Blog, Keeping it Simple

Keeping It Simple: Bulgur Wheat Basics

This is the second of a series of Keep-It-Simple Shortcuts™ (K.I.S.S.).

Basic Whole-Wheat Bulgur

One of the most basic and interesting forms of whole cooked wheat is bulgur, used worldwide and ranks as one of the most versatile and utilized whole-wheat foods in many Middle Eastern countries. Bulgur is easily made from whole-wheat kernels as they come naturally from the field, with only the chaff stripped off.

Sometimes called wheat berries, these whole kernels need soaking or steam cooking to become tender. When cooked, they have a sweet, nutlike flavor and a slightly chewy texture.

Bulgur is probably the easiest whole-wheat food to prepare. None of the measurements are critical, and there’s no fussing with stirring, continual watching, etc., as with flour recipes.

Bulgur can be made from whole-wheat kernels and cracked wheat kernels—or many other grains, too. It can be used as a very nutritional breakfast cereal, to replace rice in most dishes, as a substitute for mashed potatoes, or it can be baked with selected seasonings to make a delightful, nutritious, crunchy TV snack, and it is great in stuffing for meats and fowl.

There are many known ways to prepare dishes with wheat bulgur and many ways that haven’t been discovered yet.

Directions for Making Basic Bulgur

Wheat kernels can be made into Basic Bulgur quite simply. This recipe is an in-home method for processing the whole-wheat grain—called wheat berries—for easy and quick use whenever needed. Basic Bulgur exists in two forms, whole grain or cracked.

Basic Bulgur

1 part whole-wheat kernels

1/2-1 tsp. salt

2-3 parts water

Basic Bulgur is easy because the measurements are not critical! This is how to make a batch of Basic Bulgur:

Cover wheat with water, approximately 2″ above level of wheat in an appropriately large, heavy pot. Bring ingredients to boil, then turn off heat and let mixture stand for 11/2-2 hr. Repeat cycle by bringing mixture to rolling boil, adding water if needed. Turn off heat, let stand for 15-30 min. Stir in salt to taste.Drain all remaining water from cooked wheat berries.

If you store wheat in bulk, you certainly must have access to a wheat grinder.

Directions for Making Basic Cracked Bulgur

Cracked bulgur can be made from scratch more quickly and easily than whole-berry bulgur. This is the simple recipe for making Basic Cracked Bulgur:

Basic Steamed Cracked Bulgur

Combine 2 C. cracked wheat and 4 C. water in an open-top pan or metal bowl. Elevate pan or bowl (use small bowl or jar lid) inside a larger, covered pan. Add water in the larger pan to 2″ below the rim of the smaller pan. Cook over high heat, covered, for 15 min., then reduce heat to very low. Steam until tender and water in small pan is absorbed, about 3 hr. This is Basic Cracked Bulgur.

Storing Moist Bulgur

Refrigerator: put moist bulgur in a tightly covered bowl, plastic airtight container, or heavy-duty, self-sealing, plastic freezer bag. This provides storage for about two weeks.

Freezer: for longer-term storage of moist bulgur, package as above. Effective storage period is approximately one year. For longer storage periods, see the following section.

Drying Basic Bulgur

Basic Bulgur can be dried for long-term storage. It dries quickly and easily in either the oven or in an electric drier. Allow Basic Bulgur to cool completely before packaging.

Air drying is not recommended, since bulgur is so water laden it tends to spoil before drying completely. Here are the two best methods for drying Basic Bulgur.

Oven drying: spread Basic Bulgur in a thin layer on cookie sheet. With oven temperature set at 200°F, allow to slow cook until crispy. Stirring and turning with a spatula decreases drying time. Leave oven door slightly ajar to permit moisture to escape.

Electric dryer / dehydrator: cover drying tray with plastic film or Kraft paper. Spread cooked bulgur in a thin layer. Dry until crisp and brittle. Cool completely and package for storage.

Cracking Dried Basic Bulgur

Barely crack the dried Basic Bulgur in a blender or grain mill. In most Basic Bulgur recipes, either cracked wheat or whole berries may be used equally well. However, the Basic Cracked Bulgur will be less coarse and have a more delicate wheat taste.

Storing Dried Basic Bulgur

Place dried Basic Bulgur in an airtight package. The best packaging for small quantities is the freezer-quality, heavy-duty, food-grade, sealable plastic bag. The large size holds just enough dried bulgur for a meal. Several bags may be placed in a larger metal or glass container to further protect them. Store in a cool, dry, and dark location.

