Bulgur wheat (also spelled “bulghur”) is an incredibly versatile whole grain with ancient roots in Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, and West Asian cuisines — and with good reason.

Traditionally, the nutritious cereal grain has been used to make a wide variety of dishes including tabbouleh and kisir salads, bulgur pilavi (pilaf), kibbeh meat patties, fermented yogurt kishk, and kheer pudding.

Not only does bulgur’s mild flavor make it suitable for many uses, but it’s also easy to prepare and has several health benefits.

This article explains everything you need to know about bulgur wheat, including its nutrition, how to cook with it, and a few potential health benefits.

Bulgur is an edible cereal grain made from dried, cracked wheat. Durum wheat is used most often, but other hard wheat species, like einkorn, are used as well (1, 2, 3).

When cooked, it has a chewy consistency similar to couscous or quinoa. The flavor is earthy and nutty, much like quinoa. Though its taste is mild, it’s stronger than that of rice or couscous.

Bulgur is easily confused with cracked wheat since both are made from crushed or cracked wheat groats or “berries.” What sets bulgur apart is that it’s parboiled and dried before being ground, while cracked wheat is not.

Because it’s parboiled, or partially cooked, bulgur can be prepared relatively quickly — much quicker than many other whole grains.

In fact, you don’t even have to fully boil bulgur. Instead, you can simply soak or rehydrate the grain in warm water when you’re ready to use it, though it does take a bit longer to prepare this way.

The parboiling processes also extends its shelf life, meaning it may last longer than some other grains (4).

SUMMARY

Bulgur is an edible cereal grain made from parboiled, cracked wheat. It has a texture similar to quinoa or couscous while its mild flavor is usually described as nutty or earthy.

Bulgur is not only tasty and quick to prepare, but it’s also very nutritious.

It’s considered a whole grain, meaning that the entire wheat kernel — including the germ, endosperm and bran — is eaten. When you eat whole grains, you receive all the nutrients the plant has to offer.

In comparison, refined wheat products are lower in nutritional value since the nutrient-rich germ and bran are removed, leaving behind only the carb-heavy endosperm.

Bulgur contains a variety of vitamins and minerals, as well as a good amount of protein and fiber. In fact, a 1-cup (91-gram) serving provides nearly 30% of the Daily Value (DV) for fiber (5, 6).

The whole grain is also a particularly good source of manganese, magnesium, and iron while being slightly lower in calories than similar whole grains, such as brown rice or quinoa (5, 7, 8).

A 1-cup (182-gram) serving of cooked bulgur offers (5):

  • Calories: 151
  • Carbs: 34 grams
  • Protein: 6 grams
  • Fat: less than 1 gram
  • Fiber: 8 grams
  • Vitamin B6: 8% of the DV
  • Pantothenic acid: 13% of the DV
  • Manganese: 48% of the DV
  • Copper: 15% of the DV
  • Magnesium: 14% of the DV
  • Iron: 10% of the DV
  • Niacin: 9% of the DV
  • Thiamine: 9% of the DV
  • Zinc: 9% of the DV
  • Folate: 8% of the DV
SUMMARY

Bulgur wheat is a low calorie whole grain that provides various nutrients and is an especially good source of manganese, magnesium, iron, protein, and fiber.

Bulgur wheat is very simple to prepare.

It’s available in fine, medium, or coarse varieties and takes about 5–20 minutes to cook, depending on the type and cooking method. The coarser the grain, the longer the cooking time.

Most brands of bulgur provide cooking directions, so it’s best to check the package first for specific instructions. Still, if you bought bulgur in bulk or don’t have any directions, there are a few basic bulgur cooking methods you can use.

To prepare about 3 cups (546 grams) of cooked bulgur at home, follow these steps:

On the stovetop

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 of bulgur, you’ll need about two parts of liquid.

  1. Combine 1 cup (182 grams) of bulgur wheat with 2 cups (475 mL) of water or broth, and bring to a boil.
  2. Once boiling, reduce the heat to a lower simmer and cover.
  3. Cook for 10–15 minutes, until the water has evaporated and the bulgur is tender.

In the microwave

Microwaving bulgur may be the quickest cooking method and doesn’t have any negative effects on the final product, though it may have a slightly different texture than bulgur cooked on the stovetop (3, 4).

  1. Combine 1 cup (182 grams) of bulgur wheat with 2 cups (475 mL) of water in a microwave-safe bowl.
  2. Microwave the bulgur and liquid together for about 3 minutes.
  3. Remove from the microwave and let sit for another 5 minutes.
  4. Adjust the cooking time as needed. A coarse grain may need longer than a medium or fine grain.

