Bulgur wheat is a popular ingredient in many traditional Middle Eastern dishes — and with good reason.
This nutritious cereal grain is easy to prepare and comes with several potential health benefits.
This article explains everything you need to know about bulgur wheat, including its nutrients, benefits and how to cook with it.
Bulgur is an edible cereal grain made from dried, cracked wheat — most commonly durum wheat but also other wheat species.
Bulgur is considered a whole grain, meaning that the entire wheat kernel — including the germ, endosperm and bran — is eaten.
Bulgur originated in the Mediterranean and can be traced back thousands of years. To this day, it’s a staple ingredient in many Middle Eastern and Mediterranean dishes.
Summary Bulgur is an edible cereal grain made from parboiled, cracked wheat. Its texture is similar to quinoa or couscous.
Not only is bulgur tasty and quick to prepare but also very nutritious.
Because it’s a minimally processed grain, it maintains more nutritional value than more refined wheat products.
A 1-cup (182-gram) serving of cooked bulgur offers (2):
- Calories: 151
- Carbs: 34 grams
- Protein: 6 grams
- Fat: 0 grams
- Fiber: 8 grams
- Folate: 8% of the RDI
- Vitamin B6: 8% of the RDI
- Niacin: 9% of the RDI
- Manganese: 55% of the RDI
- Magnesium: 15% of the RDI
- Iron: 10% of the RDI
Summary Bulgur wheat provides various nutrients and is an especially good source of manganese, magnesium, iron and fiber.
Routine consumption of fiber-rich whole grains, such as bulgur, is associated with multiple health benefits, including disease prevention and improved digestion.
Promotes Heart Health
Adequate intake of fiber-rich foods — like whole grains, fruits and vegetables — may promote heart health.
One review revealed that people who consumed 3–7.5 servings (90–225 grams) of whole grains per day had a 20% reduction in lifelong heart disease risk (5).
Therefore, eating whole grains like bulgur could provide some heart-protective benefits.
Supports Healthy Blood Sugar Control
Compared to refined grains, whole grains are associated with a reduced blood sugar response and lower insulin levels. Some research indicates that whole grains may also improve overall insulin sensitivity (6).
While fiber is often thought responsible for these effects, plant compounds in whole grains may also play an important role (6).
Supports Digestion and Gut Health
These bacteria produce short-chain fatty acids, which support intestinal health and proper digestive function (8).
Additionally, adequate intake of fiber-rich foods, such as bulgur, may also be effective for treating and preventing digestive issues like constipation (9).
Promotes Weight Loss
Overall, it is still unclear exactly how dietary fiber impacts weight. For some people, eating fiber leads to increased fullness and thus reduced calorie intake, but it may also play a role in lowering the total amount of energy absorbed from food (10).
Including bulgur alongside other fiber-rich foods as part of a balanced diet may support a healthy weight.
Summary Because bulgur is a fiber-rich whole grain, it may have a positive impact on heart health, weight loss, blood sugar control and digestive health.
Bulgur wheat is very simple to prepare.
It is available in fine, medium or coarse varieties and takes 3–20 minutes to cook, depending on the type. The coarser the grain, the longer the cooking time.
The cooking process is similar to that of rice or couscous in that boiling water is used to soften the grain. For every one part bulgur, you typically need about two parts water.
Mediterranean in origin, bulgur remains a staple in Middle Eastern cuisine.
It’s frequently used in salads — like tabbouleh — or pilafs, alongside herbs, vegetables, spices and sometimes other grains.
It can be used as a base for breakfast-style porridges with oats, or in soups, stews and chili.
You can also use it in almost any recipe that calls for rice, couscous or a similar grain.
Bulgur is fairly easy to find in any major grocery store and relatively inexpensive. You can probably find it in the bulk goods section or with other types of whole-grain products. It may also be shelved with other Middle Eastern items.
Summary Bulgur cooks quickly and is versatile. Great in salads, soups and pilafs, it can also be used as a substitute for rice or couscous in almost any recipe.
Although bulgur is healthy for many people, it may not be the best choice for everyone.
Because bulgur is a wheat product, anyone with a wheat or gluten allergy or intolerance should not eat it.
Some people with chronic intestinal disorders, such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), may not tolerate bulgur due to its insoluble fiber content. If you’re unsure, start with a small amount to see how your body responds (11, 12).
Similarly, if you’re experiencing any acute gastrointestinal symptoms because of infection or illness, it’s best to wait until your symptoms improve before introducing high-fiber foods like bulgur in order to avoid exacerbating your illness (11).
Lastly, if you’re eating a lot of fiber and you notice poor tolerance of high-fiber foods, it may help to cut back and introduce these foods slowly and in smaller quantities until your tolerance improves.
Summary Certain people, such as those with allergies to wheat products, should not consume bulgur. Others may experience poor tolerance initially and should avoid it or simply reduce their consumption.
Bulgur is a whole grain made from cracked wheat. It’s packed with vitamins, minerals and fiber.
Fiber-rich foods like bulgur may reduce chronic disease risk, promote weight loss and improve digestion and gut health.
It's easy to cook and can be added to many dishes, including salads, stews and breads.
If you’re interested in trying bulgur wheat, make sure to consume it as part of a healthy, balanced diet to ensure you’re getting all the nutrients your body needs.