Rehydrating Basic Bulgur

When a recipe calls for cooked whole wheat, measure equal amount of dried Basic Bulgur instead. Add liquid to cover. Bring to a boil until rehydrated to your taste or recipe directions.

Use the following as a guideline for rehydrating Basic Bulgur.

Yield  Water  Salt      Bulgur
1 C.  3/4 C.  1/4 tsp.  1/3 C.
2 C.   2 C.    1/3 tsp.   2/3 C.
6 C.   4 C.      1 tsp.    2 C.

Rehydrate 15-30 min. in any liquid, or combination of liquids, until flavor is suited to your taste.

Alternate Methods for Making Basic Bulgur

Use one of the following alternate recipes or methods to make Basic Bulgur. With all these choices, there’s bound to be one Basic Bulgur which will become your favorite.

Basic Microwave Bulgur

1 C. whole-wheat kernels

1/2 – 1 tsp. salt

3 C. water

Put water in a large microwave-safe bowl. Cover with Kraft or waxed paper loosely folded over top of bowl. Heat water for 5 min. on high power setting. Stir in rinsed wheat kernels, cover, and heat again on high power for 5 min. Reduce to medium (1/2 power), continue covered heat for 1 hr. until soft and chewy. Allow to stand covered 5 min. Remove cover, test for doneness, then stir in salt to taste.

Basic All-Night Bulgur

Combine ingredients for Basic Microwave Bulgur, except salt, in a covered pan. Bake about 5 hr. or overnight in a warm oven (150°- 200°F degrees). Stir in salt to taste.

Basic Boil & Wait Bulgur

Some folks make Basic Bulgur by this method the night before, warm it in the microwave oven, and eat it on the way to work the next morning. Or, you can take it to work and warm it for a healthy hot snack.

The only part of the cooking process that could possibly go wrong with making Basic Bulgur is to cook it without water!

Combine ingredients for Basic Microwave Bulgur, except salt, and bring to boil. Then immediately cover and remove from heat. Let stand overnight or at least 10-12 hr. Stir in salt to taste. May be eaten then or warmed later, when desired.

Basic Boil & Simmer Bulgur

Combine ingredients for Basic Microwave Bulgur, except salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer gently for 4-6 hr. or until tender. Add water as needed to prevent sticking. Stir in salt to taste.

Basic Steam Bulgur

Combine ingredients for Basic Microwave Bulgur, except salt, in an open-top pan or metal bowl. Elevate pan or bowl inside a larger, covered pan with water 2″ below the rim of the smaller pan. Cook over high heat, covered, for 15 min., then reduce heat to very low. Steam until tender and water in small pan is absorbed, about 3 hr. Stir in salt and eat.

Basic SlowCook Bulgur

Cook ingredients, except salt, in a crock pot or slow cooker.

Cover; cook 4 – 6 hr.

Add salt.

Basic Bachelor Bulgur>

1 C. whole-wheat grain

2 C. boiling water

1/2 tsp. salt

Even a bachelor can make this Basic Bulgur recipe! Combine ingredients with boiling water in 1 qt. thermos at night. Screw lid on lightly and leave until morning. Grab it on your way out the door to work! Leave out salt, if you prefer salt-free bulgur.

Recipes for Basic Cracked Bulgur

These recipes utilize Basic Cracked Bulgur. The whole-wheat berries are cracked in a grinder or blender prior to processing. The cracking process makes a finer, more delicate tasting food than the classic Basic Bulgur.

Basic Bulgur Sausage

1 C. Basic Cracked Bulgur, cooked

1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp. sage

1 egg

2 dashes onion salt

1 tsp. brown sugar

2 dashes garlic salt

5 drops liquid smoke

dash cayenne pepper

1 tsp. beef base or bouillon cube

Combine all ingredients, mixing vigorously. Form patties and fry in small amount of oil.

Basic Bulgur SeaSalad

5 C. Basic Cracked Bulgur, cooked & cooled

1 C. shrimp (or crab, tuna, etc.)

1/4 C. green pepper, diced

1/2-1 C. mayonnaise

1/2 C. green onion, diced

2 T. pickle juice or vinegar

1 C. celery, diced

salt to taste

Combine and chill. You may substitute cooked and cooled rolled grain instead of bulgur.

Recipes for Basic Bulgur

Basic Bulgur Cereal

2 C. Basic Bulgur

2 C. water
Crack Basic Bulgur in grinder or blender. Heat in steam 10-20 min. or boil 5 min. in water or other liquid. Serve hot and sweeten to taste.

