The 11 Best Substitutes For Bulgur: Exploring Versatile Grain Alternatives

The 11 Best Bulgur Replacements: Exploring Alternatives to a Versatile Grain

Bulgur, a popular grain used in Middle Eastern cuisine, is known for its versatility, ease of cooking, and health benefits. However, there are times when bulgur may not be readily available in your pantry. In such situations, it is helpful to explore alternative grains that can serve as bulgur substitutes. This article will introduce you to the 11 best bulgur substitutes, highlighting their characteristics, uses, and cooking methods.

1. Quinoa: A nutty and versatile alternative

Quinoa is emerging as one of the top bulgur substitutes due to its nutty flavor and similar cooking time. Like fine bulgur, quinoa produces fluffy and chewy grains when cooked. Its versatility allows it to be used in a variety of dishes, including salads, soups, and stews. Quinoa can even be used as a substitute for bulgur in the popular tabbouleh salad.

2. Couscous: A type of pasta similar to bulgur.

Often mistaken for a grain, couscous is actually a type of pasta made from durum wheat. Although it differs from bulgur in composition, couscous is similar in appearance to finely ground bulgur. With its neutral flavor, couscous can be used in many dishes that call for bulgur, such as simple side dishes and vegetable stuffings.

3. Rice: A convenient and versatile option

Rice is a readily available substitute for bulgur. Its neutral flavor profile and versatility make it a suitable choice for a wide range of dishes. Rice complements a variety of meats and vegetables and can be used in salads, soups and side dishes. For those seeking a chewy texture and nutty flavor similar to bulgur, brown rice is an excellent alternative, although it requires a longer cooking time.

4. Cracked or whole wheat: Similar in taste and texture

Cracked wheat is very similar to bulgur in taste and texture, making it an ideal substitute. The main difference is the parboiling process, as cracked wheat is not subjected to this treatment. Similarly, whole wheat can be used as an alternative, offering a coarse and chewy texture along with its nutty flavor.

5. Buckwheat: A nutrient-dense pseudo-grain

Buckwheat, a pseudo grain rich in protein and carbohydrates, is an excellent alternative to bulgur. It offers nutritional benefits, including vitamins B1 and B2, folate, and vitamin K. When cooked properly, buckwheat grains have a nutty flavor with a subtle hint of bitterness. They have a chewy texture that works well in salads and stews.

6. Millet: A versatile and easy-to-use grain

Millet, an ancient grain popular in Asia and Africa, serves as a suitable substitute for bulgur. It is a healthy source of protein and antioxidants. Millet grains are small, round pearls with a nutty flavor and firm texture. Although less well known than rice and quinoa, millet is very versatile and easy to work with. It can be used in pilafs, soups, and casseroles as a substitute for bulgur.

7. Amaranth: A Lesser-Known Grain with Impressive Nutritional Value

Although not widely used, amaranth can be an option for replacing bulgur. This grain has an impressive nutritional profile, being a rich source of protein, fiber, antioxidants, and minerals. When used as a bulgur substitute in salads, curries, and other dishes, it is important to note that amaranth offers peppery and herbal flavor notes in contrast to the nutty flavor of bulgur.

8. Farro: A Nutritious and Chewy Whole Grain

Farro, a whole grain variety of wheat, is relatively high in carbohydrates while providing fiber, iron, magnesium, and other minerals. With its nutty flavor and chewy texture, cooked farro is very similar to bulgur. This similarity allows farro to be used interchangeably with bulgur in a variety of dishes, including pilafs and salads.

9. Teff: A Tiny Grain with Big Potential

Teff, a tiny grain native to Ethiopia, can be used as a bulgur substitute. It is commonly used in porridges, stews, and pilafs. Despite its small size, teff offers a delightful nutty flavor and contributes to the overall texture of dishes.

10. Orzo: A pasta suitable for soups and salads.

Orzo, a type of pasta that resembles rice grains, can also serve as an alternative to bulgur. It is often used in soups, pasta dishes and salads. Orzo’s small, rice-like shape allows it to blend seamlessly with other ingredients and provides a pleasant texture and appearance similar to bulgur.

11. Barley: A hearty and nutritious grain

Barley, a versatile grain with a nutty flavor and chewy texture, can be substituted for bulgur in a variety of recipes. It is rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals, making it a nutritious choice. Barley can be used in pilafs, soups, stews, and salads, providing a satisfying and hearty addition to these dishes.


While bulgur is a unique grain, there are several alternatives that can be used as substitutes in various culinary creations. Quinoa, couscous, rice, cracked or whole wheat, buckwheat, millet, amaranth, farro, teff, orzo, and barley all offer their own unique flavors, textures, and nutritional benefits. Whether you are looking for a gluten-free option, a nutty flavor, or a similar cooking time, these substitutes offer flexibility and versatility in your cooking endeavors. Experimenting with these substitutes will allow you to explore new flavors and expand your culinary repertoire. So the next time you find yourself without bulgur, don’t hesitate to try one of these 11 best substitutes and discover a whole new world of flavors and possibilities.


What are the best bulgur substitutes?

The best bulgur substitutes include quinoa, couscous, rice, cracked or whole wheat, buckwheat, millet, amaranth, farro, teff, orzo, and barley.

Can I use rice instead of bulgur?

Yes, rice is a convenient substitute for bulgur. It has a neutral flavor and works well in a variety of dishes.

Are there gluten-free alternatives to bulgur?

Yes, quinoa, rice, buckwheat, millet, amaranth, and teff are all gluten-free substitutes for bulgur.

Which substitute is closest in texture and flavor to bulgur?

Cracked wheat is very similar to bulgur in taste and texture, making it an ideal substitute. Whole wheat and farro also offer similar characteristics.

Can these substitutes be used instead of bulgur in recipes?

Yes, these substitutes can generally be used in place of bulgur in a variety of recipes, including salads, pilafs, soups, and stews. However, keep in mind that each substitute has its own unique flavor and texture, which may slightly alter the final result. It’s always a good idea to experiment and adjust the amounts to achieve the desired taste and texture.