I have been lucky enough this week to squeeze in a couple of quick days in my beloved Cyprus, soaking up the sun and spending time with my wonderful friends who live on the island. Having lived in Cyprus for several years, the delicious food and flavoursome recipes of the island are an essential part of my cooking. Today’s recipe is one of my absolute favourites, Turkish Bulgur Salad or Kısır.
WHAT IS TURKISH BULGUR SALAD?
As with any recipe from the region, there are a thousand variations to Turkish Bulgur Salad, but at heart, it is a combination of bulgur (cracked and parboiled wheat), onion, tomato, lemon juice and pomegranate molasses, cooked, then stirred together with fresh tomato, peppers, cucumber and parsley. The amount of each ingredient can be adjusted to suit your likes and dislikes (and what you have in the fridge!)
WHY IS TURKISH BULGUR SALAD SO GOOD?
It’s delicious! Turkish Bulgur Salad (Kısır) is served with nearly every meal in Cyprus, whether in a small dish alongside a selection of meze or as part of a shish kebab or halloumi feast. It’s a wonderfully healthy, filling side dish that is almost universally loved.
IT’S FABULOUSLY FRUGAL TOO.
It is no secret that I love a frugal recipe and Turkish Bulgur Salad fits the bill perfectly. This salad is the ultimate in making a few ingredients go a very long way and is perfect for feeding a crowd at a barbecue or party, or for batching up and eating all week. I always cook up plenty and find myself snacking on it throughout the day.
DOESN’T IT HAVE SOME STRANGE INGREDIENTS?
While a couple of the ingredients are not universally available, they are an essential part of any Turkish or Cypriot kitchen, but they are easily substituted. There are three main ingredients that you may need to replace:
- Coarse Bulgur: This is readily available in many places, for example the foreign foods aisle of the supermarket. If you have a Turkish food store nearby they will have a large selection for sure! If you really can’t find it, consider using barley or even rice.
- Pomegranate molasses: This sticky, concentrated pomegranate juice is deliciously sweet and tart. You can make your own by boiling down pomegranate juice to a honey-like consistency or substitute with a little sugar and extra lemon juice.
- Pul biber: Sometimes known as Aleppo pepper, pul biber is dried red pepper flakes. In this recipe, I use the sweet variety which has no heat at all, so it can be replaced with sweet paprika powder or very mild chilli flakes.
I LOVE CYPRIOT AND TURKISH CYPRIOT FOOD! CHECK OUT MORE DELICIOUS RECIPES BELOW:
Let me know if you try this recipe in the comments below, or using the hashtag #daysofjay on Instagram. Happy cooking!
for the bulgur:
- 500g coarse bulgur (see notes)
- 125ml olive oil, divided
- 1 large onion, finely diced
- 125g tomato paste
- 2-3 tsp sea salt
- 30ml lemon juice
- 30ml pomegranate syrup
for the salad:
- 2 ripe tomatoes, diced
- 1 medium cucumber, diced
- 1 red pepper, diced
- small bunch fresh parsley, roughly chopped
- 2 tsp tatlı pul biber or very mild chilli flakes (see notes)
- extra lemon juice and pomegranate molasses to taste
- COOK THE BULGUR: Place the bulgur in a medium saucepan, cover with 1 litre of cold water and bring to the boil. Add a pinch of salt, then turn the heat down to medium-low and simmer until the bulgur is tender, stirring occasionally to prevent the bulgur from catching. Depending on the coarseness of the bulgur this can take 10-15 minutes. Remove from the heat, drain any remaining liquid, cover and set aside.
- SAUTÉ THE ONION: Heat 2 Tbsp of oil in a medium frying pan and cook the onion gently for 5 minutes, until softened but not browned. Stir through the tomato paste and cook for a further 2.3 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir through the remaining oil.
- FLAVOUR THE BULGUR: Pour the onion and tomato mixture into the pan containing the bulgur and mix well, fluffing the bulgur with a fork. Add 2 tsp of the salt, the lemon juice and pomegranate syrup and stir until completely combined. Taste and add more salt if necessary. Set aside to cool.
- PREPARE THE KISIR SALAD: When the bulgur has cooled to room temperature, toss together with the tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper and parsley. Sprinkle over the pul biber or chilli flakes (if using) and add extra lemon juice and pomegranate molasses to taste.
Bulgur comes in different grades of coarseness, from finely ground köftelik bulgur which looks a little like couscous, to much coarser pilavlik bulgur which is nearly the size of grains of rice. I have a preference for the coarser style as I like it to have a bit of a chew. It is also often how Kısır is served in Cyprus.
Pul Biber, sometimes known as Aleppo Pepper is crushed red pepper flakes, essential to Turkish cuisine. They come in many grades from tatlı pul biber (sweet) to çok çok acı (ery very hot!). They can be replaced by mild chilli flakes or sweet paprika, but do try to track them down if you can.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 10 Serving Size: 1 cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 286Total Fat: 12gSaturated Fat: 2gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 10gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 497mgCarbohydrates: 45gFiber: 4gSugar: 30gProtein: 3g
Nutrition information is calculated automatically and isn’t always accurate.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
I can’t find pomegranate molasses, can I still make Turkish Bulgur Salad?
Yes, you can. Add an extra tablespoon or two of lemon juice and a teaspoon or two of sugar instead. Pomegranate molasses is sweet and sour, so you need to recreate that feeling. You could use a little balsamic vinegar in a pinch, though it will alter the colour of the finished dish.
Can I make Turkish Bulgur Salad in advance?
Yes! In fact, I prefer it on day two or even day three when the flavours have had a chance to really mix together.
Can I freeze bulgur salad?
You can freeze the cooked and flavoured bulgur, but not when it has the fresh vegetables stirred through as they will go mushy. It keeps for a very long time in the fridge so there is really no need to.