Basic Sweet Bulgur

3 C. Basic Bulgur


1/2 C. water

sugar or honey

Heat cooked bulgur in water. Serve hot with milk and sweeten to taste. Makes a chewy breakfast cereal. Add dried fruit for additional flavor and nutrition.

Basic Bulgur Porridge

6 C. Basic Bulgur

1/2 C. sugar

1/4 C. raisins


1 C. milk

Heat bulgur and raisins to boil, reduce heat. Stir in milk and sugar, simmer approximately 3-5 min. Serve porridge hot, with additional milk and honey to taste. Brown sugar or maple syrup may also be used to sweeten porridge.

Basic CrunchySnax

2 C. Basic Bulgur

seasonings of choice

Spread Basic Bulgur thinly on cookie sheet. Bake at 325°F, stirring occasionally, until very dry and crunchy. Add seasonings to taste. Serve as snacks.

Basic Boston-Baked Bulgur

4 C. Basic Bulgur

1 C. water

1/2-1 C. catsup or BBQ sauce

1/2 C. molasses

1 onion, sautéed

3-4 tsp. prepared mustard

salt and pepper

3 slices bacon, cooked & diced

Mix together and bake 30 min. at 325°F.

Recipes for Basic Bulgur Soups & Salads

Basic Beef & Veggie Soup

1 1/2 lb. ground beef

1/4 C. chopped parsley

1-2 lb. beef knuckle bones

2-3 tsp. pepper

2 1/2 qt. water

1/8 tsp. powdered cloves

1 C. Basic Bulgur

1/4 tsp. salt

1 C. diced or shredded carrots

1 can tomato soup

1/2 C. chopped onions or leeks

1/2 tsp. fresh herbs

1 C. sliced celery

Brown ground beef and pour off grease. Remove fat from bones. Simmer together water, ground beef, and bones for 2-3 hours. Add remaining ingredients. Cover and continue cooking until vegetables are tender, 15-20 min. Remove meat from bones, dice, and return to soup mixture. Heat to boiling. Yield: 6-8 servings.

Basic Bulgur Salad

1/2 C. Basic Bulgur

water to cover

1 C. chopped parsley

1 C. chopped green onions

4 tomatoes, cubed

1 green pepper, cut in strips

1 C. fresh mint (chopped)

Cover Basic Bulgur in water and soak for 30 min. Squeeze out water and transfer to a bowl. Combine remaining ingredients, add salad dressing, and toss. Yield: 4 servings.

Basic Seafood Salad

1 C. Basic Bulgur

1 tomato, cut in wedges

2-3 T. mayonnaise

1/4 C. chopped green pepper

2 T. diced green pepper

1 C. tuna or cooked shrimp

3/4 C. diced celery

Marinate Basic Bulgur in mayonnaise for 20-30 min. Add remaining ingredients. Arrange greens around a bowl, pile seafood mixture on top. Sprinkle paprika over seafood.

Recipes for Basic Bulgur Main Dishes

Basic Baked Chicken

1/2 C. Basic Bulgur

2 T. vegetable oil

1 can of mushroom soup

1 pkg. chicken thighs (skins removed)

1 C. chicken broth

1/4 tsp. sage

1 clove garlic

1/2 tsp. poultry seasoning

1/2 C. chopped onion

Put Basic Bulgur in casserole dish. In separate bowl combine soup, broth, and seasonings. Pour 1/2 of the soup mixture into the casserole and mix with the wheat. In a skillet, heat oil and brown chicken. Remove and arrange on top of Basic Bulgur. Add garlic and onion to skillet, sauté until tender. Remove with a slotted spoon and stir in remaining soup mixture, then pour over chicken. Bake at 350°F for 1 hr.

Basic Cheese Casserole

2 1/2 C. Basic Bulgur

2 cans cream of chicken soup*

1 C. milk

1/2 tsp. dry mustard

3/4 C. grated cheese

Combine ingredients, reserving 1/4 C. cheese to sprinkle on top of mixture. Bake at 375°F for 30-40 min.

* Substitute tomato soup and add 1/4 tsp. oregano for Mediterranean flavor.

Basic Beef Casserole

1 lb. ground beef

1 large onion, diced

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 C. Basic Bulgur

1 T. parsley flakes

2 cans tomato soup

1 tsp. celery flakes

1/2 C. catsup or tomato sauce

salt and pepper to taste

grated cheese

Sauté meat and seasonings with onion. Combine Basic Bulgur with meat mixture, soup, and catsup, then pour into casserole dish. Sprinkle with cheese. Bake at 350°F for 30 min. Yield: 6-8 servings.

