Turkish style bulgur pilaf with tomatoes is a wholesome and nutritious vegan dish that is easy to prepare and ready in about 30 minutes. This simple but satisfying bulgur dish makes a healthier alternative to rice, and it can be served on its own or as a side dish with vegan meat dishes.
A Turkish Staple
Domatesli Bulgur Pilavı is a traditional Turkish dish that's made with just a few wholesome and healthy ingredients. These include bulgur, tomatoes, peppers and a mix of aromatic herbs and spices. During the Ottoman era, rice wasn’t as readily available as bulgur, so bulgur became the staple grain in the Turkish kitchen. Up to this day, bulgur remains a widely used ingredient in Turkish cuisine. This delicious tomato and bulgur dish is a popular side dish that can be found in most Turkish restaurants.
What is Bulgur?
If you’re not familiar with bulgur, it is a whole grain that is made from the cracked parboiled groats of several types of wheat, but most often durum wheat is used. Bulgur has a deliciously nutty flavour and a slightly chewy and meaty texture when cooked, making it a versatile ingredient for lots of vegan Turkish dishes. Since bulgur is partially boiled before it's dried and packaged, it tends to cook much quicker than other grains. Bulgur looks quite similar to cracked wheat, but they’re prepared differently which means that they will cook differently. As I mentioned already, bulgur is sold after it’s been parboiled, whereas cracked wheat has not been cooked beforehand, so it will take much longer to cook. This whole grain is much more nutritious than white rice or couscous as it contains higher levels of vitamins and minerals and much more protein and fiber. Bulgur is sold in a variety of different sizes; the two main types being fine (Köftelik bulgur) and coarse (Pilavlık Bulgur). The fine bulgur is what's used in dishes such as Kisir (Turkish bulgur salad) as it doesn’t need to be cooked and you can just soak it in hot water, while this dish requires the coarse variety which will need to be cooked.
Where Can I Find Bulgur Wheat?
You can find bulgur at all Turkish or Middle Eastern supermarkets and whole-foods stores. If you don’t have any supermarkets near you that stock it, you can also purchase it online. Supermarkets usually stock it on their shelves alongside dried legumes, rice and other dried foods. the two main types of bulgur that you’ll find in Turkish supermarkets are fine bulgur (Köftelik bulgur) and coarse (Pilavlık Bulgur). For this recipe you will need coarse bulgur (Pilavlık Bulgur).
What to Serve with Bulgur Pilaf
Bulgur pilaf is usually served on a separate plate as an additional side dish, or it can be served with a range of Turkish vegan kebabs (Click here for my vegan Adana Kebab recipe). This dish is delicious on its own, but it can be served as a side with almost any savoury dish as the flavours in it aren’t overpowering. To serve the bulgur pilaf in an aesthetically pleasing way, grease a small bowl with some oil, tightly pack the bulgur inside the bowl and press down firmly, then place a plate on top of the bowl and turn the plate around and tap the bowl until the bulgur drops out. The bulgur pilaf will come out in a nicely formed dome shape.
Oil for cooking: I like to use olive oil, but you can use vegan butter or vegetable oil instead.
Bulgur wheat: there are lots of different types of bulgur, so make sure to use coarse bulgur for this recipe.
Vegetables: for this recipe you’ll need Garlic, Onion, tomato and pointed green peppers. If you can’t find pointed green peppers, you can use green or red bell peppers instead.
Tomato Paste: the tomato paste will add a more intense tomato flavour and will give the bulgur a nice colour.
Seasonings: Salt, pepper, dried basil, Aleppo chilli flakes, sweet paprika.
Vegetable stock: I’ve used a shop-bought vegetable stock cube for the recipe, but any kind of vegetable stock will do.
How to Make Bulgur Pilaf
Add the olive oil, chopped onions and peppers to a large pot and sauté on a medium heat for about 5 minutes, until the onions and peppers start to soften. Add the minced garlic and sauté for 2 more minutes. Add the tomato puree and diced tomatoes to the pot and cook for a few more minutes, stirring continually, until the tomatoes soften.
Give the bulgur a rinse and stir it into the pot until all the bulgur is coated in the tomato paste. Lower the heat and add the vegetable stock along with all of the herbs and spices. Give everything a stir, put the lid on and let it gently simmer for about 10-15 minutes until the bulgur has absorbed the liquids.
Remove the cooked bulgur from the heat and let it sit for about 5 minutes. Fluff the bulgur with a fork and serve.
Notes and Tips
Bulgur comes in different forms: the mains ones are fine bulgur and coarse bulgur. For this recipe you will need to use coarse bulgur.
This dish tastes best fresh so I’d recommend making it on the day you intend on serving it.
Store the leftover bulgur in an airtight container and refrigerator for up to 3 days. To reheat, simply microwave or heat for a few minutes on the stove top.
You can adjust this recipe to suit your taste by adding different herbs and spices – parsley also goes really well in this recipe.