It’s easy to capture the flavor of summer in a simple side dish with this Tomato Bulgur Pilaf. Similar to a traditional Armenian rice pilaf, swap out the rice for coarse bulgur and add tons of fresh tomato! This pilaf simply bursts with tomato flavor!
The end of summer is the height of tomato season, thus I’m sharing a dish featuring this beloved seasonal ingredient. There are so many ways to utilize tomatoes in cooking. They can be the star of the show or have a memorable cameo on your plate. When tomatoes aren’t in season, they can easily be included in dishes using canned variations. In a pinch, this works great, but I simply love the accessibility of the fresh variety in summer months. I’m sharing one of my favorite recipes featuring fresh tomatoes. Enter tomato bulgur pilaf! As an Armenian, I have eaten a lot of rice pilaf in my day. I particularly love pilaf made with bulgur wheat.
What kind of bulgur should I use?
Use coarse or extra-coarse bulgur which somewhat mimics the size and shape of rice. You can purchase coarse bulgur and extra-coarse bulgur (#4 or #5 bulgur) in many Middle Eastern markets. It’s typically either pre-packaged or sold by weight. It’s often labeled as Pilavlik Bulgur in Turkish which essentially translates to bulgur for pilaf. Store your bulgur in the freezer to keep it fresher longer. I love the flavor and texture of this bulgur. What really takes it over the top is preparing it using fresh tomatoes with all of their juices as the main “liquid” for absorption in pilaf preparation.
How to make tomato bulgur pilaf
The easiest way to do this is to grate halved fresh tomatoes on a box grater (seeds included) leaving just the skins for disposal. Then simmer this juicy tomato pulp softened onions and a little extra boiling water. Next you’ll add coarse bulgur, reduce the heat, and allow it all to meld. Voilà! The result is one of my favorite summer side dishes.
This pilaf is surprisingly light for a starchy side, and it really showcases the flavor and color of the fresh tomatoes. I’ve seen other Armenians make bulgur pilaf, but often use finer bulgur (so not my favorite in this preparation). They also sometimes include chunks of tomato that seem more like an afterthought as opposed to a true counterpart to the tomato bulgur pilaf.
Other recipes with tomato you may like
- Curried Tomato Salad
- Corn and Tomato Pizza
- Confit Byaldi (Remy’s Ratatouille)
- Spaghetti Sciuè Sciuè
- The Hollywood Brown Derby Cobb Salad
- Pescado a la Veracruzana (Veracruz-Style Fish)
Tomato Bulgur Pilaf
- 2 ounces (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
- 1 large onion finely chopped
- 4 cups grated tomato including juices and seeds about 4 to 5 tomatoes, or an equivalent amount of canned crushed tomatoes if fresh tomatoes are unavailable or out of season (see notes)
- 1/2 cup boiling water
- 2 cups coarse or extra-coarse bulgur wheat #3 or #4 size
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Melt the butter in a large pot over medium-high heat, add the onion and cook until softened. Add the grated tomato, bring to a simmer, then lower the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring regularly, for about 5 minutes.
- Add the boiling water, stir, and then add the bulgur, stirring again to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. When the mixture starts to bubble, lower the heat to low, cover, and cook for about 15 minutes, or until all the liquid is absorbed. Remove from the heat and let it rest for a few minutes before serving.
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