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12 Bulgur Wheat Substitutes in Recipe (Gluten & Gluten-Free)

Ever wondered which is the oldest convenience food in the world – heard of bulgur wheat? Although it is not popular as other grains like quinoa, barley, and rice, bulgur is a versatile, healthy, and nutritious option you have. 

Bulgur wheat is a kind of ancient grain that originated in the Middle East. Though its name translates to cracked wheat, they are not the same.

If you have run of stock and are looking for other ingredients to be used as a replacement, then here are some bulgur wheat substitutes for you.

Gluten Substitutes

Gluten-free Substitutes

Farro, Wheat Couscous, Barley, Wheat Berries, Orzo

Rice, Quinoa, Buckwheat, Millet, Amaranth, Teff, Bamboo Rice

What is Bulgur Wheat?

Bulgur wheat is a type of whole-grain wheat that has been parboiled, dried, and cracked. On its own, it’s just a grain of hard white wheat. But when it’s ground into flour, bulgur adds a nutty flavor and creamy texture to dishes.

Bulgur is a nutritious staple that has been a prominent feature in numerous West Asian and Mediterranean recipes. It is believed to be the oldest convenience food and has been used for over 4,000 years.

When it comes to usage, bulgur is the most common ingredient in tabbouleh salad. It can also be used whole or broken into smaller pieces in soups and stews.  

What Can You Substitute for Bulgur Wheat?

1. Quinoa

quinoa flour

Quinoa is a pseudocereal. This implies the seeds are not actual grains but are eaten like grains. Nevertheless, it is an ideal choice if you are looking for gluten-free bulgur substitution in kibbeh.

Quinoa is a staple diet in South America. It’s gluten-free and can be used in the same way you would use bulgur.

Quinoa has a nutty flavor and rich nutrients like vitamins, potassium, calcium, and proteins. If you want to add earthy taste, a nutty and chewy texture to your salads, casseroles, tabbouleh, stews, soups, and more, then you cannot go wrong with quinoa.

2. Buckwheat

buckwheat flour

Buckwheat is one of the oldest cereals still in use and is loved for its smooth texture and delicious clean taste.

It was originally grown in Southeast Asia, but later its use spread to most of the Americas and Europe. Although it is treated as a grain cereal, it is a fruit seed related to rhubarb or sorrel.

Buckwheat is high in nutrition and is rich in magnesium and carbohydrates. It is prepared just as bulgur and hence makes a great bulgur substitute.

You can use buckwheat in soups, stews, warm dishes, as a breakfast cereal, and more.   

3. Rice

rice flour

Although rice has a delicate texture and a milder taste than bulgur wheat, it would make a great bulgur replacement.

In any recipe, brown and white rice would make ideal replacements for bulgur wheat. One thing you should note is that brown rice has a delicate texture and a milder taste than bulgur wheat.

4. Farro

farro

Farro will also make an excellent bulgur substitution if you are not concerned about gluten. Derived from whole wheat grains, Farro is nutritious as bulgur.

It is packed with fibre and proteins and has the nutty taste and chewiness that bulgur imparts to recipes. It is no wonder why Farro would make a fantastic addition to your salads, soups, and other recipes where you could swap it with bulgur.

5. Wheat Couscous

couscous

How wheat couscous is prepared is entirely different from how bulgur is prepared. It is basically crushed durum which has been converted into tiny granules. This grain is popular in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines.

Moreover, wheat couscous has a mild flavor that works well with fish and other dishes/recipes. The cooking time is similar to bulgur, making it a great bulgur wheat alternative.

6. Millet

millet flour

Millet is a type of grain found in China and Africa. It has a firm texture and a nutty flavor. However, its nutrient profile is quite impressive. It is rich in calcium, vitamins, iron, and other minerals beneficial for your health.

It’s wise to use it to impart a creamy texture to your recipe or add it to mashed potatoes and other vegetables. If you are looking for a healthy bulgur substitution, you cannot go wrong with millet.

