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Domatesli Bulgur Pilavı – Turkish Bulgur Pilaf With Tomatoes

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In this post, we’re going to be giving you our staple bulgur pilaf recipe – and a staple of the Turkish kitchen; domatesli bulgur pilavı.

In Turkey, there is a type of restaurant called Ocakbaşı.

You go to these Turkish restaurants when you want to eat grilled meat, cooked on an open barbecue within the restaurant.

A close up of Turkish Bulgur Pilaf with tomatoes.
Domatesli bulgur pilavı – Bulgur pilaf with tomatoes

Our favourite meals, whenever we go to places like this, are chicken şiş kebab, lamb şiş or Adana Kebab.

All of these kebabs are cooked on a skewer which is placed on the ocakbaşı along with vegetables such as red and green peppers and onion.

Once the kebabs are ready, they’re often served on a bed of lavash bread, with a side salad and bulgur pilavı.

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.

High Nutrition, Low Calories

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.

A pile of uncooked coarse bulgur wheat (Pilavlık Bulgur) in a white bowl.
Pilavlık bulgur – coarse bulgur wheat for making Turkish pilaf dishes

Along with rice, bulgur wheat is a bit of a staple in Turkey.

Walk around Fethiye market and you’ll see a number of stalls selling it by the kilo from huge plastic bowls or nylon sacks.

The local supermarket stocks it, pre-packed, on their shelves alongside rice, lentils and other dried foods.

It’s Not Couscous

There are different types of bulgur and 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 lentil köfte, 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 pilavlık bulgur; a larger grain that you might know as coarse bulgur wheat.

This is what you can see in the photo above and it is what is traditionally used in Turkish style bulgur pilaf dishes.

Domatesli Bulgur Pilavı – Easy Bulgur Pilaf Recipe With Tomatoes

There are lots of little additions you can make to your 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 side dish 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.

A long vertical image of Domatesli Bulgur Pilavı with other lokanta dishes from one of our local restaurants.
Domatesli bulgur pilavı

This translates as bulgur pilaf with tomatoes.

We love it!

We love it because, as the cooking bulgur wheat softens, it takes on the colour of the tomatoes and absorbs the red pepper paste.

Don’t worry if you can’t get red pepper paste (biber salçası) where you are. Tomato puree or tomato paste (domates salçası) will work just as well.

A bit of colour on your plate, a bit of moisture and also sweetness from your added ingredients.

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, served at room temperature, with yoghurt the day after (your cooked bulgur pilaf will keep in the fridge in an airtight container for around three days).

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 pilaf varieties again, nohutlu pilav.

There are lots more dishes 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!

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.

The following recipe lists the basic ingredients – but, actually, you can even skip the chopped onions and red or green bell pepper, if you like.

And, 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 (pul biber).

We sometimes add a pinch of cumin too.

A shaped serving of Bulgur Pilaf.
A posh serving of Turkish bulgur pilaf

And of course, we don’t usually serve our domatesli 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 – especially when you’re trying to show off the joys of Turkish cuisine!

These days, we add a sprinkling of chopped fresh herbs and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice, too, just before serving.

A serving of Turkish bulgur pilaf with tomatoes and onions
5 from 2 votes

Bulgur Pilaf With Tomatoes

Domatesli bulgur pilavı is a classic Turkish bulgur pilaf recipe that makes an ideal, healthy accompaniment to grilled meats such as steaks and kebabs.
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Course Side Dish
Cuisine Turkish
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 25 minutes
Servings 4
Calories 160kcal
Author Turkey’s For Life


  • 1 cup coarse bulgur wheat around 200 grams
  • 2 medium tomatoes roughly chopped, or ½ x 400 gram tin
  • 1 medium onion peeled & finely chopped
  • 1 capsicum pepper green or red, deseeded & finely chopped
  • cups hot water or chicken stock
  • 1 teaspoon red pepper paste or tomato paste
  • 1 pinch salt & pepper to season


  • In a deep saucepan, heat a little olive oil, add your onion and pepper and sauté 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 (salça) and then add your bulgur 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 a couple of stirs and bring to the boil.
  • As soon as your bulgur 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.


  • As with all of our recipes, calories per serving is meant as a rough guide and depends which ingredients you use.
  • 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.
  • Feel free to add extra herbs and spices to your bulgur pilaf. Dried mint works well and we also like to add some chilli flakes (hot red pepper flakes) for a bit of heat. Add these after cooking.


Serving: 1 | Calories: 160kcal

And that’s how you make Turkish bulgur pilaf with tomatoes – domatesli bulgur pilavı.

And if you use vegetable stock or water rather than chicken stock, this recipe is also suitable for vegetarians and vegans.

Afiyet Olsun!

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Recipe Rating

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Susmita Ghosh

Friday 7th of July 2023

Awesome I love Turkish food thank you very much 4 recipe

Turkey's For Life

Friday 7th of July 2023

Hi Susmita, glad you like the recipe. Thanks a lot for the rating. We love this bulgur pilaf with tomatoes dish. :)

Jeremy M Cline

Friday 15th of January 2021

Thanks for this fab recipe! I was wondering: if I add dried mint, do I leave out the cumin and chili flakes, or do they go well together in your experience?

Turkey's For Life

Saturday 16th of January 2021

Hi Jeremy, thanks a lot for your comment. Turkish cuisine always mixes herbs and spices in this way. we always find they go together well. Domatesli bulgur pilaf is a classic and so tasty. Just be careful not to use too much cumin as it can take over. If anything, mint should come through the most. :)


Tuesday 2nd of July 2013

Does anyone know how many calories there are in bulgar it is just too delicious!!?

Turkey's For Life

Tuesday 16th of August 2011

@ Kim: Hope you enjoyed it. I's really easy to make and we eat it a lot. Your chickpea and roasted red pepper salad sounds lovely. :)

Kim Wilshaw

Tuesday 16th of August 2011

Just made the bulgur wheat and marinaded the chicken to have this eve. I didnt have much veg at home so I've made a roasted red pepper and chickpea salad. I am so excited to serve it to the family tonight! Thanks, easy and yummy looking recipe!

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