Bulgur is a type of ancient cereal grain made from wheat that has been parboiled and dried. The grain adds protein, vitamins, and a mild nutty flavor to dishes. Bulgur, also known as bulgur wheat, contains gluten and is used in bread, pasta, soup, salads, stews, pilafs, and desserts.
There are many substitutes for bulgur in the wheat, gluten-free, and mini pasta categories, including quinoa, couscous, rice, buckwheat, and barley. Many of these substitutes are easier to buy than bulgur, but still add similar flavors and textures to the dish and have similar cooking times.
Best Substitute for Bulgur: Quinoa
The best substitute for bulgur is quinoa, an edible seed filled with nutrients and antioxidants. Quinoa is a gluten-free pseudo-grain with a chewy texture similar to bulgur. Quinoa has a milder nutty and earthy flavor compared to bulgur.
Use quinoa as a 1:1 substitute for bulgur, and cook the dish for the same length of time. Add this substitute to salads, stews, soups, tabbouleh, porridge, and baked goods.
Other Bulgur Substitutes, Alternatives, and Replacements
There are many different foods to use in place of bulgur that offer a similar flavor and texture. Bulgur substitutes include gluten, gluten-free, and miniature pasta options to choose from, based on what the dish needs as well as dietary restrictions.
Bulgur Substitutes With Gluten
The following substitutes contain gluten and offer various flavors and textures similar to bulgur.
Rice is a popular, starchy cereal grain that comes in a brown or white variety. Both varieties of rice are suitable substitutes for bulgur. Brown rice has a nutty flavor and chewy texture closer to bulgur, while white rice is mildly flavored with a delicate texture.
Use rice as a 1:1 substitute for bulgur, increasing the cooking time to about 40 minutes for brown rice, and 20 minutes for white rice. Rice makes a good substitute in chili, salads, soups, pilaf, or paired with meats and vegetables.
Cracked wheat is made by crushing wheat berries and is almost the same product as bulgur, except that bulgur is parboiled before it’s packaged. Cracked wheat offers the same texture and flavor as bulgur, making it a great substitute.
Use cracked wheat as a 1:1 substitute for bulgur, but increase the cooking time based on the package requirements. Cracked wheat is suitable for stews, bread, salads, and soups.
Farro is derived from whole wheat grains and offers a similar flavor and texture to bulgur. However, farro has a more complex flavor than bulgur because farro provides a nutty flavor with a hint of cinnamon. Farro has a tough, chewy texture when cooked.
Use farro as a 3:2 substitute for bulgur and increase the cooking time by up to 25 minutes when using whole farro. Pre-soaking farro will shorten the cooking time. This substitute works well in soups, salads, risotto dishes, pilafs, and other side and main dishes.
Barley is a cereal grain that is not considered whole wheat because it has had the outer bran layer removed. Barley makes a good bulgur substitute because it’s quick and easy to cook and has a slightly nutty flavor and tough texture.
Use barley as a 1:1 substitute for bulgur and increase the cooking time by 10 to 15 minutes.
This grain is versatile and adds mild flavors to various dishes such as casseroles, stir-fries, meat dishes, pilaf, soups, salads, and stews.
Wheat berries come from the wheat kernel’s edible parts, including the bran, germ, and endosperm. This whole grain is high in fiber because it is an unprocessed wheat product that has a nutty and slightly sweet flavor. This substitute also has a slightly toasty aroma that adds flavor to dishes.
Use wheat berries as a 1:1 substitute for bulgur and cook the berries for up to 40 minutes longer than bulgur. This substitute adds a crunchiness to salads and works well in wheat pudding, chili, stews, soups, and sweet dishes.
Gluten-Free Bulgur Substitutes
Use the following substitutes as gluten-free alternatives to bulgur in a wide variety of dishes.
Amaranth is a seed from a flower, similar to quinoa, filled with nutrients and vitamins. This seed is an excellent gluten-free substitute for bulgur despite its slight differences. Before being soaked, this substitute has a strong peppery, herbal, and nutty flavor with a sticky texture.
Use amaranth as a 3:2 substitute for bulgur and add five minutes of cooking time. Add this substitute to curries, salads, and stuffings, or grind it into a powder for bread, pizza, and baked dishes.
Buckwheat is a gluten-free, ancient pseudo-grain high in proteins, carbohydrates, fiber, and vitamins. Often confused as a grain, buckwheat is a fruit seed related to rhubarb and makes a good substitute for bulgur because buckwheat has a rich, nutty flavor and smooth and chewy texture.
Use buckwheat as a 1:1 substitute for bulgur, but use 2 cups of water for every 1 cup of buckwheat when cooking. This substitute works best in salads, soups, stews, porridge, or ground into buckwheat flour for pizza dough or pasta.
Millet is an ancient, gluten-free grain filled with protein, minerals, and vitamins. Millet is an excellent bulgur substitute because millet has a firm and creamy texture and slightly nutty flavor. The versatile grain is not as popular as other substitutes but still works as a healthy alternative to bulgur.
Use millet as a 3:2 substitute for bulgur and double the cooking time to produce a similar texture to bulgur. The creamy texture of millet is suitable to add to mashed potatoes, pilafs, soups, salads, porridge, casseroles, and stews.
Teff is a recently-popular, naturally gluten-free grain the size of poppy seeds. This substitute is smaller than bulgur, so keep consistency in mind when using teff in certain dishes. This substitute has a slightly sweet and nutty flavor similar to bulgur.
Use teff as a 2:1 substitute for bulgur, noting that teff won’t add as much body to the dish as bulgur does. Teff is best used for stews, porridge, pilafs, and baked dishes.
Miniature Pasta Bulgur Substitutes
Use the following miniature pasta alternatives, instead of bulgur, to match the grain texture in a dish. Be mindful that these alternatives contain more carbohydrates than bulgur.
Orzo is pasta from the pastina category and makes a good bulgur substitute because orzo has a firm, chewy texture and neutral taste. Orzo is slightly larger than rice and comes in different colors, including white, red, pale yellow, and green. There is also a bright yellow, gluten-free alternative made from corn and rice.
Use orzo as a 3:2 substitute for bulgur and cook orzo as you would cook any other pasta or add orzo to stews to cook with the other ingredients. Orzo works well in salads, vegetables, soup, and pasta dishes.
Couscous is a variety of pasta made from durum wheat semolina that has been steamed and dried. Couscous is a carbohydrate richer in protein and fiber and has a milder, more neutral taste than bulgur. This replacement has a hint of nuttiness and is readily available in stores, making couscous an excellent substitute for bulgur.
Use wholewheat couscous as a 1:1 substitute for bulgur and reduce the cooking time by five minutes. Add couscous to salads, roast vegetables, in stuffings, as a side dish, or pair with meat or fish.