Kısır: Turkish Bulgur Salad

Turkish Cuisine. edenexposed/E+/Getty Images
  • 30 mins
  • Prep: 30 mins,
  • Cook: 0 mins
  • Yield: 4 to 6 Servings
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If you're a fan of Middle Eastern tabouleh, and other dishes made with bulgur, you'll love this classic Turkish recipe for cold bulgur and vegetable salad called kısır (kus-UHR').

Bulgur, sometimes referred to as cracked wheat, is a staple in Turkish pantries and is one of the most common ingredients in Turkish cooking. It's used to make side dishes like bulgur pilaf, added to thicken soups, kneaded into meatballs and, one of my favorites, included in cold salads like bulgur and fresh herb salad and kısır.

Kısır salad is by far one of the most popular dishes in Turkish cuisine. Every home cook makes a variation of kısır and you'll also find it in many restaurants serving casual, homestyle Turkish fare. What makes kısır so popular? For one, it contains fresh, nutritious and inexpensive ingredients. It's also very easy to make and a little bit goes a long, long way. Kısır is great for entertaining--its flavor gets better as the salad rests, so you can make it well beforehand. It will keep very will in the refrigerator for several days.

You'll recognize kısır as soon as you see it. The pepper paste gives the bulgur a lovely orange hue and the mixed vegetables and fresh herbs add festive color. Kısır is most often served, believe it or not, at tea time along with other sweet and savory pastries. But since it complements grilled meats and chicken, it's also perfect as part of a barbecue menu.

Every Turkish household makes kısır with a slightly different mix of vegetables and herbs. Some like it spicy and some like more onions and garlic. The best thing to do is get creative with ingredients like colored peppers, green onions, crushed nuts, even chopped beets and pickles. Anything goes as long as it's fresh, colorful and crunchy.

You can find pepper paste in most Middle Eastern, Greek or Turkish grocers or on websites selling Turkish ingredients. Another alternative is to finely grate fresh red peppers of your choice and strain out the juice to make your own pepper paste. This recipe calls for lemon juice or pomegranate sour, which is a thick syrup made of 85 percent pomegranate giving it a very concentrated taste. If you want to include this unique ingredient, look for it where Turkish foods are sold.

What You'll Need

  • 2 cups fine bulgur
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 heaping tbsp. sweet red pepper paste
  • 2 medium tomatoes
  • 2 medium cucumbers
  • 6 to 8 green onions
  • A handful fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • 3 or 4 sprigs of fresh mint
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice or pomegranate sour
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. salt, more or less to taste
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. hot red pepper flakes, more or less to taste

How to Make It

  1. Put the bulgur in a large mixing bowl. Pour the boiling water over it. The water should completely cover the bulgur by about 1/4 inch (add a bit more boiling water if needed). Cover the bowl with a lid or plastic wrap, then wrap it with a towel. Set it aside for about 15 minutes to allow the bulgur soften.
  2. While the bulgur softens, prepare your vegetables. Begin by peeling the onion and garlic and chopping them as finely as you can. Mix the chopped onion and garlic with the pepper paste and set aside.
  1. Chop the tomato, cucumber, green onions, parsley and mint in the same manner and put them in a separate bowl. The finer you chop them, the better your salad's texture will be.
  2. Remove the cloth and cover from the bowl of bulgur. Wearing rubber gloves, fluff the bulgur up with your fingers. Drizzle lemon juice or pomegranate sour and the oil over the top and toss it through with your fingers. Next, add the pepper paste mixture and work it evenly through the bulgur.
  3. Add the chopped vegetables and herbs and continue tossing with your fingers until all the ingredients are evenly dispersed. Add salt and black pepper and taste for seasoning.
  4. You can serve your kısır salad right away, or you can cover and refrigerate it for several hours. Make sure to fluff it up with your fingers again just before serving.