If you’re on a health kick and looking for nutritious grains for your meals, you’ve got to try bulgur wheat if you haven’t yet. Chances are, you’ve probably seen this grain featured in numerous vegan recipes as a great source of protein!
But if you can’t find this versatile ingredient in your health store or supermarket, you can always use a bulgur wheat substitute.
Understandably, bulgur wheat isn’t always readily available, but its alternatives are! The best ingredients to replace bulgur wheat are quinoa, couscous, rice, buckwheat groats, and farro.
- What’s Bulgur Wheat?
- The 11 Best Substitutes For Bulgur Wheat
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Wrapping It Up
Let’s take a deeper look at the best substitutes of bulgur wheat you can use to replicate the versatile grain’s nutty flavor and distinct texture.
What’s Bulgur Wheat?
For those unfamiliar with bulgur wheat, it’s an ancient grain with its name translating to cracked wheat. It originated in the Middle East, with people performing the process of converting wheat into bulgur for thousands of years.
However, bulgur wheat isn’t really cracked wheat, even if the name means it. Producers pre-cook bulgur wheat while cracked wheat is raw. That makes bulgur a quick-cooking ingredient, requiring minimal cooking time compared to other whole grains like brown rice or barley. (*)
Among thousands to millions of other people, we love adding bulgur into their dishes because of the crumbly, chewy, ground beef-like texture.
It’s not only perfect for replacing rice or other grains, but you can use it in dishes calling for ground beef like lasagna, spaghetti, or tacos. Bulgur wheat soaks flavors of the spices and ingredients you cook with.
While bulgur wheat, like other food ingredients, is unique, there are things you can replace it with, such as:
The 11 Best Substitutes For Bulgur Wheat
You might have seen quinoa as a grain, but it’s really a seed from quinoa plants. But since quinoa is a whole-grain carbohydrate, we understand the confusion about its origins.
But what we do know is that quinoa makes a fantastic gluten-free bulgur wheat substitute with a ton of health benefits. In terms of its nutrition value, quinoa belongs under pseudo-cereals, replacing any grain type as it owns a neutral flavor profile.
We love using quinoa in savory dishes, pairing excellently with fish and seafood. You can also toss it in a salad with smoked tofu, fry it with sauteed veggies, or as a stuffing in bell peppers. You can even bake quinoa to achieve a crunch or cook it with dishes for a creamier texture.
2. Cracked Wheat
Cracked or whole wheat are excellent bulgur wheat substitutes since these are almost the same as one another. The only difference is that cracked wheat isn’t parboiled, though it tastes similar to bulgur wheat with a nutty flavor and coarse, chewy texture.
This grain from China and Africa has a firm texture and nutty flavor. Like many of the ingredients listed here, it comes with a host of nutrients and health benefits.
Millet is a great source of calcium iron, among other vitamins and minerals. Plus, it provides a creamy texture, making it suitable for mashed potatoes or vegetable dishes.
You can never go wrong with rice! It’s considered one of the most popular grains worldwide, and we can’t contest that. Rice is extremely versatile, with literally thousands of recipes using rice, whether as a side or as a significant component.
We can find many different kinds of rice, but the most common is white rice. White rice is essentially milled rice without any bran, germ, or husk. Other popular rice varieties are brown rice, long-grain, short-grain, medium-grain, wild rice, or converted rice.
We suggest trying rice as a bulgur wheat substitute in chili. Since rice tastes neutral, you can mix it with other ingredients, and it would easily pick up flavors and aromas.
Pro-tip: You can try using bamboo rice as a bulgur wheat substitute, a popular rice variety in southern India. It has more protein and vitamin B6, a seed produced from flowering bamboo. Unfortunately, it isn’t always readily available, but if you have it, it’s worth trying!
Some people might feel confused with couscous’ origins as well. While it looks like whole grain, couscous is actually a kind of pasta made of semolina and wheat flour! It’s native to North Africa with various applications in the kitchen, whether as a side or main dish.
We love how it only takes a few minutes to cook couscous and that it has a mild, neutral flavor, making it a suitable bulgur wheat substitute. There’s a hint of nuttiness, which complements various recipes asking for bulgur wheat.
Buckwheat belongs to the pseudo-cereal category with quinoa. Yes, we know you might have thought it was a grain, too! It’s actually a gluten-free seed with a ton of protein, making it an optimum choice for pizza, bread dough, or even noodles and crepes.
