Bulgur Substitute – What Can You Use?

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Bulgur is an extremely versatile whole grain commonly used in Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisines. This nutritious cereal grain is used to make a variety of dishes including tabbouleh salad, bulgur pilaf, and kibbeh meat patties. 

In addition to being tasty and easy to prepare, bulgur is also very nutritious. If a recipe calls for bulgur and you don’t have any at home, you’re probably wondering what you can use instead. 

So, what is the best bulgur substitute? The best substitute for bulgur wheat is quinoa. Quinoa has a similar nutty flavor to bulgur and can be used instead of bulgur in salads, pilafs, soups, or as a side dish. Other great substitutes for bulgur are couscous, rice, buckwheat, millet, farro, teff, amaranth, orzo, barley, and brown rice. 

This article explains everything you need to know about the best bulgur wheat substitutes and how to use them in recipes. 

What Is Bulgur?

Bulgur is a cereal grain made from dried, cracked wheat. Although durum wheat is most commonly used to make bulgur, other hard wheat species can be used as well.

Bulgur has an earthy and nutty flavor similar to quinoa and a chewy texture when cooked. Its nutty flavor pairs well with vegetables, feta cheese, and meat.

Bulgur is an incredibly versatile grain used to make salads, pilafs, stews, and soups. Use bulgur to stuff eggplants, bell peppers, and tomatoes. 

In addition to being versatile, bulgur is also very nutritious and is associated with multiple health benefits. Bulgur is a low-calorie grain and an amazing source of magnesium, manganese, iron, protein, and fiber. 

This versatile grain has roots in Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, and West Asian cuisines, but has become a staple ingredient in many kitchens around the world. 

Are Bulgur and Couscous the same thing?

No, bulgur and couscous aren’t the same things.  Both bulgur and couscous are cereal grains, but bulgur is classified as a whole grain while couscous is a refined grain.

Bulgur is a whole wheat grain that has been cracked, partially pre-cooked and dried. Couscous is a small type of pasta, made from semolina which is a coarsely ground durum wheat.

5 Best Substitutes for Bulgur

Bulgur is becoming an increasingly popular ingredient and can be found at most grocery stores. However, if you’re in a pinch, here are several other ingredients you can use instead of bulgur in recipes. 

1. Quinoa

The best bulgur substitute is quinoa. Native to South America quinoa is a small pseudocereal with a crunchy texture and nutty flavor. 

Quinoa is gluten-free, and you can use it to substitute bulgur wheat when cooking for people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity. This versatile grain can be used in various dishes, from soups to salads, and is loaded with nutrients. 

2. Rice

Rice is the most readily available substitute for bulgur. Even people who don’t normally eat a lot of grains are likely to have rice in their pantry. 

Rice is an extremely versatile grain that can be used in a variety of recipes. The nutty flavor and light and fluffy texture make rice a great substitute for bulgur in salads, soups, pilafs, stews, and side dishes. 

3. Couscous

Couscous is another suitable substitute for bulgur wheat. Despite popular beliefs, couscous isn’t a type of whole grain. Couscous is pasta made from semolina and wheat flour that is moistened and tossed to form small balls. 

Couscous has a sweet and nutty flavor that pairs well with roasted veggies, stews, soups, and salads. Like bulgur, couscous has a firm and chewy texture and makes an amazing side dish.

4. Buckwheat

Buckwheat is a grain-like seed, similar to quinoa, that grows across the United States. It has a similar nutty flavor to bulgur and a chewy texture that works well in salads and stews. 

Despite its name, buckwheat isn’t related to wheat and is gluten-free. This makes it a great choice if you have celiac disease or another gluten-related disorder. 

5. Millet

Millet is a small and versatile cereal grain that belongs to the grass family. It is grown around the world and can be used to make various dishes.

Similar to bulgur and other cereal grains, millet has a slightly nutty flavor and is sweeter than other grains. When cooked millet has a creamy and slightly chewy texture that works for soups, stews, and pilafs. 

Can You use Quinoa instead of Bulgur Wheat?

Yes, you can use quinoa instead of bulgur wheat in recipes. In fact, quinoa is the best substitute for bulgur because it has a similar nutty flavor and firm, chewy texture. Use quinoa as a 1:1 substitute for bulgur when making salads, soups, stews, or in any other recipe. 

Can You Substitute Rice for Bulgur?

Yes, you can substitute rice for bulgur in recipes. Although cooked rice is fluffy and not as chewy as bulgur, it has a similar nutty flavor as bulgur and can be used as a substitute in most recipes. 

Rice is the most readily available replacement for bulgur, and can be used as a substitute in any recipe that calls for bulgur. 

Can You Substitute Barley for Bulgur?

Yes, barley is a good substitute for bulgur. Barley is a commonly grown cereal grain that is versatile and easy to cook. 

Barley has a mild, slightly nutty flavor and a chewy texture similar to bulgur. Use barley to replace bulgur when making soups, stews, casseroles, and salads. 


Bulgur isn’t a whole grain, but a cereal food made from cracked whole grain wheat kernels that are partially cooked and then dried. Bulgur is an increasingly popular and incredibly versatile ingredient used to make various dishes from soups to stews. 

Although bulgur is available at most supermarkets, you may not have any at home. If that’s the case, use quinoa to substitute bulgur in recipes. Quinoa has a similar chewy texture and nutty flavor as bulgur and is easy to cook.

Other suitable bulgur substitutes include rice, couscous, millet, buckwheat, teff, amaranth, orzo, farro, and barley. 

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