Home Cooking: Bulgur Mexicana

I had not made this dish in I don’t know how long, but remembered it the other day when I bought bulgur wheat to make tabouli salad. Bulgur is a cereal-type food made from the cracked, parboiled groats of wheat, usually durum. Because bulgur has been parboiled, it does not require cooking; instead, soaking is usually all that needs to be done for its preparation. I get my bulgur from Bob’s Red Mill via Amazon, but it can sometimes be found in supermarkets, usually in the rice section (Ala is one brand). Natural food stores carry it as well.

Bulgur Mexicana is a tostada-like dish made with a base of seasoned bulgar pilaf which is then topped with assorted diced, sliced, and julienned vegetables, including tomato, shredded lettuce, shredded carrots, and anything else one desires along with salsa. In addition to all the vegetables, shredded cheese, sour cream, sliced avocado, and olives also make good toppings. Shredded chicken or other meat can be added as one of the toppings if meat is desired, and chicken broth can be swapped for the vegetable broth. In other words, it can go from vegan to meat very, very easily. It’s a great recipe for using up leftovers.

In this dish the wheat is toasted in a frying pan, seasonings are added, and then it is simmered in vegetable broth to soften the wheat. Total cooking time is less than 20 depending on how long it takes for the wheat to absorb the liquid. The finished pilaf is mounded on plates and topped with the different condiments available.

This is a very tasty, filling, and frugal meal. The recipe comes from an old Sunset book of vegetarian recipes that bought back in the early 80s. According to the cookbook it made enough to serve four, but it made more than enough for five of us back in the day.

Saute onion and bulgur in olive oil until the onion is soft and the bulgur golden.

Add the celery, pepper, chili powder, and cumin and cook an additional couple of minutes. I didn’t have any celery so used a whole pepper instead of half.

Add the broth and bring to a boil, then cover and simmer on low until all the liquid is absorbed.

Prepare the toppings while the pilaf cooks. We had lettuce, tomato, grated carrot, and marinated beet slices along with salsa because that’s what we had on hand.



  • 2 TBSP olive oil
  • 1 medium-sized onion, chopped
  • 1 cup bulgur wheat
  • 1 large stalk celery, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 green or red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 3/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 1/4 cups vegetable broth
  • salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in large saute pan or skillet over medium heat.  Add onion and bulgur and cook, stirring often, until onion is soft and bulgur is golden (about 7 or 8 minutes). Stir in celery, pepper, chili powder and cumin and continue to cook for another 2 minutes.  Pour in broth and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, cover and simmer until all the liquid is absorbed. This took less than 20 minutes for me, but your time may be different. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, mound bulgur mixture on plates or in bowls, and allow each person to top with their favorite condiments.