Kisir (kısır) is a very refreshing Turkish bulgur salad. A close cousin to tabbouleh, it’s sweeter, tangier, and combines a lot more crunchy vegetables with less parsley. Kisir is the ultimate summery side as it would fit right in on any picnic table!
With kisir, I can promise you an explosion of flavors and textures. To accompany the nutty bulgur you have the crunchiness of pickles and cucumbers, the sweetness of peppers, tomatoes and onions, and a touch of sourness brought on by lemon juice and pomegranate molasses. It’s everything you dream of for a bulgur salad.
KISIR FOR DAYS
One of my Turkish flatmates taught me how to make kisir when we were in college. We used to double the quantity and make huge batches of this delicious bulgur salad. It would last us for days! It was just the thing for students who only had time to cook several times a week. Plus it would make us feel so healthy (all these chopped raw veggies!). It was definitely healthier than ordering in fast food, which we were prone to do often. Once I tried kisir I was completely smitten. There was no way I would go back to a dry and cold burger from Mcdonald’s.
We weren’t repeatedly making kisir because it’s a great recipe for batch-cooking, but because it’s simply a really tasty and fresh salad. Nothing beats it! I had to stop myself from making it all the time once I learned how to make it on my own. I was not afraid of getting bored of kisir (I don’t think you can) but I did want to expand my Turkish salad horizon while living there.
HOW TO PREPARE FINE BULGUR
- Put the fine bulgur into a large heatproof mixing bowl.
- Add the pastes and spices and stir until thoroughly combined.
- Pour 295ml (1 ¼ cups) of just-boiled water over the fine bulgur and stir again. Cover the mixing bowl with plastic wrap, a tea towel, or a plate, and let the bulgur sit for 15 min. The bulgur will cook and soak up the hot water.
- Once the 15 minutes have passed, uncover the bulgur and fluff through it with a fork to separate the grains. Voilà! Your fine bulgur is cooked and ready to be used for kisir.
HOW TO MAKE THE BULGUR SALAD
- Deseed the vegetables and finely chop them all.
- Pour the lemon juice, olive oil, pickle juice, and pomegranate molasses over the fluffed bulgur and mix well.
- Stir in all the chopped ingredients. Taste to check the seasoning and adjust accordingly. Serve the kisir straight away or cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2h (or until the kisir is cold enough to your liking).
There is a more basic version of kisir that mainly consists of fine bulgur mixed in with tomato paste and finely chopped onions. It’s obviously faster because you don’t have as much chopping to do but I prefer this bulked-up version. It really turns kisir into a full meal. Before trying kisir, my only experience with a bulgur salad was the store-bought French version of tabbouleh my parents would always pick up for our picnics. The tabbouleh was definitely less fresh and blander. But it isn’t fair to compare them, one day I should try my hand at making tabbouleh too! A homemade one is sure to be delicious too.
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. The cooking method varies so it’s important to pick the right bulgur for this kisir recipe. Here’s a rundown of the most common types of bulgur you could see in a Turkish shop:
- çiğ köftelik bulgur or köftelik ince bulgur (extra fine bulgur), used mostly to make bulgur patties called çiğ köfte
- köftelik bulgur (fine bulgur), that’s the one that is used to make kisir
- ince pilavlık bulgur or midyat bulgur (medium coarse bulgur), used mostly to make bulgur pilaf
- pilavlık bulgur (coarse bulgur)
- şehriyeli pilavlık bulgur (coarse bulgur with roasted vermicelli)
- iri pilavlık bulgur (extra coarse bulgur)
I usually buy bulgur from the brand Duru and I’ve never been disappointed.
SUBSTITUTES FOR FINE BULGUR
If you can’t find fine bulgur, you could make kisir with extra fine bulgur (the salad will be a tad mushier) or medium coarse bulgur (the salad will be chewier).
If you don’t live near a Turkish shop or if you don’t want to order ingredients online, you might be able to find fine bulgur in your local grocery store (near the rice or in the international food section) or in a health food store.
If you can’t find bulgur at all, the best substitute for kisir would be to use couscous. Couscous is tiny pasta made from semolina, traditionally used as a side for stews in North Africa. The cooking instructions for fine bulgur and couscous are identical so you could follow the recipe without having to change a thing. Couscous is not the same thing as Israeli pearl couscous. They are made from the same ingredients but pearl couscous balls are bigger and you can’t cook them the same way.
