How to Cook Perfect Bulgur Wheat on the Stove

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Bulgur wheat is a versatile grain that's as easy to cook as rice and adds oomph to many side dishes and salads.

How to Cook Perfect Bulgur Wheat on the Stove

A staple in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean regions, bulgur wheat is a grain we should all get to know better. Bulgur is great on its own, as a side dish or a base for saucy main courses. It can also be added to meat dishes like kibbeh and meatloaf to boost nutrition and bulk them up. Many people have encountered this grain for the first time as the backbone of the Middle Eastern grain salad, Tabbouleh.

I like to use bulgur wheat as the base of all kinds of satisfying salads, like my simple Bulgur Wheat Salad, or add a couple more ingredients for a Tomato, Zucchini, and Bulgur Salad. Try it in Bulgur Wheat with Caramelized Onions and Parsley, a perfect filling side that goes with almost anything.

Bulgur wheat can also become a main dish, especially when combined with vegetables, such as Bulgur Wheat, Sweet Potato, and Black Bean Gratin. And it’s convenient: bulgur can be made at the beginning of the week, and you will be ready to eat all week long!

Cooked Bulgur Wheat in a bowl.

What Is Bulgur Wheat?

Bulgur wheat is a whole wheat grain that has been cracked and partially pre-cooked. It has a lovely nutty flavor. Bulgur is terrific in all sorts of side dishes, soups, pilafs, casseroles, and salads (as the base of grain salads and also added to green salads).

Bulgur is high in fiber and low in fat and also has a nice amount of protein, according to the USDA. Though because it is wheat, it is not gluten-free.

Types of Bulgur Wheat

Bulgur comes in fine, medium, and coarse grind versions. If your package does have specific directions, you should follow them.

Different types of bulgur wheat require different cooking methods. Just soaking works very well for fine-grind bulgur. But for medium or coarse grinds, the soaking method takes a while, so giving it a simmer and then a soak speeds things along.

FAQs

How long does bulgur wheat take to cook?

Bulgur takes about 20 minutes total to cook, though half of that time is resting time off the heat, where the grains continue to absorb the cooking liquid.

Technically, bulgur doesn’t have to be cooked per se but rather soaked because the grains are already parboiled. Just soaking works very well for fine-grind bulgur. But for medium or coarse bulgur, the soaking method will take a few hours at least, so starting things off with a simmer and then soaking it reduces the time involved.

Is bulgur wheat healthier than rice?

On the whole, the answer is yes, though there are different types of rice with varying degrees of nutrients in them. Bulgur is less processed than white rice, which means more of the nutrients remain in the grain. Bulgur wheat provides a lot of fiber, vitamins, minerals (like magnesium), and also protein, so it’s a great high-powered carb to include in your meals. Whole grains, in general, are understood to lower blood pressure and aid in digestive health. All in all, adding them to your diet is super smart.

Bulgur and other whole grains have been shown to be effective in losing weight, as fiber and protein help you feel fuller longer. But bulgur is so delicious and texturally satisfying that you’ll find yourself cooking and eating it for pleasure rather than as an obligation!

Should I soak or boil bulgur wheat?

The answer to this question depends on the type of bulgur wheat you have and on how much time you have. For finely ground bulgur, just soak it, and it will be ready quickly. For coarse bulgur, choose between soaking for several hours or simmering before soaking to speed up the process. Check out the packaging to see exactly what is recommended for your particular bulgur.

A bowl of cooked bulgur wheat.

Bulgur Wheat to Water Ratio

I use 1 ¾ cups water to 1 cup dried bulgur. Instead of water, consider cooking the grains in diluted broth. This gives the grains a bit of additional flavor but not so much flavor that the taste of the grains gets overpowered. I usually use a diluted vegetable broth. This way, I can use the grains in any recipe or dish without worrying about it.

You can use half canned or boxed broth and half water to get a more delicately flavored broth. Or, just use a smaller amount of a stock concentrate like Better Than Bouillon in water, about half the amount of the paste that the packaging suggests. So, for 1 ¾ cups of water, I would use 1 teaspoon paste instead of 2 teaspoons.

How to Cook Bulgur Wheat

  1. Combine the bulgur with water or broth in a saucepan.
Combining bulgur wheat and broth in small pan on stove.
  1. Simmer: Bring to a simmer and then cover; lower the heat and continue to simmer gently for about 10 minutes.
Bulgur wheat simmering in a pot on the stove.
  1. Let rest: Turn off the heat and let it sit for another 10 minutes. All of the liquid should be absorbed, and the grains should be tender.
Cooked bulgur wheat in a pot.
  1. Finish: If you are using it in a warm preparation, fluff it with a fork and continue with the recipe. Or, to cool it, spread it out on a rimmed baking sheet until it gets to room temperature.

