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).┬áLike 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.
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