally, so there’s no need to rinse it.
- Make sure to use a large enough pot. Bulgur will more than double in volume when you add the liquid. And it can continue to plump if you add more moisture like olive oil later.
- Don’t skip the cumin. The cumin flavor not only complements the bulgur and the chickpeas really well, but it also helps aid digestion of the bulgur wheat berries.
- Adjust the liquid if the bulgur looks clumpy. I find that a 2:1 ratio for the liquid and fine bulgur works really well for fluffing the bulgur. If it’s not to your satisfaction, you can increase the liquid and the bulgur will continue to fluff up.
- Add beef of chicken. If you’re using beef or chicken on the recipe, you can boil them in advance and use their liquid in place of water in the recipe. You can also saute them first, set them aside and then bring them back at the step when the chickpeas are added.
Frequently asked questions
You can find the bulgur at Middle Eastern markets, natural-foods stores or even in large supermarkets, often located with other Middle Eastern ingredients. You can also buy it online.
Because this recipe does not require cooking the bulgur, I use fine bulgur #1. If you want to use #2 or #3, make sure to cook it with liquid on low for 15 minutes until all the liquid is absorbed.
You can eat the bulgur pilaf as is, or try adding condiments like olives, pickled peppers and extra olive oil and eating with with pita bread. If you’re looking for some Mediterranean protein ideas to serve with the bulgur pilaf, try:
Grilled Chicken Kabobs
Chicken Shish Tawook
Bulgur is wheat berries that are parboiled, dried then broken into pieces. However, cracked wheat is not cooked. It’s raw wheat berries broken into pieces.
I really hope you enjoy this family favorite dish, whether you are recreating something your parents or grandparents used to make to trying a new Mediterranean recipe ! It’s so easy and quick to make and the flavors are so fresh!
For more rice and grain dishes, check out:
- Sayadieh Rice and Fish
- Turmeric Rice Salad
- Tomato Rice Pilaf
- Lebanese Rice
- One-Pot Chicken and Rice
- Jollof Rice
This recipe was originally shared on the blog on November 3, 2016 and has been updated now to include new photos. Here’s the original photo!
If you’ve tried this healthy-ish feelgood Bulgur Pilaf recipe or any other recipe on FeelGoodFoodie, then don’t forget to rate the recipe and leave me a comment below! I would love to hear about your experience making it. And if you snapped some shots of it, share it with me on Instagram so I can repost on my stories!
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 onion finely chopped
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- 1 vine ripe tomato finely chopped
- ¼ green pepper finely chopped
- 1 ½ cups fine bulgur wheat
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 can chickpeas rinsed and drained
- 3 cups chicken broth
- 1 tablespoon parsley finely chopped
- Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until soft and translucent, about 5-7 minutes.
- Stir in the tomato paste, chopped tomatoes and green peppers, and continue to cook with the onions until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes.
- Add the bulgur, cumin, salt and pepper, and stir to combine until the bulgur is completely coated in the tomato paste, about 2-3 minutes.
- Add the chickpeas on top along with 3 cups of chicken broth or water and stir to combine. Remove from heat, close the lid and allow the bulgur to absorb the liquid for 10 minutes. Open the lid and fluff with a fork.
- Serve with chopped parsley and fresh vegetables, if desired.
- Instead of fine bulgur, you can use regular bulgur. But in that case, you will need to cook the bulgur for 15 minutes on a low heat.
- Instead of fresh tomatoes, you can used canned tomatoes. It may help to chop them finely though so they don’t dominate the dish.
- Instead of chickpeas, you can use other beans, other vegetables or even chicken or beef.