Tips

  • If the grains need a few more minutes of cooking time, just replace the lid and let it sit a bit longer. Conversely, if the grains are as tender as you want them — this is a matter of personal preference — and there is still liquid left in the pot, drain the grains in a colander.
  • Cooled bulgur can be stored in a covered container in the fridge for up to 5 days.

What to Serve With Bulgur Wheat

Tomato, Zucchini and Bulgur Salad in serving dish.
Tomato, Zucchini, and Bulgur Salad

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4.84 from 6 votes

How to Cook Perfect Bulgur Wheat on the Stove

Bulgur wheat is a versatile grain that's as easy to cook as rice and adds oomph to many side dishes and salads.
Prep Time: 2 minutes
Cook Time: 10 minutes
Resting Time: 10 minutes
Total Time: 22 minutes
Servings: 4 Servings
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Ingredients 

Instructions 

  • Combine 1 cup of medium-grain bulgur and 1 ¾ cups of diluted broth in a saucepan with a generous pinch of salt.
  • Bring to a simmer and then cover, lower the heat, and continue to simmer gently for about 10 minutes.
  • Turn off the heat and let it sit for another 10 minutes. All of the liquid should be absorbed, and the grains should be tender. If the grains need a few more minutes of cooking time, replace the lid and let it sit a bit longer. Conversely, if the grains are as tender as you want them — this is a matter of personal preference — and there is still liquid left in the pot, drain the grains in a colander.
  • If you are using it in a warm preparation, fluff it with a fork and continue with the recipe, or to cool it, spread it out on a rimmed baking sheet until it gets to room temperature. If you are using it at another time, you can then transfer the cooled grains to a container and store it in the fridge for up to 5 days.

Notes

Diluting broth: You can use half canned or boxed broth and half water to get a more delicately flavored broth. Or, just use a smaller amount of a stock paste-like Better Than Bouillon in water, about half the amount of the paste that the packaging suggests.  So, for 1 3/4 cups water, I would use 1 rounded teaspoon paste instead of 2 teaspoons.

Nutrition

Calories: 123kcal, Carbohydrates: 27g, Protein: 4g, Fat: 1g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Sodium: 300mg, Potassium: 144mg, Fiber: 6g, Sugar: 1g, Vitamin A: 156IU, Calcium: 12mg, Iron: 1mg
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About Katie Workman

Katie Workman is a cook, a writer, a mother of two, an activist in hunger issues, and an enthusiastic advocate for family meals, which is the inspiration behind her two beloved cookbooks, Dinner Solved! and The Mom 100 Cookbook.

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10 Comments

  1. gralion torile says:

    Hello.This post was extremely interesting, especially since I was investigating for thoughts on this topic last Monday.

  2. Patricia says:

    It’s a good meal and I enjoy it could have it every day.so so good.

    1. Patty says:

      Hopefully someone can help. I cooked burglar and finish the recipe like it had sad but it has a thick sort of film on it. should I have rinsed it. it was like overcooked spaghetti. Thanks for any help you can give

  3. VICTOR says:

    My family is from Turkey so we use bulgur often. We buy it loose (by the pound), so no nutritional
    information is available. You offer that information, but not the quantity. Please state.

  4. Sandra Davis says:

    I used to buy bulgar wheat in a box called Kashi in St. Louis in the 1960s. The recipe on it involved mushrooms. Do you know a recipe for bulgar wheat with mushrooms? The bulgar wheat I have from nuts.com says to use 1 cup bw in 3 cups boiling water.
    I seem to remember using mushroom soup in the recipe. I also have some fresh mushrooms to use with it.

    1. Katie Workman says:

      I don’t but that sounds pretty delicious!

    2. Marilyn says:

      I think you were using kasha which is buckwheat. It is a russian food and made by european jewish cooks.
      You can find it in the jewish section of some grocery stores

    3. Debbie says:

      I had a similar recipe. It called for sautéing the mushrooms and bulgar in oil and then adding the water or broth. Simple. I may have added minced onion also.

  5. Denis says:

    After cooking the bulgar wheat and cooling it.
    Can’t be blended into a finer mash and used in making a baked meat or mixed nut pie?

    1. Katie Workman says:

      Absolutely, that sounds right! It would become a binder.