Bulgur Pilaf

4.99 from 368 votes

This Lebanese style Bulgur Pilaf recipe is hearty, healthy and delicious; it is full of fiber and infinitely customizable. Easy recipe for bulgur wheat.

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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.

Mediterranean style bulgur pilaf in a white bowl

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.

Ingredients

  • 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.

RECIPE VIDEO TUTORIAL

How do you make bulgur pilaf

  1. Start by cooking the onions with olive oil, then adding the tomato paste, green peppers and chopped tomatoes.
  2. Cook everything together until the tomato paste becomes fragrant and the peppers soften.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Cover the bulgur mixture with 3 cups of warm or boiling liquid and then close the lid and remove the pot from the heat.
  6. 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.
Step by step tutorial shots showing how to make the recipe in a stockpot

The end result is tender, delicious and fluffy bulgur pilaf that can be customized however you’d like!

Fluffing the bulgur with a fork after it's done cooking

Tips for making bulgur pilaf

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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

Where can you buy bulgur wheat?

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.

What number bulgur wheat is best for this recipe?

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.

What do you serve with bulgur wheat pilaf?

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
Beef Shawarma
Beef Kafta
Chicken Shish Tawook

What’s the difference between bulgur and cracked wheat?

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.

Two plates of bulgur pilaf topped with parsley, olives and onions

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:

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!

Bulgur pilaf plated with onions and green olives

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!

Bulgur Pilaf

This Lebanese style Bulgur Pilaf recipe is hearty, healthy and delicious; it is full of fiber and infinitely customizable. Easy recipe for bulgur wheat.
5 from 368 votes
Servings 6 servings
Course Side Dish
Calories 190
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 15 mins
Total Time 20 mins

Ingredients
  

  • 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 cumin
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 canned chickpeas rinsed and drained
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 tablespoon parsley finely chopped

Instructions

  • 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.

Video

Notes

Storage: Store any leftovers in an airtight container. They will last up to 5 days and can be reheated in the microwave or enjoyed cold.
Substitutes: For best results, follow the recipe as is. However here are some common substitutes that would work well in this recipe.
  • 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.

Nutrition

Calories: 190kcal, Carbohydrates: 32g, Protein: 6g, Fat: 6g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Sodium: 913mg, Potassium: 438mg, Fiber: 8g, Sugar: 3g, Vitamin A: 412IU, Vitamin C: 20mg, Calcium: 33mg, Iron: 2mg

Nutrition information provided is an estimate. It will vary based on cooking method and specific ingredients used.

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Mediterranean style bulgur pilaf in white bowls

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Comments

  1. Loved this recipe! I found a bag of bulgar in my pantry that I wanted to use. Did a quick search and found this recipe. Definitely recommend it 🙂 <3

  2. Awesome! This was so delicious that we started eating it without the side dishes! I had to leave it on a low heat for a little longer to reduce the liquid but it was perfect otherwise!

  3. Made this tonight – it was wonderful!!! Too much for two people to eat, so wondering if I can freeze the leftovers. This recipe is a keeper!!!

    1. I’m so happy to hear that you both enjoyed! You can store any leftovers in an airtight container. In the fridge, it will last up to 5 days and can be reheated in the microwave or enjoyed cold. It should also be fine stored in the freezer.

  4. I’m back to say I’ve made this dish several times and it keeps well. It’s so nice to have a big batch of this nutritious meal that can be microwaved and still tastes just as good as freshly made!

    For those who said it was a soupy mess, it might be because the temperature was lowered too much by the broth/chickpeas. Perhaps they were cold. I recommend bringing the water back up to a boil before turning off the heat.

    I make half the recipe and it feeds me and my husband for one dinner, plus me for two more lunches. Anyway, thanks again for what’s become one of my go-to recipes!

  5. I LOVE this recipe — used it more as a guide. I had some bulgur wheat that had been sitting on my shelf awhile and wanted to use it. Then, I went to town! Instead of green peppers, I used a partial bag of frozen veggies that had been in freezer awhile; instead; I added 1.5 tsp garam masala to give it an Indian flair, plus some minced garlic; and I doubled the amount of bulgur wheat.

    Thank you for this wonderful recipe!

  6. I used coarse bulgar. What do I do?? Do I have to Pre cook coarse bulgar? I can only find this variety and not the fine bulgar

    1. Just undercook the veges a bit then toss everything in together including chickpeas and low simmer for 15 minutes, take it off the stove rest 15 minutes then fluff the bulgar. Works everytime 👍

  7. This was a flop. I used #1 bulgar wheat. It never absorbed the veggie broth and
    remained loose and soupy. I did not heat the broth prior to adding because the directions did not say to heat the broth. I made no substitutes with the ingredients or
    cooking time. So disappointed. Can’t imagine what went wrong.

    1. That’s strange. I’m not sure why that’d be the case because I’ve made this multiple times with bulgur wheat and it has worked.

  8. My family are not tabouli fans but I had organic fine brown bulgur so looked for something esle I could make with it. I made your recipe and my family absolutely loved it! Thanks so much, it’s delicious!

    1. Thank you! I would recommend storing any leftovers in an airtight container, as it will last up to 5 days and can be reheated in the microwave or enjoyed cold.

  9. I love bulgur and have tried quite a few different recipes, but this is by far the most tasty. Absolutely delicious! Thank you for sharing it

    1. Nope, no need to! After you add the bulgur, you’ll add 3 cups of chicken broth or water, so that’ll help it cook.

  10. I have just made this to prepare for packed lunches and maybe some to go with dinners next week. It’s absolutely delicious, except I think I added too much water to the bulgar for my first attempt. (it still was a bit soggy after I left it to rest and would not fluff up so readily). Nonetheless, less water next time; it was still very delicious. Thank you, I needed another grain. I got tired with rice and even Freekeh, which is kind of similar to bulgar. I added some sliced green onion (white and green bits) as well as some halved Kalamata olives from the Siwa Oasis in Egypt to the dish.

