Herb and Spinach Bulgur Pilavı

Herbed Bulgur Pilaf

There weren’t many dishes I ate that contained bulgur. Until recently, the only thing I could think to make was tabbouleh. Fair enough – tabbouleh is tasty!

Eating my way through Turkey, I realized that you could get bulgur in different sizes, in many stages between fine and coarse. The coarser bulgur was used much like rice, and bulgur pilaf was a common side for many dishes.

I bought a bag of coarse bulgur, ready to make some delicious pilaf… and it sat in the cupboard for almost a month. J finally dug in, and used some in a bread, and I decided I couldn’t let him show me up.

The basic bulgur pilaf is fairly plain, since it’s meant to be a side dish for more flavourful main items, like kebab and kofte. I used the recipe from the cookbook I bought in Turkey as a jumping off point, adding some spinach and lots of yummy herbs and spices. I also had to change the cooking instructions a little bit — this will vary depending on the coarseness of the bulgur you buy. There are many variations, and I’m not sure there’s a standard way that all brands differentiate between the varieties.

This is a great alternative to a rice side dish – it has a nice chewiness to it, and is fantastically tangy from the mix of tomato, fresh mint and sumac.

It’s also amazing as leftovers.

Herb and Spinach Bulgur Pilavı

Modified from the base recipe found in Turkish Cookery.


  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter or margarine
  • 1 cup fresh baby spinach
  • 1 cups coarse bulgur wheat
  • 1 large tomato, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 – 1 1/2 cup water or stock
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup fresh mint, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon Za’atar (if you can’t find it, use 3 parts thyme to 1 part toasted sesame seeds)
  • 1 teaspoon sumac (and more to sprinkle on top to serve)
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1. In a sauté pan, brown the onions in the butter.
    Add the spinach.
  2. Wash and drain the bulgur, and add to the pan. Stir constantly for about 15 minutes.
  3. Add salt, tomato and liquid. Mix well, cover and let boil on medium heat for about 5 minutes. Be sure to watch it!! The water could absorb more quickly or more slowly… you don’t want to let it burn!
  4. Lower the heat, and cook until the liquid is absorbed.
  5. Stir in the mint, Za’atar and sumac. Leave on very low heat for 20 minutes.
  6. Mix well with a wooden spoon and serve, topped with a little extra sumac or Za’atar.

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