Basic Tomato Casserole

3 C. Basic Bulgur

3 C. tomato juice

1 tsp. salt

1/4 small onion, finely chopped

6 slices bacon, diced & fried

1 C. grated cheese

4 T. flour

bread crumbs (optional)

Place salted Basic Bulgur in buttered baking dish. Fry diced bacon; add flour, tomato juice, and onion to make a sauce. Remove from heat and add 1/2 C. grated cheese. Pour over Basic Bulgur. Top with remaining cheese. Sprinkle bread crumbs or crushed saltine crackers over cheese to add crunch, if desired. Bake 45 min. at 350°F.

Basic Tuna Casserole

2 T. chopped onion

1/8 tsp. pepper

1 T. butter or margarine

2 eggs, slightly beaten

2 C. Basic Bulgur

1/3 C. crisp cracker crumbs

1 C. cream of mushroom soup

1 T. butter or margarine

1 can (6 oz.) tuna


1/2 tsp. salt

Sauté onion in butter over moderate heat until onion is straw colored. Mix in baking dish with Basic Bulgur, soup, tuna, salt, pepper, and egg. Top with mixture of crackers and melted butter. Sprinkle with paprika. Bake in moderate oven (350°F) for 30 min. Yield: 6 servings.

Basic Mushroom Casserole

4 C. Basic Bulgur

1 can cream of mushroom soup

1/2 C. milk or water

1/2 C. chopped onion, sautéed

Mix together in a casserole. Bake at 350°F for 20-30 min. For variety add chopped celery, green pepper, or fresh mushrooms. Use in place of rice or potatoes.

Basic Poultry Casserole

1/4 C. butter or margarine

1 tsp. MSG (optional)

1/2 C. chopped celery

1/2 tsp. poultry seasoning

1/4 C. finely chopped onion

1/2 C. Basic Bulgur

1/4 C. flour

5 C. cooked & cubed

2 C. chicken broth

turkey or chicken

1 C. milk

1 C. grated cheddar cheese

1 tsp. salt

buttered bread crumbs

1/8 tsp. pepper

Melt butter, add celery and onions. Cook until tender, but not brown. Blend in flour. Stir in chicken broth and milk. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until thickened. Add seasonings, Basic Bulgur, poultry, and cheese. Pour into buttered 2-qt. casserole. Sprinkle with buttered breadcrumbs and bake 35-40 min. in 350°F oven. Yield: 10-12 servings.

Basic Bulgur Jambalaya

8 oz. sausage link, cut in 1/2″ rounds

2 T. chopped parsley

2 lb. ground beef

1/4 tsp. thyme

11/2 C. diced ham

3/4 C. salt

1/2 C. chopped onion

1/4 tsp. pepper

1/2 C. chopped green bell pepper

dash of cayenne

3/4 C. thinly sliced celery

1/8 tsp. powdered cloves

21/2 C. Basic Bulgur

1/4 tsp. chili powder

Sauté sausage, ground beef, ham, onion, bell pepper, and celery in heavy skillet until lightly browned. Drain grease. Add remaining ingredients. Cover and bring to boil; reduce heat and simmer. Stir occasionally until mixture thickens, about 45 min. Yield: 5-6 servings.

Basic Italian Casserole

1/4 C. salad oil

1/2 tsp. basil leaves

1 onion, chopped

1/4 tsp. pepper

1/2 lb. mushrooms, sliced thin

3 C. Basic Bulgur

2 tsp. beef stock base

2 med. zucchini, sliced thin

1/2 C. water

Heat salad oil in large frying pan over medium heat. Sauté onion and mushrooms until limp and liquid has evaporated. In a small cup, stir together beef stock base and hot water. Add liquid to the pan with basil leaves, pepper, and cooked, drained Basic Bulgur. Cover and bring to simmer. Add zucchini. Cover and simmer until heated throughout and liquid is absorbed, about 10 min. Yield: 6 servings.

Basic ChiliBulgur

1 lb. ground beef (optional)

1 qt. tomatoes, cut up

1 large onion, chopped

1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

2 tsp. garlic powder

1 T. flour

2 tsp. chili powder

2 beef bouillon cubes

1 tsp. salt

3 C. Basic Bulgur

Sauté meat and onions until meat is browned. Add all ingredients except Basic Bulgur. Bring to boil, reduce heat, and simmer gently for 30 min. Add Bulgur and heat thoroughly.

