In Turkey, there is a type of restaurant called Ocakbaşı. You go to these restaurants when you want to eat grilled meat, cooked on an open barbecue within the restaurant. Our favourite meals, whenever we go to places like this, are chicken şiş kebab, lamb şiş or Adana Kebabı. All of these kebabs are cooked on a skewer which is placed on the ocakbaşı along with vegetables such as red peppers and onion. Once the kebabs are ready, they’re often served on a bed of lavaş bread, with a side salad and bulgur pilavı. In this post, we’re going to be doing our staple bulgur pilaf recipe.
Pilav is a Turkish dish – the Turkish rice side dishes you usually see in Turkish eateries is called şehriyeli pilav – and bulgur pilaf (or ‘bulgur pilavı,’ to give it its Turkish name) is one of our favourites. We actually both prefer bulgur wheat to rice and, if you’ve not got a wheat intolerance, bulgur has a much higher nutritional content, fewer calories, and it’s just as filling. Happy days! If we’re ever having grilled meats, this easy bulgur pilaf recipe is our staple accompaniment.
Along with rice, bulgur wheat is a bit of a staple in Turkey. Walk around the markets of Fethiye and you’ll see a number of stalls selling it by the kilo from huge plastic bowls or nylon sacks. Supermarkets stock it, pre-packed, on their shelves alongside rice, lentils and other dried foods.
Fine bulgur wheat (köftelik bulgur) resembles couscous – but it is not couscous, despite what you might see on menus in tourist areas – and we’ve used bulgur wheat in the past for other Turkish recipes. When you make the Turkish bulgur wheat salad, kısır, for example, or mercimek köftesi, these recipes both use the fine köftelik bulgur. And when you sample the delights of çiğ köfte, that’s fine bulgur wheat, too. For our bulgur pilaf recipe, however, we’re using pilvalık bulgur; a larger grain that you might know as coarse bulgur wheat. This is what you can see in the photo above.
Domatesli Bulgur Pilavı – Easy Bulgur Pilaf Recipe With Tomatoes
There are lots of little additions you can make to you bulgur pilaf recipe to make so that you can pack it with flavour. One of our favourite local lokantas in Fethiye uses a stock and they also give their bulgur pilaf a generous sprinkling of dried mint. Another common bulgur pilaf recipe you will see in restaurants and lokantas is the one we make more than any others – domatesli bulgur pilavı. This translates as bulgur pilaf with tomatoes. We love it!
We love it because, as you can see in the photo above, as the bulgur wheat cooks and softens, it takes on the colour of the tomatoes and red pepper paste. A bit of colour on your plate, a bit of moisture and also sweetness from your added ingredients.
How To Cook Bulgur Pilaf With Tomatoes
So let’s get on and make our classic Turkish bulgur pilaf recipe, domatesli bulgur pilavı, so that you can add a little taste of Turkey to your dishes.
- 1 cup coarse bulgur wheat (around 200g)
- 2 medium-sized tomatoes roughly chopped (or 1 400g tin)
- 1 medium-sized onion, peeled and finely chopped
- 1 green or red capsicum pepper, deseeded and finely chopped
- 1½ cups hot water or chicken stock
- 1 tsp red pepper paste or tomato paste
- Pinch of salt and pepper to season
- In a deep saucepan, heat a little olive oil, add your onion and pepper and saute for a few minutes on a low heat until the onion starts to sweat.
- Now add your tomato and stir around for a couple of minutes until it starts to soften.
- Stir in your tomato or pepper paste and then add your blugur wheat immediately afterwards and stir around for a couple of minutes.
- Turn the heat to high, add your water or chicken stock, salt and pepper.
- Give everything 1 or 2 stirs and bring to the boil.
- As soon as your bugur wheat starts to boil, place a lid on the pan and return the heat to medium - low.
- Simmer the bulgur wheat for 8-10 minutes until the juices have been absorbed.
- Remove from the heat and leave the bulgur pilaf covered for at least another 5 minutes.
- Remove the lid, give your bulgur pilaf a stir around and serve.
If you are using tinned tomatoes, your liquid might not be completely absorbed after the 8-10 minutes cooking time. You can either leave the moisture and remove the bulgur pilaf from the heat or leave it to simmer for another couple of minutes before removing from the heat.
And that’s how you make Turkish bulgur pilaf with tomatoes – domatesli bulgur pilavı. These are the basic ingredients – actually, you can even skip the onion and pepper if you like – but, as you might have guessed if you read this blog a lot, we’re quite partial to adding a good generous spoonful of chilli flakes and we sometimes add a pinch of cumin too.
And of course, we don’t usually serve our domatesil bulgur pilavı like this; it’s usually just spooned onto the side of the plate with whatever grilled meats we’re having. But, as this is a celebration of bulgur wheat, we thought we’d make it look a tad more presentable, like we did with our green beans in olive oil recipe, too. It’s nice to play with presentation if you have friends round for dinner, too – especially when you’re trying to show off the joys of Turkish cuisine!
Turkish pilav dishes go perfectly with Turkish süzme yoghurt (or natural Greek yoghurt is fine if you can’t get Turkish yoghurt) and we often eat leftovers, cold, with yoghurt the day after. As well as the Turkish rice we mentioned above and this bulgur pilaf with tomatoes, we’ve also made bulgur pilaf with spinach and, back to rice again, nohutlu pilav. There are lots more we can do, too…
For now, though, enjoy making – and eating – your traditional bulgur wheat pilaf with tomatoes…and don’t forget the yoghurt. It’s yummy!