Sweet bulgur

October 13, 2010  •  Category:


Rummaging through the kitchen cupboards at my parents’ house can yield interesting discoveries: I found a jar that contained  a viscous, caramel-colored paste. Can you guess what it was?

I called  the jar’s donor, Um Elias,  mountain-dweller, mother of six and seasoned farmer.

Her answer was: ” Debess el-enab, from your grapes!” i.e.


So I set out trying to think up of ways to use this molasses, which was traditionally used to  sweeten food in Lebanon prior to the appearance of (disease-causing) refined white sugar.

You can find grape molasses online or at Greek or Middle-Eastern stores.

If you are wondering why you should bother, think about how molasses will not only sweeten your food without any detrimental side effects, but also how it contains minerals and other nutrients from the food that it comes from.

This recipe is from the West Bekaa, a region that has been growing grapes for thousands of years. Adapted from  Chef Ramzi’s  Culinary Heritage of Lebanon. He says this dish is called smeedeh hamra. Since smeed is the word for semolina, I guess it can be also prepared with couscous.


  • 1 cup of coarse bulgur (or fine bulgur), preferably unbleached.
  • 1 cup of water
  • 2 generous tablespoons of grape molasses (or to taste)
  • walnuts or other nuts (optional)
  • half teaspoon of rose water and orange blossom water (optional)


  1. Place the bulgur in a bowl and soak in tap water for 15 minutes or so. After that lapse of time, drain it and set it nearby.
  2. Pour the water in the pan. Add the grape molasses and stir a bit to dissolve it.
  3. When the water simmers, drop the drained bulgur and cook, covered, for about 20 minutes or until the grains have absorbed the liquid and are soft.
  4. Serve lukewarm or at room temperature with some chopped walnuts if desired.

NOTE: The original recipe calls for an equal volume of water and grape molasses, which I thought was excessive. It also calls for drizzling some olive oil on the surface.


35 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. Rosa says:

    Wonderful! sweet bulgur is delicious.



  2. mylittleexpatkitchen says:

    I love grape molasses and grape must. In Greece we use it all the time for making all kinds of dishes and desserts and cookies! I just got a bottle of grape molasses from Greece, sent to me by a friend, and I’ve been cooped up in the kitchen making cookies.
    Adding it to bulghur sounds really exciting Joumana.

  3. Sushma Mallya says:

    Havent done a sweet version of it till now but seems very simple and delicious to have…

  4. deana says:

    Never heard of it, can you make it yourself??? It’s funny when reading 400 year old recipes… they were just beginning to say honey for the poor and sugar for the rich… if only they knew then what we know now! Bulgar is so tasty, I can imagine that it would be wonderful in a sweet way!

  5. Lyndsey says:

    It sounds really good I am going to bookmark this one. I agree with the changes you made.

  6. Claudia says:

    Now this totally intrigues me. I’ve only had bulghur in a savory recipe – the sweet touch is lovely. Grape molasses – what a grand idea!

  7. Rachana says:

    Yumm!!!! Sweet bulgar is really delicious!

  8. Doc says:

    I love any winter squash soup-yours, as always, looks divine. I am going to try to scare up some grape molassas. I was wondering what to sweeten some upcoming apple fritters with and you came to my rescue.

  9. Joanne says:

    What a lovely site, I’m looking forward to reading more! I have never heard of grape molasses before and am very curious to know more about it. I wonder if there is anything similar here in Italy.

  10. Eve@CheapEthnicEatz says:

    You have been talking so much about unusual molasses (to me) lately I went to my nearest Middle Eastern grocery store today and bought the grape molasses. I just finished this very recipe but with barley which I had on hand and with flaked coconut shavings instead of nuts. Really good!

  11. Pushpa says:

    Wow! Sweet bulbur looks delicious…

    Pushpa @ simplehomefood.com

  12. Faith says:

    What a great use for grape molasses! This would make a lovely breakfast.

