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Tomato-Infused Bulgur with Basil

By September 20, 2012January 7th, 2023Cuisine, Middle Eastern

What is Bulgur?


You know what bulgur is if you’ve ever enjoyed tabbouleh – it’s that nutty grain that nestles between cucumbers and cherry tomatoes in the classic Mediterranean salad.

Leading grain expert and author of “Ancient Grains for Modern Meals,” Maria Speck describes bulgur:

[box type=”download” border=”full”]”…bulgur is made by first boiling wheat, and then drying, cracking, and sorting it by size. The outer layers of the bran are removed — still bulgur retains a considerable amount of fiber, more than quinoa, oats or corn. This traditional convenience food is vital to many cuisines of the former Ottoman Empire, including those of Armenia, Turkey, Greece, Syria, and Iraq. for its versatility and countless preparations, some refer to it as Middle Eastern pasta!”[/box]

How Long Should You Cook Bulgur?

Cooking bulgur is very simple.   You can either soak it overnight in a 1:5 ratio of grain to cold water, if you are pressed for time, toast the grains lightly in a skim of olive oil and then add water and simmer until the grains have absorbed all the water.   The ratio of this method is 1 cup of grain to 1-1/4 cup of water and will yield 3 cups.

Swap in Bulgur for Other Grains

I’ve lived in Moscow for almost 20 years and I have a pantry – ergo – I’m a stockpiler.  I can’t help it.  If I see something like wild rice or quinoa I throw all of the packages into my supermarket trolley.  Somehow, I ended up with a lot of bulgur in my pantry and even I can’t eat that much tabbouleh.   Maria Speck to the rescue again with this delicious riff on rice pilaf.  The bulgur teams up beautifully with that perennial late summer couple – tomato and basil.  They are practically giving plum tomatoes away at the moment, so go for those and give this salad a try.  It’s a wonderful barbecue or picnic side, it pairs wonderfully well with shrimp, chicken, beef and works very well alongside spinach, avocado, eggplant and zucchini.  Topped with feta or goat cheese, it’s a meal!

Tomato-Infused Bulgur with Basil


  • 15ml (1 Tbl) olive or vegetable oil
  • 1 red onion (peeled, and diced into small pieces)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 5 ml (1 tsp) sea salt
  • 30 ml (2 Tbl) tomato paste
  • 15 ml (1 Tbl) sugar
  • 125 ml (1/2-cup) red wine
  • 250 ml (1 cup) chicken or vegetable broth
  • 500 gm (1 lb) ripe plum tomatoes (seeded, cored, and cubed)
  • 250 ml (1 cup) bulgur (medium to coarse works best)
  • 4 bunches fresh basil (roughly chopped)
  • 60 ml (1/4-cup) goat or feta cheese (crumbled)


  1. Heat the olive oil in a deep skillet or Dutch Oven over medium heat until it is shimmering. Add the onion and garlic and a pinch of the salt until the aromatics are soft and beginning to brown (3-5 minutes).
  2. Add the tomato paste and sugar and cook over medium heat until the paste begins to turn brown in color.
  3. Add the wine and use the back of a wooden spoon to scrape up the bits on the bottom of the skillet as the wine quickly evaporates.
  4. Add the stock, tomatoes and bulgur and stir to combine as you bring the mixture to a gentle boil.
  5. Lower the heat to medium low to achieve a steady simmer, then cover and cook until the liquid is completely absorbed. You can add water if necessary, but be sure to do so in small amounts to avoid a soupy consistency. Taste and adjust seasoning by adding more salt if you need it. Remove from heat, cover and set aside for five minutes.
  6. Toss the bulgur with half of the basil and top with crumbled feta or goat cheese. Good hot or at room temperature.

Recipe adapted from one found in Ancient Grains For Modern Meals by Maria Speck





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