I noticed this recipe for a freekeh pilaf in a cookbook by Lebanese food writer Nadia Saleh, Splendours of the Levant. She had it listed in the Turkish section. She mentions it as a specialty of Southeastern Turkey. I started researching it a bit online and found out it is from Gaziantep, a city I have always wanted to visit in Anatolia, for its famed marketplace and foodie scene. This dish which combines freekeh and bulgur reminded me of a similar dish from Aleppo, which also layers freekeh, bulgur and rice! Considering the shared history of the two cities and their geographical proximity, this is not so unusual. There were migrations and displacement of peoples back and forth between the two cities over the years and the cuisine in Aleppo is strongly influenced by the cuisine in Gaziantep and vice-versa.
In any case, the dish combines my two favorite grains, freekeh and bulgur, is easy to make and tastes delicious, the grains are a bit chewy and moist and the flavor is nutty, slightly spicy. I adapted the recipe, adding black beans instead of chickpeas and a couple of Mexican chilies. The pilaf is fragrant, earthy and tastes like pure comfort food; in addition, it is HEALTHY and vegan.
Freekeh pilaf with bulgurJoumana Accad Mediterranean, Middle Eastern June 22, 2022 Whole Grain/Bulgur/Rice, Main Dish, pilaf, Kurdish, Turkish, healthyfood, armenianfood, bulgur, freekeh, black beans, vegan food,
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 25 minutes
Passive Time: 15 minutes
1 1/4 cup freekeh aka roasted green wheat
1 cup bulgur #3 (coarse grain)
1 lb boiler onions, peeled (can substitute 1 or 2 large yellow or red onions, chopped fine or in rings) (used some great ones)
1 tsp garlic paste (or 4 garlic cloves mashed with a teaspoon of salt till pasty)
3 Tbsps red pepper paste
3 Tbsps tomato paste
3/4 cup tomatoes chopped-up fine
3 or 4 Tbsps extra virgin olive oil (can use ghee if you prefer)
1 or 2 chilies such as guajillo or pasilla or any red chili of your choice, previously rehydrated in boiling water for 5 minutes
1 can of black beans (or any beans of your choice)
Water (about 5 cups)
Spices: cumin, to taste, as well as salt, black pepper, cinnamon (start with one teaspoon and increase to taste if desired)
To serve: 1 cup (or more) of plain yogurt seasoned with garlic paste (Bulgarian, or Arab-style yogurt or plain yogurt to which a tablespoon of lemon juice has been added)
- Start frying the onions in oil or ghee, until slightly caramelized, about 10 minutes over medium heat. Add the red pepper paste and garlic paste, and fry for a few seconds; add the diced tomatoes and chili pepper; stir a few seconds. Add the cumin and other spices.
- Add the freekeh, stir to coat in the pepper-tomato-chili mixture, and add the water. Cover the pot and bring to a boil. Let it boil for about 15 minutes.
- Add the bulgur to the pot, and cook for another 10 minutes or so, until both grains are cooked but still chewy to the bite. The pilaf should have formed small holes as the grains cook. Add the (well-drained and rinsed) black beans or chickpeas and mix a bit. Remove from the heat and let it sit on the stove to rest for 30 minutes or less if planning to serve right away. Serve with cold yogurt in which some garlic paste has been added for flavor.
I did not measure the water, simply pouring enough initially to cover the freekeh by about one inch (2.5cms). However, it is totally easy to adjust by adding a bit of water and cooking the grains longer if they still feel hard to the bite. They should be firm and a bit chewy, not mushy.
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