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Pilafi Pourgouri (pligouri) – Bulgur wheat pilaf

Bulgur pilaf side dish


Pilafi Pourgouri, like most Cypriot recipes, are considered to be a “poor man’s dish” as people were poor and made delicious dishes out of simple ingredients they had in their pantry.  It is not only cheap and easy to make but it is also a healthy meal.

Bulgar or bulgur wheat, known as πλιγούρι, (pligoúri), in Greek or πουργούρι, (pourgouri) in Cyprus and as burghul (برغل) in Arabic) is a cereal food made from several different wheat species, but most often from durum wheat.

 pligouri - bulgur

Bulgar holds a place in recipes similar to rice or cous cous but with a higher nutritional value. Best known as an ingredient in tabouli salad, bulgur is also a tasty, low-fat ingredient  (not to mention cheap and healthy), in pilaf soup, bakery goods, stuffing or casseroles. It is an ideal food in a vegetarian diet because of its nutritional value and versatility. It is excellent as a meat extender or meat substitute in vegetarian dishes, and is a component of many varieties of meatless burgers found on supermarket shelves everywhere.

This side dish is very popular in Cyprus and it goes well with any meat dish.

You can make this pilaf with or without the tomatoes, adding more chicken or vegetable broth.

If you have leftover roasted meat, such as chicken, lamb or pork you can cut it into small pieces and add it in the pilaf and turn the side dish into a frugal main course dish.



Making wheat into bulgar is an ancient process that originated in the Mediterranean and has been an integral part of Greek or Middle Eastern cuisine for thousands of years. Biblical references indicate it was prepared by ancient Babylonians, Hittites and Hebrew populations some 4, 000 years ago, and Arab, Israeli, Egyptian, Greek and Roman civilizations record eating dried cooked wheat as early as 1, 000 B.C.

Often confused with cracked wheat, bulgar differs in that it has been pre-cooked by par-boiling. This process makes bulgur easy to cook but also has removed certain nutrients from the less digestible outer layers into the centre of the grain, making them more easy to cook with.

When I first came to Greece and mentioned bulgur, I usually got some scornful looks from friends and relatives, maybe because it was some of the food they ate during the German occupation and ended being considered as food for the poor. However, after reluctantly trying it they were convinced that it was worth cooking with.

In Cyprus we used to eat bulgur pilaf regularly and I have already written about the traditional way my mother used to cook it.  She would always make it when she had leftover meat, lamb, pork or chicken but a meatless pilaf is equally delicious served with Greek yoghurt.

Bulgar wheat can be coarsely ground, which is the type we use in the pilaf or finely ground, which is the one we use to make koupes, with meat or vegan,  which are savory mezedes.

The pilaf is very easy to make and makes the easiest and most delicious side dish.   You need 1 part bulgur and 2 parts water or chicken or vegetable stock.   All you need to do is saute a nest of vermicelli, which you crumble, add the buglur to wet it in the olive oil, add salt and pepper and the broth.  This procedure does not take more than 2 minutes.  You turn off the heat, place a lid on top and wait for about ten minutes until all the water is absorbed!

Pilafi Pourgouri or Pligouri, as a side dish.

Preparation time:  2 minutes

Cooking time:  2 minutes

Serves:  5 – 6


  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 vermicelli nest, crumbled
  • 1 cup coarse bulgur
  • 2 cups chicken broth (or 2 cups water and 1/2 chicken or vegetable bouillon)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Freshly grated black pepper


  1. Heat the olive oil and saute the vermicelli until almost browned.
  2. Add the bulgur and mix to coat it with olive oil.
  3. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  4. Add the chicken or vegetable stock and mix.
  5. Bring to a boil and turn off the heat.
  6. Cover the pot with the lid.
  7. Set aside until all the water is absored, about ten minutes.
  8. Serve as it is or use a mold to shape it.
  9. Serve as a side dish together with yoghurt.


The second recipe is a bit different.

Grated onion is sauteed in olive oil and vermicelli pasta is added.  Then the bulgar wheat and grated fresh tomatoes, salt pepper and pieces of leftover pieces of meat (optional) are cooked together.  The cooked meat is added before adding the fluid ingredients.

For a vegan dish, instead of adding cooked meat, you can saute some mushrooms and add them.

Pilafi Pourgouri (pligouri) – Bulgur wheat pilaf with leftover meat

Preparation time:  5 minutes

Cooking time:  5 minutes

Serves:  4


  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 onion grated
  • 2 nests vermicelli, broken into smaller pieces
  • 1 cup coarse bulgur wheat
  • 1 – 2 cups cooked meat, finely chopped or pleurotus (oyster mushrooms)
  • 2 cups grated ripe tomato (or 1 cup concentrated tomato juice and 1 cup water)
  • 1/2 cube organic chicken or vegetable bouillon
  • Freshly grated black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt


  1. (For the vegetarian dish: Heat the olive oil and saute the mushrooms.  Remove to a platter).
  2. Heat the olive oil, add the vermicelli and mix for a few minutes.
  3. Before browning add the grated onion and mix a couple of times.
  4. When the vermicelli  starts to slightly brown, add the bulgur wheat and mix for a few seconds to absorb the oil.
  5. Add the leftover meat or sauteed mushrooms.
  6. Dissolve the bouillon in hot water and add it together with the tomato, salt and pepper.  Mix until it starts boiling.
  7. Remove from the heat and cover the pot with the lid.  Let it stand until it absorbs all the fluid.
  8. Serve with Greek yoghurt!

