Tomato Bulgur Pilaf

August 14, 2014 (Last Updated: June 29, 2020)
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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!

Tomato bulgur pilaf

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.

Closeup of tomato bulgur pilaf

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.

Bag of coarse bulgur for making pilaf

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.

Tomato bulgur pilaf

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.

A plate of grilled chicken, tomato bulgur pilaf, and green beans

Other recipes with tomato you may like

Tomato bulgur pilaf

Tomato Bulgur Pilaf

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!
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 10 mins
Cook Time 35 mins
Total Time 45 mins
Course Side Dish
Cuisine Armenian, Lebanese, Middle Eastern, Turkish
Servings 6 servings
Calories 219 kcal


  • 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), skins discarded
  • 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.

Notes & Nutrition

  • To grate the tomatoes, cut them in half (trimming the stem portion) and grate them with the cut side against the large holes of a box grater until only the skin is left in your palm. I recommend grating them directly into a bowl to catch all the juices, and then measuring the yield in a large measuring cup.
  • If tomatoes aren’t in season, you can substitute an equivalent amount of canned crushed tomatoes.
Servings 6.0 * calories 219 * Total Fat 8 g * Saturated Fat 5 g * Monounsaturated Fat 2 g * Polyunsaturated Fat 0 g * Trans Fat 0 g * Cholesterol 20 mg * Sodium 25 mg * Potassium 39 mg * Total Carbohydrate 33 g * Dietary Fiber 3 g * Sugars 4 g * Protein 5 g
*All nutritional information is based on third-party calculations and should be considered estimates. Actual nutritional content will vary with brands used, measuring methods, portion sizes and more.*

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  • Reply
    January 29, 2020 at 10:27 pm

    5 stars
    I used your wonderful recipe as a jumping off point for making a similar recipe made by my Iranian friend. After sautéing the onions, but before, adding the grated tomato I added turmeric and cinnamon to the pan. Stirring for about a minute before adding the tomatoes. Also after the liquid was absorb I stirred in chopped dates and let sit for about 5 minutes. Garnished with thinly sliced green onion. I thought it was delicious. Thank you for a great recipe to get me started.

    • Reply
      January 30, 2020 at 9:03 am

      Wow this sounds delicious! I love all of those additional ingredients, and would definitely be intrigued to try that version too. Do you by any chance know the name of that dish your Iranian friend makes? So glad this recipe helped you create it!

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