Bulgur Pilaf

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I’ve been so excited about fielding my first question through the blog that I thought it would be fun to share my response — and corresponding recipe — as this week’s post. The question was how to modify rice pilaf to make it more healthy, and the answer is a resounding “bulgur!”

Bulgur is a whole grain consisting of groats of wheat that contain fiber, vitamin B, and protein. It’s cut into various sizes, depending on what you want to make, and those are labeled by number. The lowest number is the finest cut. Tabbouleh, for example, uses very fine bulgur, and that corresponds to #1.

A good pilaf requires a courser cut of bulgur, so we use #4.  I get mine from the Armenian markets here in Fresno, but you can also get it from Amazon at this link. I’ve directed you to the least expensive option because bulgur is a staple, so please don’t pay a lot for it!

In the future, I will post a Lentil Pilaf recipe that is  equally healthy and delicious. And, for those seeking a more decadent pilaf, be on the lookout for “Killer Pilaf,” which is coming soon. Enjoy!


Aunt Betty's Bulgur Pilaf

As a healthier alternative to rice pilaf, consider bulgur - a parboiled whole grain that cooks as quickly as white rice. My Aunt Betty Nagarian taught me this recipe before I left for business school in 2001, and I serve it when I want the best of both worlds. With celery, onion, basil and oregano to flavor this healthy side dish, Auntie Betty turned something really healthy into a treat.
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Mediterranean
Keyword bulgur, bulgur_pilaf, healthy_pilaf, healthy_side_dish
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 45 minutes
Servings 6


  • 1 small yellow onion
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 1-1/2 cup bulgur (#4)
  • 1 tbsp butter Olive oil is a substitute.
  • 1/4 tsp oregano
  • 1/4 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 cups chicken stock Vegetable stock is a substitute.


  • Rinse the bulgur by placing it a small bowl, filling the bowl with water, and swirling the water around while agitating the bulgur with your hands. Drain the the excess water, which should be cloudy. Repeat the process a few more times, until the water comes out clear.
  • Finely chop the celery and onion and sauté in the butter (or olive oil, or a combination thereof) until the onions are translucent and soft.
  • Add the oregano, basil, salt and bulgur and sauté another minute.
  • Add the chicken stock (or vegetable, if you prefer) and bring to a boil. Bring the heat down to low, cover, and cook for 20 minutes without stirring. Check your bulgur after 20 minutes and, if it's still looking soupy, it means the heat was too low. In this case, you should increase the heat slightly and cook another five minutes or so.


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