Nutritious, convenient and hard to mess up, bulgur wheat is a whole grain food made from whole-wheat berries. The husks are first removed from the berries before they are steamed, dried and crushed to either a fine, medium or coarse grind. Because bulgur is pre-cooked, it can be prepared without using a pot by soaking it in boiling water. Any leftover soaked bulgur can be frozen for fast, whole-grain meals on busy work nights.
Freezing Bulgur Wheat
Unlike delicate whole grains such as amaranth and teff, even fine-ground bulgur wheat can be frozen. The method for freezing is the same whether bulgur is of fine, medium or coarse ground. After soaking, spread leftover bulgur in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Slide the cookie sheet into the freezer and check it after 20 minutes. When the grains start to develop ice crystals and feel firm but not yet frozen, scoop them into zipper-style plastic bags and lay them flat in the freezer. Alternatively, freeze bulgur in plastic containers with tight-fitting lids.
Serving Frozen Bulgur
You can use your frozen bulgur straight from the freezer without thawing to thicken soups or stews. Add the frozen grain to stir-fry dishes near the end of cooking, stirring in the bulgur and heating until it is warm all the way through. To serve frozen bulgur in a chilled salad dish, remove it from the freezer the night before and allow it to thaw in the refrigerator before tossing it with other ingredients. Once bulgur has been soaked, frozen and re-cooked, do not re-freeze. Instead, refrigerate any leftovers in a sealed container.
In the refrigerator, soaked bulgur keeps in an airtight container for up to one week. To soak, pour hot water over the grains and let them sit; a lid will keep the grain hot. How long to soak bulgur depends on the coarseness of the grind, but keep in mind that grains plump up as they rehydrate, so use a large bowl. Allow 10 to 15 minutes of soaking time for fine bulgur, 15 to 20 for medium and 25 minutes or up to two hours for coarse bulgur. For a firmer texture — especially good for chilled salads such as tabbouleh — soak the bulgur in cold water four to five hours or until the grain is soft all the way through.
If you’re pressed for time and out of frozen bulgur, whip up a fresh batch by boiling bulgur in a saucepan for five minutes. Unlike brown rice, bulgur is fast cooking, forgiving and able to handle too much or not enough water without clumping. For best results, plan to use slightly less than double the amount of water per cup of bulgur used. For example, to cook 1 cup of bulgur, use 1 3/4 cup of water. Bring the water to a rolling boil, add the bulgur and cook on a low simmer for five minutes. Fluff it up with a fork and keep the pot covered until you are ready to serve.
References and ResourcesU.S. Department of Agriculture: Tips to Help You Eat Whole Grains
The Kitchn: Plan Ahead! Freeze Whole Grains for Future Meals
Sunnyland Mills: Cooking Bulgur Wheat in the Microwave
The Flavor Point Diet; David L. Katz, MD, MPH
ResourcesWhole Grains Council: Wheat
The Kitchn: What Can I Do With Bulgur Wheat?