SALÇA (TOMATO & PEPPER PASTES)
Salça is an essential ingredient in Turkish cooking, as it’s used on a daily basis. If you go to a Turkish shop you’ll always spot an aisle entirely dedicated to these red pastes (usually sold in glass jars). They are categorized by the types of vegetables used and their spiciness. The 5 different types of Turkish pastes are:
- domates salçası (tomato paste, very similar to the one you would find in your local grocery store)
- tatlı biber salçası (mild pepper paste)
- acı biber salçası (hot pepper paste)
- karışık salça (tomato & mild pepper paste)
- karışık salça az acılı (tomato, mild & hot peppers paste)
I usually refrain from buying the spicy pastes because I find it easier to get to my preferred heat level with the addition of dry spices. I mostly use the mild pepper paste in my Turkish recipes but I think the addition of tomato paste really works well with kisir. My favorite brands of salça pastes are Öncü and Öz Antep.
SUBSTITUTES FOR TATLI BIBER SALÇASI
You could use karışık salça because it already combines tomato paste and mild pepper paste. Or you could get a jar of mild pepper paste only and use your usual tomato paste instead. If you don’t feel like sourcing Turkish ingredients just to make kisir, feel free to replace the mild pepper paste with regular tomato paste instead. It’s all a matter of personal tastes anyway. My Turkish in-laws have a refrigerator door rack devoted to salça jars and they use them interchangeably.
❗ If you do get a jar of salça, once opened cover the top of the paste with a thin layer of olive oil and store it in the fridge. This way the paste will keep for a very long time. It’s important to always keep the top of the paste covered with olive oil to prevent it from getting moldy. So make sure it’s entirely covered after each usage before placing it back in the fridge.Print
Kisir is a very refreshing Turkish bulgur salad. A close cousin to tabbouleh, it’s sweeter, tangier, and combines a lot more crunchy vegetables with less parsley. It’s the ultimate summery side as it would fit right in on any picnic table!
- 325g fine bulgur (köftelik bulgur) (1 ¾ cups)
- 2 tsp fine table salt
- ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tsp dried mint (nane), or finely chop the leaves of 5 sprigs of mint
- pinch of red chili flakes (pul biber)
- 1 tbsp tomato paste (domates salçası)
- 1 tbsp mild pepper paste (tatlı biber salçası), or replace with tomato paste
- 3 tomatoes
- 1 small cucumber, or half of a long one
- 1 bullhorn green pepper, or use a small green bell pepper
- 5 spring onions
- 5 big pickles
- 15 sprigs of parsley
- 1 lemon, juiced
- 55ml extra virgin olive oil (¼ cup)
- 2 tbsp pickles juice, from the jar
- 3 tbsp pomegranate molasses (nar ekşisi), or replace with 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- Prepare the bulgur. Place the bulgur in a large mixing bowl. Add the salt, spices and pastes. Give everything a good stir with a wooden spoon until properly combined. Pour 295ml (1 ¼ cup) of just-boiled water over the bulgur and stir again. Cover the mixing bowl with plastic wrap, a tea towel or a plate and let the bulgur sit for 15 min. By this time the bulgur should have absorbed the water.
- Chop all the vegetables and set them aside. Cut the tomatoes in halves using a small sharp knife and cut under the seeds to remove them. Discard the seeds and cut the flesh into 5 mm (¼ in) cubes. Partially peel the cucumber skin into strips and cut the cucumber in half lengthways. Scoop out the seeds with a teaspoon and discard them. Cut the flesh into 5 mm (¼ in) cubes. Cut the green pepper in half lengthways and remove the seeds and the white membranes using the small sharp knife. Discard and cut the flesh into 5 mm (¼ in) cubes. Chop off the root ends of the spring onions and the green leaves and discard. Cut the bulbs and the stems into 5 mm (¼ in) cubes. Pick the parsley leaves off the stems, gather the leaves into a mound and finely chop them. Finely dice the pickles.
- Combine everything. Uncover the bulgur and fluff through it with a fork to separate the grains. Pour the lemon juice, olive oil, pickle juice and pomegranate molasses over. Stir with a long wooden spoon. Add all the chopped ingredients and mix well. Taste to check the seasoning and adjust accordingly (you could add more salt, lemon juice, pickles juice or pomegranate molasses). Serve straight away or cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a couple of hours. I usually eat kisir as is but it’s very common to serve it spooned on top of romaine lettuce leaves.
You can keep any leftovers for up to 4 days in the fridge stored in an airtight container.
- Serving Size: 1
- Calories: 495
Keywords: bulgur salad, side dish for picnic, summer vegetable salad, cold side dishes for summer