Bulgur wheat is super popular in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine, and you’ll often find it in dishes like tabbouleh, pilafs, and salads. But what exactly is it? Bulgur wheat is a quick-cooking whole grain made from boiled, dried, and cracked wheat kernels.
Let’s dig into the details of how bulgur wheat is made, how to use it, and its unique benefits!
What is bulgur wheat?
Bulgur wheat is made from whole wheat kernels that have been partially boiled, dried, and then cracked into small pieces. It’s kind of like taking a whole wheat berry and breaking it into tiny pieces.
To make it commercially, machines are used to take out the bran and germ from the wheat and then steam and dry the endosperm before cracking it.
The name “bulgur” comes from the Turkish word “bulgur,” which means “bruised grain.” The wheat kernels are sort of “bruised” during the cracking process to create the small pieces of bulgur wheat that we use in cooking.
What’s the difference between bulgur wheat and regular flour?
While they’re both wheat-based products, bulgur wheat isn’t really a type of flour in the sense that flour is typically ground into a fine powder, whereas bulgur wheat is made by cracking whole wheat kernels into small pieces.
Bulgur wheat is a whole grain that contains more nutrients and fiber than flour, and regular flour is often bleached and enriched with synthetic vitamins and minerals.
Another big difference is their texture. Bulgur wheat has a coarser and grainier texture, while all-purpose flour has a finer and smoother texture. When cooked, bulgur wheat has a chewy and slightly nutty texture, whereas all-purpose flour is typically used for baking and produces a more delicate and crumbly texture in baked goods.
Benefits of bulgur wheat
Bulgur wheat is packed with nutrients and health benefits! It’s a great source of fiber, vitamins, and minerals, which can help improve digestion, boost energy, and support overall health.
Fun fact: Bulgur wheat has a lower glycemic index than all-purpose flour and white rice, making it a great option for those looking to maintain stable blood sugar levels!
Bulgur wheat is also super versatile! You can use it in salads, pilafs, stews, and even burgers. Because it’s already partially cooked, it cooks up pretty quickly, which makes it a great option for busy weeknights.
Bulgur wheat nutrition facts
|Flour (¼ cup)||Calories||Carbs||Fiber||Sugar||Fat||Protein||Glycemic Index|
|Bulgur wheat (flour)||160||35 g||5 g||0 g||0.5 g||4 g||48|
|All-purpose flour||120||24 g||1 g||0 g||0.5 g||4 g||85|
How to bake and cook with bulgur wheat
Bulgur wheat isn’t typically used in baking. However, there are some recipes that use bulgur wheat in combination with other flours, such as all-purpose flour or almond flour, to make gluten-free baked goods such as pancakes, muffins, and breads.
I don’t recommend swapping bulgur wheat (flour) for 100% of all-purpose flour, as it has a much coarser, gritty texture with less binding and rising power.
Bulgur wheat is much more suitable as an alternative to rice or pasta, and can be used in a variety of savory dishes, such as noodles, salads and pilafs.
Popular bulgur wheat baked goods and dishes
Here’s what people use bulgur wheat for:
- Tabouli salad
- Tabouli hummus wrap
- Stuffed vegetables (bell peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, zucchini)
- Filling for meat dishes like kibbeh
- Veggie burgers
- Snack bars, energy balls, granola
How to make bulgur wheat at home
To make bulgur wheat at home:
- Toast raw bulgur wheat in a skillet until it’s fragrant and lightly browned. This toasting step is optional but enhances the nutty flavor!
- Allow the toasted bulgur wheat to cool completely, then transfer it to a blender or food processor and blend until it turns into a fine powder.
- You may need to pause the blender occasionally and stir the bulgur wheat to ensure that it’s ground evenly.
- Sift the bulgur wheat flour through a fine-mesh sieve to remove any large or uneven pieces (optional).
And that’s it! Now, here’s how to keep it fresh…
How to store bulgur wheat
Store unopened packages of bulgur wheat in a cool, dry place like your pantry or kitchen cabinet. Once you open the package, transfer the bulgur wheat to an airtight container or a resealable plastic bag and store it in the same cool, dry place.
For homemade bulgur wheat, allow it to cool to room temperature before storing it. Store it the same way as store bought bulgur wheat or, if you live in a humid climate, you may want to store it in the refrigerator or freezer to prevent moisture from causing it to spoil or clump together. Stored properly, bulgur wheat can last for up to 6 months.
What are the best substitutes for bulgur wheat?
Overall, quinoa flour is the best substitute for bulgur wheat flour, particularly for those who are gluten-free or looking to increase their protein intake.
Cracked wheat is made in a similar way to bulgur wheat, and has a similar flavor, coarse texture, and high-fiber content. But cracked wheat hasn’t been pre-cooked like bulgur wheat, so it may need a longer cooking time.
Whole-wheat couscous is another easy substitute that’s often used in pilafs, stuffings, porridge, and grain bowls.
Bulgur wheat is generally better because it has more fiber, protein, and several vitamins and minerals than white rice, as well as a lower glycemic index, so it’s less likely to spike blood sugar levels.
Bulgur wheat is also known as whole-grain red bulgur. Sometimes it’s called cracked wheat – check the package to make sure it is pre-cooked.
Yes, bulgur wheat is a healthy whole grain as it is a good source of fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals, and has been linked to several health benefits, such as improved digestion and weight management.