How to Cook With Bulgur Wheat

By Cynthia Au

Bulgur wheat, also known as bulgur, blear and burghal, is cracked, parcooked, whole wheat. The individual wheat grains are broken -- cracked -- to make it easier for them to be cooked and consumed. Bulgur wheat can stand in for other grains and carbohydrates -- whole or processed -- such as small pasta shapes, couscous, quinoa or rice. Keep plain, cooked bulgur in your fridge as a ready-to-add ingredient or cook it with minced veggies and fresh herbs for a quick, fiber-rich, one-pot meal.

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Tabbouleh salad can be made with any grind of bulgur, but the finer the grind, the more delicate the salad will be.

Checking the Grind

Bulgur wheat can be ground to a fine, medium, coarse or extra-coarse grind. The finer the grind, the smaller the pieces or "grains" are, and the less time they will take to fully cook. Both coarse and fine ground bulgur can be used for salads, soups or stews, or as substitutes for other grains. However, the coarser the grind, the chewier the texture and the nuttier the taste. Choose your bulgur based on the other ingredients in your dish. For dishes that contain red meat; or large legumes, such as chickpeas; or foods that have pronounced seasonings, choose coarser bulgur, as the chewiness and extra nuttiness add texture to a dish, and the grains pair well with stronger flavors. Fine ground bulgur works best for fresh herb salads and lighter dishes.

Cooking Bulgur

Bulgur can be cooked on the stove or in the microwave. Soaking bulgur will mean it cooks more quickly. As bulgur is sold partly cooked, fine and medium grinds can be simply steeped in boiling water before being consumed. For fine and medium ground bulgur, combine 1 part bulgur to 2 parts boiling water. Let rest, covered -- 7 minutes for fine ground bulgur and 15 minutes for medium ground bulgur -- and drain before using or eating. Coarse and extra-coarse ground bulgur need to be boiled in water before it can be consumed. Combine 1 part bulgur to 2 to 3 parts water, and bring the bulgur and water to a rolling boil. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally before letting the bulgur steep for 5 minutes. Drain any excess water before serving or using.

Using It as Is

Bulgur wheat, once fully cooked, can be mixed with chopped vegetables and herbs to make healthy, fiber- and protein-rich dishes. Grain bowls and salads with bulgur are common in Middle Eastern and vegetarian cuisines. Pair cold or warm cooked bulgur with chopped veggies and dress with a creamy tahini- or miso-based dressing along with toasted nuts for a healthy, meat-free meal. Bulgur wheat is a traditional ingredient in tabbouleh salad. Pair with chopped tomatoes, green onions, parsley and some mint; and dress with lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and cumin for a refreshing lunch.

Cooking Further

Bulgur wheat, especially medium or coarse grind bulgur, can withstand further cooking once it has been boiled. Use bulgur wheat in place of rice for "fried rice" dishes, where the sweet nuttiness and chew contrasts nicely with the crispness the grains pick up from being exposed to high heat. Cooked bulgur can also be mixed with leftover pasta sauce and cooked, shredded chicken; and baked, with cheese, for a fast weeknight casserole. Mix cooked bulgur with cooked oats, mashed cooked beans and sauteed onions and garlic for a simple, filling homemade veggie burger.