If you're ever out of oatmeal but crave a warm, comforting porridge for breakfast, prepare one with bulgur instead. Bulgur is a versatile grain that can be lightly cooked -- or even just soaked -- to make fluffy granules that work well in salads and pilafs. However, if you cook bulgur longer with additional water, it breaks down and thickens in its cooking liquid, creating a creamy porridge that pairs well with fruit and nuts for breakfast.
Quick to Cook
Bulgur is made from cracked wheat berries. The pieces are parboiled, or precooked, before being dried to create a shelf-stable product. Because bulgur is already partially cooked, it softens more quickly than cracked wheat, which is essentially the same thing without the precooking. This quick cooking time makes bulgur a better choice than cracked wheat for a breakfast porridge, whose preparation involves cooking a grain until it's soft enough to break down. This creates a smooth, creamy dish that can be eaten with a spoon.
Choose Your Grind
Bulgur comes in fine, medium and coarse grinds, as well as a range of grades in between. The cooking process softens bulgur grains by plumping them with cooking liquid, and eventually breaking them down if they're cooked long enough. Granules that are smaller in size fully absorb liquid more quickly than larger, coarser granules. Use fine bulgur if you want a relatively smooth porridge that cooks quickly. Use coarsely ground bulgur if you want more texture in your porridge and you're willing to wait.
Cook It Like Oatmeal
Combine each cup of fine-grind bulgur with 4 cups of water. Bring the mixture to a boil in a small saucepan, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook the mixture for at least 10 minutes, until it starts to break down and become creamy. Add a pinch of salt to the cooking water to give the bulgur additional flavor and enhance the sweet flavors you'll add later. If the mixture starts sticking to the pan, turn off the heat and let it sit for a few minutes longer. It'll continue to cook, but it won't continue to burn.
There are just as many options for topping cooked bulgur as there are for oatmeal. Try an array of fresh berries and cream in the summer, with a drizzle of honey. In colder weather, use dried fruits and lightly toasted nuts, seeds or coconut. Got a sweet tooth? Try topping your bulgur with a sprinkling of chocolate chips and a drizzle of peanut butter.
Devra Gartenstein is a self-taught professional cook who has authored two cookbooks: "The Accidental Vegan", and "Local Bounty: Seasonal Vegan Recipes". She founded Patty Pan Cooperative, Seattle's oldest farmers market concession, and teaches regular cooking classes.