An ode to Bulgar (and an awesome chili recipe)

Over the Christmas holiday, I had my cousin and his wife (who are also dear friends) over for dinner.  I decided to make a pot of chili and a pan of jalapeño cheddar cornbread as it was a very casual get together and I was wanted something pretty simple to prepare since I had been cooking and baking a lot for the holidays.  I used a chili recipe called “Positively Pantry Chili” from Robin Robertson’s cookbook Vegan on the Cheap.  The recipe falls under the slow cooker section, but it has alternate instructions for making it on the stove.  You pretty much dump everything into a big pot and simmer it for half an hour.  Can’t get any easier than that!

The recipe calls for bulgar, which most people have never heard of.  If I hadn’t had a stepfather from Lebanon who used it in tabbouleh (a Mediterranean salad, pronounced tah-boo-lee), I would probably still have no clue what it is.  Bulgar is a form of wheat that has been parboiled, dried, and then ground. It’s used in a lot of Middle Eastern cuisine.  The finished product is small granules, somewhat similar to couscous, and is a tan-ish color.  Bulgar is low in fat and rich in B vitamins, iron, protein, and fiber.

When my cousin’s wife looked at the chili, she asked what was in it that made it look like there was ground beef in it.  Bulgar sort of resembles the crumbly texture of beef or sausage when cooked, especially in a dish that is somewhat brown-ish in color.  She took a bite and was amazed that she couldn’t tell the difference.  Both of them really seemed to enjoy it and my cousin’s wife said, “I’m going to have to look into this bulgar stuff.”

I’m sure you can find it at a Mediterranean store, but you’re not going to see it on a shelf in most grocery stores.  I buy mine from the bulk bin at Whole Foods, were you can purchase enough to fill your own container from home(have it weighed at customer service and then fill’er up!) or you can just get as much as you need for one recipe.

Here is the chili recipe that I made and I will be posting 2 other recipes I use bulgar in shortly:

Positively Pantry Chili
(from Robin Robertson’s Vegan on the Cheap)
6-8 servings at less than $1.00 per serving

1 24 oz jar of chunky tomato salsa
¼ cup ketchup
2 Tablespoons chili powder
¾ teaspoon salt
1 ½ teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon oregano
½ teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon sugar
1 cup of water
1 15.5 oz can dark red kidney beans (or  1 ½ cups cooked from dried beans)
1 15.5 oz can black beans (or  1 ½ cups cooked from dried beans)
1 15.5 oz can pinto beans (or  1 ½ cups cooked from dried beans)
½ cup bulgar
16 oz corn kernels (frozen or canned, drained)

Toss everything into a pot, stir, cover, and turn the heat to high.  When everything start to bubble, turn down the heat to low and simmer for half an hour.  I usually end up adding a 1/2 cup or so more water to mine as the bulgar absorbs the liquid to thin it out a bit and prevent it from burning.

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2 thoughts on “An ode to Bulgar (and an awesome chili recipe)

  1. If I would not have known better, I would have thought that this chili tasted like it had meat in it. It was really good! I look forward to making it 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

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