Serving steaming hot bulgur pilaf on plate

Spicy Bulgur Pilaf – Easy Recipe with Red Sauce

Bulgur is a spectacular whole grain that is full of nutrients and minerals. It is also exceptionally delicious and blends well with many different spices and herbs. In Turkey, spicy bulgur pilaf is a usual companion with most kebab dishes. Make some change and replace steamed rice with bulgur every once in a while. Who knows, maybe delicious bulgur pilaf can be your new favorite side dish. I think you will not regret it! Plus, it is healthier than rice since it contains more protein, nutrients, and fibers. I love them both very much, but it is good to try new combinations.

You might encounter different versions of bulgur pilaf all around the Mediterranean. ’Durum’’, the same ingredient for making premium pasta and bread, is also used for producing bulgur. However, there is a difference in the production method. You can make bulgur from hard and soft wheat, but it needs to be partially boiled (parboiled or steamed). Next, it has to be dried (usually sun-dried). In general, other types of cracked wheat we use are pre-cooked.

Bulgur is a popular meal in Anatolia. Visit any kebab restaurant, and you will find some bulgur pilaf instantly. Hittites prepared bulgur dishes thousands of years ago in this region. Even Romans were aware of its health benefits and amazing flavor.

What you will need:

First of all, you need to use coarse bulgur for this meal. Note that we use fine bulgur for making salads and appetizers such spicy bulgur salad—kisir, and coarse bulgur for making pilaf. The following item from Zaiqa is a good choice. You can make perfect pilaf instantly.

Spicy Bulgur Pilaf Recipe

To create a red sauce bulgur pilaf, we add red peppers, tomato paste, and pureed tomatoes. Adding all these red vegetables improves the taste and makes this bulgur pilaf a great side dish. Notice I do not use onions. Some bulgur pilaf recipes call for sautéed onions, but I think it turns it into a complete meal. Plus, we also lose the aroma of the tomatoes if we do so. It is simple and quick. I hope you enjoy it!

Spicy Bulgur Pilaf – Easy Recipe with Red Sauce

Recipe by OzgurCourse: Sides, DinnerCuisine: TurkishDifficulty: Easy


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  • 2 cups coarse bulgur

  • 2 cups water

  • 3 tomatoes, pureed

  • 4 tablespoons of olive oil

  • 1 ½ tablespoons of unsalted butter

  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed

  • 1 red chili peppers, chopped (optional, skip if you do not like it hot)

  • 1 green chili pepper or Jalapeno pepper, chopped

  • 1 red bell pepper, chopped

  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste

  • 1 teaspoon salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper


  • Wash and drain the bulgur, and set it aside.
  • Add olive oil and butter to a large pan and turn on the heat.
  • Slice the chili peppers, red bell pepper, and sauté them in the pan along with the crushed garlic.
  • Puree the tomatoes in the food processor, and add them to the pan.
  • Add in the tomato paste.
  • Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes.
  • Add three cups of water.
  • Season with salt and pepper.
  • Continue to cook for another minute.
  • Add the drained bulgur and continue to cook over medium-low heat until all water is evaporated (about 20 minutes). Stir occasionally.


  • Be careful to select the right kind of bulgur for this recipe. Just remember that coarse bulgur is for pilaf — fine bulgur is for kisir, tabouleh, kibbeh, etc.
  • You can keep cooked bulgur pilaf in the fridge for about 2-3 days. Use your microwave to reheat. If you are going to reheat over the stove, make sure to add 2 tablespoons of water to prevent the bulgur from getting dried out during reheating.
  • You can use spicy bulgur pilaf as a side dish with your favorite meals in the same way you use steamed rice or rice pilaf. Add some bulgur pilaf and teriyaki chicken to a bowl for some new flavors.
  • You can change the spices in this recipe according to your personal taste. Bulgur can take on any character you like; make it Asian, South American, Italian, Spanish, and more! For example, you can omit the pureed tomatoes and the tomato paste and add one tablespoon of soy sauce and ¼ cup of unsalted peanuts to twist it.
  • Feel free to add your favorite vegetables when making bulgur pilaf. Just sauté them in the pan before adding water and bulgur. (Hint: try mushrooms and reduce the water amount in this recipe by ½ cup)

What is good about bulgur?

Bulgur contains many minerals, vitamins, and fiber. Foods that are rich in fibers may improve digestion, reduce chronic disease risk, and promote weight loss. Besides, cooking bulgur pilaf is quick and simple. It is a great companion to many meaty dishes.

Why is it called bulgur?

Bulgur’s origin goes back thousands of years. Ancient Hittites and Babylonians used bulgur in their regular diet. We are talking about 4000 years of bulgur pilaf making here. You would rarely encounter Arabic words (burgul, bulgar, balgour, burghoul, burghul, etc.) that are pronounced the same in Western languages. It is a kind of dried cracked wheat that is popular all around the Mediterranean, Balkans, Middle East, and the rest of the world. It was first commercially produced in Turkey.

What is the difference between rice and rice pilaf?

Rice and rice pilaf might look similar, but they have completely different cooking methods. Rice is cooked by boiling in water by only adding salt and minimal oil or butter. However, we start cooking pilaf by first sautéing herbs and spices in a pan. After that, we add sauces and water to improve flavor. Lastly, we add rice or bulgur and continue to cook over low heat until all water is vaporized. So, pilaf is a heavily seasoned dish, whereas steamed rice or bulgur is boiled without any additional flavorings.


  1. […] Making boiled chickpeas with tomato sauce is very common where I come from. Add some steamed rice as sides, and it becomes a traditional meal instantly. In fact, there are some restaurants specializing solely in this, and only a few other similar legume meals in my hometown. They serve boiled legumes over steamed rice or bulgur pilaf. […]

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