The Importance of Burghal in Lebanese Cooking

Burghul holds a dear place in the culinary history of Lebanon. Also known as bulgar wheat, burghul is a cereal made from the grains of a variety of different wheat species. It was once a central element of the Lebanese diet, but has since fallen into obscurity in favour of rice and other grains.

That being said, it is still commonly used today — although you might not know it. It is often mistaken that tabbouleh is traditionally made with cous cous, but in fact, the traditional way of preparing the dish uses burghul for its carbohydrate element. Or if you’ve ever enjoyed crunchy, golden kibbeh, then you’ve eaten burghul.

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How Is It Made?

Burghul is a Persian word that means ‘bruised grain’. Although similar, it should not be confused with cracked wheat, which is not pre-cooked. The preparation of burghul takes places in three stages. First, it is carefully steamed or boiled until its outer layer starts to crack. It is then taken out to dry — traditionally in the sun on the rooftops of Lebanese villages. Once it has dried, it is then ground down or ‘cracked’, separating the bran from the grain. What is left is a grain of varying sizes: coarse burghul, fine burghul and powdered burghul, each which have their different uses in Lebanese dishes.

Burghul Is Better For Your Health

Burghul has a number of health benefits that make it an excellent alternative to other grains. As a whole wheat, it is largely unprocessed, meaning it retains its rich nutrients and vitamins. It is also very low in fat, high in dietary fiber, rich in minerals and a great source of plant-based protein.

Good For Your Heart

Whole grains like bulghur are excellent for heart health as they contain rich anti-oxidants, trace minerals and phenolic compounds that are linked to the prevention of cardiovascular disease. The fiber in whole grains also has wonderful anti-inflammatory effects and can help lower cholesterol.

Good For Your Gut

Fiber is also great for digestion as it helps maintain regular bowel movements and detox the body of toxins.

Helps Slow Down Sugar Absorption

Bulghur wheat is very low GI, meaning it slows the rate that carbohydrates are digested and that sugar is released into the bloodstream.

Helps Keep You Feeling Full

The fiber in bulgur is not absorbable in the body, meaning that it travels through the digestive tract, taking up a large amount of space while absorbing water, meanwhile making you feel full.

A Great Source of Vitamins and Minerals

Bulghur is rich in essential vitamins and minerals such as iron, manganese, magnesium and B vitamins niacin and thiamine.

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Uses in Lebanese Cooking

Bulghur is the star of two classic Lebanese dishes. Perhaps the most well-known is tabbouleh, where it is used to bolster the combination of parsley, tomato and onion. Bulgur imparts a soft, chewy texture, with a mild flavour that is slightly nutty. To prepare bulgur for use in tabbouleh, all you need to do is submerge it in boiling water for a few minutes until it is soft and light, then toss it through the other ingredients.

The second dish that really heroes bulghur is kibbeh: a Levantine dish made of bulgur, minced onions, and finely ground lean beef, lamb or goat mixed with vibrant spices. For a vegetarianalternative, kbbeh can be made with pumpkin in place of meat. The bulgur cases the filling, which is then deep fried to crispy perfection.

You will also find coarse burghul used as the central element in Middle Eastern pilaf, mixed through vegetables for a more substantial dish, or simply as delicious side as you would couscous or rice.

Delicious.

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