You can also replace bulgur wheat with buckwheat in salads for a nutty bite and added texture. However, note that buckwheat has a slightly bitter taste, with its nuttiness coming out more after roasting.
Similar to bulgur wheat, farro has existed since ancient times, with excellent health benefits and nutritional values. Farro has a chewy and tougher texture, typically sold pearled like barley.
Compared to the other substitutes for bulgur wheat mentioned, farro doesn’t have much of a neutral flavor profile. Instead, it has a complex flavor profile, tasting slightly nutty with hints of cinnamon.
That said, farro still makes an excellent bulgur wheat substitute, especially in quick meals like salads. You can use it in risotto or slow cooker chicken recipes since it won’t get mushy when cooked for long periods.
Surprisingly, orzo isn’t a grain either! Like couscous, it’s a type of pasta, a small-shaped one belonging to the pastina category.
While we usually find orzo in soups, you can also use it in other pasta dishes, casseroles, or stews. We love the many colors orzo comes in, from red, green, and yellow. If you’re allergic to gluten, you can avail gluten-free orzo made of rice and corn.
When you use orzo to replace bulgur wheat in cold dishes or salads, make sure you cook it as you would with other pasta. You can also add orzo to dishes like stews, allowing it to cook in the mix.
Amaranth is similar to quinoa, belonging to the pseudo-cereal category. So, yes, amaranth is a seed, which you can use whole or ground the seeds into gluten-free powder to use as a thickening agent or for baking.
We like that amaranth isn’t too neutral but has that kick of herbal, nutty, and even peppery flavors! Try to toast amaranth, and you’ll receive a more pronounced toasty, nutty taste.
We highly recommend amaranth for baked goods like bread or pizza crust for gluten-free folks.
10. Wheat Berries
If you don’t know what wheat berries are, these are the edible parts of wheat kernels, including all its parts like the bran, germ, and endosperm. These are the unprocessed wheat products, considered whole grain with high fiber levels.
We like wheat berries for their sweet and nutty flavor, making them an excellent substitute for bulgur wheat in sweet and savory dishes. They also have a toasty aroma, smelling enticing as you cook! These berries can add crunch to salads, but you can also use them when making wheat pudding or chili for a source of grains.
We can’t consider barley a whole grain since it doesn’t have the outer bran layer. That said, we still think of it as an excellent bulgur wheat substitute for its ease of cooking and versatility for savory dishes.
Barley has a chewy and tougher texture adding a bite to any dish, with a slightly nutty flavor working well with casseroles, stir-fries, pilafs, soups, or salads.
Frequently Asked Questions
Do you have other questions regarding bulgur wheat? We answer them below!
1. What’s the nutritional value of bulgur wheat?
Bulgur wheat also has a low glycemic index of 48, hinting that it’s lower in calories with a ton of fiber. 100 grams of cooked bulgur has 83 calories, lower than most substitutes above like rice, couscous, and quinoa. Moreover, it is rich in vitamin B, folate, magnesium, iron, manganese, and niacin. (*)
2. Are there different kinds of bulgur wheat?
The types of bulgur wheat depend on their consistency to go from fine, medium, coarse, to very coarse. Fine bulgur wheat is the smallest, whereas very coarse bulgur wheat is the largest type, taking the longest to cook.
3. How can you cook bulgur wheat properly?
Bulgur wheat cooks surprisingly fast, so be wary and avoid overcooking if it’s your first time. If you have fine bulgur, you won’t need to cook it! Simply soak it in milk or cold water for 8-12 hours and use it. To cook fine bulgur wheat faster, soak it in hot water.
Cook medium-sized bulgur wheat by soaking it in hot water for 10-15 minutes. For coarse to very coarse bulgur, you’ll need to cook it a bit more, though you won’t have to boil them. Let it simmer in a pot of water and soak the grains until it reaches your preferred texture. Use two cups of liquid for every cup of bulgur wheat you will prepare.
Wrapping It Up
When selecting the best bulgur wheat substitute, you can go for farro, rice, wheat berries, or barley if you desire grains. But if you want more protein without gluten, you can opt for pseudo-cereals like amaranth, buckwheat, or quinoa. The choice is yours, based on what you need and prefer.
Besides learning about the bulgur wheat substitute, why not delve into the world of food substitutions to experiment in the kitchen? Learn more here at Nomspedia!