lentil bulgur pilaf

bob loves barley, but never seems to work it into the menu. Big bulgur, which is size number four (also called "half cut")on the bulgur wheat grain scale (1 smallest, 4 biggest), looks remarkably like barley when cooked in pilaf or soup. So when this pilaf dish appeared on his plate at the in-law dinner table, he was sure it was barley and had to be convinced otherwise. Lack of certainty about identification, however, did not interfere with the enjoyment or prevent him from (over) stuffing his face with the stuff, a frequent occurrence when tempted by tasty middle eastern/armenian mom home cooking.


phase 1
1 c dry lentils
2 c water
1/4 t black pepper
1 t salt
1/2 t cumin
1/2 t red pepper (Middle Eastern!)
phase 2
1 c bulgur wheat, number 4 or half cut, rinsed
optional heaping t of red pepper paste
phase 3
1/4 c olive oil
1 onion, chopped
serving suggestion
a few green onions, chopped finely, perhaps yogurt on the side


  1. Rinse the lentils first. Then cover them with water in a large soup pot and bring to a boil and boil for a few minutes until foam rises to the top. Remove from the heat and rinse in warm water.
  2. Bring 2 water and the 1 t salt to a boil, then add back in the lentils and spices and boil until softened, about 5 minutes.
  3. Add in the bulgur and boil on medium heat until the water is absorbed but the mixture is still moist (about 20-30 minutes).
  4. Meanwhile, sauté the second onion in olive oil until crisp.
  5. Then add the onion and oil to the top of the pilaf.
  6. Serve with a sprinkling of chopped green onion on each portion.


  1. Bulgur is available in Armenian or Middle Eastern food specialty stores and now even in the Whole Foods chain we often visit.
  2. Variations of this recipe are easy. For a weekday supper, we skipped the dry lentil part and started directly with the onion, seasonings, and bulgur, then dumped in a 15 oz can of cooked lentils, and a 7.75 oz can of cooked chick peas during the bulgur cooking phase. Terrific. But the full recipe is not long either.
  3. But before ani could stop him, bob, reading this recipe, started shaking in cayenne red pepper, but in fact in all of Isgouhi's recipes, when she says red pepper she really means Middle Eastern red pepper, alias Turkish pepper, sometimes called Aintab pepper after the formerly Armenian city Aintab, now Gaziantep, Turkey, as an article by famous cookbook writer Paula Wolfert describes at her website (adapted from a Saveur magazine article) turned up by a search on the keywords "Aintab pepper". Two new Armenian cookbook acquisitions from Alice Antreassian indicate that this can be reasonably substituted by 3 parts paprika to 1 part cayenne red pepper. And Isgouhi's teaspoon measure really means a heaping teaspoon from the silverware drawer and not a level measuring teaspoon. [This unit misunderstanding doesn't help in trying to reproduce a mother-in-law's cooking...]
  4. It turned out so tasty that bob nearly ate the whole thing with some help from ani. With a cucumber mint yogurt sauce on the side, and a cucumber tomato salad. Yes!
  5. Another time ani added the red pepper paste from her aunt in Anjar, and we had it with steamed broccoli sautéed in aglio, olio e pepperoncino: olive oil, some red pepper flakes and a pressed garlic clove. Together a hearty tasty complete meal. bob actually wanted to cook the broccoli in the pilaf, sort of Italian style, but ani vetoed that idea. Unacceptable in her cooking culture. It was great on the side.
  6. Illustrations available.
lntlblgr.htm: 23-apr-2011 [what, ME cook? © 1984 dr bob enterprises]