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Demystifying Ancient Grains: Bulgur

February 3, 2015

Meet the Healthy Grain Known as “Middle Eastern Pasta”

There’s a chance a box of bulgur has been sitting in your cupboard, or perhaps you have seen a box uncooked bulgurin your mother’s or grandmother’s pantry and it’s left you puzzled. This ancient whole wheat grain is back in style, but honestly, it hasn’t left its place in the human diet. You’ll be glad to know it is easy to cook, highly nutritional and most important, delicious! Have you ever enjoyed tabouli? If so, then you’ve had bulgur!

Get to Know Bulgur

What’s in a name? The ancient grain has been called many names over the last 4,000 years. Today, we refer to this whole grain as bulgur, but you may see it as burghul, balgour, and bulgar, among others. It has been a staple food in many Middle Eastern countries and is sometimes referred to as “Middle Eastern pasta” for its versatility.

The History of Bulgur

Ancient Babylonians, Hittites and Jews called this wheat product “arisah,” which is how it was referred to in the Bible. Biblical scholars suggest that the reference to “coarse flour” in Ezekiel 44:40 and Nehemiah 10:37 signified arisah.

Bulgur first found its way to our American shores from Middle Eastern immigrants. The Armenian Grains Company began producing bulgur to the United States in 1892 and marketed to Americans who had emigrated from the Middle East. In the 1960’s, schools in the U.S. introduced the grain to school lunch programs. Bulgur was also an important ingredient in the 1963 Food For Peace program.

What is it?

Bulgur is made from pre-cooked wheat berries. It is an adaptable grain with a satisfying, nutty chewy texture when cooked. The Whole Grains council says bulgur differs from cracked wheat because bulgur has already been precooked, dried and cracked by the time it is ready for market. And, because bulgur is pre-cooked when we purchase it, the cooking time is pretty short compared to whole or cracked wheat.

Benefits of Bulgur

For those watching their sugar intake, bulgur is a good alternative to rice. It has a relatively low glycemic level as compared to white rice and regular pasta.

Uses for Bulgur

Bulgur works as a terrific meat substitute that can be used to make burgers or be used in meatloaf, soups, stews, casseroles and meats or sauces for Mexican or Italian dishes. It also makes a great side or main dish. 


Traditional Tabouli


Put bulgur in a medium bowl and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt. Add 1 1/2 cups boiling water, cover, and let sit 20 minutes or until water is absorbed. Once bulgur is ready, mix in a large bowl, with chopped tomato, chopped onions/scallions with lemon juice, salt and pepper. Add to the chopped parsley and mint and olive oil and mix, adjusting seasoning by adding more oil and lemon if desired. Refrigerate. Serve cold.

More recipes:

Bean & Bulgur Chili Recipe

Veggie Bulgur Burger with Lime Mayonnaise

Bulgur Pilaf

Winter Vegetables and Bulgur

BONUS: You can cook up batches of bulgur in advance and refrigerate in containers or freeze for later use.


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