Bulgur, also known as bulghur, burghul, or cracked wheat, is a hearty grain loved for its nutty flavor and quick cooking time. However, one might need a substitute due to dietary restrictions, like gluten intolerance, taste preferences, or just to shake things up. The best bulgur substitutes are grains that can mimic its chewy texture and slightly nutty flavor, like quinoa and farro.
👅 Flavor Profile
Bulgur carries a mild yet distinctive earthy, nutty flavor. Its texture is chewy but not overly so, a perfect middle-ground between the tenderness of rice and the bite of farro. In terms of heat treatment, the flavor deepens and the grain becomes more aromatic when cooked, while the texture gets chewier.
🔄 The closest replacements/substitutes
Quinoa, a gluten-free superfood, is a top bulgur substitute. Its nutty flavor and fluffy texture mimic bulgur, and it is equally versatile in recipes.
Taste and Texture: Quinoa carries a slightly nutty flavor and a fluffy, slightly crunchy texture.
Nutritional: Rich in protein, fiber, and a range of vitamins and minerals, quinoa is a highly nutritious option.
Price and Availability: Quinoa is widely available in most supermarkets and health food stores. It’s slightly pricier than bulgur but worth it for the nutritional boost.
Farro, an ancient grain, can replace bulgur with its hearty texture and slightly nutty flavor.
Taste and Texture: Farro boasts a robust, nutty flavor with a chewy texture.
Nutritional: Farro is high in fiber, protein, and various nutrients, including iron and magnesium.
Price and Availability: Farro is available at most supermarkets and online, although it can be a bit pricier than bulgur.
Freekeh is a type of processed wheat that has a slightly smoky flavor and chewy texture that can replicate the experience of bulgur in many dishes.
Taste and Texture: Freekeh provides a unique, smoky flavor and chewy texture, not unlike bulgur.
Nutritional: High in fiber and protein, freekeh also boasts significant amounts of vitamins and minerals.
Price and Availability: Freekeh is generally available in health food stores or online. It may be slightly more expensive than bulgur.
Barley, a versatile grain, shares a similar chewy texture with bulgur and a slightly nutty flavor.
Taste and Texture: Barley has a mild, nutty flavor with a robust, chewy texture.
Nutritional: Barley is rich in fiber and contains valuable amounts of minerals like selenium and manganese.
Price and Availability: Barley is a common grain and easily available in supermarkets at a budget-friendly price.
Couscous, while technically a type of pasta, can be used as a bulgur substitute in many dishes due to its similar texture and mild flavor.
Taste and Texture: Couscous has a mild flavor and a delicate, slightly fluffy texture.
Nutritional: Couscous is a good source of selenium and provides some protein and dietary fiber.
Price and Availability: Couscous is widely available in grocery stores and online, generally at a similar price to bulgur.
Buckwheat, despite its name, is a gluten-free pseudocereal that can be used as a nutritious substitute for bulgur.
Taste and Texture: Buckwheat has a unique, robust, earthy flavor and a soft, grainy texture.
Nutritional: Buckwheat is rich in fiber, protein, and several minerals, including manganese and magnesium.
Price and Availability: Buckwheat is generally available in health food stores or online. Its price is comparable to other specialty grains.
Millet is a versatile, gluten-free grain that can substitute for bulgur, especially in gluten-free diets.
Taste and Texture: Millet has a mild, slightly sweet flavor and a fluffy texture when cooked.
Nutritional: Millet is rich in fiber and provides a good amount of magnesium and other minerals.
Price and Availability: Millet is available in most health food stores and online, often at a similar or slightly higher price than bulgur.
Spelt, an ancient grain, has a chewy texture and slightly sweet, nutty flavor that can serve as a bulgur substitute.
Taste and Texture: Spelt has a hearty, nutty flavor and a satisfying, chewy texture.
Nutritional: Spelt is high in fiber and protein, and it contains a variety of vitamins and minerals.
Price and Availability: Spelt can be found in health food stores and online, but it may be a bit more expensive than Bulgur.
🔪 How to Use Bulgur Substitutes in Recipes
Grain salads, like tabbouleh, can be easily adapted to use a bulgur substitute such as quinoa or farro.
2. Soups and Stews
Grains like barley and spelt can add a hearty, satisfying element to soups and stews. Their ability to absorb flavors make them an excellent bulgur substitute in these dishes.
Quinoa or couscous can be excellent alternatives for bulgur in stuffings for vegetables or poultry due to their light and fluffy textures.
Try swapping bulgur for farro or barley in a risotto recipe. These grains can create a similarly creamy and comforting dish, with a pleasant, chewy bite.
5. Grain Bowls
Grain bowls are a fantastic way to experiment with different grains. Use freekeh, buckwheat, or millet in place of bulgur for a nutritious and satisfying meal.
6. Baked Goods
In certain baked goods like breads or muffins, finely ground grains such as millet or buckwheat can be used as a substitute for bulgur to add a wholesome, nutty flavor and texture.
Millet or spelt can be used instead of bulgur to create a warm, comforting porridge. These grains provide a similar hearty texture, making them excellent substitutes in breakfast dishes.
💡 Tips and guidance
Remember to adjust cooking times when using substitutes as they may not cook at the same rate as bulgur. Some grains, like farro, may need to be soaked before cooking. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different combinations of flavors and textures to get your perfect dish.
Embrace the versatility of these bulgur substitutes in your cooking. Each grain has its unique flavor profile and nutritional benefits. So, get creative and discover new ways to enjoy your favorite dishes. Happy cooking!