Are you looking for a bulgur substitute because you haven't used this ingredient in your recipes yet? Or you may already have it in your pantry, but it isn't enough for the dish you’re making or you have completely run out of it?
My list will provide ingredients that can replace cooked or uncooked bulgur in your recipes. Whether you need a direct substitute for bulgur wheat or a bulgur gluten free substitute, you're sure to find a suitable option.
What Is Bulgur?
Before I introduce you to my highly recommended bulgur wheat substitutes, let’s get to know the ingredient we're replacing.
Bulgur wheat or bulgur is an ancient grain made from whole wheat berries that underwent parboiling, drying, and cracking. It's a popular staple in Mediterranean, Asian, and Middle Eastern cuisines but is slowly growing in popularity worldwide.
It's also becoming one of the most sought-after alternatives to white and brown rice. That's all thanks to its nutritional value and many health benefits.
It's rich in fiber, manganese, iron, and magnesium, so it helps promote good digestive and cardiovascular health. Even better, it’s very low in calories, so it's perfect for those who want to lose and maintain weight.
I also love that this whole grain is available in fine. medium-grind, and coarse varieties. Whichever grind you opt for, it will have a chewy texture once you cook it. Flavor-wise, bulgur has distinct nutty notes that add warmth and richness to your dish.
Bulgur wheat is also known for adding creaminess to most dishes like soups and stews.
5 Best Bulgur Substitutes
While you'll definitely find a long list of alternatives to bulgur wheat, I have narrowed down your options to my favorites. This way, choosing the ideal ingredient for your specific dish will be easier.
1. Cracked Wheat
Cracked wheat is my top choice when substituting bulgur in my recipe, as it's also made from whole wheat berries. Did you know that most people even confuse cracked wheat for bulgur? I also did!
However, cracked wheat isn't parboiled like bulgur. It’s why it will require a longer cooking time and has a shorter shelf life than bulgur.
Still, its similar nutty, earthy notes with bulgur and a chewy texture is well worth spending more time in your kitchen.
Don’t worry; the cooking process is very straightforward. Simply place your cracked wheat in a pot, add water, allow it to boil, and lower the heat. Then, let it simmer for about 25 minutes.
Once cooked, add the same amount of the cooked cracked wheat to your dish as what your recipe calls for bulgur.
Best for just about anything.
2. Wheat Berries
What could be a better bulgur wheat substitute than its source itself, right?
Whole wheat berries are unprocessed wheat kernel bits. It’s why they have the highest dietary fiber content compared to bother bulgur and cracked wheat and the strongest nutty flavor and aroma.
Once cooked, they will have the same chewy texture as bulgur.
However, the berries require the longest time to cook. You will need to place the wheat berries in a pot and add water. Allow to boil and lower the heat to simmer for 60 to 90 minutes.
Ratio-wise, you will need to replace bulgur with the same amount of wheat berries.
Best for stews, soups, risotto, pilafs, and tabbouleh salad.
Like bulgur, farro is an ancient grain that is just starting to gain popularity in most countries. It's also made from whole wheat grains.
This grain has the same nutty flavor and aroma and chewy texture as bulgur wheat. It's also high in fiber and rich in many nutrients.
One of my issues with farro is that it's not as commonly found in local grocery stores as most of the substitutes on my list.
Farro grains are also larger than bulgur, requiring longer cooking time, but what I do is soak them overnight before cooking. Once cooked, simply add the same amount of cooked farro to your recipe.
While farro can seem to be an inconvenient option, you won't regret using it as a substitute for bulgur wheat. That is especially if your dish needs the same level of nuttiness, but you can't find any of the first two options above.
Best for casseroles, risotto, soups, stews, salads, and side dishes.
4. Whole Wheat Couscous
What if I tell you that wheat couscous isn't a grain or a product made from seeds? While couscous resembles bulgur in appearance, it is actually pasta made from crushed durum wheat semolina.
It's why couscous is one of the most commonly used low-carb alternatives to white rice and pasta for people trying to lose and maintain weight or have dietary restrictions.
Couscous has a slightly nutty flavor and aroma and a fluffy texture once cooked. But what I love most about wheat couscous is that it cooks quickly. You can even cook it in two different ways!
You can pour the wheat couscous into boiling water and allow it to cook for a few minutes, depending on the packaging instructions. You may also steam your couscous to give it a richer flavor.
What you need to do is place your colander on top of boiling water, broth, or soup. Put your wheat couscous in your colander and cook for a few minutes.
Since couscous only takes less than 30 minutes to cook, it's the best bulgur wheat substitute if you don't have enough time to spare. Couscous will surely save you in situations like your guests giving you short notice and you cooking a bit later than expected.
In terms of measurement, simply replace your cooked bulgur with the same amount of your cooked couscous.
Now, how do you replace bulgur in sweat treats or desserts? I suggest cooking it in milk to give it more flavor. You may also add sweeteners to the milk if you want to, but make sure it won't make your treats sweeter than how you want them.
Best for stews, salads, roasted vegetables, puddings, and desserts.
Another fiber-rich and nutritious substitute for bulgur wheat you probably already have in your pantry is barley. While it isn't a whole grain, it has a nutty taste and aroma that will remind you of bulgur.
