Bulgur Pilaf is a Middle Eastern dish made with vegetables and spices. It’s made in three easy steps and takes less than 25 minutes!
I’ve been on a Mediterranean kick lately, with the smells of tzatziki and babaganoush emanating from our fridge. Combine that craving with a week dedicated to bulgur, and naturally we had to whip up a quick bulgur pilaf!
Bulgur pilaf is one of my favorite “throw together” recipes. After chopping the veggies, all you do is add everything to a pot, and woolah. It’s a very easy dish, which makes it that much better!
I love to eat this vegetarian (and vegan) meal served warm and topped with parsley, red onions, and olives (as you see here). It’s also great when eaten with feta!
“Great source of information! I m from Cyprus, which is the island in the middle of Lebanon and Anatolia and we make it with tomato too 🙂” —Gursal
What is bulgur pilaf?
To explain just what bulgur pilaf is, we’ve got to break down its components!
What is bulgur? Bulgur is a wheat grain that comes from Middle Eastern origin and is present in a lot of Mediterranean dishes. It sort of has a nutty taste! It’s cooked by boiling, much like quinoa or rice. (Curious about the difference between bulgur and couscous?)
You can use finely ground bulgur in dishes like tabbouleh, and coarser bulgur in pilaf!
What is pilaf? Pilaf is a rice or grain dish cooked with broth, spices, and veggies.
Lebanese vs. Turkish bulgur pilaf: For our recipe, we’ll be using bulgur. This bulgur pilaf dish is common in Turkish and Lebanese cuisine. Turks call it bulgur pilavi and cook it without a tomato base, and sometimes with the addition of vermicelli.
The Lebanese call it sayeti and typically stick with the tomato base. This bulgur pilaf is closer to the Lebanese version, with a taste and feel similar to Spanish Rice!
Ingredients used to make this Middle Eastern dish
The ingredients for this dish are nothing crazy and consist of what you’d expect – veggies, bulgur, and spices! After you cook this meal, feel free to get creative with your toppings. Some delicious ideas are listed with the ingredients below.
- Olive Oil: Sauté the vegetables using olive oil. You can also use butter.
- White Onion: This recipe calls for one cup of chopped white onion (equal to about one medium sized onion).
- Garlic: Garlic will add flavor and zest to this recipe. We’ll be using 2 cloves of minced garlic.
- Green Bell Pepper: Bell peppers add a great soft crunch to this meal.
- Roma Tomatoes: We’ll be using two tomatoes in this recipe, preferably roma.
- Tomato Paste: Tomato paste will help thicken this bulgur mixture.
- Uncooked Bulgur: As the main ingredient in this dish, we’ll be using 1 ½ cups of uncooked bulgur.
- Water: Water will help add moisture to this recipe.
- Salt and Pepper: Add salt and pepper to taste, starting with about ¼ tsp of each.
- Serving Options: Finally, to top this dish, olives, sliced red onion, parsley, slivered almonds, and feta cheese all work well!
How to make bulgur pilaf
Bulgur pilaf is a simple dish that’s ready in about three basic steps. This recipe only requires about 25 minutes to create.
- Prepare the base: Heat oil over medium heat in a large sauté pan or pot. Next, add onion, garlic, pepper, and roma tomatoes. Cook until the pepper is soft, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and cook for another 2 minutes.
- Add the bulgur: Next, add bulgur and water, stir to combine, and cover. Simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until the water is absorbed and the bulgur is tender. Add more water 1/2 cup at a time if bulgur is still tough. Season with salt and pepper.
- Serve and enjoy: Enjoy warm or cold, optionally topped with olives, sliced red onion, parsley, slivered almonds, or feta cheese.
Pilaf variation options
Here are some ideas for switching up your bulgur pilaf. There’s really no messing up this recipe, so experiment with it and add your favorite flavors!
- Add vegetables: The more veggies, the better! You can add broccoli, red and yellow bell peppers, corn, cherry tomatoes, and even black beans!
- Switch the grain: You can use rice, couscous, cracked wheat, quinoa, or freekeh in place of bulgur.
- Use broth: To add extra flavor, you can use broth in place of water. A nice veggie broth should do the trick!
Mediterranean dishes that pair well with pilaf
Looking for some sides to eat along with bulgur pilaf? These Mediterranean recipes are perfect!
- 1 Tbsp olive oil or butter, 15 mL
- 1 medium white onion diced, about 1 cup
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1 green bell pepper diced
- 2 roma tomatoes diced
- 3 Tbsp tomato paste 40 g
- 1 ½ cups uncooked bulgur 340 g
- 2 ½ cups water 590 mL
- ¼ tsp each salt and pepper
- Serving suggestions: olives, sliced red onion, parsley, slivered almonds, feta cheese
- Base: Heat oil over medium heat in a large saute pan or pot. Add onion, garlic, pepper, and roma tomatoes, cooking until pepper is soft, about 5 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook for another 2 minutes.
- Bulgur: Add bulgur and water, stir to combine, cover, and let simmer for 15 to 20 minutes until water is absorbed and bulgur is tender (add more water ½ cup at a time if bulgur is still tough). Season with salt and pepper.
- Serve: Warm or cold, optionally topped with olives, sliced red onion, parsley, slivered almonds, or feta cheese.
Tips & Tricks
- Store in an airtight container in the fridge for 5 to 7 days.
- Substitute the bulgur for rice, couscous, cracked with, quinoa (use the cooking time and amount of water listed on the package).
- Flavor it up even more by using vegetable broth instead of water.