  13. 5 Star Foodie says:

    Sounds terrific with the grape molasses!

  14. Hannah says:

    Oh my, oh my! I’m a seriosu molasses kick right now and can’t even begin to imagine how delicious grape molasses must be! I wonder if any of my local middle-eastern grocery shops could get this in…

  15. SYLVIA says:

    This is a hearty breakfast, perfect way to start your day. Bulgur is earthy and so decadent. this sweet dish has simple combination of ingredients that I find very clean and filling.
    When it’s cold outside, It will always be warm in Joumana’s kitchen.

  16. Hélène (Cannes) says:

    Je parlais hier avec mes copains du boulot de ton blog et de l’extraordinaire bibliothèque de recettes que tu nous proposais … Ils m’ont fait promettre de leur préparer un de ces jours un buffet avec toux ces plats … Bon, j’en choisirai quelques-uns seulement, hein ? mais le choix sera difficile, c’est sûr, tant tout est appétissant !

  17. Cherine says:

    I’ve never had this… it looks really good!

  18. T.W. Barritt says:

    I enjoy all kinds of grains, especially bulgur. I’ve never come across grape molassas. I can imagine the nutrients it must contain.

  19. Barbara says:

    Amazing. Sweet bulgur? I guess it would be like oatmeal with honey for breakfast, right?
    Love reading about something that would never have occurred to me, Joumana.

  20. Conor @ HoldtheBeef says:

    The molasses looks like nectar of the Gods!

  21. Katerina says:

    We make cookies with it and other sweet treats. Great idea to use it with bulgur.

  22. sophia says:

    Why BOTHER?! Only a non-foodie would say that! Nutritional benefits aside, I would LOVE to try these..grape molasses!! That’s got my foodie whiskers twitchin’!

  23. Katie@Cozydelicious says:

    I have never thought of sweet bulgur. This looks so interesting! I do need to get some grape molasses!

  24. Jamie says:

    Grape molasses? I always learn about a new ingredient when I visit! I am also always fascinated when something I am used to seeing in savory dishes is turned around into something sweet. Delicious!

  25. Mimi says:

    I love trying both ingredients that I know well in new ways and ingredients that are new to me. It keep the kitchen interesting.

  26. peter says:

    I do like treats and desserts that contain natural sweeteners like Petimezi. I’ve not tasted sweet bulgur before but why not?

  27. Mod Mekkawi says:

    Pure grape molasses is truly wholesome, as you rightfully say. I used to get it, homemade, from a friend of mine in Zahlé (Nicolas Maalouf). Would you know for sure whether the Lebanese AlWadi grape molasses brand is 100% grape molasses, i.e. not adulterated with High Fructose Corn Syrop (HFCS). I wrote to AlWadi weeks ago but todate was not graced with a response.

    • Joumana says:

      Hi Mod: I don’t know as of today, but I know a man who knows this company personally (they are clients of his) and I could find out. I will let you know; just give me a few weeks as I am in Texas right now and won’t be back till November sometime.

  28. Helen @ Fuss Free Flavours says:

    Those molasses look amazing. I am going to go and hunt for some now. I am not sure if I havev ever seen them before, but I have never been looking for them before!

    Fingers crossed I find some.

  29. Bahar says:

    I made myself a dish very similar to this for dinner tonight. I didn’t cook the bulgur in molasses-water but I had already cooked bulgur mom made. Poured a tablespoon of grape molasses on it, and put almonds in. I also added lemon juice- it tasted good to me as molasses is a little too sweet for me and that made the sweet taste less edgy. Turned out delicious!

    I’m from Turkey. I think our food cultures are very similar somehow! 🙂 Wonder how that developed in history.

    • Joumana says:

      @Bahar: 400+ years of Ottoman rule, yes, we are very much influenced by the Turkish way of cooking and eating, plus we share a lot of the same ingredients. Like what you did as well! Will try it next time!

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