Read further: 12 Best Substitutes for Millet Flour in Gluten-free Baking

7. Amaranth

amaranth flour

Amaranth is again a pseudocereal similar to Quinoa and found in the sunny hills of South America. It has a nutty, peppery flavor, making it a great gluten-free alternative to bulgur.

Just use Amaranth whole or powdered form to receive a thick texture in any recipe.

8. Barley

barley flour

Barley is not considered to be a whole grain. But it’s easy to use and cooks in no time. It has a tougher texture and is a bit chewy.

It’s a popular ingredient in pilaf, casseroles, stir-fries, salads, soups, and other recipes.

9. Teff

teff

Teff is a small, new grain and traces its origin to Ethiopia. It has numerous health benefits to offer as it is rich in vitamins and proteins. Its nutty flavor and a tinge of sweetness make it similar to bulgur.

However, because of its size, you should keep its consistency in mind before using it as a substitute for bulgur wheat.

10. Wheat Berries

wheat berries

Wheat berries are edible parts of the wheat kernel, including the germ, the bran, and the endosperm. These are practically unprocessed wheat parts and rich in fibre.

Wheat berries are whole-grain and make a great substitute for bulgur owing to their nuttiness and sweet flavor.

If you want to add some crunch to your salads or make some pudding, you cannot go wrong with using wheat berries.

11. Orzo

orzo

Whole wheat orzo is a great source of fiber which makes it a healthy choice. You would be surprised to learn that it is a kind of pasta that resembles rice in its texture, size, and shape.

Preparing orzo is easy. You need to boil the pasta over medium heat until it has reached the tenderness you desire. Drain, and it is ready to use. If you have run out of bulgur wheat and have orzo in your pantry stock, then use it!

One thing to note is that orzo is high in calories, and hence you need to be careful while choosing your portion size if you have fitness goals.

12. Bamboo Rice

bamboo rice

Bamboo rice is a delicious wide variety of rice available predominantly in southern India. It is a rich source of protein and vitamin B6, making it a healthier alternative to bulgur wheat.  

Bamboo rice is a seed produced by flowering bamboo when nearing its end.

However, it is not commonly available since its flowering pattern is not predictable. A bamboo plant could take a few years to up to 100 years for a bamboo plant to flower.

Recipes with Bulgur (Substitutes)

Although you don’t have bulgur on hand, you can still make the following meals with the above substitutes.

Kibbeh


Bulgur Wheat Salad


Bulgur Pilaf


Lebanese


FAQs About Bulgur

How to choose a substitute? 

There is no magic formula available for choosing a substitute for bulgur. Just pick the replacement depending on the recipe you are using.

Moreover, you need to be careful while choosing rice as it takes lesser time to cook when compared to bulgur and has a milder texture.  

Can you substitute barley for bulgur?

Though using barley could affect your recipe’s flavor and the cooking process, there are a few dishes you can swap barley for bulgur wheat, such as in tabbouli salad and kibbeh.

Does bulgur wheat have a low glycemic index?

Yes! Bulgur wheat has a glycemic index of 48 which is believed to be very low. This rating also hints that it is lower in calories and has double the amount of fiber than rice.

Bulgur is also rich in manganese and vitamin B, making it a healthier alternative to rice and other grains.

If you are using bulgur specifically for its beneficial aspect, then make sure to choose substitutes that have a lower glycemic index than bulgur.

What would make an ideal substitute for bulgur?

Quinoa would make the best bulgur replacement. It takes the same time to cook as bulgur wheat. Other substitutes such as cracked wheat, rice, buckwheat either take less or longer time to cook.

Moreover, quinoa comes closer to bulgur wheat in terms of its texture and chewiness.  

Conclusion

You don’t have to panic if you have run out of bulgur while working on your tabbouleh recipe. Just pick from these great alternatives available and conveniently swap them.

If you only want to avoid gluten, just simply choose from the suggested gluten-free options from the list.

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I’m Jennifer Schlette, a Registered Dietitian and Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. I love cooking, reading, and my kids! Here you’ll find the healthiest recipes & substitutions for your cooking. Enjoy, and be well, friends!

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