Bulgur Chili

In this bulgar chili recipe, bulgur takes the place of the usual meat. Beans aren’t essential, though they can easily be incorporated (see the Vegetarian Chili Variations below). All sorts of vegetables can also be incorporated, including corn, zucchini, squash, carrots, celery, and more. Just toss them in along with the chiles. 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

Bulgur has a rather nutty awesomeness that works quite well in this—and many—recipes, although author Mark Bittman has also made this chili recipe by replacing the bulgur with just about any cooked whole grain, including cooked wheat, rye, kamut, spelt, hominy, and millet. The choice is yours. (He notes that 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
  • Serves 6 to 8


  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 bell peppers, any color, cored, seeded, and chopped
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 3 tablespoons store-bought or homemade 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. Warm the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion, bell peppers, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion softens, about 5 minutes.
  • 2. Stir in the tomato paste and cook, still stirring constantly, until it’s evenly distributed and begins to color, which ought to take just a minute or two. Add the chiles, tomato, stock, chili 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 just like this, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 30 minutes.
  • 3. Stir in the bulgur and cook for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and let sit until the bulgur is tender, about 15 minutes.
  • 4. Ladle the bulgur chili into bowls and garnish as you like. 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 Hot Bulgur Chili
  • Add 2 to 4 minced canned chipotle chiles—along with the adobo sauce that clings to them—at the end of step 1.
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