Bulgur, also called bulgar, bulghur, or burghul, is a form of whole wheat that has been cleaned, steamed or parboiled, dried, and then ground into grains of several distinct sizes. It may be made from any variety of wheat, but durum is the most common.
The processing of wheat into bulgur is believed to have begun in the area of the Mediterranean. This form has been part of the Middle Eastern diet for millennia, with references in the Old Testament literature that identify it with Hebrew, Babylonian, and Hittite peoples. Other ancient civilizations, such as the Roman and Egyptian, were eating bulgur as early as 1000 B.C.
Although the term is often used to mean cracked wheat, the two products differ in one important way: bulgur is precooked. Because of this, it requires only minimal preparation before eating. Unlike cracked wheat, bulgur is ready to eat after just ten minutes of boiling—roughly the same amount of time that it takes to prepare pasta.
Bulgur is typically available in four grain sizes: fine, medium, coarse, and whole grains. The different sizes are used for different purposes. Finely ground bulgur is used for hot breakfast cereals and desserts. Medium-ground is preferred for tabbouleh and other salads, stews, multigrain breads and other baked goods, and vegetarian burgers. Coarsely ground varieties can be used for pilafs, casseroles, stuffing, and salads. Whole grains can be added to baked goods or used in soups and stews.
This wheat has a delicious, mildly nutty flavor. It is a good source of protein, iron, magnesium, and B vitamins. It is packed with fiber — a 1-cup (182 g) serving of cooked bulgur has 8 grams of fiber and contains very little fat. You can add nutritional punch to casseroles and other dishes by substituting it for converted rice.
Incorporating bulgur into your diet is both nutritionally smart and easily accomplished. For a cold side-dish salad, combine prepared bulgur with chopped fresh vegetables such as cucumbers, tomatoes, scallions, and green peppers; minced fresh herbs; olive oil; and a bit of vinegar or freshly squeezed lemon juice. Middle Eastern tabbouleh is a classic example of this type of salad.
To use it in hot dishes, add it to soups or casseroles or use it instead of rice in pilaf or stuffed peppers. Also, bulgur can be used instead of oats or bread crumbs to bind meatloaf and meatballs.