Tabbouleh is one of my favorite dishes, especially during summer, because it is refreshing and chock-full of seasonal produce, like tomatoes and fresh herbs. But until recently, when I made tabbouleh at home, I was often disappointed. When I prepared the cracked bulgar wheat — an essential part of the dish — according to the package instructions, the grains ended up either too hard and not quite cooked or mushy and gummy.
In fact, instructions on how to cook bulgar are often contradictory. Some recipes call for you to rinse the grains in cold water; others instruct you to soak the them in warm water — or maybe it’s boiling water? — for 10 minutes, 30 minutes, or even an hour. Some recipes even want you to cook bulgar on the stove.
Why all the different instructions? It’s because bulgar comes in different grinds, including coarse, medium, and fine. A cold water rinse might soften finely ground bulgar, but it will do very little for coarser grinds. And guess which variety is more commonly found in the U.S.? (Right: coarse.)
Rather than try to guess what variety your bulgar is — because many supermarket bulgar brands do not specify the grind on their packaging, much to my irritation — I recommend ditching the package instructions altogether. Instead, try cooking bulgar in the Instant Pot, which is known for reliably cooking all kinds of whole grains, to ensure that the bulgar comes out perfect every time. After 12 minutes in the Instant Pot, the cracked wheat grains come out tender but firm, and not at all gummy. This easy method will have you enjoying tabbouleh all summer long!
Don’t be tempted to use a food processor to chop the parsley and mint. It will bruise the herbs, making them taste grassy and bitter. Use your sharpest blade to chop them finely and practice those knife skills!
- 1 cup bulgar wheat
- 1 1/4 cups water
- 6 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 3 cups chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 2 cups diced tomato
- 1 cup finely diced red onion
- 1 cup chopped mint
- 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Place the bulgar and water in the Instant Pot, and stir to combine. Cover and select the Rice function or use the manual settings to select 12 minutes at low pressure, making sure the pressure release is closed.
- When the cooking program finishes, release the pressure manually and remove the lid. Fluff the bulgar with a fork, remove the inner pot, and allow the bulgar to cool slightly.
- While the bulgar is still warm, sprinkle 4 tablespoons of the lemon juice over it and toss to combine. (The warm grains will absorb the liquid, giving the dish extra zing.)
- In a large bowl, combine the parsley, tomato, onion, and mint. Add the bulgar and toss gently to combine.
- Whisk together the remaining lemon juice, the olive oil, and salt and pour it over the salad. Toss to coat. Add black pepper and additional salt if needed.
- Allow the salad to stand for at least 30 minutes prior to serving so the flavors can develop.