Bulgur Pilavi or Turkish Bulgur Pilaf is a healthy side dish that pairs perfectly with grilled meat or chicken, kebabs, casserole dishes and hearty stews. This Turkish cuisine staple is very easy to make with only a few ingredients. There are many different variations of Bulgur Pilav and the one with tomatoes is one of our favourites along with the Lentil and Bulgur Pilaf.
Bulgur wheat is widely used in Turkey for salad, soup, kofte and pilafs. It is delicious as well as being nutritious. It is available in a variety of grinds such as fine, medium, coarse and extra coarse. The coarse and extra coarse is perfect for making pilaf, and fine / medium is good for soup, salad and koftes.
Why This Recipe Works?
- This recipe is very easy to follow with step-by-step instructions and pictures.
- You only need a few pantry ingredients you might already have in hand.
- It is healthy yet delicious and a perfect side dish to serve with grilled meat or casserole dishes.
- You can freeze the leftovers for up to 3 months.
- Suitable for a low-calorie diet.
- You can substitute the butter with olive oil and use vegetable stock to make it vegan friendly.
Ingredients and Substitutes
- Bulgur - It is widely used in Turkish and Middle Eastern cuisines. Use coarse or medium-coarse bulgur for the best results.
- Butter - It adds extra flavor and nuttiness to the pilaf. You can use olive oil for the vegan version.
- Tomatoes - Use nice fresh and ripen tomatoes. You can substitute them with a tablespoon of tomato paste.
- Tomato paste - It is the staple of Turkish cooking. It adds an umami flavor to the dishes as well as a bright red color. You can find it in Turkish or Middle Eastern shops. You can also buy it from .
- Sun-dried tomatoes - You can omit and add extra fresh tomatoes. It adds umami flavor to the pilaf.
- Vermicelli or Orzo - Short type of pasta that is used for rice dishes or soups in Turkish cuisine. You can omit and add the same amount of extra bulgur wheat. You can buy online or from Amazon as well as from large supermarkets/Turkish shops.
- Stock - I prefer using Easy Chicken Stock (Bone Broth) or Basic Homemade Vegetable Stock but you can use stock cubes if you don't have any stock in hand. Make sure you don't add too much salt as ready-made stocks and stock cubes contain salt already.
Bulgur vs Quinoa
Although these two nutritious and popular ingredients look quite similar, they are different in many ways. Bulgur is pre-cooked wheat and contains gluten. It is higher in fiber and has lower calories than quinoa but quinoa is richer in minerals and vitamins. It is also an antioxidant regarding the latest research in Turkey.
Bulgur is originally from the Middle East and is widely used in Turkey, the Balkans, and Middle Eastern countries. Quinoa is a seed and is gluten-free. It is originally from South America and is widely used in the US and South American countries.
How to Make Bulgur Pilavi?
This is a very simple, straightforward recipe and to achieve the best results, you need to follow a few simple steps:
- Use the right type of bulgur - Use coarse or very coarse bulgur for a fluffy and chewy texture. Using fine bulgur would make the pilaf mushy. Wash the bulgur under running cold water in a fine sieve. That’s a necessary step for getting rid of any dust or preservatives. Let the bulgur drain before cooking.
- Use butter with orzo or vermicelli- Cook the bulgur pilaf with butter for an even nuttier taste. Melt the butter in a pan on medium heat and add orzo or vermicelli. Fry until golden brown, stirring occasionally. Butter burns quick, so keep an eye on it! Stir in the tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes, and tomato paste. Add the bulgur to the pan and sauté for a few minutes until it's dry.
Add hot chicken or vegetable stock, and combine all nicely. Bring it back to a boil, lower the heat and gently simmer with the lid on for 15 minutes or until the bulgur is soft.
- Let the pilaf rest before serving - When the bulgur is cooked, take the pan off the heat and let it rest for 10 minutes with the lid off. Gently stir with a fork to make the bulgur fluffy before serving.
Turkish Bulgur Pilaf with Tomatoes complements most of the delicious Mediterranean dishes such as Lamb Shish Kebab, Turkish Chickpea Stew (Nohut Yahni), Inegol Kofte, Izmir Kofte (Smyrna Meatballs) or Islim Kebabi (Aubergine Meatball Wraps). You can also serve this versatile dish as a main meal with a side of salad, a bowl of yogurt, or mixed pickled vegetables.
Love bulgur? For other great bulgur recipes why not try:
Bulgur wheat is a whole grain made from cracked wheat and is widely used in Turkish, Middle Eastern, and Mediterranean cuisines for many dishes.
Bulgur rice is packed with vitamins, minerals, and fiber, and it's great for weight loss as it will make you feel fuller.
Bulgur has a light and nutty taste with a crunchy texture when raw and a chewy texture when cooked.
Top Tip From the Chef
Chicken Stock or Basic Homemade Vegetable Stock is a great flavoring for pilaf. Make sure the stock is hot before adding to bulgur.
I hope you enjoy the process of making this tasty side dish Bulgur Pilavi as much as you enjoy eating it! 🙂
Bon appétit! / Afiyet Olsun!
Did you make this recipe?
Bulgur Pilavi (Turkish Bulgur Pilaf)
- 2 tablespoon butter (40 grams)
- 50 g vermicelli or orzo (2 ½ tbsp)
- 1 large tomato (grated or finely chopped)
- 40 g sundried tomato (finely chopped)
- ½ tablespoon tomato paste
- 270 g coarse bulgur (1 ½ cup)
- 540 ml chicken stock or vegetable stock (hot) (3 cups)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ⅓ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Wash bulgur in a fine sieve with cold water and let it drain.
- Melt the butter in a pan over medium heat.
- Add orzo or vermicelli and fry until they turn golden brown.
- Add the bulgur and stir until nicely combined for a few more minutes.
- Add the tomato paste, sun-dried tomatoes, and chopped tomato, sauté for a few minutes.
- Pour in hot chicken stock or vegetable stock, add the seasoning and give it a good stir.
- Put the lid on and bring to a boil.
- Let it simmer over low heat for 15 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed.
- Let it rest for 10 minutes without opening the lid.
- Stir it with a fork to make the rice fluffy before serving.
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