Bulgur pilaf (bulgur pilavı) has got to be one of the most delicious Turkish side dishes ever! The combination of sweet peppers and tomatoes with the nuttiness of bulgur and a big dollop of tangy yogurt is out of this world. Bulgur pilaf is super flavorful, really easy to cook and also makes for great leftovers, it’s a real keeper!
POPULAR SIDE DISH
If you go to any kind of ‘meat’ restaurant in Turkey (specialized in kebabs, meatballs, …) chances are that whatever you ordered will be served with bulgur pilaf on the side. I’m not big on meat so while going there with my friends, I would always order a bowl of soup and eat whatever pilav was left on my friends’ plates when they were done. These few forkfuls of bulgur pilaf were always the highlight of dinner for me! It’s not surprising that this was one of the first recipes I ask my in-laws to teach me. They kindly obliged and now I can make/eat as much bulgur as I want. Plus I have to admit that homemade bulgur pilaf is much better than most of the ones I ate in restaurants, where it’s really not meant to be the main attraction.
COOK OVER LOW HEAT & REST
I find that cooking bulgur is a bit more forgiving than cooking rice. If you’re new to pilafs, a bulgur pilaf is a great start! As long as you bring it to a boil, cover it and then let it cook slowly over low heat, there is very little chance for it to burn or get all mushy. I know that rinsing bulgur before cooking isn’t really imperative, but that’s the way my Turkish mother-in-law prepares her bulgur pilavı and I’m not one to mess with her recipe. What is crucial however is to let the bulgur rest at the end so that the leftover moisture can spread through the cereals. Taking the time to steam your bulgur will ensure grains that are fluffy & chewy throughout. Don’t worry it won’t get cold and a bulgur pilaf isn’t supposed to be served burning hot anyway. You’ll appreciate the flavors better if it’s warm.
DIFFERENT TYPES OF BULGUR
If you go to a Turkish shop or browse an online specialty food store, you’ll spot different types of bulgur. They are categorized by the coarseness of the grain and its color. The cooking method varies so it’s important to pick the right bulgur for this recipe; not too fine and not too coarse. Here’s a rundown of the most common types of bulgur you would see in a Turkish shop:
- çiğ köftelik bulgur (extra fine bulgur), used mostly to make bulgur patties called çiğ köfte
- köftelik bulgur (fine bulgur), I usually use it to bulk up mercimek köftesi (lentil patties) or to make kisir (Turkish “tabbouleh”)
- ince pilavlık bulgur or midyat bulgur (medium coarse bulgur), that’s the one I use for this recipe
- pilavlık bulgur (coarse bulgur), you can also use it to make this pilaf but it’ll be chewier
- şehriyeli pilavlık bulgur (coarse bulgur with roasted vermicelli)
- iri pilavlık bulgur (extra coarse bulgur)
If it’s written esmer on the package, the bulgur will be brown/darker (it tastes nuttier). If you see the word kepekli it means the bulgur in question will be wholegrain. I’ve never used them since they aren’t the traditional choices to make pilaf so I don’t know how this recipe would turn out if using kepekli or esmer bulgur. I usually buy Turkish bulgur and rice from the brand Duru and I’ve always been satisfied with their products.
Are you looking for other Turkish side dishes recipes? Here are some of my favorites:
- Green lentil salad (Mercimek salatası)
- Braised leeks (Pırasa yemeği)
- Carrots with yogurt (Havuç tarator)
Bulgur pilaf is a delicious Turkish side dish combining sweet peppers, tomatoes and nutty bulgur with a big dollop of tangy yogurt on the side! It’s incredibly flavorful, really easy to cook and also makes for great leftovers!
- 220g medium coarse bulgur (midyat bulgur or ince pilavlık bulgur) (1 ½ cups), you can use coarse bulgur if you prefer
- 1 yellow onion
- 1 green (bullhorn) pepper
- 2 medium tomatoes
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 30g butter (2 tsp), diced
- 1 tsp mild red pepper paste (tatlı biber salçası), heaped or use tomato paste
- 1 tsp salt
- 330ml warm beef stock/broth or use vegetable stock to keep it vegetarian (1 ½ cups)
- Turkish (or Greek) yogurt, to serve
- Wash bulgur and prep vegetables. Place the bulgur in a strainer and rinse well under cold running water until the water runs clear. Peel the onion, finely chop it and set aside. Finely chop the green pepper and set aside. Grate the tomatoes using the largest shredding holes of a box grater.
- Cook the vegetables. Heat the oil in a deep non-stick lidded frying pan placed on your largest burner over medium heat. When hot, add the chopped onion. Cook until translucent, about 7 min, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon. Add the chopped green pepper and butter. Cook for 5 min, stirring occasionally. Add the red pepper (or tomato) paste and spread it all over using the back of the spoon. Cook for 2 min. Stir in the grated tomatoes and salt. Cook for 5 min.
- Cook the bulgur. Stir in the washed and strained bulgur, then pour in the stock. Quickly bring to a boil by increasing the heat and then lower it to low. The power settings of my induction cooktop go from 1 to 9 and I cook my bulgur on 3. Cover the pan with a lid and cook for 15 min. If all the stock hasn’t been absorbed by then, uncover the pan and keep cooking until it’s absorbed. On the contrary, if the bulgur pilaf is looking dry but not cooked through, add a splash of more water and keep cooking covered until cooked.
- Let the bulgur pilaf rest. When cooked, remove the pan from the heat and mix the bulgur. Lay a clean dish towel or sheets of paper towels over the top of the pan (it shouldn’t touch the bulgur). Put the lid back on and let the bulgur sit for 15 min. Fluff it gently and serve with big spoonfuls of cold yogurt!
Any leftover bulgur pilaf will keep stored in an airtight container, in the fridge, for up to 3 days.
- Serving Size: 1
- Calories: 409
- Fat: 14.2g
Keywords: turkish bulgur, turkish side dish, medium coarse bulgur