Basic Spanish Casserole

4 slices bacon, cut into thin strips

1/2 tsp. salt

1 large onion, chopped

1 tsp. seasoned salt

1/2 C. chopped celery

1/4 tsp. pepper

1/2 C. chopped green bell pepper

1 tsp. sugar

1 clove garlic, finely minced

1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

1 lb. can tomatoes

1 C. Basic Bulgur

2 C. water

Sauté bacon in heavy skillet over moderate heat. Add onion, celery, green pepper, and garlic. Continue cooking until onion is straw colored. Blend in tomatoes, water, salts, pepper, sugar, Worcestershire sauce, and Basic Bulgur. Cover and simmer over low heat until most of liquid is absorbed, 20-25 min.

Recipes for Basic Bulgur Pilaf

Pilaf is normally prepared as a rice dish. It is made of rice combined with seasonings, vegetables, meat, fish, or poultry. There are as many variations of rice pilaf as there are cooks. Pilaf made from wheat is economical and certainly more nutritious than rice pilaf. These pilaf recipes demonstrate the usefulness of wheat as Basic Bulgur Pilaf.

Basic Pilaf Mix

2 T. butter (margarine or oil)

1/2 tsp. salt

3 T. chopped onion

1/8 tsp. pepper

1 C. Basic Bulgur

1/4 C. water

Heat butter in heavy skillet; add onion and sauté until straw colored. Add Basic Bulgur, water, salt, and pepper. Cover and simmer over low heat until all liquid is absorbed. Use this Basic Pilaf Mix to make flavored variations described below. Yield: 4 servings.

Basic Chicken-Flavored Pilaf

1 batch Basic Pilaf Mix

2 C. chicken bouillon or stock

Prepare Basic Pilaf Mix. Add Mix to boiling bouillon or stock. Cover and simmer over low heat until added liquid is absorbed. To save cooking time, use less liquid. Yield: 4-6 servings.

Basic Fresh Herbs Pilaf

1 batch Basic Chicken-Flavored Pilaf

1 T. fresh herbs (fines herbes)

Prepare Basic Chicken-Flavored Pilaf. Stir fresh herbs into bowl just before serving for a fresh taste. Yield: 4-6 servings.

Basic Beef-Flavored Pilaf

1 batch Basic Pilaf Mix

1 T. Worcestershire sauce

2 C. beef bouillon or stock

Prepare Basic Pilaf Mix. Add Mix to boiling bouillon or stock, then add Worcestershire sauce. Cover and simmer over low heat until added liquid is absorbed. To shorten cooking time, use less liquid. Yield: 4-6 servings.

Basic Mediterranean Pilaf

1 batch Basic Pilaf Mix

1 C. tomato juice

1 C. chicken bouillon or stock

Prepare Basic Pilaf Mix. Add Mix to boiling bouillon or stock and tomato juice. Cover and simmer over low heat until added liquid is absorbed. To save cooking time, use less liquid. Yield: 4-6 servings.

Basic Parmesan Pilaf

1 batch Basic Chicken-Flavored Pilaf

1/3 C. Parmesan cheese

1/4 C. chopped onion

1 T. chopped parsley flakes

1/4 tsp. garlic salt

Prepare Basic Chicken-Flavored Pilaf. Add onion and garlic salt. After cooking, stir in cheese and parsley. Yield: 4-6 servings.

Basic Taiwan Pilaf

1 batch Basic Chicken-Flavored Pilaf

2 T. soy sauce

Prepare Basic Chicken-Flavored Pilaf. Add soy sauce just before serving. Yield: 4-6 servings.

Basic Cantonese Chicken & Taiwan Pilaf

1 batch Basic Taiwan Pilaf

1/2 tsp. salt

3 T. oil

11/8 tsp. white pepper

1 C. Chinese pea pods, cut 1/2″

1/2 C. sliced water chestnuts

2 T. cornstarch

11/2 C. sliced mushroom

1/2 C. water

1/3 C. slivered almonds

2 C. sliced cooked chicken

1/2 C. chicken stock

Prepare Basic Taiwan Pilaf. In another heavy skillet, heat oil, then add pea pods, chestnuts, mushrooms, and almonds. Sauté over moderate heat 2 min., then add chicken stock, salt, and pepper. Cover and cook 6 min. Make a paste of cornstarch and water. Stir into pea pod mixture. Add chicken and return to heat. Stir frequently until mixture thickens and reaches boiling for 2-3 min. Serve over Basic Taiwan Pilaf. Yield: 4-6 servings.