Kisir is a simple, flavor-packed Turkish bulgur salad. It has some similarities to tabbouleh but definitely deserves it’s own place on a meze or lunch table with it’s wonderful tart-savory flavors.
I first had kisir in a Turkish restaurant in London a number of years ago. It was described on the menu as a Turkish tabbouleh with pomegranate, but it almost seems to sell it short. I know the description was mainly because this Turkish salad is less well known, but it’s worth enjoying it for it’s own tasty qualities.
Don’t get me wrong, I am a big, big fan of tabbouleh. But kisir has some definite differences. And I don’t mean that in a negative way – the differences are what makes kisir as special as it’s Lebanese cousin.
What is bulgur?
Bulgur is made by parboiling, drying and cracking (or grinding) wheat berries. It’s most typically made from durum wheat, but can vary, and it can be either small or large pieces. Being wheat, it’s not without carbs, but it is a whole grain and high in both fiber and folate.
How is kisir different from tabbouleh?
If you look at the list of ingredients, you will probably recognize that many are in tabbouleh as well. But there are two key differences:
- The dressing for kisir is much thicker. It still includes lemon and olive oil, but also has tomato paste and, usually, pomegranate molasses.
- While some versions of tabbouleh you’ll see overseas are heavily bulgar-based, traditionally it’s a very herb-dense salad. Kisir uses a much smaller amount of herbs, cucumber and tomato.
Some versions of kisir use a kind of semi-spicy red pepper taste alongside the tomato paste, but I for one don’t feel this needs to be spicy. You could, in theory, skip the pomegranate molasses which is basically a syrup made from pomegranate juice. However for me it’s an essential part of the flavor and it’s easier to find than you might think (you can get pomegranate molasses online, if you can’t find in store – affiliate link).
How to make kisir
- Put the bulgur and water in a small pan and bring to a simmer. Cook until the water is absorbed.
- Meanwhile, mix together the dressing ingredients.
- Dice the cucumber and tomato and chop the parsley.
- Let the bulgur cool then mix in the dressing, tomato, cucumber and parsley.
- Serve or set chill until needed.
Kisir is traditionally served as part of a meze platter, where lots of small plates are served together at the start of the meal. However, it would be equally good as a side dish to grilled meat or vegetables, for example, and holds up well to transport it for a potluck or boxed lunch.
However you serve it, kisir is an easy, versatile salad that’s packed with flavor. The soft bulgur is deliciously tart from the dressing, with just enough crunch from the cucumber to add texture. Be sure to add it to your to-make list!
Looking for ideas to serve with kisir? Try these:
- Lamb kofte.
- Roasted eggplant with tahini.
- Lahmacun (Turkish flatbread/pizza).
- Some bread with hummus (like Ottolenghi’s recipe), muhammara and/or baba ghanoush.
- Plus see the Middle Eastern recipes archives for more ideas.
Kisir - Turkish bulgur salad
- 1/2 cup bulgur 85g
- 1/2 cup water 120ml
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 1 tbsp virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
- 1 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tomato
- 1/4 cucumber
- 2 tbsp parsley
- Put the bulgur and water in a small pan and bring to a simmer. Cook until the water is absorbed, around 5 minutes, then remove from heat and allow to cool.
- Meanwhile, mix together the dressing ingredients - the tomato paste, olive oil, pomegranate molasses and lemon juice.
- Dice the cucumber and tomato relatively small and finely chop the parsley.
- Once the bulgur is cool, mix in the dressing, tomato, cucumber and parsley.
- Serve there and then or chill until needed (best served room temperature).
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