What is bulgur wheat

Bulgur wheat is a form of cracked wheat made by blanching groats (the hulled kernels of the grains) which are then crushed into smaller fragments. This grain is commonly used in Middle Eastern dishes such as tagines and salads (like tabbouleh), or can be simmered in milk to form a soft consistency which works well in puddings or porridge. Bulgur is also great for adding bulk to dishes. It is often added to breads or mixed with mince and shaped into balls known as kibbeh.


Take some inspiration from our top bulgur wheat recipes.

What's the difference between bulgur and cracked wheat?

Although visually similar, cracked wheat and bulgur wheat differ in various ways, including the cooking status, grain processing, texture, cooking time, uses, and nutritional profile.

  • One main difference is that bulgur has already been partially cooked by parboiling, whilst cracked wheat has not.
  • As cracked wheat is in its raw state, it will take a little longer to prepare and cook compared to bulgur, as well as having a shorter shelf life.
  • Bulgur wheat has its outer bran layer removed, giving it a lighter, softer texture, whilst cracked wheat retains this layer, resulting in a heartier, chewier texture. For this reason, cracked wheat also has a slightly higher fibre content.
  • As cracked wheat is coarser, it is commonly used in hearty dishes like pilafs and grain salads, while bulgur wheat is popular in salads and lighter dishes such as tabbouleh and kibbeh. However, coarser varieties of bulgur also exist which can be used in pilafs.

What are the different varieties of bulgur wheat?

There are four main types of bulgur wheat depending on the coarseness of the grains. Generally, finer grains will have shorter cooking times.

  1. Fine bulgur - good for light dishes like tabbouleh and salads
  2. Medium bulgur - good for using in burger patties plus cereals
  3. Coarser bulgur - good for stuffed vegetables like courgettes and squash
  4. Very coarse bulgur - good for soups, stews, pilafs and meatballs.

Where to buy bulgur wheat

It is available in most supermarkets, normally within the international foods section. and near to other grains such as rice. Bulgur is also regularly stocked in health stores. We recommend buying in bulk for cost effectiveness.

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Do you have to wash bulgur wheat before cooking?

It’s not necessary to wash bulgur wheat before cooking, although some recipes do call for rinsing if you don’t drain the bulgur after it's been cooked.

Do you need to soak bulgur wheat?

You can soak bulgur in boiling water to cook it, but you don’t need to soak it before cooking if you're adding it to a dish.

How to cook bulgur wheat

Boil bulgur wheat in water for 10-15 mins, or put in a heatproof bowl, cover with boiling water and leave to soak for 20-30 mins, until the water is absorbed and the grains are tender. Soaking the bulgur will give you a chewier texture, which is perfect for salads like tabbouleh. It can also be boiled from raw in soups and stews.

Basic bulgur wheat recipe:

  1. Put the bulgur wheat into a heatproof bowl.
  2. Pour over a kettle of boiling water, covering the grains in about 2-3cm.
  3. Cover the bowl with a plate or tea towel, and leave to soak for 20-30 mins until all the water is absorbed. (You could also use stock for more flavour).
  4. Separate the grains and fluff with a fork, then toss into salads or serve alongside other dishes.

How do you know when bulgur wheat is cooked?

Bulgur wheat, like rice, is a hard grain that softens when cooked. It should have a slight bite and chewy texture if you're using it in salads. Or, cook until completely soft for use in porridges. If you’ve soaked the bulgur wheat and it's still too firm once all the water has been absorbed, simply add a splash more boiling water and leave for a few extra minutes, or microwave to fully steam the grains.

How long does cooked bulgur wheat last?

Once cooked, bulgur can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 4-6 days. Alternatively, it can be frozen in a freezer-safe container or bag for up to 3 months.

How to store bulgur wheat

Dry bulgur can be stored for up to 3 months within an airtight container in a cool, dry space away from direct sunlight and moisture. A storecupboard or pantry shelf would be ideal. If wanting to store it for longer, then decant into an airtight, freezable bag in the freezer and it will keep for up to a year.

What are the health benefits of bulgur wheat?

Bulgur wheat is a source of magnesium, manganese, vitamin B and iron. It’s also high in fibre as it’s made from a whole grain. It contain gluten, so should be avoided by people with coeliac disease.

Our top 5 bulgur wheat recipes

1. Harissa-spiced chicken with bulgur wheat

Spiced chicken thighs in a cooking pot with bulgur wheat

Add some spice to your plate with our harissa-spiced chicken with bulgur wheat. This easy, healthy Moroccan-inspired meal is one that'll please everyone's palate. Its also easily halved if you're catering for a smaller crowd. For a touch more spice, add another tablespoon of harissa paste with the apricots.

2. Bulgur wheat bowls

Four bowls of bulgur wheat salad

Combine bulgur wheat and quinoa with onions and thyme to make a delicious base for these healthy grain bowls. Choose from different topping combinations, including avocado, olives and rocket or chickpeas, beetroot and orange

3. Pork & bulgur-stuffed peppers

Stuffed peppers on tray

Whip up these feel-good pork & bulgur-stuffed peppers for a simple summer supper the whole family will love. Serve with a cooling yogurt dressing and a basic green salad. This filling midweek meal will have everyone requesting seconds.

4. Chorizo & root veg bulgur wheat

Chorizo, root vegetable and bulgur wheat salad on a plate

Bulgur wheat is great for adding bulk to this hearty chorizo and root vegetable dish. Ready in just half an hour, it makes a super speedy supper and can easily be made vegan by omitting the chorizo.

5. Kale & bulgur tabbouleh with yogurt dressing

Kale and bulgur tabbouleh with a boiled egg and yogurt dressing

This colourful kale & bulgur tabbouleh makes a great low-calorie veggie lunch option for two. It's packed full of iron and full of textures and flavours. Top with perfectly cooked hard-boiled eggs and a creamy yogurt dressing.

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What's your favourite bulgur wheat recipe? Leave a comment below...

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