Going Beyond: Exploring Bulgur Wheat Substitute Ideas

December 26, 2022
Last updated on February 01, 2023
Going Beyond: Exploring Bulgur Wheat Substitute Ideas

Bulgur wheat: the staple that fuses nutty notes with a chewy texture in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. Packed with fiber, protein, and vital minerals, it elevates traditional tabbouleh and kibbeh dishes with its distinctive taste and texture. Yet, for some, the gluten it contains might not align with their dietary restrictions or they might be searching for a fresh culinary experience.

Bulgur Wheat Substitute Options

Unleash a cornucopia of culinary creativity with our rundown of potential substitutes for bulgur wheat! Dabble in diverse ingredients such as quinoa, barley, farro, couscous and freekeh that can imbue your dishes with nutty flavors, chewy textures, and ample amounts of fiber, protein, and minerals. Indulge in a smorgasbord of meals that can cater to various dietary needs while still retaining their deliciousness.

1. Quinoa

Quinoa - a remarkable grain that can be swapped with bulgur wheat in a multitude of dishes, boasts a texture like bulgur wheat and a nutty flavor that is to die for! Being gluten-free, quinoa fits the bill for those who have a gluten intolerance or celiac disease. And that's not all, its protein quotient surpasses bulgur wheat, making it an exceptional pick for plant-based eaters seeking to boost their protein intake.

2. Barley

Swap bulgur wheat for barley in your dishes and enjoy a similar texture and nutty flavor. With its versatility, barley can liven up soups, stews, salads and sides. Packed with fiber, it promotes healthy digestion and keeps you satisfied. Ideal for those managing weight or blood sugar, barley boasts a lower glycemic index than bulgur wheat, avoiding sudden spikes in blood sugar. An excellent choice for people with diabetes or blood sugar management goals.

3. Farro

The ancient grain Farro is making waves as a suitable bulgur wheat substitute, offering a nutty flavor and a chewy texture that's unparalleled. Its gluten-free nature and its richness in fiber, protein, essential minerals, antioxidants, and phytonutrients, make Farro a nutritious and healthy ingredient to include in your diet.

The grain boasts a unique nuttier and earthier taste compared to bulgur, and retains its shape and texture when cooked, elevating salads and grain bowls to the next level. With its versatility, Farro can be effortlessly seasoned to cater to your culinary whims and harmoniously pairs with a medley of veggies, fruits, nuts, and herbs.

4. Couscous

Couscous, made from semolina wheat, tantalizes with a texture comparable to bulgur wheat. Utilized in a multitude of dishes, this staple ingredient in North African and Middle Eastern cuisines offers a unique take in salads, stews, and sides. Its light and airy texture shines as a replacement for bulgur wheat.

Quick to prepare and cook, couscous is ideal for those seeking a fuss-free ingredient. Served hot or cold, its versatility is unmatched, making it a standout option. Gluten-free and a decent source of carbohydrates and protein, though low in other key nutrients, couscous is a formidable contender.

5. Freekeh

Freekeh introduces an unexpected twist in bulgur wheat substitution! Its smoky essence, combined with a chewy texture, elevates soups, stews, and salads to new heights. Derived from green durum wheat, it mirrors bulgur's texture and nutty taste, while offering gluten-free, protein-rich, and fiber-rich benefits. A delicious and nutritious departure from the norm, Freekeh promises to impart an unexpected layer of flavor and texture to dishes.

How to Use the Substitutes in Recipes

Cooking times and liquid ratios may vary with these grain substitutes, so it's crucial to adjust accordingly. Quinoa calls for a rinse before cooking and a shorter cook time of around 15 minutes. Barley, however, requires a longer cook time of 45-60 minutes. Farro and freekeh cook similarly to bulgur, in 20-25 minutes. Couscous is ready in a flash, simply soak in hot water for 10-15 minutes.

Incorporating these grains in recipes opens up a world of possibilities! Try using quinoa, barley or farro in a unique take on classic tabouli. For a smoky twist, opt for freekeh in stews or soups. And for an extra protein boost, add quinoa to salads.


Summing up, the hunt for a bulgur wheat substitute is over with a plethora of options like quinoa, barley, farro, couscous, and freekeh. Each of these grains boasts its own exclusive flavor, texture, and nutrient profile, providing ample opportunities for you to delve into experimentation and uncover your most preferred alternative. Whether it's to switch up your diet or accommodate dietary restrictions, these options guarantee to offer delightful and wholesome dishes.

Profil Picture Annie Shepherd

Annie Shepherd is a 38-year-old woman who loves reading, swimming, and practicing yoga. In her free time, she enjoys writing a blog about all things related to the kitchen and food. When she's not busy working or keeping up with her hobbies, Annie can be found trying out new recipes and experimenting with different ingredients in the kitchen.

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