    1. Thank you! I’m glad you still enjoyed it. This is definitely a great way to switch it up! I love those additions.

  11. Excellent flavor from something so quick and easy to prepare. I bumped up the cumin and served it with steak fajitas. It’s a nice change from rice.

  12. First of all I rarely leave recipe reviews. Too busy with Yelp, VRBO, Trip Advisor, etc. reviews. But, this made my entire day. Pulling a typical “blond” moment – no offense to any other blonds, just me! I grabbed the Farro bag and used that instead of Bulgar. Turned out great. So, if you don’t have Bulgar, Farro definitely works. I also added some red pepper flakes and some garlic salt (I love salt) and used bone broth instead of water. I took the pita and brushed the inside with EVOO mixed with additional garlic salt, pepper, and Cavendar’s seasoning. Then I actually just ate my pita on the side, my vegetarian daughter-in-law stuffed her pita. We had toppings of feta, chopped green onions and pickled red onions. I couldn’t stop just spooning more in to my bowl. Thanks!!!!!

  13. I’m not one to ever leave comments, however, I felt I had to because this recipe is by far the easiest and most delicious! Thank you for sharing this recipe, its surprising how much of a difference the cumin makes, I had made Bulgur Pilaf before without it and it was quite bland but this time around I can’t stop myself eating it from the pan!

  14. Super tasty and extremely easy to make pilaf. ‘Cumin’ is definitely the star of the show, use fresh ingredients (where possible) really uplifts the whole dish! I added a little more spice as I’m an ethnic who couldn’t help it (surprisingly, pilaf was not ruined)

    Thank you Yumna, this recipe was FAB!!

    Looking forward to trying your chicken and quinoa =)

  15. Wow, this is delicious!! I had never made bulgur before and found your recipe. I will be eating this again and again now that I found this. I am also going to try a few of your other recipes!

  16. I love bulgur and did a search to find a different way to use it and this recipe came up and sounded delicious. This dish was not only simple to prepare but it was one of the most satisfying meals I’ve made in a long time! Really really good, thank you!

  17. Loved this one! Easy and nutritious, which is the best combo! Had it with harissa chicken. Even my nearly 2 year old happily ate it 🙂 Thank you for the recipe!

  18. Tasty dish! I had to do some veggie substitutions because I didn’t want to make a grocery run. Used chopped celery and onion powder instead of onion and cilantro instead of parsley. You’re right, the cumin (and tomato) is key. After that, I think almost any chopped veggie would be good in this! Yummy!

  19. It was my first time to try bulgur and i bought the coarse type, and I was hesitant at first with the cumin, but i think without it this wont be a tasty dish, all of the elements blend well together, thanks for sharing this dish.

  20. This has been my go to lunch for a week now! Yummy, I add something new everyday, love the lettuce/feta cheese combo with grilled chicken. Thank you!!!

  21. This was so delish! Made it for lunch and it was quick and easy. Added a bit of chilli flakes as we like our food a bit spicy. Also added grilled haloumi cheese as a side/topper. Worked a treat.

    Thank you for the lovely recipe.

    1. Oh wow, I think something happened to the recipe card!! It’s back now. I’m so sorry about that!!

  22. This recipe looks good but I can’t find where you have amounts for the ingredients. How much onion, tomato paste, green pepper, chopped tomato, cumin?? Would be helpful.

    1. Click on “Jump to Recipe” or scroll down to the blue box at the bottom and that’s where you’ll find the full recipe. Hope that helps! 🙂

      1. Hi Yumna,
        Thanks for your reply. There is no ‘jump to recipe’ on this recipe and when I scroll down the recipe isn’t showing. I have checked on my iPhone as well as my computer. When I looked at another recipe of yours (Mujadara – yummy) I can find it easily. Wondering if it’s an issue on your end?? Anyway, no worries I can figure it out.

        1. I am having the same problem. There is no JUMP TO.. option, nor is there a blue box at the bottom. There is something wrong with the site.

          1. Hi Roberta – I recently updated the photos for this post and it looks like I accidentally deleted the recipe box on this recipe, but it’s back now. Can you double check that you are seeing it? Thank you for your patience.

    2. I’m so sorry for my previous answer. Another person just commented that they couldn’t find the recipe either and it looks like the recipe card was accidentally deleted. It’s now back and working fine. Thank you for bringing this to my attention.

  23. Looking for whole grain recipes to replace pasta and rice. I hate quinoa! This is yummy, quick, filling, nutritious. With pita and a protein, beans or fish, it’s a lunch!

      1. Excited to make this this evening – I’d planned to double up on portions but only have one can of chickpeas. Could mix with butter beans, black eyed beans, pinto beans or mixed beans – is there one you think would work best? Thanks

          1. Thank you, I went with black eyed beans and it was delicious! Topped with some vegan ‘feta style cheese’ and chilli flakes and served with pitta. I’ll definitely be making this regularly!

  24. I tried this recipe with a minor adjustment. After sautéing the tomato paste, I added finely chopped white onion and garlic paste and sautéed in the cooked tomato paste until onions were soft. I didn’t add red onion or green bell pepper and it still tasted amazing. Thank you for the recipe.

    1. I love that idea of sautéing the onions with the tomato paste. So glad you tried the recipe and enjoyed it! Thank you for sharing!!