To rehydrate

Rehydrating works especially well for fine grain bulgur. Medium to coarse grain bulgur may take longer.

  1. Place 1 cup (182 grams) of bulgur in a bowl or serving dish.
  2. Slowly pour 2 cups (475 mL) of warm water or broth over the bulgur and combine.
  3. Let stand for 45–60 minutes until the liquid has evaporated.
  4. Fluff with a fork and use as desired.
SUMMARY

Bulgur is parboiled, or partially pre-cooked, so it doesn’t take too long to prepare. You can prepare the grain on the stovetop, in the microwave, or through rehydration.

Bulgur remains a staple in many European and Asian cuisines.

It’s frequently used in salads and pilafs alongside herbs, vegetables, spices, and sometimes other grains. It also makes a great binder for meatballs and meat patties.

Because of its chewy texture, you can even use bulgur wheat in place of ground meats to create vegan versions of classic dishes, like tacos and chili. You can also use it in almost any recipe that calls for rice, quinoa, couscous, or a similar grain.

Paired with or without meat, bulgur makes a great base for breakfast-style porridges or overnight oats, as well as in soups and stews.

It’s fairly easy to find in any major grocery store and relatively inexpensive. You can find it in the bulk goods section or shelved with other whole grains or Middle Eastern items.

SUMMARY

Bulgur is great in salads, soups, pilafs, and even paired with meats. You can also use it as a substitute for rice or couscous in almost any recipe.

Regularly eating fiber-rich whole grains like bulgur is associated with multiple health benefits, including disease prevention and improved digestion.

May promote heart health

Eating fiber-rich foods, like whole grains, fruits, and vegetables, promotes heart health.

Bulgur is no different. Multiple reviews have linked whole grains to a lower risk of stroke, heart disease, and heart failure, among other chronic diseases (9, 10).

One study with 400 Jordanian people even found that a high fiber diet composed mainly of legumes and bulgur helped significantly reduce the risk of heart disease (11).

May help control blood sugar

Compared with refined grains, whole grains are associated with a reduced blood sugar response and lower insulin levels.

Some research indicates that whole grains may improve overall insulin sensitivity, too (10, 12).

While fiber is often thought responsible for these effects, plant compounds in whole grains may also play an important role (12).

Bulgur wheat is a rich source of both fiber and phytonutrients, which may help improve your blood sugar control (13).

May support digestion and gut health

Regular intake of whole grains, such as bulgur, can promote the growth of healthy gut bacteria. These bacteria produce short chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which support intestinal health and proper digestive function (14).

Additionally, adequate intake of fiber-rich foods like bulgur may also be effective for treating and preventing digestive issues, like constipation (15, 16, 17).

May promote weight loss

Although weight is influenced by a variety of factors, numerous studies link high fiber intake to weight loss and a reduced tendency toward weight gain (18, 19).

Overall, it’s still unclear exactly how dietary fiber impacts weight (20).

In some cases, it appears that levels of various types of bacteria in your gut may be involved, while, in other cases, other metabolic factors may have a bearing as well (18, 19, 20, 21).

For some people, eating fiber leads to increased fullness and thus reduced calorie intake, but it may also play a role in how much energy their body burns throughout the day (19).

More studies are needed to fully understand the link between fiber and weight loss.

Nevertheless, eating bulgur alongside other fiber-rich foods as part of a balanced diet may support a moderate weight and optimal health (22).

SUMMARY

Bulgur may have positive effects on heart health, weight loss, blood sugar control, and digestive health. Many of its health benefits are attributed to its fiber and plant compounds.

Although bulgur is safe for most people, it might not be the best choice for everyone.

Because bulgur is a wheat product, people with a wheat allergy or gluten-related disorder should avoid it. Instead, they can eat any number of other nutritious gluten-free grains (23).

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 (24, 25, 26).

If you live with IBD or IBS and are unsure how you’ll react to it, start with a small amount to see how your body responds.

Similarly, if you’re experiencing any acute digestive symptoms because of infection or illness, it’s best to wait until your symptoms improve before introducing high fiber foods (25).

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, in smaller quantities, until your tolerance improves. You can also try drinking more water to help digest the fiber.

SUMMARY

Some people, such as those with gluten allergies, shouldn’t eat bulgur. Others who experience poor tolerance and adverse digestive effects from bulgur should avoid it or limit their intake.

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.

Plus, bulgur is easy to cook and can be added to many dishes, including salads, stews, and breads. Try eating it as part of a balanced diet to ensure you’re getting all the nutrients your body needs.