Bulgur Chili

In this chili, bulgur takes the place of the usual meat. Beans aren’t essential, though they can easily be incorporated (see Vegetarian Chili Variations below). All sorts of vegetables can also be incorporated, including corn kernels, zucchini, squash, carrots, celery, and more (just toss them in at the end of step 1). Like most stews, this one will actually taste better the next day, which makes it a super make-ahead dish.–Mark Bittman

LC Bittman on Bulgur Note

Author Mark Bittman concedes that you can replace the bulgur with just about any whole grain, included cooked wheat, rye, kamut, spelt, hominy, and millet (if using an alternate cooked grain, adjust the stock or water to just 2 cups).

Bulgur Chili Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 30 M
  • 1 H, 25 M
  • Makes 6 to 8 servings


  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 bell peppers, any color, cored, seeded, and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 2 to 4 cascabel, guajillo, ancho, or other dried hot red peppers, soaked, cleaned, and chopped
  • 3 cups chopped ripe tomato (about 1 1/2 pounds whole or canned; don’t bother to drain)
  • 1 quart vegetable stock, chile-soaking liquid, or water
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup fine- or medium-grind bulgur
  • Sliced scallion, chopped cilantro leaves, grated Monterey Jack or cheddar cheese, and sour cream, for garnish


  • 1. Put the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add the onion, bell peppers, and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes.
  • 2. Stir in the tomato paste until it’s evenly distributed and begins to color, another minute or two. Add the chiles, tomato, stock, chile powder, and a good sprinkling of salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and then turn the heat down so the mixture bubbles gently; cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 30 minutes. Stir in the bulgur and cook for 10 minutes, then turn off the heat and let sit until the bulgur is tender, about 15 minutes. Garnish as you like and serve immediately or cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Vegetarian Chili Variations

  • Bulgur Chili with Beans
  • Add 2 to 3 cups cooked or canned, drained kidney, pinto, black, or other beans.
  • Smoky and Hot Bulgur Chili
  • Add 2 to 4 minced canned chipotle chiles, with the adobo sauce that clings to them, at the end of step 1.
Hungry for more? Chow down on these:

Testers Choice

Testers Choice
Testers Choice
Ellen Fuss

May 07, 2007

In my house, it’s Meat-Free Monday and then No-Tofu Tuesday. This became the choice for dinner last night. I always feel so virtuous when I make vegetarian meals, especially those that aren’t laden with high-fat dairy products. This is a tasty, satisfying variation on chili, not the usual beans and spice, but a nice blend of vegetables and bulgur. The bulgur gives the chili a satisfying “chew” as well as protein and fiber. The dried chiles amp up the flavor and the variations give an opportunity to get creative and use up whatever other ingredients are around. This one-pot supper was a winner in my house. And it’s thicker and tastes even better today. None of the peppers listed were available in my suburban supermarket, so I used just one Tien Tsin pepper that I had on hand and it actually gave the dish a good, hot flavor. Instead of fresh tomatoes I used a container of chopped tomatoes, which are my new go-to to avoid the harsh chemical taste in some canned brands. As for fine or medium bulgur, I used what I had on hand, which was Bob’s Red Mill Quick Cooking Bulgur (no mention of fine or medium.) It was cooked perfectly at the end of the cooking time. I used Anaheim chili powder, the pure kind, with no cumin, salt, or other flavorings. I did add white beans, just because I like them. And in step one I added celery, carrots, and mushrooms, since it said that any vegetable would be good and I was anxious to clean out my vegetable drawer.

Have something to say?

Then tell us. Have a picture you'd like to add to your comment? Send it along. Covet one of those spiffy pictures of yourself to go along with your comment? Get a free Gravatar. And as always, please take a gander at our comment policy before posting.


Daily Subscription

Enter your email address and get all of our updates sent to your inbox the moment they're posted. Be the first on your block to be in the know.

Preview daily e-mail

Weekly Subscription

Hate tons of emails? Do you prefer info delivered in a neat, easy-to-digest (pun intended) form? Then enter your email address for our weekly newsletter.

Preview weekly e-mail