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How to Sprout Wheat Berries for Bulgur Wheat: An Illustrated Guide

Joi loves cooking and growing beautiful foods and has a passion for designing memorable meals. Garden-born recipes are her favorite.

Cooked bulgur cereal makes a nice, hot lunch, breakfast, or even a snack.

Cooked bulgur cereal makes a nice, hot lunch, breakfast, or even a snack.

The Basics of Making Bulgur Wheat

Bulgur is simply sprouted, dried wheat, coarsely ground, or cracked.

If you have never made bulgur, you'll be pleasantly surprised at how little time and effort is involved. If you have access to bulk wheat to make this dish, you'll wonder why you've been paying so much for those dinky little packages of it at the store.

Equipment

  • Pure, drinking-quality water
  • A sprouting jar or a glass jar with a loose-woven cloth to fasten over the top with a rubber band
  • A jellyroll tray on which to dry the sprouted wheat
  • A grain grinder or other method of cracking the finished bulgur

Ingredients

  • Wheat berries

Step 1: Soak Wheat Berries

No matter the size of your sprouting jar, fill it about 1/3 full of plain, dry wheat berries, then add water to fill. Let sit one full day until the wheat berries plump up.

No matter the size of your sprouting jar, fill it about 1/3 full of plain, dry wheat berries, then add water to fill. Let sit one full day until the wheat berries plump up.

Step 2: Sprout the Wheat

After the wheat berries are nice and plump, set the jar upside down to drain.

After the wheat berries are nice and plump, set the jar upside down to drain.

Over the next 2 to 3 days, rinse the grain with pure water at least twice a day (3 times is better), and leave it to drain again.

Over the next 2 to 3 days, rinse the grain with pure water at least twice a day (3 times is better), and leave it to drain again.

When the sprouts are 1/4-inch to 1/3-inch long, the wheat is ready to dry.

When the sprouts are 1/4-inch to 1/3-inch long, the wheat is ready to dry.

Step 3: Dry the Wheat

Spread the sprouted wheat out on a baking pan and set it in a warm (not hot) place to dry thoroughly.

Spread the sprouted wheat out on a baking pan and set it in a warm (not hot) place to dry thoroughly.

Good Places to Dry Bulgur Wheat

  • A warm (not hot) oven with the door propped open with a butter knife
  • A sunny picnic table on a sunny, low-humidity day (slide the tray into a pillowcase to keep insects off and to keep the wheat from blowing away)
  • A food dehydrator
  • The top of a wood stove, with the tray placed on a rack

Step 4: Crack Your Bulgur

If you are not using your batch of bulgur immediately, store it in an airtight container until use.

When ready to use, simply crack the grain in a grain grinder or coffee mill, and you're ready to cook.

Uses for Bulgur Besides Porridge

Bulgur wheat is fairly versatile and lends itself to a variety of applications. You can cook it as simply as you like—water and a bit of salt—or get as complicated as your creativity allows—perhaps toasting it in a dry pan, then adding water or broth or dry red wine, butter or olive oil, milk or cream, sour cream or yogurt; vegetables or fruits (practically any); spices or herbs. Try curry, sweet spices such as cinnamon and/or ginger, or Southwestern combinations such as cumin, chilies, and cilantro. Even coffee grounds can make a surprising but delicious addition.

How to Serve

Bulgur can be served by itself, in a vegetable skillet or casserole (baked or stove top), as part of a soup, or in meatloaf or meatballs. It can also be added to bread, pancakes, and other baked goods . . . though you may want to start small until you see how the flavor profiles of your favorite recipes are affected.

Bulgur has a flavor profile that is similar in ways to dark chocolate...so think about anything that goes well with chocolate or pairs well with slightly bitter foods.

Pairing With Meat

Also, while bulgur makes an excellent vegetarian dish, it also pairs well with practically any meat . . . even wild game such as wild duck or wild goose, which can be difficult to put in combinations due to its flavor strength, which is similar to organ meats like heart, liver, kidneys, etc. Domestic poultry such as chicken or turkey can pale somewhat next to bulgur but is still pleasant and may be served chopped into the bulgur or served alongside. Anything herb-ey and definite in its character, such as spicy sausage or bacon, holds it's own very well.

If you are not sure what goes with this tasty dish, simply cook some of the grain fairly plain, with a bit of butter or oil and salt, and then experiment with test batches - small bowls of the bulgur with the herbs or seasonings you had in mind. If you wind up with something disappointing, you can rejoice that the whole meal was not destroyed . . . and try your next idea with another test batch.

Here's to great grains!

Questions & Answers

Question: To my understanding, what you have made by sprouting and then drying the wheat is malted wheat. Isn't bulgur precooked wheat berries, then dried and cracked?

Answer: You may in fact be right...but I learned what I do from a responsible, so far reliable source. In any case, sprouting has the health benefits I want, so to me quibbling about a name isn't worth it. I attempted to research these different processes at one point several years back, and came up with different answers. If you definitely come to a conclusion, please let me know.

© 2009 Joilene Rasmussen