Pilafi Pligouri Bulgur pilaf

The recipe is included in my cookbook Mint, Cinnamon & Blossom Water, Flavours of Cyprus, Kopiaste as well as in volume 1 of my e-cookbook.

Kopiaste and Kali Orexi,

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27 Responses

  1. Mmmmm Ivy, I think I would love bulgur!!! Never seen it around here though. A perfect side for me :D. Plus that pork meat and the mushrooms make me salivate… Autumn is here 😀

  2. hey you are rocking with yummy vermicelli recipes!
    pic looks inviting!
    Add you as a follower of my blog so that my recipes will be right away in ur dashboard itself!
    join in the chicken event going in my blog!

  3. an award waiting for u in my blog ivy!

  4. I do like the look of the fides speckled in the pligouri and mushrooms complement meat so well…bravo!

  5. These are two great-looking recipes. It’s interesting that you initially got such a reaction from people regarding bulgur. My father-in-law, who lived through the German occupation, loves the stuff and is so happy when it shows up on the table!

  6. I love it that your food has so much meaning & history to it Ivy…makes a handsome mouthful!! Couscous is only available as an impoer here & thus priced quite high. Some time ago I confused it with broken wheat too…I love the dish on the side…it’s sensational!!!

  7. The picture is amazing..Looks very very attractive!!

  8. I’ve often only associated bulgur with Middle Eastern cooking. Great to see it used like this Ivy. Again, this is a wonderful, informative and well researched post.

  9. Ben

    My friend, this is really a sensational side! And I see you got your message working. Good for you 🙂

  10. This looks (and sounds) delicious! I don’t know if I’ve ever had bulgur yet…I really need to look for it. I’ve been meaning to try cooking with it and vermicelli actually, so this is just the thing for me to try

  11. This sounds and looks really good. I wish I could try it (without having to make it myself) 🙂

  12. You come up with such new recipes that I have never heard of.. and it is perfect every time! Nice…

  13. This dish looks delicious,Ivy. I love all the ingredients, specially bulgur wheat .Is curious to watch the roots of the words. In Spanish noodles are called fideos.

  14. Fantastic looking meal, I wish I was eating this right now! The bulger pilaf is interesting, I have never heard of it before. It looks simple enough and is something I would enjoy. Have a good day.

  15. That pilaf looks fantastic Ivy and it looks so beautiful all piled up like that! Wonderful presentation!

  16. I love bulgar. Although here i see it as more vegan. I love the idea of pairing it with meats and mushrooms.

  17. A nice, simple and delicious pilafi, Ivy!

  18. giz

    Bulgur is so satisfying and I love it as a side (or even as a main). I especially love putting in some fried garlic with it – it just boosts it to a whole other level.

  19. Yum, i love the presentation! We have a product here called rice-a-roni that combine vermacelli with rice and I love it (besides the high sodium content which prevents me from eating it much)
    This looks like a more wholesome alternative!

  20. Thanks for answering a question I’ve had for a long time. Whenever I see recipes here for greek food that call for bulgar wheat, I always wonder if they’ve substituted bulgar wheat for trahana because we don’t have trahana readily available. But you’ve taught me that bulgar wheat is often used in greek food. 🙂

  21. This looks really interesting. i would never have thought of combining bulgur and vermicelli together. Lovely entry – thank you so much!

  22. John

    I found the recipy for the Bulgar/Vermicelli interesting, except no mention was made of the number bulgar to use. If anyone has had experience with bulgar they would know it comes in a FINE, MEDIUM and COARSE.

    Would like to know which to use.


  23. Ivy

    Hi John. I didn’t know that it comes in fine, medium and coarse. Here it comes only in two types: fine and coarse. As you will see above the picture of the bulgur I explain that we use fine bulgar for making koupes and the other type, coarse, for the pilaf.

  24. This looks delicious!!!! A great entry to the mingle, thank you!

  25. How did you get it up so high like that when it looks so light and fluffy? 🙂


    I am desperately looking for a recipe with pligouri, klitharaki, chestnuts or walnuts, white stafides, and I think saute liver w/tomato paste.

    I’ve been scouting the internet and have not come up with anything — It’s supposed to be a stuffing and I believe it is called ‘Pasparas’

    Any suggestions on how to prepare?

    • Ivy

      Unfortunately, I have never heard of this recipe.