However, it has a chewier texture than bulgur because it doesn’t have an outer bran or covering. It’s also why it requires a longer cooking time, around 45 minutes, than bulgur.
That said, you won't need to do any maths when you substitute barley for bulgur since the ratio is 1:1, like the rest of the options above.
Best for stews, salads, risotto, roasted vegetables, puddings, and desserts.
5 Best Gluten Free Bulgur Substitutes
Do you need a bulgur substitute because you're serving someone who has gluten intolerance or in a strict gluten free diet due to allergies or celiac disease?
Don't worry; you have several options, and I highly recommend the following:
Quinoa is a superfood most of you probably have already used because of its many health benefits, including stabilizing blood sugar levels due to its low glycemic index.
While it isn't a type of grain but a seed, it has a similar texture, nutty taste, and aroma as bulgur wheat. However, it also has a distinct peppery flavor, adding more earthy notes to your dish.
What I love most about quinoa is that it is easy and quick to cook. If you're using commercially-bought quinoa, you need to rinse it once or more to remove the saponin present. But you can skip the rinsing process if you're using quinoa harvested from your home garden.
Then, cook your quinoa like your brown or white rice. Allow it to boil, lower the heat, and let it simmer for at most 30 minutes. Then, add the same amount of cooked quinoa as what your recipe calls for bulgur wheat.
Another thing I love about this gluten free bulgur substitute is that it's available in red and creamy white varieties. Meaning that you can use red quinoa if you want to add a different color to your dish without affecting its taste.
Best for just about anything.
Buckwheat grains are another ancient ingredient that is a popular superfood with a low glycemic index and lower caloric content. It might sound like it’s made from wheat, but it is a cereal grain produced from a fruit seed.
While it has a silky, chewy texture and a nutty flavor, it also has a slightly bitter taste. But don’t worry; this bitterness won't really affect your dish's overall quality and balance of flavor.
But if you're unsure, I recommend reducing the amount you'll use in your recipe. Simply replace one cup of bulgur with ¾ cup of buckwheat, but you can otherwise follow a 1:1 ratio.
Like with quinoa, buckwheat is a great gluten free substitute for bulgur if you don't have enough time to spare. Simply allow it to simmer for about 20 minutes or less, depending on the amount or the package instructions.
Best for soups, stews, porridge, and risotto.
3. Shelled Hemp Seeds
Are you looking for a gluten free bulgur substitute that won't literally take up too much of your time? Shelled hemp seeds should top your list because you can add them to your dish raw.
However, you can toast them in your skillet over a medium heat setting for five to eight minutes. These toasted shelled hemp seeds will have more flavor, but the raw seeds will work just fine.
Whether toasted or not, this protein-rich, highly nutritious ingredient has a nutty flavor with buttery notes that will further enhance the taste and aroma of your finished dish.
Its crunchy texture will make your dishes more appealing to the palate. That is especially when you combine it with soft ingredients and use it in baking multi grain bread.
My only issue with shelled hemp seeds is they're expensive, which is understandable because they're mostly organic.
To use, add the same amount of raw or toasted shelled hemp seeds as what your recipe indicates for bulgur wheat.
Best for soups, stews, stir-fries, tabbouleh and grain salads, and baked goods.
Millet is another of my favorite bulgur wheat substitutes when making cold, hot, and warm dishes. It isn't as well-known as other grains, but it has long been popular in Asia and Africa because of its many nutritional benefits.
It has a slightly different firm texture from bulgur wheat but has the same nutty flavor and aroma that won’t disappoint you and your guests.
To use millet in your recipe, you will need to soak it in water overnight to remove the phytic acid in its coating. Then cook for 18 to 20 minutes by simmering it over low heat.
Best for casseroles, soups, pilafs, tabbouleh salad, porridge, and mashed potatoes.
Another one of the best substitutes for bulgur wheat you can use when serving people with gluten intolerance is this popular grain in Central and South America. Like millet, you will need to soak it overnight before cooking, not to remove anything but to reduce its stickiness.
Once soaked, amaranth is easy and quick to cook. You can cook it like white or brown rice, which will take around 10 minutes. You can also microwave it until it puffs like popcorn.
Then, replace bulgur in your recipe with the same amount of this nutritious grain.
Best for salads, curries, porridge, and savory dishes.
Cook and Bake With the Right Bulgur Wheat Substitute
When choosing any ingredient substitute, I always advise you to consider your consumers' dietary restrictions, the estimated amount of time you have in the kitchen, and your specific recipe.
With my list of substitutes for bulgur wheat, you can find one or more that will work for every recipe. Others will only work for most dishes requiring bulgur because of the slight difference in texture and flavor.
Nonetheless, they're all nutritious and will work perfectly fine when used and cooked correctly.
Best Bulgur Substitutes
- 1 cup cracked wheat
- 1 cup quinoa
Option 1: Cracked Wheat
- When you’re cooking for individuals without gluten allergies and restrictions, simply replace one cup of bulgur wheat with one cup of cracked wheat.
Option 2: Quinoa
- If one of your guests is on a strict gluten free diet, consider replacing one cup of bulgur wheat with one cup of quinoa.
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