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The scoop on bulgur (GI 48). 
Bulgur (also spelled bulgar, bulghur, burghul and bourghul) is a versatile, nutty-tasting, wholegrain cracked wheat that just may be one of our oldest processed foods. ‘Diners around 8000 years ago could enjoy a bowl of instant wheat cereal that wasn’t very different from hot wheat cereals served today according to a study in Vegetation History and Archaeobotany. The ancient cereal consisted of parboiled bulgur wheat that Early Neolithic Bulgarians could refresh in minutes with hot water. “People boiled the grain, dried it, removed the bran and ground it into coarse particles,” lead author Soultana-Maria Valamoti told Discovery News. “In this form, the cereal grain can be stored throughout the year and consumed easily, even without boiling, by merely soaking in hot water.” She and her colleagues studied the Bulgarian grain, excavated at a site called Kapitan Dimitrievo. Very high magnification by microscope revealed precise details about the individual cereal grains, including their composition.’ Sadly the page with the full story at Discovery News, seems to have been devoured.

Making wheat into bulgur has been an integral part of Middle Eastern cuisine for thousands of years and you can still see villagers preparing it the traditional way: boiling the wheat in huge pots, spreading the cooked berries or groats over flat roof tops to dry, then cracking the hardened kernels into coarse pieces and sieving them into different sizes.

You will find you can buy bulgur in larger supermarkets, natural/organic health food stores and Middle Eastern produce stores. You may also (if you are lucky) have a choice of grades – fine (#1), medium (#2), coarse (#3), and very coarse (#4). You can make pilafs with medium, coarse, and very coarse bulgur. Tabbouleh and kibbe are best made with fine bulgur. It is sometimes confused with cracked wheat, which is crushed wheat grain that has not been parboiled.

Tabouli: When Money Saving Meals author Diane Temple was shopping for bulgur, the owner of her local Middle Eastern produce store leaned over the counter and said: ‘Don’t use too much if you are making tabouli, just a small handful.’ She then proceeded to share her own recipe, recommending curly parsley rather than flat-leaf for a better texture. The recipe serves 6–8.


  • Ingredients: 3 tightly packed cups (about 3 bunches) parsley leaves, chopped; ½ cup mint leaves, chopped; 3 medium green onions (shallots/spring onions), white and light green parts sliced; 3 large red ripe roma (plum) tomatoes, chopped; 2 tbsp bulgur; 1 large Lebanese cucumber, quartered lengthwise then finely sliced; juice 1 lemon; 2 tbsp olive oil
  • Method: Place the chopped parsley, mint and green onions in a large bowl and spread the chopped tomatoes over the top in a thickish layer. Sprinkle over the burghul. Top with the finely chopped the cucumber. Drizzle over the lemon juice and oil. Cover and chill until ready to serve, then toss to mix all the ingredients together. 
  • Per serve (serves 8) Energy: 292kJ/ 70 cals; Protein 1. g; Fat 5 g; Carbs 4g Fibre 3g.